Archive for November, 2009

>She’s tough. She’s from Virginia.

>The above is a conversation I overheard between two clients while I was changing the water jug. It made me smile.

Some days, however, I do not feel tough. For example, yesterday I broke down and cried after work. I had an older gentleman sob to me about how he can’t talk to his brother, who is in a nursing home in Tennessee, anymore because he just had a feeding tube put in. The brother is autistic and the last time he tried to call, he wouldn’t come to the phone.

I had another gentleman insist we call 911 because he was allegedly throwing up blood. He then decided not to go along with the paramedics and to do the chicken dance across the street.

I spent hours convincing a client to call the suicide hotline for veterans. He had been an army medic and had a 2 year old girl die in his arms after being shot. He said he couldn’t fall asleep without seeing her and so he just got drunk every night and high every day and was sick of it. Then the Doctor on the crisis hotline called me back to chew me out about how he was just trying to pull a ruse and find a free place to stay and was being ludicrous.

My coworker called animal control on a dog which constantly was forgotten and tied up outside.

I had another man spend the entire day trying to get in touch with his brother, who never called him back.

I had another gentleman threaten another man for allegedly slashing his bike tires.

There are some moments that are rewarding, and others that are downright discouraging. And that’s why today, on my day off, I am still in my pajamas at 1 and am ready for Thanksgiving!

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>Keepin the Peace

>”A big part of job is keeping the peace” – Pov staff member in an article on the Poverello that appeared in today’s paper.

Which is true. Its hard finding, keeping, or creating ‘peace.’ Whether its what movie to show at work, or whose turn it is to do the dishes.

And so I like this blessing:

May the blessing of Light be on you

light without and light within.

May the blessed sunlight shine on you

And warm your heart till it glows

Like a great peat fire, so that the stranger

may come and warm himself at it

and also a friend

And may the light shine out of the two eyes of you

Like a candle set in the windows of a house

Bidding the wanderer to come in out of the storm.

And may the blessing of the Rain be upon you, the soft sweet rain.

May it fall upon your spirit so that all the little flowers may spring up

And shed their sweetness on the air

And may the blessing of the Great Rains be on you

May they beat upon your spirit and wash it fair and clean

And leave there many a shining pool where the blue of heaven shines

And sometimes a star.

And may the blessing of the Earth be upon you, the great round earth

May you ever have a kindly greeting for them you pass

As you’re going along the roads

May the earth be soft under you when you rest upon it

Tire at the end of the day

And may it rest easy over you

When at the last you lay out under it

May it rest so lightly over you

That your soul may be out from under it quickly

And up, and off, and on its way to God.

And now may the Lord bless you all, and bless you kindly.

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>Lastly, Pictures Part 3.



So the other weekend, one of my housemates and I took a trip to the local graveyard for an event entitled “Stories and Stones.” Local people dressed up as some of the more famous, or rather infamous, Missoulians, and stood by their graves to regale the public with their stories.
Infamous Missoulian, Mrs. Gleim, the first woman in Missoula to run her own business. Take a guess at what it was…
It was actually a ton of fun. It was a beautiful fall day and we spent the afternoon listening to local actors tell fun stories, drinking cider, and just enjoying the sunshine. One of my favorites was a story from a local Missoulian who was the first white woman to live and die in Montana. As a widow, she opened a bakery and sold slices of pie for $5 gold pieces! Apparently flour was $30 for a 100lb bag and the miners would pay anything.
Also good was the first school teacher in Missoula. She gave us a list of the rules they had to follow which included:
1. You will not marry during the term of your contact.
2. You will not keep company with men.
3. You must be home between the hours of 8 pm and 6 am unless attending a school function.
4. You may not loiter downtown in an of the ice cream shoppes.
5. You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have permission of the chairman of the board.
6. You may not ride in a carriage or an automobile with any man unless he is your father or brother.
7. You may not smoke cigarettes. 
8. You may not dress in bright colors.
9. You may not under any circumstances die your hair.
10. You must wear at least 2 petticoats.
11. Your dresses must not be any shorter than two inches above the ankle. 
These rules are posted under our fridge, entitled “Rules for Jesuit Volunteers.” I think we’ve broken all of them except 1, 7, and 10.

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>Pictures Part 2


Life in Missoula

Hiking up in the Seeley Swan Valley. John and I went and we saw some gorgeous trees, a stunning lake, and a hidden waterfall. Unfortunately, we also saw lots of clouds and not so much the spectacular mountain views I wanted. 

