Journey Into Flexi-Vegetarianism

After watching Forks Over Knives, my boyfriend declared that he wanted to stop eating "that stuff." The documentary utterly disgusted him, yet he kept watching it with me. We both are looking forward to becoming more healthy, our main reason to go down this well-traveled path. I've been wanting to eat less of "that stuff" and more vegetarian-like for quite some time. However, now we happily agreed a few nights ago: No more meat, eggs or dairy in this house! Until reality set in:
1) The teenager was horrified at the idea of not eating meat (and the two younger kids were also quite upset). My friend and her husband are vegans, but their children still eat some meat, not wanting to impose their beliefs/lifestyle onto them. Okay, so we'll have a couple of things for the children to snack on. I hope they become more experimental and curious about what we eat.
2) We still had all this meat in our house - deli meat, canned pork and beans, hot dogs, all sorts of frozen meat, canned chicken, a frozen whole chicken. This was a sudden decision, to halt eating those kinds of things. Solution: a)donate canned goods to Pernet Family Health Service's food pantry. b)give my friends at the Pleasant Street Neighborhood Network Center the rest of the meat.
3) Some things we still left in our house, including a half-package of pepperoni and a half-package of Appetizers chicken for the teenager, an almost empty bag of meat ends that my boyfriend scarfed down for lunch/dinner, mac & cheese, cheese sticks and pudding for the kids, non-soy yogurt (the only dairy product I've been using on a regular basis), a few eggs, lots of fish (frozen, tuna, sardines), and a can of Italian Wedding soup.
4) Almost everything that is not prepared by you or in front of you has eggs or maybe some sort of dairy product (chocolate!) I am not prepared to give up convenience or chocolate, but I can limit it.

I am eager for this journey, for I have friends that I can lean on and live in an awesome city that was cited in the top ten vegan cities of the US. I am excited to experiment with food and to discover new tastes. If you have any suggestions, they are welcome!

Worcester's Welcoming Committee for Women and More Thoughts on Organizing

Apparently I am the founding member of Worcester's Welcoming Committee for Women, a club of new-comers (and those who feel fairly new) to Worcester whose members meet for tea. I have befriended several new-ish women in Worcester and bonded over tea.

Recently met with Frank Kartheiser, lead organizer of Worcester Interfaith. I went into the meeting wearing my "ReStore Hat" with the purpose of recruiting volunteers and preaching about the organization I am excited about being a part of. I left the meeting as Hannah, an individual who is part of a very large web. His message: I need to strengthen the relationships I have and build relationships with the people I want to meet rather than wear the "ReStore Hat" and push people into volunteer opportunities that may not be the perfect fit for them. I am more than my current title of Volunteer Coordinator - I am a budding organizer at heart. Organizers FIND CONNECTIONS that may already be there; they do not build bridges on their own and force people over them. Rather, organizers help build those bridges, working with others to find the best placement of said bridge. Thanks, Frank!

More ReStore Excitement and a Life Update

My third week at ReStore and I still feel like I am in a haze - a good thing and a not-so-good thing. The people that I work with, the paid staff and the volunteers, are wonderful. We get very interesting items, such as church pews (lots and lots of them!), an air hockey table, ancient furniture in fairly decent condition, etc. I've also bumped into some interesting people shopping, including the Elm Park Blogger, the trombonist of Mack the Knife, some of the customers who frequented the liquor store I worked at...

DJ Skaranci will be hosting his fifth two-hour ska show (Wormtown Ska on WCUW, tonight/Friday morning midnight until 2am. It's exciting to see how many people have shown interest in the music he's playing, which ranges from ska-reggae, swing-ska, jazz-ska, punk-ska, skacore and all other sorts of ska.

I hope to become more involved in community things once I find my feet again. I feel that I have been absent from the scene since I walked away from Green Island. It was, however, inspiring to participate in the Worcester Co-Op Caravan.

VISTA at ReStore, First Week

Just completed my first week as an AmeriCorps*VISTA at MetroWest/Greater Worcester Habitat for Humanity ReStore. This week I got to know the staff and the volunteers as well as the layout of the store. Although there is some structure already in place regarding volunteers, I already see what I can improve on.

