Thursday, December 24, 2009

"Freeganism and the Spirit of Community"

Here's a useful article about an oft-forgotten aspect of Freeganism, taken from the UK Freegans Website, called "Freeganism and the Spirit of Community".


Community and relationship-building may be one of the most overlooked aspects of freeganism. While bin-raiding is recognized as a dominant trait of the ideals of the movement, other facets are easily forgotten. People do not often realize how building relationships and a spirit of community fit together with the goal of “making a better world” and reducing waste. But it is important to remember how freeganism cannot achieve its objectives without first uniting people under a common goal and inspiring them to make a difference. As they say, “two heads are better than one”. A close-knit group of global idealists working together will be far more effective than a few lone protesters scattered over the land.

What is the “Spirit of Community”?

The spirit of community is a sense of sharing and of understanding our connection to other human beings on this planet. The world today is sorely lacking the spirit of community. It has become easy to forget how our actions affect the lives of the people around us and even easier to forget the human need to be a part of each other’s lives. We are social beings, after all. But society has substituted human affection with electronic distraction. The virus of greed and materialism has sadly replaced the qualities of sharing and relationships in many areas of life.

How is Community Consistent with Freeganism?


If the general population could become more aware of the effect individual choices have on the planet and its people, waste would rapidly decrease. Sharing with each other undermines the ideals of the system, which encourages isolation through individual gain. Not only that, but sharing directly challenges greed, and greed is the number one evil of the current thinking in the world. Strong relationships and consideration for others definitely “make for a better world”. If that is not what freeganism is about, I don’t know what is.

How Can Freegans Build Community?

Creating a spirit of community is harder than foraging for food in a bin, but the result is better than the nicest food finds. Ways to encourage the spirit of community amongst freegans, and people in general, include sharing bin goodies, working to resolve differences, doing free work and using such tools as the 'meet-up' function of this site in order to find other freegans nearby!

Sharing

 
Distributing food or goods from the bins not only helps to utilize the waste, but helps to build good relationships with people. I love it when I find people already at my favourite bin, and we get to share the loot. There is often too much for one person to use anyway.

Resolving differences

 
Although rarely mentioned, trying to work out problems between one another is an important aspect of the spirit of community. Whether it is just “agreeing to disagree” or sincerely listening and trying to understand someone’s opinion, resolving differences is essential to reaching goals of any kind. Without these, the movement will break into innumerable factions and will become ineffective. In other words, without encouraging unity between its members, freeganism just will not work.

Free Work.

 
The concept of doing work for free is another aspect of freeganism that has been largely ignored. But it is something that needs to be recognized as essential in building a new, sustainable economy, and as a bridge between us as freegans and the public. Volunteering to help people without expecting payment is a great introduction to the freegan philosophy and will inspire a spirit of community among individuals.

Ukfreegans 'meet-ups'

 
The meet-up function allows people to set up a time, place and purpose to get together. Cities are listed by name. It is an easy-to-use tool that will hopefully get us working
together more!

To use the meet-up function of this site, click http://www.freegan.org.uk/pages/meetups.php

In Conclusion

Working in unity brings together all of the individual abilities and ideas in order to use them to reach our goals. In freeganism, that means inspiring community in order to reduce waste, improve the ecosystem and change the current materialistic way of thinking. Let us work together to build a better world!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas "Blah"gging


It's been too long since my last post, once again. I can't decide whether I should blog about my latest Freegan outings or rant about the materialism of the Christmas season. At this moment, I am waiting here in LA at my computer to video chat with my family in Oregon for their Christmas dinner. However, it's 8:30PM and they're still in a Wal-Mart, shopping. People like to say that Christmastime is about family values rather than expensive gifts, but I sure don't see that happening in the US.


As any reader should know by now, Freeganism is pretty darned opposed to the consumerist drive of the holiday season. People of religious tradition (and me just 2 years ago) would argue that point by saying that capitlaism has "taken the 'Christ' out of "Christmas", but now I would even go as far as to say that the modern American Christmas tradition was created solely for market and not in recognition of Christ at all. I am not opposed to people giving one another gifts (I have even bought [gasp] a couple for close friends this year myself), nor do I oppose the celebration of the birth of a manifestation of the Divine. But I do oppose the system's tactics of "brainwashing" through the advertising media and the destruction of the Earth through needless consumption.

Well, I just got a call from my family, saying that I won't be able to chat with them tonight, even though we had made this apointmet over the weekend. And all because they got stuck in Wal-Mart. ARGGH!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Photos - "No Peace, No Prize"


I'm the second in line, with the "Afaganistan" sign


The six who were arrested (including Ernie, our camera guy on the right)


in support

Catherine and Jeff arrested. 40 years of resistance and service!


Catherine being led away. The group was released within two hours with a "disorderly conduct" charge each.

No Peace, No Prize

I wrote this poem this morning, inspired by the signs my friends were holding and the chant we voiced as they were being arrested for merely standing on federal property. 

No Peace, No Prize

Last week you vowed to send more troops in our name
No peace, no prize
We can see through your "hope and change" game
No peace, no prize
Acting is not enough, though the world be a stage
No peace, no prize
A prize called "peace", while two wars yet rage?
No peace, no prize
You may be a diplomat, but you're no hero
No peace, no prize
Next to King and Theresa, your numbers mean zero!
No peace, no prize
Do us a favor and be "humbled" indeed
No peace, no prize
Detach yourself from these wars led by greed!
No peace, no prize


No peace, no prize
End the lies
No peace, no prize
open your eyes
No peace, No prize
lose the guise
No peace, no prize
hear the cries
No peace, no prize
while people die

No peace.
No prize.
 

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Pictures from Dumpster Ride #4


Eric and "the trailer"



Cyclists boxing food, and a yummy pecan pie

My once-nervous friend happily selecting her "shopping"

More photos here.

Dumpster Ride #4 and "Dive!"

Last night Eric and I hosted/attended another freegan event in Pasadena (actually two events). First, we saw, for the first time, a screening of the new low-budget documentary "Dive!". It was a fantastic piece about dumpster diving and waste, in Los Angeles in particular. We picked up a copy, so you can bet there will be a video potluck screening of it coming from us through the LA Dumpster Diving Meetup. This event we attended last night was not our own, but a nice coincidence that we learned about through a friend of ours who knows the filmmaker. He noticed that we had a dumpster ride planned that night and said, "Hey, did you know that "Dive!" is being screened at my church that same night?" It turned out to be a great union of related events. In fact, two of the dumpster spots we toured on the bike ride were in the film.


After the movie screening and discussion, we led a tour of our favorite Pasadena dumpsters. The first stop was a bit dramatic, as we were stopped by a security guard toward the end of our foraging. Eric and I were surprised by this turn of events, because it used to be that the security personnel of this particular store knew and were friendly to us. But it turns out that this guy was a new and zealous employee. He told us to put the "stolen trash" back in the dumpster and threatened to call the police. We had already secured a sizable haul in our various carrying capacities (Eric's bike trailer, a couple of our friends' cars). The best thing to do in that situation is to be amicable and obedient. I was a bit annoyed, and so avoided talking directly to the guard myself.

