Posts Tagged ‘Holiday Letter’

Holiday Letter 2022

It’s a great building, a conversion of an old Jewish temple. One of the coolest buildings in town in a town with a lot of cool buildings. It’s the first time I’ve lived alone for more than a few months. I like it more than I thought I would. Gives me a lot of time to reflect which I was short on for the nine years I served on the Columbia City Council which I wrapped up last year leading to the big changes. In general, it was nice to rip the band aid off and be done with Columbia. Between the brutality of political life and the toll of working with homeless folks it had started to get to me. Getting away and being in a new place doing new things was just what the doctor ordered. If I had stayed in Columbia I would have been pulled into more drama and been put upon do more hard stuff for free, then I feel like doing at this point in my life.

It’s been a little while since I’ve done a holiday letter, but I want to get back in the swing of blogging in 2023 and this seems like a good start. The beginning of the year found me starting a new life in Leavenworth Kansas. I had moved here in November to take a job as the Executive Director of a domestic violence and sexual assault service center. I kept my house in Columbia, Missouri which is about three hours away and I make it back to visit about once a month or so. I got a nice two-bedroom apartment a short walk from work.

So, asides from work my life is pretty quiet. I walk a lot. One of the first things I did is get a list of the Leavenworth Parks and walk to them all. There are some nice ones. Haven Park has mountain bike trails that are fun to hike on, even though the woods are pretty scrubby. Veterans Park has some good trails but it’s on the other side of town, so I don’t get over there much. Three Mile Trail and the River Walk are my go-to walks I do several times a week. I like hikes that start at my front door and a walk through town and down the River Walk to Three Mile Creek and then take the trail to the end and circle back home or walk it backwards if I need more steps is my go-to walk.

It’s a beautiful day for December so I walked down 7th Street to Three Mile Creek to the River Walk and then down Esplanade to 2nd and back was a nice walk and a little longer and may become my new one. I had some back pain so I took the day off and thought a long walk might help me stretch out. I’ve put on a lot of weight this year and am looking to get a lot more active and do some portion control and drop a few pounds.

My job has been fairly stressful until recently. The nonprofit was a bit of a fixer-upper to put it mildly. It had closed down for about a year and never really got straightened back out after reopening four years ago. It took a lot of work to get the accounting straightened our, fix the grant reporting system and bring in solid management staff. We still have a lot of turnover but we are stable if still a bit fragile. I have repaired our relationship with our funders and been out in the community a lot, so donations are up. We’ve improved the data collection but that still needs some work. We are close to getting certified which will be a big accomplishment. We have a few things left to do from our site visit as far as rewriting our rulers to be more trauma informed and paring down our fairly onerous intake procedures. I’m kind of excited about having the space to improve programming.

There has been so much catch up and back-office repair I haven’t been able to focus as much on process improvements. I was finally able to fill our contract counselor position so it’s nice to have another clinical heavy hitter on the team. I hope to start doing some motivational interviewing training for my staff next month. I wrote myself into a COVID grant to do that but haven’t had the time to make it happen. I am also looking forward to doing an annual report. We’ve not done one in many years, and I didn’t have the data or accounting nailed down to do one last year.

Mostly I’ve been pushed at work. Have had very little time to choose my own adventure kind of activities and have been keeping the wolves at bay. I actually have some discretionary time and some ability to slow things up a little and focus more on selfcare. I want to go to Italy in June so I need to get in much better shape to properly enjoy it. Walking more and getting back on the ebike are my big plans and adding some inside workouts when the weather isn’t cooperating.

Besides work I am active in the Chamber of Commerce. I’ve been on the Board of Directors since January which is pretty good for being a new resident. This January I’ll start on the Executive Committee as the Vice Chair. I’m also plugging in on their strategic plan. I’ve also gotten active with the Leavenworth County Human Services Committee and am spearheading their strategic planning efforts. I hope to do it in pieces over the next year working in small groups with rotating members. We rewrote the mission statement, so vision is next.

I’ve also been a Chamber Ambassador, so I go to all the ribbon cuttings. It’s a good way to meet people and find out what is happening in the community. I’ve read research that having lots of weak ties is one of the components of a happy life so I’m doing good on that front for a newbie.

I’ve done a bit of regional travel. I’m planning on wrapping things up here in a little less than a year after I fulfill my two-year commitment. I’m not really cut out to be an executive director. I was a reluctant administrator much preferring direct service and clinical work and clinical management and training but once you’ve been an executive director it’s really hard to get a job doing anything else. It’s been satisfying fixing a broken keystone nonprofit but it’s not how I want to spend my days and the small “p” politics of small-town organizing is a lot to put up with for not having a particular passion for the work or the community. I like them both, but I have a lot of interests and I like a lot of places.

