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Monday, April 2nd, 2012
10:55 am - Stranger in a Strange Land
http://www.flickr.com/photos/spleenlessjen/6860178692/

This face is haunting me. Police came to me after a local hit and run on Feb. 29th to see if he was one of the homeless men that I know through WinterHaven. The first pictures were awful, hard to figure how anyone could identify him considering the shape he was in. A pickup truck had veered off the road, hitting him as he walked on the sidewalk, hurling him over a guard rail into a parking lot below. Initially, his survival was questionable.

Recently the police came back with an updated photo. He's physcially somewhat better, but not communicating. I looked at his picture and immediately knew where I'd seen him. He follows a set pattern, walking a 3 mile stretch of road back and forth, most of the time reading at the same time. He's never been in my shelter, nor a client, but for years I've seen him, the solitary book worm wearing a path whose destinations seem locked in a neverending circuit. With that circuit broken, the eyes in the picture look adrift.

My clients recognize him, as I do, but know one knows his name. They report seeing him in the library, always silent. I let the police know what I could offer, primarily that they check the libraries to see if staff know his name. To date, over a month later no one does. The idea that he could live in this community - whether homeless, mentally ill or simply an intensly shy person - with no one who has missed him or even can recall his name saddens me in a way that is hard to put in words.

current mood: sad

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Monday, March 19th, 2012
10:27 am - WinterHaven Farewell
So it's done. Almost at least. There will be a closeout meeting, almost surely an ugly and contentious affair. The accoutrements - the mats, the bedding, universal precaution kits, etc. - are all in the basement of our local Armory. I originally contemplated taking today off to process, but I think at this point it's still not real that I'm leaving. Not how I expected the end to be, but that is how life turns. I've learned a lot about myself over the years, found some strengths I didn't know I had as well as some weaknesses. Hopefully there is someone out there who can take this and have the joys and sorrows that come to shape you and forge a path.

Got through the day with only one bout of tears: when I thanked my friend Donny for standing alongside me over the years and keeping me sane this year. I'm sure more will come, but that will be part of the cleansing.

current mood: wistful

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Monday, September 26th, 2011
11:17 am - Migration
With the help of a friend, a large portion of my smaller furniture moved to the front porch yesterday. Lee soaked the carpet in our apartment, so we are sorting, ditching, clearing, etc. to make way for the carpet guys. It feels like a move, with boxes, bins & whatnot now upstairs in Betsy's living room, and there is plenty more to do. We're temporarily camped at Mom's for the stretch, but I'm at the house daily to keep plowing. The back of the car is filled with books for The Book Thing, I've tossed large amounts of stuff and I'm giving away things that are more than the space will bear. No matter how much I clear it always seems like there is more.

It's hard to believe I've lived there for over 7 years. It's a basement apartment and tight for 3 of us, but the neighborhood is wonderful and it's affordable. It also has a great front porch for hiding out and watching the world go by. I'm hoping when this process is done I'll have a more organized and livable space. Sadly it takes a disaster to kick me into gear...

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Friday, August 19th, 2011
10:12 am
hail

Last night brought a fast moving, wild and wonderful storm. As the skies opened up, the rain switched to grape sized hail and I took my spot on the front porch to watch the show.

Car alarms began to blare and the steady clacking of ice hitting the ground and roof created a rare percussive treat. It also transported me back to the days of sitting with my family on Scaggsville Road, silently delighting in the summer storms blowing through. All in all a magical surprise.

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Monday, January 25th, 2010
9:54 am - Time marches on.....and time is still marching on.....
So, I did it - I will officially step back from WinterHaven as of the end of this season. I've sent the following letter off in various directions, the word is out. Somehow I thought I'd feel relieved, but right now I'm uncharacteristically angry. Ah well, all things must pass... Here's the letter:

I'm touching base to let the larger group know of some discussions that Donny and I have had recently on where WinterHaven has been and where we are going. This season has been difficult on several fronts and we wanted to look at the big picture for where things are heading.

First of all, I need to say how proud I am of all the volunteers and congregations that have kept WinterHaven going since it's 1991/1992 season. We have paved a way for area homeless men and women to move forward in their lives and have undoubtedly kept people from freezing to death in some of the coldest nights over the years. We have run on a shoestring, through the generosity of the congregations, organizations and individuals. Our leadership has worked together organically, finding gifts and strengths and supporting each other. I can honestly say we have seen the best of our community in how we have responded to challenges.