I was a little nervous about the encounter, only because of the impression I was afraid it would give to our "newbies". But the first-time divers among us were not phased by the experience. I suppose seeing our friend Paul being incredibly polite to authorities in the "Dive!" movie before our own diving was an inspiration?

One friend, whom I had met through the healthcare protest arrest in October, has a job in which she needs a good reputation to maintain it. She was very nervous before the ride about "getting in trouble". But once we started in on the action, she got very excited about the food and fun. She really got into it, and it seemed that the security guard incident was no problem for her. The evening was really great, despite the chilly air and riding without gloves.

We scored a ton of great food. It was enough for the roughly twenty of us to each have our own selection of food, at least a plastic shopping bag each. Eric and I got the leftovers, as usual, which included a medium box of bananas and 6 or 7 dozen eggs. And we did have our own box of selections, too, of course. The "shopping" part at the end is one of my favorite aspects of group dumpster diving. It represents the sharing aspect of freeganism, as we divide the food evenly between us. I love how everyone involved is often quite humble about their preferences, offering their prizes to everyone before actually claiming them. I must admit that I become quite greedy at times for certain items. It's a learning experience.

I will post the very smiley pictures from the ride as soon as I get them out of the camera. Peace out.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Where Do You Sleep?"

I just got an email from a reader that asked where one would sleep as a freegan. I think there was a misunderstanding with my last post, in which I mentioned times that I have voluntarily been homeless. Freegansim is about living simply to reduce our impact on the world, but it's not necessarily practiced by voluntary homelessness. People accept the precepts of freeganism in different ways, and adjust their lives accordingly.

Just to clarify the statements I made earlier, I do live in a house. It is a community house, shared by 20 people, but it's still a house. I have lived in an RV with Freegan friends, and I have lived on the streets for short periods of time. (In that case, to answer the reader's question, one would sleep in the same places that less fortunate souls have slept in for many years: under bridges, in trees, on the sidewalks.) The place I live now is an intentional community focused on simplicity in solidarity with the poor, and we do not get paid, nor do we pay rent. It's a live-in volunteer situation, a place of full commitment and an attempt at living out the ideals we believe in.

More on this later, I am late for a community meeting. Ah, community life.

A freegan is someone who tries to live simply, reducing their consumption and the pressure they place on the environment, through such things as recycling, sharing resources and using one’s time to help others.

Freeganism is about climbing out of the socio-economic system and living with a new motivation. Rather than working for money, as in the current system, freegans occupy their time giving and receiving for free. -
From Uk Freegans website

Monday, November 16, 2009

Why I am a Freegan

 Here's another letter (electronic mail this time) that I wrote recently. It's a reply to a lady who is looking for Freegans for a report she is doing on food consumption and waste. I thought my answers to her questions were appropriately Freegan for this blog. Perhaps it will answer some questions you all might have, too.


Hey Anne,


First, though I would like to say that Freeganism has, in my opinion, grown out of movements that were active long before the 90's. I think that Freeganism takes bits and pieces of movements and ideologies from many different sources and fashions them into a unique perspective on the same issues that we have all been concerned with for decades. With that said, the environmental awareness movements of the 90's are a huge part of the Freegan philosophy.


My journey into Freeganism started with my parents. I grew up in a small town as a part of a lower-class family. My parents are products of the 60's and were dumpster divers "before it was cool", my father likes to say. They taught me the value of treating our environment with the respect it deserves, and gave me guidance in the reusing of all kinds of waste, including the throw outs of supermarkets. As you can imagine, when I was growing up, I was embarrassed by our second-hand clothing, our curb collected items, and the occasional thrown out food. But after I left home and began to travel in a radical Christian community, of all things, I came in contact with the ideals of Freeganism. Then all the things my parents tried to teach me began to make sense and I embraced a simple lifestyle, which includes minimizing the necessity for spending money (and consuming) through such things as dumpster diving. I am a Freegan for environmental, philosophical and humanitarian reasons. This has been a long background, but if you want me to go deeper, just let me know.


I have traveled a fair bit, and had varied experiences with people in different places. Most of the stigma I have received has been more focused on the fact that I am "poor" (voluntarily living in an RV for three years, spending time purposefully money- and home- less with a small group of friends a year and a half ago) than it was on the fact that I eat from dumpsters. When I explain freeganism and dumpster diving to the average person, they are often shocked and ask a lot of questions, but do not shun or stereotype me. In the context of casual conversation, they see bin-raiding as the act of protest that it is for a freegan. It's more intellectual when you tell people. It's when they see you on the street that the stigma comes. Freeganism itself is a popular concept. It's poverty that the world is afraid of. It's exactly that fear that Freeganism in its anti-consumerist focus seeks to challenge and eradicate.


The Los Angeles freegan movement seems to be almost non-existent to me. I came to live in LA about 7 months ago, taking a break from the nomadic lifestyle I had lived for 3 years. The first thing I went to look for was a group of freegans that I could identify, and possible live, with. I found the Los Angeles Dumpster Diving Meetup, and thought that it would be a significant group of freegans. I was disappointed when I  attended a meetup to find that Eric was the only person who identified as a Freegan and that many of the poeple who come to his events have never dumpstered before. I have since come to see this as an opportunity for education, and have partnered with Eric to try to bring more exposure to the practices and purposes of Freeganism. If you know of any other groups of Freegans in this area, I would very much appreciate being hooked up with them. Eric and I have met a lot of people through our work with the Dumpster Diving meetup, and introduced many to the ideals of freeganism and the practice of dumpster diving. However, very few become dedicated to the practice and fewer ever identify themselves as freegan.


Freeganism is a much larger movement on the East Coast of the US (where the term was first coined), and is especially getting attention in Europe in the past few years. I really enjoyed dumpster diving in London last year! There, most people you run into have heard of freeganism. In LA, it's rare to meet someone who knows what the term means.


 I have a load of resources I can direct you to. The easiest way to do that is through my blog, which has a list of related links on the right hand side. [link removed]


You may already have these links, but I think you may find them helpful.


The essential freegan websites are, of course:
http://freegan.info (New York Freegans)
http://freegan.org.uk (UK Freegans. I know several freegans in the UK)


Thanks for taking the time to read this. I apologize if this is too much stuff!


Good luck on your project.


Peace,
Grace

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hippie Kitchen Reflection (Letter to JJ)

I was writing a (paper!) letter to my 18-year-old sister, who lives in Oregon, the other day and I thought that a small part of what I was telling her would be appropriate for this blog, as it is a reflection on the work that I do at the Hippie Kitchen. Yes, amazingly enough, people do still write paper letters to one another! My sister is an anomaly of this tech generation; she won't have anything to do with computers and barely knows how to use the features on her cell phone. The only other gadget she uses is her iPod, which is a fairly user friendly piece of smart plastic. If only more people could live without constant internet access [cough, cough].

