Monday, November 1, 2010


Wow, we are in our last week here in Alabama, and well, last week of work before we leave Americorps. In 17 days, this will all be over. Seven .... teen.... days....

Last week we did our last Mobile Food Pantry. It was held in Biloxi, MS. It was quite the experience. Biloxi is basicaly a gambling mecca... that's all there is there... casinos. A mini-vegas. But there really is much more to it. The food pantry went on pretty normally. Didn't seem to be much different than the ones we held here in Bayou La Batre. Only difference was we did not recognize any of the faces.

Towards the end I was carrying boxes for people, well, I did this the whole time, as many of the individuals are elderly, or just can't carry a box FULL of food. The last people were all in line. I saw a woman and went up to her and asked her if she would like me to carry her box for her. She just turned and stared at me... so I repeated "Would you like me to carry this for you?" With tears forming in her eyes she said "you would be the greatest man in world if you could do that for me." As we went through the line, we talked a little. I noticed she had an accent. She was really upset. At one point I said "I notice you have an accent, what is it?" She told me that she was from Czechoslavakia. I was super excited by this and told her that just 2 years ago I was in Praha (Prague). I started telling her of my travels, but stopped very quickly. Her eyes swelled with tears and she brought her hand to her mouth. I apologized for bringing up a sensitive subject. She smiled with those tears and said "Praha is a beautiful place, isn't it?" I agreed.

As we walked out of the building she told me that she didn't have a car, but only lived a few houses away. I offered to carry her food. She started telling me the whole story.. how she moved to NYC to earn money to send her kids to college. And how she then found her way to MS, her boys overseas still, and now she is jobless... and that she had a heartattack and surgery, and is now $120,000 in debt to the hospitals. She can't pay her rent, she cant' but food... she has nothing. Literally. She is here... alone...without anything. I felt useless as I left her, teary eyed, alone in her house...

We really do make an impact in AmeriCorps... even if we fail to see the impact regularly.

All is not upsetting in my world though. With this last week ahead of me, I have been making the best of it. Saturday we got up and drove to the beach for the sunrise. Then, after taking a long nap, made my way into town fora day with my friend, Jamie. Oh, Jamie (one of my CM's).

We dropped some of the team off at an ISP, then got the van washed. Then drove to this 5K we heard about to see if we could volunteer. Which we did. We handed out water to the runners at the 1 mile mark. At the same point was a gentleman who filled us in on all sorts of information about the natural gas and oil structures in the water, as well as the bridges and how they were affected by the storms. Then Jamie did some face painting, I met a lady from MI with a cool dog and a son who is also applying for TFA, and then got attacked by fire ants, and we left. We then went to this benefit concert and heard some incredible music. Then out for sushi, got dessert at a cafe where we didn't quite fit in, but loved every minute of it. Then saw the Halloween festivities DT mobile before heading to pick the team up and calling it a night.

Sunday was a beach day and Chelsea cooked one hell of a Halloween dinner for the team. So good.

Today I found out Zac and I have a free place to stay in Portland, ME after Thanksgiving. So I'm pumped to hit up NYC followed by a couple days/nights in Portland. My former land-lady and current good friend, Toni (from London) has a cousin who will open his doors to us. It's very exciting. I've never been to Maine! It should be GREAT!

Well... we have 4 work days left. Booked the hotel tonight for our travels back to the Point... it's all winding down very quickly. Wow.

Hope you are all great. It's November. and what the F happened to daylight savings time?

sunrise. 10.30.10

Badger 1, Mobile Food Pantry, Biloxi, MS

Badger 1 at Halloween Dinner

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Winding (the year) down...

I find it hard to believe that my 11 months is down to 3 weeks. I'm closing in on a year since graduation, Toni visiting, and leaving everything for this 11 month, cross-country journey.

We have 10 days left in Alabama. 10! We've been pretty busy lately. We had a community day on Saturday, which coincided with Make a Difference Day. This was our one day of the round that we, Badger 1, put together a day to serve and celebrate. Jamie, one of the gang, put a ton of effort into the event, and it was a huge success. We had food, crafts, games, prizes, sports, water balloons, and MORE! We started the morning off picking up trash along the road, and then celebrated the afternoon away with the above said things. We had a pretty decent turnout… check out the pictures below!

It was also my birthday weekend, and it was celebrated in style. My Aunt Denise and good friend Jess drove from the cold WI to the hot and humid AL. I spent the weekend with them, enjoying lots of good beer, food, margaritas and at times, a shit show. SO much fun – those two always make for a great time. It was a great break and opportunity to relax… I don’t get that much these days. There is always something going on, but I see the benefit of it, especially now that I attempt to help my CM’s get their Life After Americorps figured out. Lots of Dr.’s appts, GED classes and test set-up, interviews, GRE and LSAT tests to schedule and study for, and overall excitement for graduation. Badger 1 has done a lot this year, and although we won’t leave the program as best friends, we definitely will remember how much we learned, grew and accomplished as a team.