We have grown from a shelter serving up to 20 single men to a dual based shelter for single men and single women, with 35 men and 4 women one recent night. We have done so as an all volunteer program - we have no paid staff, no pools of money, just the sheer determination and faith of those involved. My concern at this point is that we have outgrown/outlived our current model. This is not due to failures on our part as much as our successes - we have developed relationships with our guests, found resources, built a reputation as a caring community. At the same time, our seasoned volunteers have gotten....almost 20 years older! Many of us have weathered a host of life changes, some have moved on, some can no longer carry the same load. Our board has dwindled to 4 at the same time that the challenges we are facing have increased. In my own case, I know that I can finish this season, but I have reached a point where I know I am burned out. In talking to Donny, he is at the same point. Both of us have decided that we will not be back in the same capacity next year.

This leaves several options. Last year I brought up the possibility of coordinating with the Warm Nights program run by Prince Georges county. Their shelter still utilizes volunteers and congregational space, but has paid staff on each shift and is coordinated by CCSI. Having dedicated organizational staff as well as night to night oversight would be a major factor in being able to handle both the numbers and complexity of problems we have been seeing. Don has floated the idea on a preliminary basis to CCSI and they didn't run screaming. This would entail some larger scale lobbying to convince the county to include us in the funding loop for the coming winter, hence discussing this now. If we intend to go this route, we will need to start planning now.

Another possibility is that we have a new set of board members step forward and things run in a similar fashion. The upside would be that we would maintain our independence and keep the shelter running as is. The downside is that with the increasing numbers, we would continue to have the space and oversight challenges we have been facing for the past several years. Like the Warm Nights option, we would need to act soon to train and prepare new board members for next season. Luckily, Cynthia XXXX, our trusty scheduling wizard is already putting together next years schedule.

The outcome I am praying does not occur is that WinterHaven closes down. I know that we have many people depending on us and the need is increasing. I also know, however, that this is too large to balance on the backs of a small group of volunteers. In my own case, I have exhausted my reservoirs and the well is running dry - I have to step back and replenish my reserves. If it is to be that WinterHaven does not go on, my hope is that something else would rise from the ashes to address the need.

I am sure that there are many creative ideas, heartfelt suggestions and collective wisdom out there. This is what I am looking for right now - please come forward and give us any input you can to help determine where we go from here. I would be happy to schedule time for a meeting with more focused discussion and planning.

With love for all of you -

Jenny

current mood: angry

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Wednesday, January 20th, 2010
11:31 am
So after battling my computer for the past couple weeks, I decided again to drop the online computer literacy class - this time before I paid for it. To replace it, I've added a "weekend course" - three weekends, Friday night and all day Saturdays - in Philosophy. I'll see how this format works. That much thinking crammed into 3 weekends may turn me into a babbling idiot... My other class will be a basic Spanish class on Monday and Wednesday evenings, so I will already be trying to pack info into my rusty brain without letting it leak out.

I'm in slightly better spirits than last week, though I'm still confronting longstanding issues. Thanks for all the kind thoughts. Onward ho!

current mood: determined

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Friday, September 11th, 2009
3:46 pm - This Land is Your Land -
Below is a portion of a LJ entry I posted shortly after 9/11. It also ended up being a letter to the editor in our local paper. I still believe all of it, rereading it just makes me sad with the knowledge of where all the energy and spirit of community took us, bastardized into a sham patriotism that left me stunned at our willingness to forgo our basic ideals out of fear. I still believe in this country, I just wonder when we will find our way back.

From 9/15/01:

As the horrifying events of last week flicker across TV screens across the nation, I hear again and again the refrain - what can I do? The helplessness of watching and the desire to help is part of what makes us a human family. I thought quite a bit about it and my suggestions are as follows:

Donate blood, though you may not be able to this week. Do it a month from now, do it again when you are eligible to. It will be needed, perhaps not for a victim of the bombing, but for another person facing a life threatening challenge.

Write a check to the Red Cross or other relief organization. Keep your checkbook open. Write your next check to an organization in our backyard. Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services, FISH, and others help your neighbors in crisis whatever it may be.

Grieve for those who have suffered loss, then step out your door. Do you have a friend or neighbor who has watched this destruction unfold alone? Stop and visit them, share yourself.

Settle an argument, drop an old grudge. Mend fences with someone. Does it really seem so important anymore?

Fly your flag, but remember what it stands for. Vote, voice your opinion, attend a council meeting. Be respectful of differing viewpoints. Democracy is not a spectator sport.

Call, write or e-mail those you love. Tell them, and tell them often.

Patriotism calls for love. Love of country requires that we strive to make this a better place for all, from our backyard to the farthest reaches of our nation. As a nation that takes a world leadership role, we also have responsibilities that stretch across continents and seas to further liberty and justice for all. As citizens, our effect is most potent as we share our gifts with those around us.

current mood: contemplative

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Monday, September 7th, 2009
7:52 am - Labor Day


My grandmother, like many impovrished children of her day was forced to quit school and go to work in a box factory to help support the family. Even in her old age, when she would talk about having to quit school (she was one of the smartest people I ever knew) a shadow would come across her face. At the age my daughters are now, she was toiling her days away. The above pic is not her, but one of many children of her time documented by Lewis W. Hine.