Here's what I wrote to my sister JJ in my real-life paper letter:

I'm very happy with my life. Living in community is my lifeblood. I love sharing food, space and time with other people. I think it may be a part of my innate personality (I have been reading a bit about psychology and personality typing lately). I also love my "job", which I don't get paid for. These days I have been "working" behind the counter of our small clinic, where I pass out generic medications and hygiene needs, like soap or toothpaste. Today is dentist day, so I get to hear the exciting high pitched drone of his drill.

The soup kitchen I am a full-time volunteer for is called the "hippie kitchen". At least that's what everyone calls it. Officially, it's the "Catholic Worker Hospitality Kitchen", but nobody refers to it that way. It's been around for almost 40 years and some of the some of the original founding members are still here. Catherin is 75 years old and works hard, like someone 20 years younger than that. 

We have a beautiful garden space at the kitchen, an oasis in the heart of this grimy concrete jungle. This is called "Skid Row", this part of downtown LA. The name "Skid Row" is synonymous everywhere with filth, homelessness and suffering. The Hippie Kitchen is a break from that, in a way, with its tall, lush trees and pretty picnic tables. But it's also a display of the sad conditions of this place and its oppressed people. We do what we can to share with them our resources and to relieve them, for a while, of the hardships of the sidewalk. But, beyond the meals, shopping carts and painkillers, all we have to give is our smiles and our patience. 

 

Friday, November 6, 2009

"All We Want is Medicare For All"

The foggy mid-October air was charged with a certain excitment as the twelve of us approached the office building in hopes of making a strong statement for our cause. For many of us in that group, including me, it would be our first civil disobedience arrest. Several police officers were waiting for us on the corner as we went to cross the street. They were there to warn us that the building was on lockdown in anticipation of our planned action. Therefore, we would not be able to enter the Blue Cross insurance office on the third floor. That was fine with us. We were there to get our point across in whatever way we could. At least a hundred people participated in the Mobilization for Health Care for All demonstration that morning.

At a time when healthcare reform is in the national spotlight, our participation is an important part of the process. Not only does it show the politicians what is important to the American people, but we are also making the issue more real to the average citizen. It is criminal that a nation that can afford to be the number one military power and presence cannot provide adequate health care to its residents. It's not that we can't afford such a system of service. Instead the problem lies in the fact that taking care of our health has become a business like any other. Medical service has become a commodity to be bought, rather than a human right.

In such a business, the goal is not the well-being of the "customers", but a maximization of profit. Insurance companies have found that they can make more money by finding ways to deny care, even to the very people who are paying them (the less money they spend on actual care, the more they can keep in the bank). For example, at the rally on October 15th, Hilda Sarkisyan spoke the the gathered crowd and surrounding policemen about her 17year old daughter Nataline. In 2007, Nataline was denied a doctor requested liver transplant that would have saved her life, because the insurance company claimed that it was an "experimental" procedure (a claim that the doctors faught hard against). Her family was fully covered by insurance giant Cigna. If the Sarkisyans had lived in a country like Canada, perhaps, where health is not a means of making money, but a service, maybe Nataline would be here now. Perhaps she would be in college at this time. And if the transplant did not work, as it was a "high risk procedure", at least she would have been given a chance.


On the fifteenth of October, we were there at Blue Cross to fight for the rights and lives of people like Nataline. Our arrest that day was symbolic, a picture of people willing to sacrifice their own freedom in order that change might come. The organizer of the action, our friend Sam Pullen, took that sacrifice a step further. He refused to cooperate in a way the would let him be released that day. Sam's mother was denied a life-saving bone marrow transplant by Blue Cross many years ago and he wanted to carry her story with him to jail. She eventually got the care she needed because she fought the insurance company to get it. Sam's efforts last month were successful, landing him 5 days in jail and the eventual dropping of all charges. More than that, he brought awareness to the issue through news media interviews and brought a "cause" to the inmates that weekend. He speaks of the experience with a rightful sense of pride.

What I will never forget from my first civil disobedience action on October 15th is the unity I felt with the others who were arrested that day. While the cops were organizing themselves to take us away, we sat in a large circle, blocking the doors to the building. We sang songs of justice and held hands, brandishing our bright orange T-Shirts which screamed in purple capitals,"PATIENTS NOT PROFITS! MEDICARE FOR ALL!" There was some fear and apprehension (especially in those of us for which this was a new experience), but we stayed strong throughout, never losing our voices. Along the way, we made friendly with the authorities who dealt with us and found support for our cause in the places you may not expect to find it. Though the ordeal was over by mid-afternoon for most of us (we were released by 4:30), it is far from actually over. Not only does it live on in the memories of many and in the news stories it generated, but the fight for health care for all goes on. The Mobilize for Health Care for All campaign has continued since its grand beginnings on the 15th of October to include at least twenty other cities, over 60 more arrests and more action in Los Angeles, as well.


And even if the Health Care reform bill turns out to be a huge disappointment (as it looks to be right now), we will continue to push on and to sing, "all we want is Medicare for all!"

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"Patients not Profits"

Here are some belated pics, from both healthcare actions:


For more pictures, at least of the first event, check out this album.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Some Filler for Ya

I have been out of cyberspace for awhile with an annoyingly contagious flu-like "thing" that has enveloped the Catholic Worker House. I am still not up to par, and will just insert some interesting links and a video to amuse bored readers. :P

Since my last post, another sit-in took place here in LA (this time in Glendale). Eric was among the 7 arrested at the Glendale Cigna office in the name of Mobilization for Healthcare for All.



A couple of links I came across today:
"I live without cash and I manage just fine"  (about a man living without money in Great Britian).

And another "is he a freeloader?" analysis of my buddy Suelo, found as a link on the previous article:
"Daniel Suelo: Free Spirit or Freeloader?"

Wishing better health and better healthcare for all. Peace out.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Civil Disobedience Video

I am in this video, which was made by my new friend Sheila and her boyfriend, Jay.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Let's Get Arrested!

I'm pretty excited because I just got back from a meeting in which I and a handful of other excited activists (or activists in the making) were preparing to be arrested tomorrow. This will be my first civil disobedience action.

Here's the scoop: The Center for the Working Poor, another Catholic Worker community in the area (also known as the Burning Bush Community), is working with the Mobilize for Healthcare for All campaign to plan a demonstration. The directive is to being attention to the lives which are being put in jeopardy unnecessarily by an unfair, profit based system. We will go to the office of a big insurance company and demand that care is provided to all terminally ill patients. Of course, they won't meet our demands, so our plan is sit in until they change their minds, or arrest us. The former is highly unlikely, so we are ready to go to jail to bring attention to this crucial aspect of the healthcare debate. Not only are we Angelinos doing this action tomorrow, but we will be joined (well, thanks to time zones, preceded) by 9 other cities in our huge nation. Chicago and NY got quite a bit of media time for their single actions, but hopefully such a large number of cities participating on the same day will make a large splash.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Why I Love Cats, Part 2



9 Chickweed Lane - October 9

So Much Waste, So Little Time

Here are some pictures of Eric's and my last dumpster outing. We actually brought home quite a bit more fruit than what is pictured here. In fact, we had to leave a lot of perfectly good fruit behind in the dumpster because even the Catholic Worker can't use that much fruit fast enough.



