Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Monday at Miriam’s Kitchen

Warning -- Today’s post is a really long one.  There’s just a lot to write about.

I had the most amazing experience on Monday.  I volunteered to volunteer at Miriam’s Kitchen.  It’s located in the basement of a Presbyterian Church in on Virginia Avenue in Washington, DC.  I don’t actually know the name of the church. The group I was working with is called the DC Foodies Do Good and it was started by my friend and nutritionist Robyn Webb.

As the date got closer I thought that I must have lost my mind.  We had to be at the church by 6am to begin helping cook and/or serve breakfast.  Why in the heck did I volunteer?  I haven’t had to be anywhere by 6am in over a year.  I don’t even get up until 7 or 7:30 most days so what was I doing volunteering to be someplace at 6am?  Well, I know it was God’s hand in all this.  I’ve been feeling for a while now that since I’ve been doing so much “self work” to make improvements in my life that it was time for me to help others.  I kept telling God I wasn’t ready but God’s always right and finally later became now.

I almost didn’t make it on Monday.  I set my alarm plenty early but after it went off I somehow fell back asleep.  Next thing I know I’m waking up and it’s 5:20!  I was supposed to be in the car and on the road at 5:15am.  OMG!!!!!!  I showered, dressed and was in my car mostly dressed by 5:30am.  Whoo!!  Don’t ask me how.  I’m not really sure.  I’m not even sure I remembered to wear all my clothes.  :-)

Anyway, I arrived just in time.  Don’t ask me how fast I was driving.....

I wasn’t the last one to arrive thankfully.  Someone else arrived the same time I did.

I grabbed the shirt Robyn Webb gave me, said a prayer that it would fit and hussled off to the ladies room to change.  The shirt fit.  I can’t believe it fit.  It was an XL and it fit.  I haven’t worn an XL shirt in a very long time.  Over a year, maybe two years I’m guessing.

I was assigned to work with Margo.  She was a regular volunteer with Miriam’s Kitchen.  They were short a few regular volunteers and they asked me to work with her in the dining room instead of the kitchen.  I smiled, like I always do, and proceeded to stock my area.  I was in charge of the coffee, sugar, milk/creamer table.  My job was to keep it all stocked and serve the guests coffee.

Before I go on with how the breakfast and serving went I want to talk about Miriam’s Kitchen.  They served over 250 people for breakfast Monday morning.  They passed out 250 cards but actually think they served a few more.  They estimate that they serve over 4000 people each year and made over 52,000 meals last year.  This is pretty incredible organization.  They serve very healthy foods.  For instance, for breakfast Monday they served whole wheat pancakes, stone ground grits, veggies quesadilla, and baked apples and sugar-free cereal.  The chefs and coordinators insist or serving hearty, healthy foods to the guests.  They have actually turned away businesses who have offered them hundreds or thousands of donuts leftover from conferences and things like that.  They refuse to serve crap.  It’s pretty impressive.  They way they serve is kind of impressive too.  Everyone that comes in is given a number.  As breakfast is prepared the numbers are called.  Kind of like when you’re at the DMV.  I guess this keeps the line at the kitchen down.

So, promptly at 6:30am they opened the doors.  Most of the prep wasn’t done.  Cereal table wasn’t stocked and coffee was still kinda brewing and apparently they were behind in the kitchen.  It was starting to rain so the coordinators said the doors had to be opened on time today.

So in they came.  Men, mostly.  A few women 3 or 4 but mostly men.  Some were very dirty and grungy and others were not as dirty looking.  I guess semi-clean is the best way to put it.  Some of them even had gov’t IDs hanging around their necks.  They have jobs but in this economy, still don’t have enough money for meals or regular shelter.

They hit the juice and coffee table first.  The two tables were close together.  Some other volunteer guy was handing out juice.  I don’t know if he couldn’t talk or just didn’t talk but he never said two words to me.  Oh, well. ... The men filed passed and ask for very full mugs of coffee.  We had both regular and hazelnut flavored for them.  I smiled and said “Good morning” and was so surprised to see how many of them asked me “How are you?”

How am I?  I’m inside and warm and dry. How am I?

Most of them had very high spirits.  They smiled at me as I served them.  I got to talk to a few of them.  I got to meet “John Wayne” aka Koolaid.  He’s 50 and blessed by God for every day.  What a blessing he was to me Monday morning.  Quite a few of them have cell phones.  Some of them pay for it themselves.  I wonder where the bills go?  Some of them are paid for by their families.  The men who talked talked ALOT without even being asked much.  Told me how their sister or whomever was paying for their phones.  I let some of them come behind the table and plug in their phones for charging and I guarded them so they wouldn’t get stolen or wet.

