Taking Stock // 6.7.14

birthday balloons

I’d like to harken back to the web 1.0 days where my friends and I would do “surveys”, answering a list of questions and sharing it with friends to give them more insight into what our life is all about. I recently found an upswing in this old trend in several blogs that I read, and I thought it would be nice to answer this small questionnaire regularly to reflect and “take stock” in where I am and what I’m doing with my life.

Bookmarking: This TED talk of Aimee Mullins redefining the concept of beauty and disability with prosthetic legs and this amazing database of free stock images freely contributed by creatives for creatives
Creating: Possibly a blog coauthored by me and my guy
Cooking : Jalepeño Popper Deviled Eggs this evening. Need I say more?
Drinking : Water
Enjoying: Classic Rock station on Pandora
Feeling: Uncharacteristically energetic! Thank you vitamins and working out.
Following: Powerhouse-personalities in the nonprofit social media Twitterverse like Beth Kanter.
Giggling: I can read Autocorrect Fails over and over and still find them hilarious.
Hoping: To get a decent grade on my enormous research paper
Knowing: Next to nothing about true volunteer management, but jumping in and learning anyway!
Liking: That it’s the weekend
Looking: I’ve got a pretty springy outfit going.
Loving: Crossing items off a to-do list
Marveling: There is a personal trainer who runs Boricua Fitness and shares my office building. She’s 4’11 (shorter than me, who knew?) and a grandmother, but she’s fit and looks young. Motivation!
Needing: Money for my terrible shopping impulses
Noticing: My spike in energy and ability to power through the 2 o’clock feeling after a workout
Opening: My first Loot Crate! (Okay, this is later in the month, but I’m super excited.)
Playing: Borderlands 2
Reading: The Dog Stars
Smelling: Pizza. Drool.
Thinking: “I need to just start posting. Waiting for the perfect topic or post will never allow my blog to gain momentum.”
Waiting: For my birthday next weekend
Wanting: Money and time to travel and do good around the country and world
Wasting: Valuable brain space reading posts on theseTumblr activists websites – where the lines between humor and offense are forever blended.
Wearing: My comfy, “Trust Me, I’m a Doctor” David Tennant shirt 
Wishing: I could fast-forward through my last year of graduate school
Wondering: Do people really put their loved one’s ashes in their tattoo ink?
Like this? Here’s a blank one of your own. Link to your post in the comments!
Cooking :
Drinking : 

My Experiences in a Poverty Simulation // 12.18.13

Or… the frustrations of being “Cathy-32”

When my boss handed me her ticket to a Cost of Poverty Experience (C.O.P.E.) seminar (see video below), I was intrigued. C.O.P.E. is a simulation of one month in the life of poverty. It provides a glimpse into the obstacles that are faced, the decisions that are made, and the consequences that impact low-income individuals and families every day.

The object? To sensitize participants to the realities faced by low-income people. It sounded somewhat … fun – in a twisted way. I liked simulations. And judging from my embarrassing collection of Tycoon and Sims games, I clearly love playing pretend.

However, it was not a game. How could it be?

It was held in one of the biggest churches I had seen. That morning I thought, “What do you wear when you’re about to spend your day pretending to be poor?” I didn’t want to look so lavish that it made a mockery of the situation so I wore work attire with a hint of “Sunday’s best”, sparing the flashy jewelry.

More than 50 people including myself were herded into the church’s uncharacteristically small chapel, taking in our surroundings. Clusters of chairs of varying sizes populated the middle, and tables were strewn about the surrounding walls. I was placed in a group of three, with a gentleman and woman, and we sat in an uncomfortably close circle of chairs facing each other. I caught view of the baby doll sitting on my teammate’s chair, and that’s when I realized this wasn’t just budget sheets and bill paying. Oh no – baby dolls were involved. This was to be a very sobering game of “house”.