Eric's full fridge, with only about a quarter of what we found last night.


Most of what we found, including 3/4 of a bottle of wine and so much beautiful fruit (I have to make pie now, with dumpstered flour, too).


Eric's hands washing fruit.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Kenyan Reflection

Today has been a day of memories. Monday is my day of rest, and my favorite thing to do on such a day is to stay at Eric's apartment by myself after he goes to work and the kids have gone to school. I bustle restfully around the place cleaning up after a week's worth of busy people on the go, listening to Internet radio and frequently sitting down to the computer. Often that time results in contemplation and reminiscing (and blogging!).

During my breaktime browsing I found myself looking up Takatifu Gardens, the beautiful Quaker community in Kenya at which I spent three months earlier this year. The official website has new pictures that blew my mind. When I was there, we worked very hard on the compound (community/volunteer center)'s garden and grounds. So to see pictures of less than six months after the work was really gratifying. The garden is flourishing, the baby rabbits I raised are full grown (and having rabbits of their own).

I also read blog entries from other international volunteers who have worked at TG at times when I was not there. It is inspiring to read of other lives that were touched by the very work that touched me so deeply.

The local schoolchildren are a big focus at Takatifu Gardens and I thought that this post from a fellow blogger was a beautiful capturing of that.

I still feel that my trip to Kenya was the best thing that I have done in my life so far. How I would love to go back.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Six months of Funkiness in LA

This is just a post to recognize that, as of today, I have been living in LA for six months. That is a strangely sad and yet happy fact. It has definitely been a major change in my life, a "new chapter", if you will.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

In Solidarity

I slept more comfortably last night than any other time that I had slept on the streets before that. Of course, I had never had the luxuries of an open sleeping bag and a camping mat (nor the warmth of a body next to me) any other night out on the sidewalks, either.

Yesterday was the third anniversary of Los Angeles' "Safer Cities Initiative", a program set in place by the city with the goal of "cleaning up Skid Row"(links lead to articles relating to the subject). It's a highly controversial initiative that has poured 50 more police officers (over 100, if you count undercover narcotics officers sent in to falsely arrest afflicted drug users under charges of dealing) into the 50 blocks of the Skid Row community of Downtown Los Angeles. It has led to sky-high numbers of arrests and complaints of police brutality. In the opinon of the resisdents of Skid Row, and the minds of friends of the homeless (such as the LACW and myself), it is an unfair shift in policing that has led to the ciminalization of the poorest of LA.

(The picture is from a different protest, same issue. I hope that pictures from Monday night's protest should be available soon).

The Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN) held a protest that evening on the steps of the Central Division Police Station (the station that is in Skid Row) to show opposition to the SCI. Eric and I joined the LA Catholic Worker, many homeless people, and other supporters/activists (including attorney Jim Lafferty) in a rally and the following sleep-in on the sidewalk in front of the police station with banners that read things like "Still no room at the inn: LAPD stop persecuting the Homeless", "LA must repent for criminalization of the homeless", "Lofts for the rich, cells for the poor" and so on and so forth. It was a lively action with good energy.

(they also went on to protest at the city council meeting the next morning, which I missed due to kitchen duties, but you can read a blurb about it here)

For me, it was about solidarity. I have slept away from shelter before, just as voluntarily, and always with a mind on those for whom such action is not an option, but a necessity. Twice it was for a week-long "faith outreach" with the JCs and once it was a two month journey with the JCs and our moneyless friend Suelo. Those times, we started with nothing but the clothes on our backs, as a time of trusting in a God who "works things out" and as a measure of identifying with the poorer half of our global neighbors. Those times were adventures in themselves and probably need to be written about.

In the meantime, let us ponder on our treatment of the less fortunate and to remember that the system's broken; how are we going to fix it?

It's up to us.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Day in the Life

My lifestyle is perhaps a little unusual to some people who read this, so I thought I might give a very rough outline of what my friends and I do on a regular basis. Some of my old friends from Oregon have asked me on Facebook what it is I am up to these days. I'm not in college (no big debt or unwanted careers for me, thank you very much) nor do I work in a paid job. Instead I live in an intentional community, where I am a full-time volunteer. I was inspired by this little section of our website, which does a good job of explaining a "typical" kitchen (at left) day:

A Typical Day

Well, there are no typical days at the Los Angeles Catholic Worker. When one of your values is precocity, anything can happen. Our cars get stolen, our house gets broken into, our bank account runs dry, people die, get sick, lose their jobs, get arrested, or rip us off. But these are, hopefully, balanced by the times in which we are divinely surprised by that one thousand dollar check, the angry person who caused a fight yesterday coming back today to apologize, the person who once ate at the soup kitchen returning after ten years of sobriety to thank us for our work, or finding a wonderful gift of brie cheese in the food donation. By definition, being vulnerable to God’s grace and goodness means that we must be equally vulnerable to chaos and disaster as well.

With that said here is what we do on a typical day of serving lunch at our downtown kitchen. If you are on the early crew you arrive at the kitchen by 6:45 a.m.–the plants must be watered, the garden and sidewalk must be swept, the kitchen must be setup, and if you have time, you can grab some toast and jam before the real work begins.

The official day at the kitchen begins at 7:45 a.m. with the prayer of St. Francis "Lord, make me a channel of your peace, where there is hatred let me bring your love…" By 9:30 a.m. we, with the help of our volunteers, have finished chopping the salad, cooking the soup, buttering the bread, and after a brief prayer we begin serving.

By noontime we have served anywhere from one thousand to two thousand meals and if you are lucky, everyone who came to the garden to eat was in a good mood, or their mood improved when they got here and there were no altercations. By now you are pretty tired and you might like to take a nap, but you have an hour of clean up to do.

At the end of the day we gather around the chopping block for an agape service, breaking bread together and breaking open the Word of God. If it is Tuesday, you will go to our weekly business meeting which usually runs from 2-4 p.m. Then if it is not your house night, (meaning you don’t have to prepare dinner for the house), you can take a nap until 6 p.m. when dinner is served.

That little description is only of what we do on the first half of our Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. We also serve a small breakfast on the street on Wednesdays and Fridays, which is followed by a vigil of protest against the war (against all war, actually). We also have other community activities that take place throughout the week.

And besides all that, I like to do other activities outside of the community schedule, like hanging out with Eric and other friends through dumpster diving, meetups, and social bike rides.