Then there was Mr. TMI.  I don’t know what his name was but he came through several times.  He liked to make me laugh.  You see, he made a crass comment about loving some Hazel not loving the “nuts.”  Nuts being well, ya know.  Anyway, the way he said it made me laugh OUT LOUD and blush.  At first I think he was embarrassed to be saying something crass in front of a woman but as soon as I told him “Yo, dude, that’s too much TMI” and kept laughing he smiled and laughed.  He kept coming back and asking for a little more Hazel and a lot less nuts.  :-)  He was fun.

Then there was the man who stood in front of me an chattered about something for like 10 minutes.  I couldn’t understand a thing he said.  He was just chattering and mumbling about something that happened 2 weeks ago. Although I have a feeling it was 2 weeks ago in another dimension.  So I just smiled, and kept pouring him coffee and said things like “Really?”  “Wow!”  He toddled off to his table eventually.  He came back a few times and kept mumbling and chattering the whole time.  I have no idea what he was talking about.

Then there’s Johnny.  I don’t know if that’s his name so in my memory I’ve named him Johnny.  He was kind of young. Probably in his thirties.  There were kind of a lot of guys there in their early or late thirties.  Actually most of the men there were between 30 adn 50 I’d guess.  Shocking and depressing. ... but I digress...  Anyway, Johnny told me how much he appreciated this place and my smile and me being nice to him.  He hadn’t eaten since Friday and said he was feeling very depressed until he came in and got a smile from us.

Then there was Mr. Watley.  I don’t know if that’s his name either but he’s a regular there.  One of the volunteers talked with him but I missed his name.  He was dressed and stood very “proper”.  He reminded me of a school principal.  After getting his coffee he stood in the corners and just watched the room.  He didn’t talk.  I got the impression from him body language that touching was out of the question so I tried to respect his space when he came through for coffee.

Then there was Stinky Sam.  He was dressed well in layers but didn’t smell so hot. He gave me a hug while I was cleaning up and thanked me for all the coffee.

Then there were the guys I knew.  There were several men and women who came for breakfast who I have seen panhandling in DC for years.  There were 2 guys that I am certain I know them.  I mean KNOW them.  I worked somewhere that they’ve worked or are working.  Neither one had gov’t badges on but I recognized them and it was a work-type memory but I just can’t place where it was.  How shocking to look into the face of someone I used to know.  Even if only remotely.

I was truly blessed by the entire experience.  I can’t believe they were smiling and in good spirits.  None of them was grumpy towards me.  I was REALLY surprised at the amount of sugar these men used.  They put sugar LOTS and LOTS of sugar on everything.  They added it to their juice, coffee, tea, cereal and even their milk.  I found out while talking with Sarah that they do this for two reasons.  The first is they’ve been on the streets so long and may be sick so they’re taste buds are damages and they can’t really taste a lot of foods.  Another reason is they need to sugar to keep them awake and hold back the crash that’s about to hit them.  Many of them are coming down off some kind of “high” by the time breakfast is served.  They want and need to stay awake so they pile on the coffee and sugar.  That’s so sad.

It was an awesome experience for me overall.  I plan to come back.  They serve dinner too but I think I like breakfast.  I was exhausted when it was over but so glad that I chose to participate.

Holly Morris from Fox 5 in the Morning came and shot three great videos of the work being done here.  Below is the link to the videos.  At the end of the second video you can seem standing in the back of the kitchen tweeting about the experience.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

One Little Word 2010

A single word can be a powerful thing. It can be the ripple in the pond that changes everything. It can be sharp and biting or rich and soft and slow.”  Ali Edwards

My women’s bible study group is doing a very special study this year.  It’s call the “One Little Word.”  It’s very interesting and personal study.  The idea is that we’d each pick a word that has special meaning.  In addition we would each pick another woman in our small group to be an accountability partner.

My accountability partner
I picked a woman I’ll call “L.”  We had just started becoming friends and I thought this might be a way for me to build a friendship with another woman.  I don’t have a lot of close friends and felt like God was opening up a door or window of opportunity for me.  I’m glad God and I picked L.  We actually have quite a few things in common and get along really well.  We both seem to struggle with very similar issues.

My One Little Word
I chose the word Transform as my word.  There are a lot of big and little reasons why I chose this word.  I have been working to transform myself for several years now.  I started a few years ago.  I began seeing a therapist.  That’s been a long road and a lot of hard work.  I think this year will be the hardest and most rewarding work.  I am committing to making changes for my health. I really want to look back at the end of this year and not recognize the person I was on January 1.  This is NOT a New Year’s resolution.  This is a lifetime resolution.  A lifetime commitment.  I want to be totally transformed.