So, I’ve spent some time checking out Lawrence, Topeka and Wichita as well as Atchison which is a bit closer. I’ve done all the hikes within a half hour drive and am working on the hour drive hikes. I’ve also checked out the Flint Hills and Osawatomie. I have concert tickets in Hayes Kansas to see an alt country band, 49 Winchester, in May and my grants manager is getting married in Wichita so I’ll be back down there. The Capitol with the famous John Brown mural is a must see. The John Brown Museum in Osawatomie also has some cool artifacts.

My friend Harry came out and we went to Lawrence to see mewithoutyou on their farewell tour. It was an awesome show and I saw some shows with John. Most notably the Firewater Festival with Blackberry Smoke, the Old 97’s, and 49 Winchester giving memorable performances. I did a float trip down the Missouri from Leavenworth to the next river town. I also did Hartsburg to Jeff City later in the year which was pretty fun. For my vacation I flew into Detroit over Labor Day and caught the Detroit Jazz Festival. I came early and stayed late to see my friends in the homeland.

And that friends has pretty much been my year. Mostly I’ve tried to live a humble and quiet life. I’ve given up big ambitions and focused on what’s in front of me. Overall, I’m pleased with the results. The ego gets going a bit, but I’ve gotten better about keeping it in check and will keep working on it. I’m going to stay on much the same path in the coming year but take better care of myself while doing it. By the end of the year, I should be wrapping things up and packing my things back to my house in Columbia. From there its epic road trip and finding a quiet place to hole up and write a book. I hope to blog more to keep me in the writing mode.

Epic Road Trip #13: Across Colorado

June 18, 2021 1 comment

Boy a lot has happened in the last 6 days. As I mentioned in the last post I stopped at The Ancestral Pueblo Cultural Center which apparently is rebranding but the maps haven’t kept up. There were a couple of ruined pueblos on site and the museum had tons of current artifacts. When they built the nearby reservoir they harvested all the artifacts they could find before submerging them.

The ranger recommended Sand Canyon and to start early but it was already too late for that and I hit the trail at noon. I took it slow and with a gallon of water I hiked to all the sites on the first 3.7 miles before I decided to turnaround. It was really cool being in the wilderness and finding all of these cool cave dwellings you could get fairly close too.

I was surprised I was up to 14 miles with the hiking I had done earlier and the spur trails to get to the sites. I had also missed Castle Rock Pueblo by entering on an alternate trailhead but I stopped in a winery and picked up a half bottle of a white blend to taste the local terroir. I considered a tasting but even 4 oz of wine didn’t seem wise when I was going to be doing more desert hiking.

Took me a walk to find the site which turned out to be the big rock that looked like a castle. It was sad to see it pockmarked with gunshots and you couldn’t see the ruins from outside the prohibited area.

I drove on to Hovenweep and saw in the brochure my dispersed camping was really a campsite. It was $15 which I would have paid if it had included a shower. I decided to hike the 2 mile main trail even though I was 15 miles into the day and dark was approaching. It was an amazing hike and Hovenweep is the unknown gem of the trip for sure.

After the cliff dwelling period the ancient pueblans built free standing towers right before abandoning the area and moving south into the Rio Grande basin. There is another ruin on a 4 mile trail but I left that one for next time. I took the hour plus drive back to the BLM land by Mesa Verde I’d been staying at. It was a bit of a harrowing journey with 3 episodes of mule deer in the road one where I slammed on the breaks and stopped within inches of it as it looked at me sort of dumbfounded. Even more nerve-wracking there were these birds flying in front of the van scooping insects out of the headlight glow I assume. I made it back late and slept the sleep of the just. 17 miles hiked through the desert, I’m definitely getting stronger.

I drove the Canyon of the Ancients loop the counterclockwise this time and went to Sand Canyon Pueblo. It’s excavated ruins reburied to protect it. It had a subtle beauty and good interpretive signs but the young family who hiked it after me were unimpressed.

Then I challenged some dirt roads and visited a couple more ruins. You never know what you’re going to get but Painted Hand Pueblo was especially cool with a nice freestanding tower.

I then did some driving and got a burger and green chili beer at a brewpub in Durango. Drove seven miles up a mountain and was in some beautiful Aspen/Ponderosa Pine forest and a nice cool night. I noticed I had a rapidly developing flat tire but decided to wait until morning to deal with it.

I swapped on my donut and drove back to Durango. Got a great breakfast at a diner, picked up a pair of pants at a resale shop and they fixed my tire for free. I’d hiked a piece of the Colorado Trail on my way down the mountain which was amazing and hiked the interpretive trail by the overlook on my way backup the mountain. Had a nice campfire that night which was a nice surprise being in a worse drought then what drove the Ancestral Pueblans out of the area in the 13th century.