This Labor Day, one would wish her experience was one of the past, a relic of a harsher time. Around the world, however, children share her fate, often for pennies a day. This Labor Day, my thoughts are with them - the children whose childhood evaporated before their eyes.

current mood: sad

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Wednesday, August 19th, 2009
9:55 am
Sending love and admiration to daisydumont who has weathered the storms and continues to keep on keeping on after the loss of her beloved Gerry. Peace be with you on this day.

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Wednesday, August 12th, 2009
2:18 pm - Hooray for flying monkeys!
Happy 70th anniversary to The Wizard of Oz, premired this date in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, and to our own gurdonark who premired a number of years later...

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Friday, July 24th, 2009
11:32 am - Postlet
I am remiss in posting - yes those little Facebook updates are the extent of my attention span most days. It's about time for a general update for anyone who still realizes I'm here...

* School is plugging along - I expect to get an A if my grades hold up. The online format is convenient but a bit disconcerting in terms of give and take. I've also learned my lesson about putting off the workbook the hard way. Hopefully it will serve me well, since I am going to continue to need to do a lot of my classes online. I've registered for 2 classes in the fall, one face to face, the other online. I'm a bit nervous since they will collide with WinterHaven season, but I have to keep the momentum going.

* Rain & Cora are enjoying their trip to Maui - I can't wait to see the pics. I also can't wait for them to come home. I've had stretches away from them, but never this far away.

* Work is about the same. I have put a hold on actively looking right now, it was mentally exhausting. I'll keep networking, but for now I'm going to focus on the school process.

* The summer is flying by. I had a brief beach respite in June, and I want to do another road trip before school's back in session for the girls but haven't decided where or when.

* I'm going to Dylan, Willie & Mellencamp tonight. I'm hoping for clear weather. I've never seen Willie Nelson in concert before, I'm pretty excited.

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Monday, June 1st, 2009
10:32 am - Tortoise
I know it's bad when I'm feeling guilty about my posting. I guess I'm still having trouble putting together thoughts in more than a bullet point fashion. That better change soon, since I'm now officially back to class. I got tired of talking about it and have dipped my toe in the water for summer session at Prince Georges Community College. I'll be taking an intro Psych course online, hopefully that will allow me to work around other commitments. In the end, if I can wipe out some basics at community college rates I'll be better off. Long term, the goal is a Social Work degree....and I do mean long term since I figure this will stretch on while I'm working full time. No sugar daddy in the picture, so I guess I will the slow and steady rate.

Otherwise, life is par for the course. Rain and Cora are plugging along, each blossoming in their own ways. Cora got accepted at an Arts magnet school for Jr. High as a Drama student - she's in high squee over that. Rain is likely to switch schools for 11th and 12th. Sad, but hopefully a fresh start. I'm still trying to allow myself some time for frivolity, i.e. my regular Tuesday trivia night. Took some time yesterday to hang out with the lovely daisydumont yesterday over Limoncello and eclairs with fresh strawberries. Limoncello was new for both of us, and while refreshing is quite strong. I think in the future I'll have to cut it with something.

All in all, life is good - not perfect, but moving forward.

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Sunday, April 12th, 2009
7:34 pm
I'm so excited - I'm going to Pete Seeger's 90th Birthday Concert! See the link for the amazing lineup. I'm in total squee-itude.

current mood: excited

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Monday, March 23rd, 2009
8:29 pm - Providence
I am a great believer in providence. I realize it's at odds with other aspects of my personality, but regardless, I feel that periodically things come forward at times most needed.

Today was a mix of feelings. I am very relieved to be done with WinterHaven, a tough season. At the same time, I feel a certain amount of guilt at being relieved - there is always a group that will head back to the street. I've long ago made peace with the fact that I can't want something more than the person in question, but being relieved is somewhat guilt inducing. I worry about my jaded attitude, but I've been doing this since '91. I've seen things I never expected to at the beginning.

In '91, it wasn't easy, but the guests were much more of the "Otis" drunks. As I look back, I know Otis (the Andy Griffith caricature) was likely not the harmless sot he seemed, but he was cheerful and manageable. They had their ethos, and in a warped way took care of each other.

In '09 we have more mentally ill, dually diagnosed and more personality disorders. No one is "just" a drunk, they mix and match their addictions and come up with hellish cocktails of abuse. The years of abuse take a physical toll, requiring adult diapers, multiple medications and detailed oversight. None of which we are competent to provide as an all volunteer organization. In the end, we are the dumping ground.