I need God’s help with this.  I cannot do this on my own and he has brought many things in to my life to help me.  He has brought this study to my Small Group.  He has brought me an awesome accountability partner.  Most importantly, he has brought me the word Transform.

So, in my beginning study of the word I have come up with the following acrostic.  It is helping me to focus on my word and helping me to turn to God more.


I also chose a primary scripture that represents my word and my study for this year:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing & perfect will. ~ 
Romans 12:2 [emphasis mine]

I am going to continue blogging about my word throughout the year.  A large focus of my topics will be on how I am or am not transforming.  I hope you enjoy the lessons I will be learning this year as much as I will be.

Be blessed and check back often for more about transforming.

Catching Up

So, I committed to writing daily.  Ha!  I shoulda known I wouldn’t be able to keep with my commitment to myself.  Oh well, today is a new day and a new chance for me to start again.

So, my quest to find a new job is over.  So much has happened.  I really should have been blogging about it.  First, my boss met with two of the VPs of the company I work for on Wednesday of last week and told them he would not stand to have me or another person on our team terminated. So, they agreed to keep me and have me work on another contract/project short-term.  Unbeknownst to them, I have been waiting on a job offer from another employer.  I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t sure when or if the job offer I wanted would come.  I began to doubt it was going to happen.

See, I’ve been trying to get a job with this company for quite a while.  Several of my friends work for them and really like the company.  I interviewed with them over a year ago but they couldn’t hire me.  The owners have kept in touch with me.  Invited me to their office for team lunches and even invited me out to have lunch with them and my friends.  The stars have just never lined up so that I was available and they were in a position to bring on a new person.

Finally!!!  It is all syncing up.  I got the job offer from them around 8pm Friday evening and I sent my resignation notice to my boss Monday morning.  I spent the weekend praying and thinking about this decision.  I really needed to be certain this was the correct choice for me.

I wish I could say it’s because I’m a phenomenal NIST/FISMA C&A expert but it’s not.  I am an expert, but it’s all because of God that I am as good at my job as I am.  I feel weird that my resignation had to happen after my boss had already gone to the mat for me, but for some reason God wanted us all to be waiting.  I don’t know why God makes us wait.  Some say it’s so we’ll draw close to him.  I spent a lot of time the past two weeks catching up on my Bible studies and praying to God for strength and understanding.  I don’t understand yet why it all played out the way it did but I thank God that I never lost my job and that I am getting an opportunity to work at Securicon with my other IT hacker friends.

So, that's as much of recap as I can give without droning on and one too much.

Monday, March 8, 2010

At the end of the day

Who am I kidding?  This sucks!
Four more days and I'll be leaving my job.
This sucks!
It hurts.
It's not fair.
I feel like crying.  I just finished crying.  I feel like crying more.
I want to eat ice cream.  I have ice cream.  Yummy Ben & Jerry downstairs in the freezer.  Screw B&J.
I hate this.
This sucks.

I'm going to bed......

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Countdown Begins

Tomorrow is Monday.

Unless something unexpected happens, Friday is my last day at work.

Let the countdown begin.

James 1:2-4 (NIV)
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything
tick... tock....

You’ll be seeing less of me

So, I committed the other day to blogging daily. Well, that was dumb. I don’t have something to say daily. But here we go....

The only thing I can think to post is a success that I noticed recently. I need to post and journal about even the small things in life because as my therapist has pointed out to me on more than one occasion. Even small successes are successes. They are not to be judged by their size. These two are actually kinda big though.

Today I wore to church a slightly wrinkled pale blue blouse. My iron and I aren't good friends. I bought the blouse last fall. September I think. When it arrived, it didn't fit. It was too tight across the boobs and shoulders. One of those shirts where the buttons end up spreading open so you can see the bra of being worn underneath. Sigh.... I really liked it and was bummed when it didn't fit back in September. This weekend when I slipped it on it fit. Comfortably.

I had lunch this weekend at The Silver Diner with a friend. I noticed a few months ago that squeezing into their booths was getting difficult. Difficult? Hah! Downright uncomfortable. Once I was squeezed in so tight I could hardly breath. This weekend? I fit into the booth quite comfortably.

I haven't weighed myself the last few times I've been to the gym so I'm not sure where I am pound-wise, but I'm really glad at the progress I have seen lately.

So, apparently my commitment (finally) to my meal plan and exercise is working.

So, very soon you will all be seeing much less of me. ;)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

I AM a woman of dignity

Recently I received a piece of scripture in my e-mail box via one of my many devotionals. It came from Proverbs 31 Ministries.

"She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come." Proverbs 31:25 (NIV)

The commentary that went with it did nothing for me but that passage spoke to me.