I hiked the Log Chute Trail coming down the mountain and should have known better by the name. It was a 5 mile loop with the last bit being super steep downhill and was obviously designed with mountain biking in mind. It was a lot of loose sand and I had one bad moment but I got my feet back under me before I had a fall.

I started up 550 North and pulled into an overlook at Coal Bank Peak, steam erupted from under the hood. I popped the hood and saw a hole in my radiator hose, about the only mechanical problem I was capable of fixing. I saw an auto parts store and looked at the map and thought it was in Silverton so I hit hitchhiked there. Got a ride right of way and quicky learned Google was messing with me sending me to Silverton to turnaround and drive back to Durango.

Rather then doing that I went to an auto repair place and the old boy running the place sold me a random one for $22.00. I had a choice of 2 so I picked the longer of them. I walked about an hour before I got a ride back to my van with a dude who knew his way around cars and gave me some sage advice.

It was difficult getting at the clips and then getting the hose on. Twice I felt my composure slip a little bit and I took a few breaths and centered myself and treated it like a meditative exercise. I got it done and it heat sealed and I drove my hot and filthy self to Silverton. I searched hotels and they were all pricey so I settled for some ok pulled pork and fries and got some cool dispersed camping by the river right outside of town.

I took this as a sign that mountains were not for the Cookie Monster and considered heading for home. My ride had said only a couple of passes and 550 flattened out. My last picture wouldn’t upload so I’ll wrap up and publish. I stayed at Steamboat Springs last night and am going to camp and hike in the Medicine Bow-Rout National Forest for a couple of days and figure out my next moves. The heatwave broke here and it’s pretty nice being at some elevation. Looks hotter then he’ll everywhere else so I’ll try and stay put. Stay cool.

A Holiday Letter: 2020 vision

December 27, 2020 1 comment

As Christmas fades into New Years I’ve had the chance to read a lot of 2020 holiday letters. I have written a few on this blog in years past. It is nice to reflect on changes and update our family and friends and interested bystanders on what has occurred and how we’ve evolved. 2020 was a defining year for everyone, pretty much. It of course was for me which is why I haven’t blogged since May. To my new readers, my apologies and I’m glad you’ve stuck with me.

I went into the 2020s intent on having it be a rejuvenation year. I harnessed the holidays from the Yule Log to the New Years Day reflecting, letting go and thinking ahead. I was a little more focused on my own work in 4-A-Change. Welcome Home, the shelter for Veterans experiencing homelessness where I consult had been newly certified and we were doing good work improving operations, solidifying and preparing for growth. I had been working on domestic violence training with Tasca Tolson and we had a good training with a plan to grow that service.

I was also getting to do some respite care for my favorite 4-year-old. It was a great set up because it allowed me to stay in his life after me and his mom broke up. I was less engaged in public policy but doing my part. I had a bunch of other interesting one shot deals and mini adventures but I also had more time to reflect, drink coffee and follow and discuss events. And that quickly became very interesting as everyone knows.

Ominous stories of the corona virus and clear signals it was not going to be controlled and it would be a world changing event. Over coffee and the news and discussion with John we saw what was coming. A few stories had a big impact. A guy dying in L.A. on the streets from COVID. A guy who was homeless in Florida arrested for defying a stay at home order. Groups of activists on the West Coast moving homeless folks into foreclosed homes. We decided people wouldn’t die of COVID on the streets in CoMo. We set upon documentation of community spread, which would surely lead to a stat at home order as the time when we would have to act.

Four days prior, as it turns out, on a Saturday morning at 7:00 am I called the City Manager. Being on City Council has its priveleges. He had sent an email so I knew he was up and working. I explained my concerns and asked for a project manager to be identified to get an emergency shelter started so that unsheltered folks could have access to hand washing and shelter to be able to shelter in place.

He called me back and said no staff were available but the Social Services Director thought I had the background and wherewithal to organize such a project and I could do so as a citizen volunteer. John and I had been brainstorming more grass roots approaches so we shifted gears and I began to liaison with the Human Services Director as a volunteer project manager.

You can read more detailed accounts about what happened next here and in the media. In summary we went from concept to enrolling individuals in 4 days and sheltered 9 folks that night. It had been a whirlwind of constant organizing and brainstorming and then we were also operating a 30 person shelter. We put a lot into our first volunteer training and managed things as best we could.

I had phone issues and the emotional stress of immersive work with traumatized individuals amongst the emergence of the pandemic/lockdown and the tidal wave of need as hundreds of people in need of shelter reached out as well as hundreds and hundreds of offers of support and questions and suggestions. I have been blessed to have organized a lot of high energy engaging projects with heavy media interest but nothing like the CoMoCrisisShelter.

