The Longest Winter EVER / Winter 2014 to Present

I finished up my year with AmeriCorps at the end of October last year and I was looking forward to new opportunities. I was applying to jobs fairly regularly while also spending a significant amount of time working on the Right to Health advocacy group that I may have mentioned in my previous post and well be sure to mention later.

It was incredible to spend that much time working at an organization that was growing so quickly. Finally there was somewhere that combined my love for Global Health with my belief that grass roots community organizing could create real change. At the immigrant and refugee advocacy group I learned so much about advocacy work and coalition building and it was great to continue to build on that skill set and also gain a lot of experience at the foundational level of something really extraordinary.

This was also the coldest winter of my entire life. I’m from the south, and I knew Chicago would be an adjustment but this was nuts. I had friends that lived here all their lives that were getting upset about it. We had a “polar vortex” that at one point had a high of -40 degrees. I didn’t leave my apartment those days. 

A neighbor of mine and I would spend the day scrapping together food and worked on job applications and procrastinated through these brutal winter months. Early in January,  I finally heard back from somewhere, A temp agency had finally gotten back to me and the day after my interview they landed me an offer! I was going to start a job with Groupon!

Little did I know this quick response was fairly common. Within a week I began a job in their customer service department, answering calls and helping people every day. It was a pretty thankless job. 

For those who aren’t familiar with customer service call centers, you basically take calls, one after the other, all day. We were expected to take on an average around 10 an hour (it’s actually been a while, so I may be off on this number). And it wasn’t that hard of a job really. However the only time someone calls customer service is when they are already quite pissed off, so unfortunately it was a lot of pretty miserable angry conversations. That much negative human interaction got to you.

Combine that and the horrible winter, that wasn’t just cold, but lasted well into May, and we a were pretty negative crowd to hang around with. Luckily the earth rotates on its axis and we were soon facing closer to the sun. Summer in Chicago is always a blast but I started it off on an even better note! I ended up moving out of my one bedroom in Uptown to a place in Wicker Park with too former GlobeMed colleagues. This cut down on rent drastically right when the warm weather hit.

This summer has been another fantastic one. My new neighborhood is filled with tons of people my age and great restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and park space. Maybe sometimes it gets a little too quirky or sketch, but overall, I can’t think of a neighborhood too much better than this one in Chicago.

June through July was marked by a trip to visit family in Florida, the World Cup, a visit from my cousin John, and just enjoying the great weather. It was incredible showing my cousin and his wife around the city and later, I even had a chance to show my Mom, Brother, and his family around as well.

In late August I finally got an exciting new job offer that I had been interviewing for for months! Pitchfork Music Festival and a housewarming party commenced in celebration!

I’m Back / Welcome to the City / The Year 2013

So, I guess you could call the past couple of years a hiatus from blogging or really writing down much of my thoughts in any form. In many ways I blame Chicago and the various work that I’ve committed myself to, for keeping me so occupied all the time. It’s definitely been a crazy couple of years, but I’m glad to be back blogging again. Hopefully lending my unique perspective to all the chatter on the web but more realistically just providing myself a place for reflection.

My year with AmeriCorps was an interesting transition into the professional world. As most activist/nonprofit organizations are, the organization I worked for can be characterized as a group of individuals that are driven by their passion and commitment to a brighter future. Because of political gridlock and polarization, immigration reform has yet to happen and many of my overworked colleagues have moved on to other per suits or are still working in the same resource strapped institution.

Over the course of the year I learned about the intricacies of community organizing and political strategy, becoming familiar with a new framework of activism and community engagement. This was one of the most formative aspects of my work from the immigrant rights group that I was lucky enough to be a part of. I spent the year doing social media strategy, and although I grew a lot and enjoyed the work, the internal tensions and environmental stress left me feeling a little nonplussed with regard to a career in activism or the nonprofit sector in general.

Those who’ve followed my blog in the past know of my passion for global health. One of the things I wondered throughout my AmeriCorps work was why are these organizing principles not applied to the right to health? If we are serious about building a social justice movement, isn’t advocacy the next logical step. There can’t be any reform without a political approach. Luckily in the Spring of 2013 I met a few other alumni that had been struggling with the same questions. From these conversations Article 25 was born.