For example, today I got up around 5:10AM because I had stayed in Pasadena (northeast of the kitchen) after a concert last night. I had to get to downtown (where the soup kitchen is in Skid Row) by 6:40 to help set up for the day's work. Taking the train, with the aid of my bike, takes almost an hour. Then, after the day at the kitchen, my weekend officially starts (at about 2PM) and so I head back to Pasadena (where Eric lives) until Monday morning.

I love the life I am leading. I feel that what we do is a great thing. We are more than just a service to the residents of the Skid Row community, we are their friends. Jeff and Catherine, the oldest couple in our house, have been helping to run this thing for almost 40 years. They know many, many of the homeless and very-low-income people in the area and are respected very highly.

And besides, it's all so fun!

I welcom any questions about things I may have left out or about anything.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I'm a Freeg-etarian

Vegetarianism (or veganism) is a great way to make a statement about a particular aspect of the atrocities of our economic system, in the same way that dumpster diving makes a statement about waste. I find that for me personally, my conscience is clear when it comes to consuming meat that was wasted ("rescued" meat from dumpster diving). The reason I feel okay with it is that I feel that the animal's life was taken in vain to tossed in a bin. In a way, I think my maknig use of it is redeeming its life somehow. Something I cannot stand is finding perfectly good lamb meat sent over the oceans from New Zealand. It shows not only waste of the life of a baby animal, but also waste of resources (i.e. the transportation costs such as fuel and storage of the "product").

The issue for me is not in the eating of the meat, but in the funding of the process. If people all stopped paying for meat, the giant agribusinesses would lose money and be forced to reconfigure their project. So my way of protesting the cruelty and the many other issues with the meat industry is in not consuming meat that was purchased, and in not purchasing meat myself. For it's in contributing financially to that system (personally or through others) that we perpetuate it. Just for clarification, I am also fine with eating meat of animals that were raised personally for food (or "home grown meat", I like to say). I do not see a problem with using animals for food if it is done on a need basis and not for profit. It is profit and greed that create the crazy systems that rape the earth and its creatures.

I thought that this Q&A from the UK Freegans website was very good for explaining my position.

4) Are all ‘freegans’ vegans?

Although freeganism grew largely out of the vegan movement, not all freegans are vegans. Some vegans no longer find that the same arguments (e.g. inhumane treatment of animals) apply when it comes to using animal products that have already been produced and are now being wasted.

The direct impact of a freegan lifestyle on animals, people and the environment is less than that of even the strictest vegan who buys their food, as often large amounts of energy go into the production of vegan products for the market place.

Many freegans continue to follow a vegan diet for health and/or ethical reasons.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fair Play (an acrostic)

Here's another poem, this one an acrostic. It was written specifically for this month's issue of the Catholic Agitator, and hopefully it will be published.

Food is not a commodity, but a right
All are entitled to shelter at night
I
nequality is a curse to those with power
R
evealing the truth that money breeds cowards

P
eople deserve to be treated as equals
L
ay down all violence: the sword and the shield
A
re not all oppressed when few are free?
You have the power in what you choose to be

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Poem From Oregon

Below is a rather random poem I wrote whlile I was away in Oregon, sitting on the riverbank* with my mother. (*This joke is for a friend named Jeremy, and the funny thing is that it's true). As of yet, it has no title.

Untitled


Life floats like a butterfly on the wing,
shifting direction at the blink of an eye.
In green places the birds still sing,
and like the breeze in the trees we sigh.

Blue skies, like the eyes of my lover, open,
embracing the fresh air that we breathe.
The water of poetry flows from my pen
to capture the moments, falling like leaves.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Gone Too Long


I don't know if anyone reads this blog enough to have noticed how long it's been since I last posted, but it has been a long while. I was on vacation to spend time with my family in Oakridge, Oregon. I tried to make a post during the visit, but due to slow internet connections (my parents still use dial-up!) and a busy time connecting with as many people as possible, I was never able to finish that post. A few things have happened since I stopped posting regularly, including the locking of Eric's and my favorite new dumpster spot here in LA.

An Oregonian at Heart

My visit to Oakridge was lovely, complete with swimming in the cold North Fork of the Willamette River and ending with a small town wedding for a cousin I hadn't seen in years. It was also the first time in almost two years that my three siblings and I (I am on the left of the age-arranged photo at left) have been together in one place.

One of the best things about being in Oakridge was the natural beauty. Somehow when I was growing up, I had taken for granted the scenery I had been placed in. The town of little over 3000 people is situated in the feet of the Cascade Mountains, on the edge of the Willamette Valley (about an hour east of Eugene). Mountians coated heavily with evergreen trees (mostly cedar) are so close that you can almost touch them. My parents' home is a minutes' walk from the river, which you can hear flowing at night from my old bedroom. Now that I live in Los Angeles, the landscape of Oregon is a treasure I will never forget. I do hope that someday Eric and I can move north, out of this city to crown all cities (also called "Hell-A" by some).

A Freegan Birthday Party

Now I will go back an entire month to make mention of my fantastic birthday party because I want to thank all the people who made it such a great time. We called the event "Bikes, Beer and Dumpster Diving" because it was spread over the weekend of August 14th to include a dumpster ride that provided the meal and snacks for the actual party. A lot of friends, new and old, showed up to mark my 21st year of life. I felt that it was also a celebration of a new direction in life and my "settling down" in Los Angeles. Friends from the JCs, Hippie Kitchen volunteers, my Riverside friends from the Rainbow Gathering and members of the Catholic Worker community all joined in on the fun, as representations of different journeys I have taken. And of course there was Eric, my Freegan partner. For more pics of the event, click here.

Freeganism and Dumpster Diving Meetup

Eric and I continue to host freegan meetups, such as potlucks and dumpster dives. Over the last few weeks, Eric has shown a few freegan-friendly documentaries at his place after potluck dinners, including "What Would Jesus Buy?", "The Story of Stuff" and, as of last night, "The Corporation". All three are worth taking a look at, and I recommend the book, "The Corporation", as well.

There is more, but I will save it for later. Don't we all love the leftovers? ;)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

What Would Jesus Buy?

Eric and I are getting ready to host a screening of the documentary "What Would Jesus Buy?", an entertaining look into consumerism, particularly in relation to Christmas. The video screening is going to be in conjunction with a freegan potluck, and a dumpster diving outing afterwards. I will post the pictures of the event after, and will share my thoughts about the film.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

An Accepted Collective Insanity

Last night, Eric and I decided to try some new territory in our dumpster diving adventures; we went for a couple of spots that had been mentioned to us as having a tendency to be locked. It turns out that these two stores had locked fences, but open dumpsters. And thankfully, they were an easy hop, at least for an enthusiastic Freegan couple with a penchant for climbing things.

The resulting haul was huge (click the pics for a huge-er peek), and mostly from one of the two grocery retailers we checked out. The abundance was overwhelming; my first tendency is to yell, "Score!!!". But I soon realized how the whole thing was equal parts exciting and mentally devastating. The whole time we were cleaning, arranging and photographing the food, I kept saying, "This is insane."