We lasted 10 days and served up to 30 people after a few days. We lost our funding, raised new money but ultimately were to disruptive to our hotel hosts and were asked to leave. We thought a hotel based shelter was too attractive and with the temporary collapse of most conventional social services we thought we needed a crisis center as a point of access.

We looked at sites and I made appeals and reached out to those who controlled suitable real estate. It was sad when some folks I considered friends stopped taking my calls. It was heartening when we got a great site with an enthusiastic commercial realtor.

Safe Camp was born and again you can read about what happened in detail here and in the paper. It was a beautiful experiment in Mutual Aid and we were asked to leave before we even unpacked. Four days we stayed and the community rained down support in food and needed items and our neighbors and my own city government looked for levers to get us to disperse.

As I sought sites for our Crisis Center I found a site and an offer to host a depression era style Car Camp for folks living in vehicles. I started project managing that mutual aid project while we looked for another site for a Safe Camp. A small Black church in the central city let us host a Safe Camp in their backyard. John pretty much ran that project with the participants.

At all of our projects we focused on using the crisis shelter as a platform to improve their lives. We were less interested in providing immediate shelter to get by in but providing shelter as a platform to live a life of greatness. We had lots of successes and folks got into permanent housing, reunited with family and did other good things.

We emphasized skill sharing and empowerment. CAR Camp turned out to be our longest project at 7 1/2 months. We struggled with the less helpful parts of homelessness culture and we had our ups and downs. I yelled more then I have in the rest of my life. The mutual aid concept was thoroughly tested and proved to be sound.

Through these events a lot occurred with me. Not for the first time and likely not for the last I took Parsifal’s Journey into Chapel Perilous. Stress, vicarious trauma, disrupted sleep, the highs and lows of immersive organizing with the most challenged individuals all in the context of an unprecedented global crisis with the risk of death all around is a sure recipe for an *awakening*.

I had revelatory experience and struggles with hypomania into mania that you might expect. It was disruptive and painful and fucked up and beautiful. More good then bad came out of it by a good margin and you can’t ask for more than that.

I came to see great significance in the Sweet Light. In the twilight of the Piscean Age and/or the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius we surely live in the Sweet Light with the possibility of gentle clarity if we open our eyes.

In 2020 I learned to acknowledge the Sweet Light and felt compelled to preach it some. And I did, first on Easter Sunday after a beautiful sunrise and then on Sundays and/or Saturdays. Outside, in a circle, at a time not based on the clocks of some but on the sun time of all.

We had some beautiful sharing, earnest prayer, a little tentative song, the mangling of scripture and thoughts about how we were loved and things could be better and how grateful we are and all the goodness given to us.

As I worked to manage the things I had wrought out of concern and hope and a touch of madness the spell passed, as it always does. Sanity returns, revelation goes cold and you move the world a little more slowly.

We wrapped up CAR Camp with a COVID exposure the day before move out. I was identified as a close contact and instructed to self quarantine. John stepped up and closed down CAR Camp and worked with the Health Department to see those who needed it got the facilities to isolate. We had one or two more positives but John stepped up mightily.

John has done so consistently and with excellence through the entire pandemic. The Crisis Shelter, 2 Safe Camps, ongoing homelessness outreach most often as a volunteer and providing tons of support for Room At The Inn (RATI) our inclement weather shelter program John has been an exemplar of humble effective service.

I am picking up a little outreach as he bottom lines transportation. I’m also cooking more and trying to make sure I get some exercise. I started playing an online game, Evony, as a time waster and destresser. I’ve enjoyed making friends online and reading less news and letting others try to save the world for awhile. I feel like I did my piece to help and put out everything I had. I was glad to do it. Met a lot of great folks and made some memories. I learned a lot and got a taste of what’s possible.

I’m looking forward to another season at home and wrapping up my City Council service. With things as they are I get to reflect about my public service as it wraps up. Not what I expected who usually wrings the last engagement out of a thing and reflect later.

I skipped a lot of minutia, weirdness and negativity that happened as well. One piece of it is someone went through my blog and pulled out clubs and beat me up with them publicly. That’s why I hid my blog when I went into politics. I lay out my sacred things here. Its public but I trade mostly on genuine disclosure and unfiltered thoughts, anecdotes and stories, poems and songs and musings on things I’m interested in. It bothered me more then it might and so I didn’t blog for the rest of the year.

The last 2 times my filter went down I’ve spent more energy trying to be wiser and kinder rather then bring it back. I still have a lot to learn about that but I’m going to take the journey. Share your thoughts and questions and whatnot in the comments if you like. If I get some feedback I’ll surely do this more often.

I hope your year has been an experience to learn from and you have more fond memories then you realize yet. I hope your new year is blessed and you get to experience it with open eyes and an open heart. For those who celebrate Happy Kwanzaa!