ReStore is an awesome place to shop, donate and volunteer. The environment is a laid back warehouse full of random (yet organized) donated goodies including full kitchen sets, cabinets, doors, windows, construction materials, paint, tile, hardware, bathroom fixtures, home and office furniture, home decor and BOOKS (25 cents each). Donated items are very eclectic and are priced 40-70% off the original retail value. I encourage anyone who reads this blog to stop by and say hi to me and explore the always-changing merchandise All proceeds from anything purchased at ReStore goes into the projects that Habitat is working on throughout Worcester county.

Twenty-Six

There have been many things that I have accomplished in the last twenty-five years:
- traveled to Europe (twice) and to Israel
- protests! (I miss the excitement of Amnesty International's Get on the Bus)
- graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor's in political science from Franklin Pierce
- will soon be starting my second year of
AmeriCorps*VISTA
- am engaged to a wonderful man and have become step-mom to three kids (yikes!)

Also, I love Worcester:
- became a board member of the Pleasant Street Neighborhood Network Center
- co-founded Green Island Residents and Friends
- usually attend Poets Asylum
- enjoy going to Canal District Alliance luncheons, Wednesdays at noon at Hotel Vernon
- now have a WOO Card

Fading Away from Green Island

I will be fading away from Green Island, the Worcester neighborhood that I have become acquainted with for the past three years. Why, do you ask? I will be doing a second year of AmeriCorps*VISTA, this time at the Habitat for Humanity Metro West/Greater Worcester ReStore on the other side of the city.

There will be many things I will miss about being in the Island:
- Walking to work, whether I decide to pass by my favorite coffee stop downtown (A&D Coffee & Lunch Xpress) or to go through the bowels of Worcester (aka Chandler Street, towards the Main St end)
- The non-stop construction along Millbury Street and in the Kelley Square area
- Working with Green Island Residents and Friends, participating in the leadership trainings and other events
- The Canal District Alliance Wednesday luncheons - so much energy!
- Randomly poking my head in at Pernet Family Health Service to say "hi" to anyone who is around, especially Sister Gemma
- Waving to Mesfin at the Ethiopian Dream Center
- Witnessing Rosalie drop off the latest copies of InCity Times

Dear Jayme, 10 years after you have gone...

Dear Jayme,

I cannot believe ten years have passed since you were the bright-eyed seventeen year old girl who's life was cut way too short and very abruptly (we never learned about what happened). Today I remembered how you passed by me when I was an awkward sixteen year old who wasn't sure what to do with herself, in the social studies wing of Pinkerton Academy all those years ago, with your chartreuse messenger bag full of the freshly-made copies of your zine. You invited me to the new after school club you started, a chapter of Amnesty International. Just like everything else that happened in those high school years, I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into - I had no idea what activism was or had much knowledge of human rights. But when you left this world, there was a void that needed to be filled. I went to those meetings regularly, learned about human rights, how to organize a chapter, the purpose of protesting and other actions. I led those meetings my senior year and encouraged more people to get involved. Thank you, Jayme, for inviting me. Even though I am no longer involved with Amnesty, I have taken what I have learned and put my energy towards my local neighborhood.

I learned something new today when I Googled your name. I did not realize that you wrote poetry. I wonder if you knew that I wrote, too. Or if I have forgotten. It's been a while since I wrote a poem.

As a seventeen year old, you did amazing things that I as an almost-twenty-six-year-old am envious of. I am not you. However, you helped shaped me. Maybe you did not realize it in the months leading to your death in which you became a familiar face (how did we not become friends before?). You inspired me more as I learned more about you.

Today I wish I could meet you again. I want you to rekindle the spark inside me, just like each year when I remember you.

I am looking forward to next week's 10th Anniversary of Jayme's Fund.

- Hannah

Community Organizing is Difficult - Case: Worcester Unemployment Action Group

The topic of unemployment (and the underlying inequality/poverty issues) will be a struggle to organize around. This is an important subject that needs to be discussed! Although many people are connected via the web, we need to connect at a personal/face-to-face level. We need to join together in solidarity, make our voices heard and our network a force to reckon with. Anger (at our situation and at the system) is both an asset and a liability.