For me, just the sheer waste was a sign of the craziness of our society and the ineffectiveness of our economic system. There was probably around 80 pounds (if not more) of perfectly edible meat (as well as a lot of of beautiful fruit and chesses): well packaged and still-cold packs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, fully cooked smoked salmon, thinly sliced beef sirloin and two whole chickens. Each little pack (usually around a pound or two or three of meat, my guess) was priced around $10. Their "crime"? (As my mother would say.) They were expiring that day or the next. Now, an expiration date is a suggestion, not a ticking clock on a rotting time-bomb. Why throw away perfectly good meat that could have been given away (and which will now, thankfully, be given away) ? It is likely that this particular store was overstocked and/or that meat sales are particularly down at this point in time. Meat that is close to the "suggestion date" is not likely to be bought by picky consumers and therefore, is not profitable. Better make room for fresher, more "in-demand" product!

The second insanity is the state of mind promoted by a consumer- (and profit-) driven system. A state of mind that says the locking up of and barbed-wire protection of trash (albeit perfectly edible trash) is an acceptable practice just doesn't make sense! It is such an unhealthy sign of the state of things that we have to sneak around like little kids breaking into a toy store just to liberate food that belongs to the people of this planet. I have literally had management tell me before (not anytime recently, thankfully) that I was "stealing [their] garbage". What?!? 1. You've thrown it away as an unwanted possession; 2. Food is a shared necessity that should be freely available to those with the need for it; 3. Waste is a costly, dangerous and pointless thing! We should make use of it as best we can. Try telling that to well-trained employee of a mega-corporation. You'd be better off cooperating and moving on to try your luck somewhere else. Some people don't want to change their minds.

Enjoy this well done video of my friend Ashwyn showing off the insanity to an Australian nightly news reporter.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Protest Against Nuclear Testing - August 9, 2009

Here are some pictures from the protest at Vandenburg Air Force Base in Lompoc, California. This vigil took place on the 64th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.

Check out http://vandenbergwitness.org/ for more info and more photos.

A quote by Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker movement.


Does such a banner even need an explanation?


I was enjoying watching the different reactions of the drivers in passing cars (we were situated on a fairly major intersection).


Click on the photo to make it larger and to see the wonderful detail on the banner.

Peace on Earth!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Perfection (For Eric)

This post (and the below poem) is dedicated with love to my dumpster diving partner and partner in life, my boyfriend Eric.

People like to ask how we met. I will post it here because, to me, it's relevant to this blog: We met through the Los Angeles Dumpster Diving Meetup! Eric hosted a meetup (a video potluck followed by dumpstering) at his house when I first got to LA, I found it through Google, and well, the rest is history.

Perfection

I gazed into my own personal sky today,
two minuscule portions of that blue expanse,
holding in their depths a story of a life
and the emotions of a soul.
I gazed into those skies today
and saw a reflection - not quite perfection,
but as close as you can get to it:
love.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Easily Amused?

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend Eric and I were interviewed together about about dumpster diving for a radio program on KFI, an AM radio station. For those of you who don't know of KFI Los Angeles (whose slogan is "more stimulating talk radio"), they have a bit of a reputation for being of the conservative slant. So much so that when I mentioned the show Eric and I would be on to my friend Jeff, his loud reaction ("No way! They're gonna tear you up!") threw me off guard.

But the interview wasn't too bad, and we were not ridiculed as much as Jeff (or Eric for that matter) had expected.

You can download the program here (click on John and Ken Saturday 7/25), or just listen here. The bit about dumpster diving is around 45 minutes into the program (you can fast forward to it). It's nothing all that remarkable, but we did have at least one individual join the Los Angeles Dumpster Diving Meetup because of the show.

The one thing that stands out in my memory from the interview was that after I shared a story in response to the question about favorite dives, one of the hosts said, "It doesn't take much to amuse you guys, does it?"

At first, that response bothered me (it was obviously not a favorable comment), but after thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that it's ok. Being content with what we have is an important concept in Freeganism. I guess you could even say that we are "easily amused" and proud of it. I am going to be happy when I am surprised by an unexpected treat in the dumpster, and, well, most people wouldn't be. Their amusements come from expensive gadgets, whereas I am more entertained by the simple things in life.

In case you're wondering, the story I shared was this:
Not too long ago, Eric and I were dumpstering with a friend, and our flashlight was running out of battery. Shortly after we commented to ech other on that, I came across a new flashlight in the bin. It was empty (without batteries), and I expected that it didn't work (I mean, it was thrown away). Less than a minute later, my friend found a pack of size C batteries (tossed because of damaged packaging). They just happened to be the right size for the flashlight, and, get this, it worked! Now, for me, that's a pretty cool story. But John and Ken were not impressed. Oh well.




Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"And it's on the Table..."

"I don't mind stealing bread /From the mouths of decadence /But I can't feed on the powerless/ When my cup's already overfilled" -Temple of the Dog, "Hunger Strike"

It's very sad to me that we can find such amazing amounts of food thrown away while our brothers and sisters in other locales are starving from lack of supplies.
Below, we have transferred eggs we found into flats that we brought. A full carton of eggs will be thrown away if even just one egg is cracked in the collection. Often these eggs are more than two weeks before their expiry date.

Next picture is of one couple's share of the haul, after it was taken home and cleaned. Thirteen people showed up to that meetup. I was taking extra food for my intentional community of twenty housemates, and another lady was taking extra to donate to a food pantry. Yet, even still, we did not take all that was in just one of the three dumpsters of that particular store. Incredible.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Life Just Is

Beyond flowery philosophies
Pushing past ideologies
Forgetting the search for deeper meaning
Letting go of a "higher being"
After our thoughts have faded away
And our striving has turned to gray:
Life just -
is.


Please don't take this poem as an attack on attempts to put meaning into the lives we are given on this earth or as a slam against religion. I am a deeply philosophical and spiritually open person. This writing is just a piece meant to acknowledge the fact the we are here and that life is in us, no matter what it is we believe.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

An Old Reflection

I recently got a bunch of papers and other miscellaneous items back from my JC friends (whom I was very excited to see), and was sorting through them. Among the heap of scraps I had scattered on my bedroom floor were many random bits of paper I had seized as temporary journals to house my immediate thoughts of the time. Most of them were easily discarded. My journal-type writing is usually done for myself, in that moment, and doesn't often hold any long term significance. But one particular exploratory literary musing held my attention as a piece of writing with some good thoughts to be carried on, and to be shared. And so here it is: a slightly edited version of a stream of consciousness write from over a year ago.

Why is there so much unbelief and doubt: in the world and in me? So much of religion is just a dishonest game, so how do you find real truth? I think truth is in values and principles. Doing the right thing in order to improve the world and to improve yourself is what is needed more than religion. Jesus said some beautiful things about love. If we actually believed and practiced those things, the we could get somewhere.

"God is love" and wants us to love each other. We can use "God" to represent all the good forces in the world [and all the things for which we have no explanation] - so why do people kill in the name of God? Must be a different God...