She laughs at the days to come. Really? Are you kidding me? How? How can she laugh? She’s going to be unemployed soon. She’s going to be receiving a very meager unemployment check and wondering how far she can stretch her meager savings account. She, if you hadn’t gathered, is me.

As I said in my earlier post, I have been given 2-weeks notice at my job. I like the company I work for and I love my job. It’s easy work. I’m good at my job. I can get everything I need done done in a few short hours in a day. I’m looking for work and trying to stay positive. I say trying because there are just moments that I don’t feel very positive. The reality of my possible future becomes overwhelming sometimes. Like when I watch the news. The media reports such a negative outlook on the economy and the job market it freaks me out. The paint such a bleak picture. The sky is falling and no one is finding jobs. Sigh.... My brain goes into overdrive. My heart begins to beat hard. My breathing becomes quicker. I’m on the verge of a panic attack. I change the channel... I may not watch any news for the next few weeks. I guess I’ll have to depend on my friends to let me know if there are things going on in the world.

So, back to this woman of dignity. Proverbs 31 is a letter telling a young man what kind of woman he should look for. The kind of woman he should want to marry and spend the rest of his life with. So, among other things, she is laughing at the days to come. Another variation states:

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. (NLT)

King James puts it this way:
Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. (KJV)

That’s interesting. She rejoices in times to come. Paul tells us we should rejoice always. Actually he doesn’t tell us. He shouts it “Rejoice!” He screams it at us. Sheesh, Paul. OK. I get it. I get it. Rejoice and act with dignity.

The word dignity is only in the bible 4 times. Just 4 mentions of dignity. Isn’t that interesting? There are so many examples of people who acted with dignity but the authors only felt it necessary to use the word 4 times. Job, Esther, Paul, Abraham, Moses, Noah, Mary and Joseph. Jesus showed it daily. He hung out with sinners and tax collectors and befriended a Samaritan woman at a well. Jesus told stories, about people with dignity. The story of the Good Samaritan is relayed as a story of mercy. But I believe it is also a story of dignity. He stopped to help someone who just a day earlier probably would have spat in his face. I wonder if either of them thought about laughing at their future? Did the guy who was mugged laugh at what was coming? What about the Samaritan? I’ll be he would have laughed if someone said to him that in a day he’d be helping a sworn enemy. When Jesus is telling that story he asks "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" My answer is somewhat different than the disciples answer. The man who was the neighbor is the one who decided to put aside thousands of years of cultural history and hatred that separated these two men and acted with dignity. He laughed at what others would say.

So, what does it mean to act with dignity? The first part of the scripture seems to be the answer to me.

"She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come." Proverbs 31:25 (NIV)

She is not clothed with gold and jewels and the latest Manolo Blahniks. She isn’t going shoe shopping or purse shopping. It’s not about what she is wearing or where she is from. It’s about how she is acting. How does she appear to others? Is she cowering in a corner? Is she off eating pints of Ben & Jerry? I don’t think so.

She is writing in her journal. She is visiting her therapist. She is making lists. She is applying for jobs. She is examining her budget and making cuts. She is praying and reading her bible daily. She is blogging online.

She is figuring out how to laugh at the days to come.

She is a woman of dignity.

My first REAL entry

My colorful journal -- It’s not very colorful is it?

Well, I’ve decided to begin journaling online and see what kind of impact I can have on myself. Yes, this is for me. If you are reading this, bravo and welcome but you must understand I’m doing this for me.

I will soon be out of a job. The contract my company has is ending and it does not look like there are other opportunities within this company for me. I can’t control this situation. It is what it is. I don’t like it and I can’t control it. I can only control how I am reacting. So, I’m looking for work. I updated my resume. Posted it on and changed the status to “Public.” It’s amazing how many recruiters have seen my resume and are calling me or e-mailing me. Be nice if any of these recruiters had any idea what I did though. Some are so clueless. They don’t even understand the job description they are trying to fill. Oh, well.

I’m doing other things to to maintain my sanity. Each day when I wake up I spend at least 30 minutes in Bible Study. I start with my church’s bible reading plan and then I move onto several devotionals that I have sitting by my bed. If there’s time, and there usually isn’t I move onto Beth Moore’s study about Esther. I think Esther is just about the bravest woman I’ve ever read about. Except for may be Joan of Arc. She went before the king unannounced, uninvited. The last thing she says to her uncle Mordecai is “If I perish. I perish.” You have to read the whole book to appreciate how it all came about and why she did what she did. But she knew the King could kill her on the spot and she went anyway. She’s my favorite woman of the Bible.

So, in any event, I’m committing to this blog. I don’t know what I have to say on any given day but I am committing to saying it daily. We’ll see where this takes me.


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