I will devote a whole other blog post to this organization in the future, but in short, Article 25 is an activist organization dedicated to building a global movement for the Right to Health. On October 25, we will be hosting a Global Day of Action for the. Right to Health where people all over the world will be putting pressure on international governing bodies to commit to UHC in the post-2015 millennium development goals. I’ve been extremely lucky to work with the amazing people at this organization and it’s been great having somewhere I could work during some of the discouraging times with my AmeriCorps job and even during my job pursuits thereafter. The organization has been a rock, a foundation for my professional growth and experience while trying to make a difference in the World.

The network of activists that I met through my AmeriCorps job and Article 25 have become some of my closest friends and mentors. 2013 was an amazing year and it was a good wake up call to the real world. Other highlights from Chicago would include pitchfork music festival, the summers in general, wriggleyfield, and the great music and night life that comes with such a massive city. Even my first winter wasn’t as bad as everyone had warned me about. Little did I know the real winter was coming soon.

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Also notice the name change? It’s a work in progress, naming blogs is hard ok? Expect more posts by the end of the week.

Americorps and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

I’ve only been working at my job for a few weeks, and there is a lot more to figure out before I get in the swing of things I guess, but so far it has been great. I work downtown, “in the loop” for an organization called the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR). ICIRR is a nonprofit that is basically a coalition of organizations who work all over Illinois in Immigrant and Refugee Communities. It’s really cool, I’ve never worked for an organization this big before or this involved with politics. It’s definitely new. 

I’m actually working through Americorps as a Uniting America fellow. Our branch of ICIRR is focused on working in communities in Illinois where there is a high concentration of both native Illinois Americans and recent migrants, and the Uniting America program works towards creating a dialogue between these two groups and building a shared sense of community.

Like I said, I work at the main office downtown, where I’m in charge of social media and communication. Every week I upload posts from other fellows on the blog, look for ways to improve the website, look into volunteer data tracking software, publish a monthly newsletter highlighting things going on throughout the program, take photos and video, and edit both. It’s really fun, but like I said I’m still learning a lot. Well anyway, I currently have a cold and I’m exhausted, so I will update more and add photos of my office later. 

I moved to Chicago! AND have a job!

Hey guys!

So sorry I haven’t updated in a while. So I’m breaking this up in to a few different blog posts so its easier to process.

As I’m sure you guessed by the title I recently moved to Chicago! Most of my summer was spent applying to jobs which is one of the most discouraging and thankless task I’ve probably ever done. I had been visiting cities like Chicago and Memphis all summer researching places and networking trying to meet people that are hiring and finally in late September it started to seem like it was paying off.

My biggest advice for anyone is to not be afraid to do walk ins or a  ”cold call”. I can’t even tell you how many emails, resumes, and cover letters I feel like I just sent into the abyss of cyberspace never to be heard from again. By just walking in to the offices of places that I was interested in, it gave me a few advantages.

First I could right away meet with someone and they would actually have a face to match with an application. It’s easy to ignore or forget about a phone call or email but a face gives an immediate connection. Not only that but I could actually learn more about an open position that I’m looking at and even inquire about other opportunities and organizations if it seemed like I wasn’t going to be a good fit for the job.

The way this actually worked with me was I visited the offices of a non-profit my friend had told me about called the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. I had already applied with them online and called them to see if they got my application, but since I was already visiting Chicago to network I figured I would visit their office just to give it an extra shot.

So I walked in without an appointment or anything and met with someone in no time. Sure enough they had not received my application or at least read it and the position had been filled. Luckily for me they were hiring for a few positions and I got the information and applied later that day. The FOLLOWING DAY I got a call back seeing if I could interview that very week. I did it went great and then my flight back to Nashville was that day so I returned home wondering if I got the job.

Two weeks later, I got another interview and found out I got the job as a social media coordinator! So exciting!! But I was supposed to start in a week. That gave me 7 days to pack all my stuff, move it to Chicago, find an apartment, get unpacked , and be ready for work on Halloween. Needless to say it was a lot of driving, packing, and craziness but it obviously worked out and here I am, in the amazing city if Chicago,

I will post later to tell you guys more about how work and life has been, I’ve been here for around 3 weeks now. It’s good to start blogging again.