[Our purpose in life] is for us to "do unto others as we would have done to us". That purpose is for us to give, to love, to learn and to grow. A simple lifestyle is important to these objectives because material abundance only hinders and chokes. In living with less we can identify with those who have less out of necessity and not choice.

It is important for us to become aware of how our lives affect others and the world around us. The affluent masses can continue to consume without conscience because they have cut themselves off from the darkness in the world. The churches [and the people] "ignore the crying outside the door. Sure you'll pray for their burdens but you don't wanna make it yours" [quote from "What About Them", by John Reuben]. The religious excuse is that "Jesus did it all". They teach that "good works" (doing what is right and helping others) are not necessary for a spiritual [or fulfilled] life.

Now you ask me, "How do we know what is right and wrong?" But it is so simple! [We were built with] an inbuilt sense of justice, of truth, that most of society chooses to ignore. But they can't block it out completely. We [all] can tell that suffering is wrong, that killing, that selfishness, is wrong. {We are given] a desire to see things set straight. We naturally want to change things. But we are told "God has it under control, so don't try!", among other untruths aimed at keeping us complacent.

We are fed selfishness and distractions. But if we can let go of [and fight] these things, our faith can be placed in something deeper. Don't give up the fight for what is right.

-Spring 2008

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My Room

The intermingling scents
lend an interesting sense
of understanding to the knowledge
about the dweller of this space
-this room-
with its faint sweet aroma of dead lilies,
the strong smell of burnt sage
and a hint of sex.

The pictures depict
a happiness
that you may wonder if she could truly possess
as a wanderer
a backslider and a jobless kitten;
But the dumpster kitty sails that sea
of voluntary poverty
and finds that she is truly a wealthy witch
as those
on Skid Row would know:
Those without a room,
without a partner,
without happy pictures or a loaned bicycle.

How did this wanderer land this luck,
this love,
this sense of purpose,
in a land of unloved, lost and broken souls
abused by the system and unwanted by society?

This room, yes, my room,
tells a story,
a story that many can't tell;
yet all should be able, one day,
to share.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Technological Advancements in the Area of Timewasting

I have now broken the pattern of "post, poem, post, poem." Oh well. You can read a full collection of my recent poetry by clicking here.

For such a staunch freegan, I sure do waste a lot - of time. Have you noticed that things that are meant to make our lives simpler have taken us over? The huge machine-powered industries that produce our food (and destroy our planet) make human lives no longer centered around the gathering and preparation of sustenance. And so then we need something else with which to fill our time, so why not make more machines? And it goes on and on, until each gadget we had to help us morphs into an entertainment piece, like computers and cellphones. Not to mention the time-filling machines with no other helpful purpose, such as video game consoles and the television (though, of course, it can be rightly argued that they do have another purpose - that of enslaving the minds of the masses to a certain veiwpoint).


We've even gotten to the point that we'll talk on our cellphones while in the bathroom or in a dumpster.
:P

Free time is a valuable resource, and now that people have so much of it (thanks to technology), there is so much we can do with our lives! And for people freed of the "rat race", like myself, that's even more time that can be used in a positive way (like to help others or share time/life with friends). But I have found myself sucked into the vortex of cyberspace time and time again, wondering, where did the hours go? While I was at the Rainbow Gathering, I imagined all the great things I was going to do when I got home, like focusing on learning more on the guitar, or in Spanish, or even just to read more books. But then I get on the computer to "check my email" and find time just slipping out the window. It's easy to justify myself, to say that I spend half of my time volunteering at the soup kitchen and the house, so how I spend the rest of my time is my business. Sure, it is. And it's also my life slipping away. Well, perhaps next time I write, I'll speak a little more of the language I want to learn. What, tu no me crees???

Blogging Blues

Another thing I spend valuble time on is the reading of other blogs. Sometimes it makes me sad, wishing I could write more wittily, like my favorite cartoonist, Dan Pirarro. Or I wish I had a lot of followers, like my good friend Suelo. I think, "I'll try to be more personal and frequent, instead of writing like the informative, but only monthly, JC Newsletter." But then I think to myself again, heck, I write the same stuff in my paper journal and ask people not to read it, so why does it matter if I get read online?!?

Back to a philisophical viewpoint - The whole above paragraph is another indication of the need to release any attachments I have... Particularly the attachment to my ego, pride and the wish to be read.

If you haven't noticed, I have found a name I thought might work, but I am still open to more suggestions!!!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Rainbow of Diversity


Last week, I got back from a week-long adventure at my first Rainbow Gathering. This year, the festival was held near Cuba, New Mexico, in the mountains of the Santa Fe National Forest. It was a week of camping, hanging out, meeting new people from everywhere, eating a lot of good food (and coffee!!), and imagining a more permanent world of unity and nature such as I was experiencing.

"Rainbow Gathering" means different things to each individual who hears the phrase. To me, it means diversity. In that place and time, I saw and met people from every different persuasion, from punk kids to college students, hippies to school teachers (or some who are both), truckers and travelers, and many folks who work a normal 9-5 during the rest of the year. There were families and sweet kids running around, particularly around Kid Village camp and the Main Meadow. Drugs were present, but so were people who stay far away from such things (like myself).

Rainbow meant new friends, like Will, Sam and Lachlan, the three of whom I was lucky enough to camp with the whole time. Will and Sam (at left) gave me a ride to and from the gathering, for which I am grateful. Will had attended 5 other Gatherings, but for the rest of us, it was our first experience.

Speaking of friends, I got to meet up with my moneyless friend Suelo, who spent the last few days we were there hanging with my new friends and me. It was very good to see him and to speculate about future travel plans together.

Another memorable moment was on the 4th (a day of particular celebration at the Gathering), we were treated to the most beautiful double rainbow I have ever seen.

A lesson I learned from Rainbow was that there are so many different types of people in the world, and our job is not to persuade all to think the same way, but to learn how to work together and to learn from one another. We are the Rainbow.

"We love you!!"

(PS: check out Rainbow Gathering videos on Youtube)


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Vigil

The spangled banner stands proudly proclaiming
-its domination-
Acting as though its values reflect the virtues of
-our nation-
Vainly waving to us in front of the edifice
-of "justice"-
While the tiny procession brandishes its cardboard statement
-just this:-
Daily we sacrifice our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters to
-mighty Mars-
A god whose greedy heart pumps innocent blood with which we fuel
-our cars-
Let our declaration be a dagger to the demons
-of violence-
Today eighteen faceless names, eighteen young voices
-now silenced-
No one names the thousands of foreign deaths
-we create-
Other people's family die needlessly while
-we anticipate-
Will we cut short the life of one more husband, wife
-or friend?-
Let it be said we stood, praying for this madness
-to end-

Friday, June 26, 2009

Life as a Balancing Act

"The ingredients of both darkness and light are equally present in all of us,...The madness of this planet is largely a result of the human being's difficulty in coming to virtuous balance with himself. "
— Elizabeth Gilbert ( from the book "Eat, Pray, Love ")

Something I have come to see in the recent years of my maturation is that life is all about finding the proper balance. While I am very happy with what I am doing right now, I still find myself checking the balance of my activities. What I mean is this: we must find the right amount of fun, of compassion, of serving others and of nurturing our own growth. We need to enjoy life while never neglecting the needs of those around us.