This afternoon's Worcester Unemployment Action Group's (WUAG) meeting took a turn towards the interesting. During the second public meeting, which had several "speakers", including Grace Ross and Chris Horton, two individuals had a fire burning in their bellies - a need to explain their life stories and to negate all the possible solutions brought up by the organizers because of a sense of urgency, a foreboding that no matter what happens, we're all screwed. These men who dominated the first part of the meeting (I had to leave shortly after) were genuinely pissed off. They have an absolute right to be mad and justifiably so. However, these men were fighting the methods that the WUAG team was using instead of working with them. The WUAG team listened and agreed with many of the statements that these men made, but the men were unwilling to listen and to cooperate with the group. I applaud the WUAG team for trying to mitigate the situation, to ease the tension, but to no avail. I'm not sure how the meeting turned out after I left.

We all need to tell our stories and our struggles, but the Worcester Unemployment (and under-employed) Action Group is not just a support group - it is a group that will take action and action needs to be organized. What is does "action" involve? Besides informing the public, it means lobbying local and state representatives to unleash more money for jobs and relief

The definition of unemployment has changed: "Unemployment figures don’t count those who have given up on looking for work, anyone taking even one college course, anyone who’s looking for a job but never had one." We need to reach out to everyone who considers themselves un- and under-employed, whether or not they are eligible for or have already exhausted "unemployment benefits" and other relief services.

- Shulkin, Jeremy. "The Days of Old" Worcester Mag 16 Mar 2012.
- "Worcester Unemployment News, 2/24/12"
- Brown, Jenny. "Can Labor Organize the Unemployed?" Labor Notes 24 Feb 2012.

Life is a Learning Curve - A Big Leap

I feel that the past couple of years have been a huge learning curve. I have been out of my parents' house, which means learning how to budget and pay bills. I have also been able to live my life, exploring what I am interested in and pursuing new experiences.

I have learned to be a step-mom. At first, I played the roll of step-mom to my boyfriend's two younger kids every other weekend. Now I am full-time step-mom to a teenage girl. Big leap. Big learning curve to adjust to.

A beautiful sixteen-and-a-half-year-old... who eats a lot, who needs help with school work, who yearns for freedom, who listens to ICP and considers herself a Jugalette, who thinks she's an adult yet who also needs to nurture her inner child... We are finally in her life, able to be the parents she has needed all those years.

This is a new start for her. And a new start for us. A scary new beginning that all three of us needed.

When I opened her bedroom door last night to ask her to turn down the music, she was sitting crossed-legged on her bed with a school book open in front of her. She smiled as she reached across the bed to the computer to turn down the music. This is her safe space now.

Loving Worcester, Feb 2012 Edition

Here are the reasons why I love Worcester this month:
1) Education for Power Teach-In tomorrow at Worcester State, organized by WSU and Worcester Free School and sponsored by many other great organizations. FREE workshops, 10-4.

2) We've Got the Power community organizing training, organized by Worcester Roots Project. Runs for 7 Thursdays, starting March 15 at Plumley Village. Sliding-scale for groups and individuals. Went to this training last year - learned about the history of some social/political movements as well as honed some organizing skills.

3) Mass Meeting and Forum of the Unemployed, THIS Saturday 4-6pm at Sacred Heart Church on Cambridge St.

4) Learn about tenant/landlord rights and responsibilities in Green Island. Tuesday, Feb 28th, 10:30-12 at the Green Island Neighborhood Center (the little building at Crompton Park). Grace Ross will be presenting! To continue organizing around the Green Island neighborhood, stop by the next GIRF (Green Island Residents & Friends( meeting on Monday, March 5th at 6pm at the Haitian Baptist Church on Ellsworth St - we'll be discussing planning a family fun night.

5) This past Monday there was a Youth Jobs Action Night held at the Boys & Girls Club where Worcester's state representatives and state senators spoke about their commitment towards channeling funding towards youth jobs.

6) Please come to the Youth Jobs Rally and March on Thursday, Feb 23rd at the State House. Bus leaves for Boston from the Worcester Youth Center (326 Chandler St) at 10am and returns before 5pm. Contact Worcester Interfaith: 508-754-5001 or worcester.interfaith@verizon.net.