“The Western States nervous under the beginning change.
Texas and Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas, New Mexico,
Arizona, California. A single family moved from the land.
Pa borrowed money from the bank, and now the bank wants
the land. The land company—that’s the bank when it has land
—wants tractors, not families on the land. Is a tractor bad? Is
the power that turns the long furrows wrong? If this tractor
were ours it would be good—not mine, but ours. If our tractor
turned the long furrows of our land, it would be good.
Not my land, but ours. We could love that tractor then as
we have loved this land when it was ours. But the tractor
does two things—it turns the land and turns us off the land.
There is little difference between this tractor and a tank.
The people are driven, intimidated, hurt by both. We must think
about this.

One man, one family driven from the land; this rusty car
creaking along the highway to the west. I lost my land, a
single tractor took my land. I am alone and bewildered.
And in the night one family camps in a ditch and another
family pulls in and the tents come out. The two men squat
on their hams and the women and children listen. Here is the
node, you who hate change and fear revolution. Keep these
two squatting men apart; make them hate, fear, suspect each
other. Here is the anlarge of the thing you fear. This is the
zygote. For here “I lost my land” is changed; a cell is split
and from its splitting grows the thing you hate—“We lost our
land.” The danger is here, for two men are not as lonely and
perplexed as one. And from this first “we” there grows a still
more dangerous thing: “I have a little food” plus “I have
none.” If from this problem the sum is “We have a little
food,” the thing is on its way, the movement has direction.
Only a little multiplication now, and this land, this tractor are
ours. The two men squatting in a ditch, the little fire, the side-
meat stewing in a single pot, the silent, stone-eyed women;
behind, the children listening with their souls to words their
minds do not understand. The night draws down. The baby
has a cold. Here, take this blanket. It’s wool. It was my mother’s
blanket—take it for the baby. This is the thing to bomb.
This is the beginning—from “I” to “we.”

If you who own the things people must have could understand
this, you might preserve yourself. If you could separate
causes from results, if you could know Paine, Marx,
Jefferson, Lenin, were results, not causes, you might survive.
But that you cannot know. For the quality of owning freezes
you forever into “I,” and cuts you off forever from the “we.”

The Western States are nervous under the begining
change. Need is the stimulus to concept, concept to action.
A half-million people moving over the country; a million
more restive, ready to move; ten million more feeling the
first nervousness.

And tractors turning the multiple furrows in the vacant land.”

― John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

(Updates from my life soon to come)

When our laws, our leaders, or our government are out of alignment with our ideals, then the dissent of ordinary Americans may prove to be one of the truest expressions of patriotism,

– Barack Obama

chickfilaconfessional.com

This is actually really awesome and I might use it soon, bc I’m starting to want chick-fil-a again. The website calculates how much you spent at Chick-fil-a and then you can off set your conservative ways with a donation a pro-gay rights group. It’s like penance for liberals or those carbon emissions waiver things.

A Response to Reince Priebus Calling Harry Reid A Dirty Liar and Saying the Left no Longer Believes in the American Dream from Esquire.com

Of course, Priebus now leads a party that has spent the last four decades ensuring that almost nobody can be a “union electrician” any more, and spent the previous couple of decades deregulating things so that a) the average “realtor” is greeting people at Wal-Mart, and b) “moms and dads” lost the houses that the realtor once sold them because gigantic banks gambled away their equity and their mortgages turned out to written in Klingon. And, as for the American dream, I think the son of a single mother who works his way through Harvard Law and gets elected to the U.S. Senate and then to the presidency despite being named Barack Hussein Obama, and despite the fact that doughpops like Reince Priebus are in positions of power understands it better than the runner-up in a state senate race from eight years ago.

Read more: http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/harry-reid-romney-tax-returns-11397081#ixzz22nDKoyGY

Also I promise I will be posting more soon.

Chicken Marsala! Hummus Mediterranean Salad and Pasta Brie & Apple Sandwich w Crzy Fruit Salad Cheese Ravioli with Garnacha marinara SW Quesadilla w/ shrp chddr & peach sals

This summer I finally had the chance to experiment with cooking some more. One of my last few weeks that I stayed in Memphis before moving back home my friend from high school came by to visit and stay for a while. Unfortunately this happened right when we both began to run out of money. So I can proudly say all but one of these (the chicken Marsala) are from that time period when we were scrounging around my kitchen. That’s also why a lot of it is pasta