If we become too focused on the service aspect of life (without taking time to "recharge"), we are likely to burn out and become disillusioned with the world in all its disparity. On the other hand (and this is the hand which many people hold on their life's walk), taking too much time and focus on ourselves results in overindulgence and ignorance.

Balance in the Past Weeks

In the last bit of time since my last post, I have been having a lot of fun/time for myself, and
wondering if I may be needing to look around and lend a hand a little more often. It's funny, though: living with the Catholic Worker community and contributing to their work for the homeless population of Los Angeles is really quite fun in itself. But in addition to the satisfying work of volunteering full-time, I have been enjoying benefits of living in one city for an extended period of time; I have been hanging out with friends, going on social bike rides, and getting to know the City. This is the first time in almost three years that I have planned to stay in a city for more than a month or two.

Freeganism is another venture which blends fun with a purpose and mission. This month, an article appeared in the Orange County Register called, "Trash: It's What's for Dinner", which features my boyfriend Eric and me along with the LA Dumpster Diving Meetup group (for which Eric has been organizing events; in fact, that's how we met).This month, we also had our second Dumpster Ride and Freegan Meal, which was another fun success (click on the link for pics and more info).

Something else excting that happened this month is that my friend Rick came to LA from Sacramento to visit me. Some of you may recall that I donated a kidney to Rick back in November (I will post pics in this blog when I find them); I only mention that to raise some awareness of living kidney donation and the need for people to step up and help those suffering from kidney disease. I will probably talk more about that at some other point. It was very good to see Rick for the first time since the transplant. He is doing well and we had a good time for the two days that he was in the City of Angels.

All in all, my life is in more balance than it has been in a long time. But, as always, I will continue to search for that perfection we all seek.

The Search for a Better Name

Another search I would like to conduct is one for a more intelligent name for this blog. "The Adventures and Thoughts of Grace" just seems a little silly to me at this point. If anyone has any suggestions, let me know!



Thursday, June 4, 2009

Something Beautiful (life through the eyes of a dumpster diver)

For every gooey broken egg, there are a dozen left whole
For every broken heart, there's a happy enlightened soul
For every pack of rotten berries, there's a carton unspoiled
For every crushing failure, there's a victory for which we toiled
For every shard of glass, there's a bottle still intact
For every lonely person, there's the lover that they lacked
For every moldy slice, there's a loaf sitting fresh
For every tragedy, there's life at its best
For every wilted rose, there's a bouquet living still
And in every dumpster of life, there's something beautiful

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Month of May in a Freegan and CW Nutshell

Well, it's been over a month now since my last post. I never meant for that to happen. ;) In the meantime, I have been busy and having a great time doing it. Hopefully, I can get myself to make weekly posts from now on, if there's something worth writing about every week.

The Los Angeles Catholic Worker and "Hippie Kitchen"


For the last three weeks, I have been working and staying with the Catholic Worker community in East Los Angeles. A quick sum-up from the LACW website tells us this about the community:

The Los Angeles Catholic Worker community is part of the lay Catholic Worker movement founded over seventy years ago by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin to "feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, care for the sick, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner" and offer a gospel-based critique of the dominant culture within the Catholic tradition but outside the institutionalized structures of the church.


Founded in 1970, the Los Angeles Catholic Worker is a lay Catholic community of men and women which operates a free soup kitchen, hospitality house for the homeless, hospice for the dying, a newspaper, and regularly offers prophetic witness in opposition to war-making and injustice.


I am not a Catholic, but I truly respect and admire Dorothy Day in her activism and her faith. From my perspective, she was a sincere individual, trying hard to reconcile her belief in God with the injustice that she saw religion doing nothing about. The result: Catholic Worker hospitality homes and soup kitchens across the world. :D


The way I see religion now, is as a tool. Someone's spirituality can be used to encourage that person to improve themselves and the world, and yet like any tool, it can also be used for ill. We have seen religion used as a manipulative instrument, as a means of power and control and for the gaining of wealth.


Thankfully in Dorothy's case, God was a motivation towards the light in her and in others.


Another inspiring, "enlightened" individual I have been reading about lately is the old lady who went by the name "Peace Pilgrim". She was also someone that let God use her and the spirituality she sought to work towards peace in the world and goodwill towards all people. More about her and about religion in some later post. This is supposed to be an update.


So, I have been staying at the community house (a beautiful, old Victorian three story home shared by as many as twenty people) and spending most of my time working with the Catholic Workers either in the house or at their colorful soup kitchen (aka "the Hippie Kitchen", at right, featuring my friend Martha) in Skid Row. I have begun to feel that I have found a niche here at the CW house and that the work we are doing is something I am "called" to be a part of. It reminds me of working at the community volunteer center in Kenya, and of the satisfaction we all feel when doing something that has a strong sense of purpose to it. (And of course I would be thinking of Kenya when David, our young Kenyan friend here at the house, made us chapatis and sukuma wiki for dinner tonight...)


Freegan Fun

When I am not spending time at the house or the kitchen, I am likely to be in a dumpster (or at some bike or freegan related event).


Last Friday, the Los Angeles Dumpster Diving meetup had our first "Dumpster Ride and Freegan Meal" event. It was a lot of fun, and attracted a nice little group of people, many of whom were new to dumpster diving and had never heard of Freeganism.


The idea behind the ride was to be an educational event, combining the social bike riding crowd with the dumpster divers and to see what happened. What came of it was a 12 or so mile bike ride that stopped at five or so dumpsters, and a large and delicious (and free!) meal cooked up and enjoyed by a diverse group of people. The event was a success in any way I would use the term. To see more pictures of the night, click here.

Not only did we have fantastic fun, we also rescued a lot of good food. What 15 or so people had for a late dinner that night was only a fraction of the food we pulled from the dumpster on our ride. Our haul consisted of a bag of potted plants (in need of a little love, but beautiful nonetheless), lots of good meat (including incredible salmon and barbecue pork), a case of hummus (minus a cracked container, of course), a mountain of blueberries, some nice bread, lots of tomatoes and eggs and so much more...


And my plans keep changing...


I have been trying to pin down what I want to do this summer, but I have discovered that life doesn't want to be pinned down! But that's just fine with me, since the unpredictability of life is something beautiful that many people miss out on in our current system of doing things.


It's still that same old lesson of learning to not be attached to anything. If we can take it day by day, each thing that happens (whether planned or not), can be greeted with a contented smile and a sense of newness and surprise.


With that in mind, I think I will stop saying what I hope to do this summer and just review what has happened after the time has passed. Well, let me just say, I think it will be fantastic fun...


See ya next time!