The Farmer’s Market is a wonderful Saturday tradition in Missoula.  
Every Saturday there are two, count ‘em, two farmers’ market’s PLUS a crafts fair to frequent. So the entire downtown is abustle with people doing their saturday shopping. It’s one of my favorite parts of Missoula. I love seeing the community out and about, people on the street playing guitar, tons of local flavor to be sampled, etc. 
We bought 2 “Fireside” apples to taste test, mainly because the name was so intriguing. And yes, I am holding a (gasp) disposable coffee cup. I finally bought a to-go one for 20 cents from our church’s garage sale. But getting coffee before I walk around the market is one of my favorite things to do, so I always indulge.  
Jen liked hers, I think.

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My computer is back and instead of doing one gigantic picture post, I will do a few separate ones:
We went on our retreat at Flathead Lake back in October. Flathead is beautiful country. The retreat was on community, which was something that was much needed to hear. We focused on forgiveness and right relationship, which is something everyone needs to hear day to day, and something that when you live with 4 other people, you need to be hit over the head with once in a while.

Flathead Lake
Doesn’t this rock look like a face?
The dock
Mission Mountains

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>A sleepy Montana morning

>The sun struggles to rise over the mountains which loom above a sleepy Montanan town. Weak rays of gray light illuminate the ominous clouds to the north. The air is surprisingly warm for November, but the wind whistles through my tires as I bike along quiet streets. Off to work before the sun has cleared the horizon.

A wind blows through the streets of downtown. A ghost wind which has cut through many small towns that morning, towns who tell tales of the mining days, of the glory days. Leaves blow in the streets, and I think to myself if they were only tumble weeds, this would be a western sight. The leaves dance around a forgotten flask left empty and open on the corner.
The coffee shops are the only stores with their lights on this early. The espresso love affair must have spread eastward from Seattle. But each cup reminds me of cowboys sitting around campfires, cup of black, strong coffee in hand. Sitting in the light of the night, cup of joe and a flask to stay warm.

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>On food

>This weekend I went to Helena with John. And I ate, for the very first time….

It’s nothing to write home about, that’s for sure. Its enough to blog about though, huh?
In other news, I’ve also tried elk for the first time. Now that’s not all that bad, actually.

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>Still no pictures…

>It’s frustrating not having my computer because the things I’d like to write about (hiking, the retreat, knitting) have pictures to go along with them.

It’s kind of a lull at work right now. The majority of people we serve receive SSI and SSDI and so get their paychecks at the end of the month. So for the first week or so of every month, we’re pretty quiet. A fair number of people get a hotel for a week and drink. Which is not the picture of homelessness most people prefer. It seems that there are few major stereotypes of homelessness:
1. The mentally ill man with fingerless gloves, knit cap, green trench coat and a shopping cart full of odd-ball items.
2. The down 0n his luck, hardworking American who just needs a hand-up, not a hand-out.
3. The lazy alcoholic who just is looking to panhandle and not work.
Of course, stereotypes have roots somewhere. A good number of people who are homeless are mentally ill and are unable to sustain housing. For some people, the stress of paying bills monthly, abiding to a landlord’s rules, etc. can be too stressful. Homelessness is not simply a result of housing shortages, but of a lack of supportive housing.
We do have people who are simply down on their luck, and we’ll see more and more of them. We have people with college degrees who have held regular jobs and donate regularly to charities. But if your husband dies, and you’re laid off, and then you get in a bad relationship and move across the state and are stranded when he leaves you, it’s not simply a matter of needing a new job.
The majority of people we see struggle with some form of chemical dependency or self-medication. And its a tricky place to be in. Detox costs money, and many hospitals in our area don’t offer detox services. And if you haven’t been able to work because of your alcoholism, then its hard to come up with the money. And its hard to stay dry on the streets even if you start AA.
The only thing all people who are homeless have in common is they don’t have regular housing. Right now, we have a 25 year old filling out job applications, a man whose 4th month of sobriety is today, a bilingual man writing a letter to his granddaughter, someone watching music videos online, a woman taking a nap, an ex-hippie, a woman with a puppy checking her e-mail. I’ve had conversations with people ranging from favorite cookbooks, to current events, to 80s hair bands.
It’s always interesting.

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