My teammates were much older than I. We discussed our professions and our anxieties of what was to come. A portrait of a family was taped to the back of my chair and our “family packets” lay beneath. Each cluster of chairs was deemed a “family”. Along the walls there was were tables meant to portray a gas station, a welfare office, a pawnshop, a school, a bank, an employer and other community resources. There was play money, pretend offices, school supplies… all to make it more real. The pawnbroker even had Dollar Store gold chains adorning her neck.

Each family packet was co-designed by real low-income individuals who shared their story. We were about to jump head first into the simplified lives of real people. The families varied. Some large, some individuals, some gay and lesbian, some married, single, mothers, teens, some well off and most weren’t. Some had health, mental or criminal issues, some attended school or work and sometimes both.

Inside our packet was $50 in play money, a description of our family, cards representing our possessions (I had an Xbox!), a car title, and other items. Our family situation?

“Married Couple with two children; Father is Ex-Offender”

There were three nametags: one for the father, one for the mother, and one for the oldest daughter. To save from the embarrassment of playing married life with a middle-aged man (or woman), I quickly swiped the daughter tag, stuck it on my shirt and became Cathy-32, a ten-year-old “normal” child. My teammates became my parents – my ex-offender father was tasked with towing around my younger sister, the baby doll, because mom was the breadwinner and dad couldn’t find work. Already this was very stressing.

Planning our first week gave rise to early nerves. We had a list of bills to pay, we had to secure legal transportation to move about, and mom had to go to work and school while dad had to make his probation appointments. I peeked at our car title: a Ford Taurus with 180,000 miles. This was all too familiar: last summer I finally sold my 1999 Mercury Cougar – 172,000 miles under its belt – for 400 bucks. It was at that point I’m sure all car owners have experienced, where there were so many issues building on top of other issues that, if I had it any longer, I might have paid someone to take it from me. Even though I played a child in this simulation, I was very aware of the hardships a car of that age could pose.

The bell rang to start our first week (about 15 minutes in real-time) and we were off. Everyone scattered about frantically, and while my parents deliberated as to who would take the car, the bus came by and swept me off to school.

A Shared Defining Moment // 12.12.13

I’m embarrassed to say that this is one of many “first posts” I have written. This blog has been a dream of mine, my little place on the web that would catch all of my ideas and spark discussions from like-minded people.  I wanted the perfect design and the perfect name, I wanted to know exactly what topics I would discuss and how often I would post. I wanted to know exactly what its purpose would be so as not to confuse my readers. I had a long list of what needed tweaking pre-launch and nothing but a blank “New Post” window.

A few days ago, I read an email from a stranger and followed a series of links until I reached the author’s WordPress blog on topics I knew nothing about. I was peering into the window of a strange world. The layout was simple and effortless and the content was plentiful.

There was my problem. I wanted many things for my blog that ended up hindered the very thing I wanted it to portray: my words – the content of my life. Like an overanxious mother, I was too busy primping and outfitting my blog with everything it needed before stepping out into the world, hoping it would be liked by its classmates. Unfortunately, I gave it nothing of value – I gave it no content.

I wondered if this stranger went through the same struggle. Is this a shared ordeal for others who dream of running a successful blog? I was curious, so I sifted through the archives of this strange world and found the first post. Lo and behold,  I find exactly what I needed to hear, from someone who had the same struggle – the same defining moment:

I have been wanting to start this blog without starting it for an embarrassingly long time now. I wanted to pick the perfect name, I wanted to understand wordpress better, I wanted to have more time to dedicate consistently, I wanted to have a clearer idea of what I want from this, I wanted many things that only served as obstacles to actually getting going (and that are still possible to achieve in the meanwhile).  SO – the best way to get anywhere is to just start SOMEWHERE. Well, here I am! Or to quote something I heard recently regarding innovation, “Commit. And then figure it out.” Or to paraphrase President Obama, “We must move forward, knowing our work will be imperfect.”

-From the blog of Taylor H.

Whether you start 5 miles ahead or 5 miles behind, you will never reach the 10 mile goal unless you start SOMEWHERE. I’m not going to worry about comments or readership or finding my niche. I will worry less about the design and more about my words. All of that will come in time.

For now I just want to commit. Then I’ll figure it out.