My friend D called this eve to let me know that a client I worked with extensively at my old job died this morning. She was one of the first cases I dealt with as a case worker, one that made me want to explode at the time. She had no insurance, but while she was considered terminal hospice provided her medications. She then had the temerity to get better....so all her medical care was cut off. Makes sense, huh? Long story with many other twists and complications, but all in all, a sad story.

I left for the store after D called, picking up a few things. On my way out I heard my name called. I turned and saw another former client, also with multiple health issues, waving at me. I stopped to chat, cautiously avoiding case issues that I can't address. She's not 100%, but she's doing OK. Sometimes that's the best that can be done. She was happy to see me and was positive about her future. Given the day, I'll take that as my piece of providence.

current mood: wistful

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Friday, February 13th, 2009
10:20 am
My cockiness over my avoidance of the series of colds and viruses that have been coming down the pike has come round to kick my ass. Since last weekend I've been increasingly drowning in snot and now have a lovely croaking voice. I always bemoan the fact that I always skip over Kathleen Turner's sexy husky sound and go straight to Kermit the Frog during puberty.

I took a rare sick day yesterday to sleep in, but had to take Rain for an oral surgery appointment in the afternoon. We had to predose her with Valium which left her quite stoned. I'm sure there would be those who would frown at my amusement, but she was pretty funny. Poor kid has two stitches in her cheek and looks like the Godfather...but only on her left side.

One promising thing that happened yesterday was a call for an interview with another local agency. I had applied for a community worker position, but they want me to interview for a supervisory position. I'll be going over there next Wednesday, so keep your fingers and toes crossed for me.

current mood: sick

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Sunday, January 25th, 2009
1:50 pm - Writer's Block: Robotic
Who (or what) is your favorite fictional robot?






Danger Will Robinson!

current mood: silly

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Monday, January 19th, 2009
2:38 pm
I'm staring out my office window at a frosted white landscape. Somehow that dusting of snow can cover the ugliest pile of trash and make it a sparkling new thing. The denuded trees reach their white gloved fingers to the sky, finding a new elegance.

Our area is bracing for the onslaught of visitors for the inauguration. After initially considering going down, I thought better of it as the estimated numbers rose and rose. I've been to many large gatherings in DC - marches, protests, celebrations - but this will likely trump all of them. If I really want to see what's going on, I'll have a better vantage point watching it on TV. I do want to watch it with my clients, as the excitement here is palpable.

Our local PBS station is running a marathon of "Eyes on the Prize." It's been on throughout the day as my background, a reminder of the strides that have been made and the sacrifices that were made to get there. I love the old footage and the smaller stories that sometimes get lost. So Happy Birthday Martin. You stood on the mountaintop, but it would have been wonderful to have you performing the invocation tomorrow.

current mood: thoughtful

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Wednesday, January 14th, 2009
12:02 am
tx_cronopio passed on a poetry meme, not quite a meme but a chance to post a favorite poem. I've always loved this one, a recognition of the beauty of the ordinary. Richard Brautigan has a way.

"Affectionate Light Bulb"

I have a 75 watt, glare free, long life
Harmony House light bulb in my toilet.
I have been living in the same apartment
for over two years now
and that bulb just keeps burning away.
I believe that it is fond of me.

current mood: content

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Saturday, January 10th, 2009
9:45 am - Back from the Abyss
I survived the holidays, St. P's week of WinterHaven and assorted distractions. 2009 is here and I have my first interview of the year with a local transit company. A flip of the calendar page does not mean much in real life, but I'm hoping to move forward despite the gloomy forecasts.

I've found an interesting source of opposition in my job search. The girls seem very unnerved by any prospect of me going to a "straight" job. They understand it might be necessary, but are genuinely freaked by the potential that I wouldn't be in a "helping" job. I guess neither of them can remember the days when I had a business type gig, so it will be an adjustment if I end up outside of my more recent gigs.

I hope to write more, just have had a stretch where life has overtaken most outlets. I'm trying to carve out some things for myself, so hopefully this will be one of them. Coalescing my thoughts into a post has been tougher lately - if I set it as a goal I may not win the slowest poster award. I do read daily, however, so I'm still here, believe it or not.

current mood: tired

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Monday, September 8th, 2008
7:52 pm - The Times, They are A'Changin...
I have seen things in my life that I never thought I would bear witness to. The fall of the Berlin Wall. The release and subsequent presidency of Nelson Mandela. Yesterdays was not quite as earth shattering but amazing nonetheless - Quentin Crisp in the children's page of the comics! He was featured, with large pic, in "You Can Do It with Beakman and Jax." I have searched the web and been unable to embed it, but I will try to scan it for those who are not Sunday paper comics readers. Life is good!

current mood: amused

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