Personally, I have also been pretty busy with LAA plans. 2 weeks ago the Unit Leader position opened up for immediate fill. I’ve submitted my application…

I’m extremely hopeful and confident, but unaware of who my competition may be. I know this position is exactly what I want right now, so I am hoping that it will all work itself out. But, I’m not worried… a backup plan of Cali is still set to go, and I know everything happens for a reason. So – that’s all I’ll say about that.

I also have submitted my application for Teach for America. Will hear the first word on that next week. Pretty fun time.

I’m starting to reflect on what we’ve done this year. We’ve been in so many communities, made such small, but meaningful impacts, and also very large impacts. We’ve met SOOOOO many people and whereve we go on the east or gulf coast, we COULD find someone that we’ve worked with. Not to mention all of our friends within the program.

I’ve also done a pretty good job of keeping in touch with friends over the course of the year. Some people I talk to every couple of months, some every day… but we talk.. that’s the key thing. I wish I had more time and energy to stay up all night keeping connected, but… I frick’n love sleep. Deal with it.

Got a lot going on in my head… don’t feel it’s all necessary to share. I’m proud of what I’ve done this year. I’m excited that there is enough interest and support to keep this program going and growing. I hope I can continue to be a part of it.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

First taste of the Pacific

Wow, I don't do so hot at keeping this up-to-date.

Well, first things first.

California was amazing. I didn't know what to expect of the roommates, the area, the weather... anything. But I do know that I cannot wait to get back... if that plan is not altered (I'll get to that).

I didn't get into San Fran until Saturday versus Friday night, because the airlines "crew were late." So I got put up in a hotel in Houston. Nice of them, but I had a hotel reservation in San Francisco where Zac was... not the best night.

I got in on Saturday afternoon, and just headed south to Marina, CA - future home of mine. Zac's 2 roommates are frick'n awesome. We had a blast all week... whether we were having a few drinks, cooking for each other, doing nothing but watching Jersey Shore (ugh) or Teen Mom (a must see), or attempting to eat at the Noodle Bar, or get any kind of food that I wanted (unsuccessfully), we had a great time. I even talked them into buying a kitchen table and chairs. The place is basically mine already.

Zac and I didn't get out and enjoy as much as I think I may have liked to, but the main point of the visit was just that... to visit him. After 8 weeks, all the sights are miniscule relative to the time you just want to spend with each other. I'm such a tool for saying this... a year ago I'd have been making fun of EVERYONE who said this, and probably not talk to them anymore out of annoyance. But, truth be told...

So, I did not get to see San Fran. That's about a 2 hour drive from Marina, 4 hours in total for a day, and getting a hotel was not an option because the money was already spent on that once. Zac and I checked out Monterey and also drove along HWY 1, which goes along the coast of California. We did some trail hiking, and then stopped along the road and chilled at a bitch. And by chilled, I mean dominated some 6+ foot waves. Those things can kick your ass... hell yea!

It was really good to be around each other for so long. We have known each other for just about a year now, and that 9 days was the longest we had spend together (the longest stretch of time that we saw each other on a daily basis). It was awesome.. this is definitely a great thing!

I should have spent a lot more time on my Teach For America application... but I didn't. So I still have to do that. But Zac's boss has offered me a job with the afterschool program - so I've got at least something going for me when/if I make it out there!

I flew out on Sunday.. but when I arrived at the airport they told me my flight left Saturday... wtf Ryan??? So there went another $150 to fly standby. Still got on all the same flights I needed to, just 24 hours later. Idiot.

So... while I was in Cali I found out that 2 staff members from my campus are leaving the organization. That means that the Unit Leader position that I want to apply for in the spring, is now available NOW! The job posted yesterday, and closes in 2 weeks. That means that I have to put together a Federal Resume and do the application online, which consists of about 12 questions. For lack of a desire to explain the federal application proces... I'll just say this is a very time consuming task. But I'm doing it. I believe I am qualified for this position and would suit it very well. And although I had plans to move to Cali for 6 months and relax, gaining more experience for the position (staying fresh), and then applying for it in the spring, if the opportunity is here now, then I must act now. I really do want this... and Zac is supportive of that. It's a great opportunity.. .SO, I am beginning that process. Wish me luck!!

Other than that (aka - my personal life), things on the team are going well. With all of our strong personalities we have not become a family, which is frustrating for many people, including myself. The amazing thing, though, and the point I explain to them, is that we are incredible because we can put our differences aside, and be one of the most functional, effective and effiecient teams in this corps. We don't whine, we get things done, we provide excellent results, and we really do have fun... doing our own thing. I told them today that I am proud of them, because as some teams are winding down and getting anxious to just get done, they still show up, positive attitudes, and their game faces on. This team has come SOOOO damn far. I really am proud of them. It's been a great year... and I hope I have the opportunity to oversee dozens of teams go through this process in the years to come....

Well... we have a lot going on.. so I should get off of here. We are doing a mobile food pantry tomorrow, followed by publicity for our Community Day next weekend, then we're doing a Haunted House ISP on Saturday and I need to not only make it to the beach this weekend, but also get a solid start on my UL application. Still need to connect with friends too... several that I have not talked to in far too long.

Alrighty... with only 34 days left until Graduation... ... ...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sweet Home Alabama

Ain't it the truth though?

I'm loving this project. It is so exciting every day. I have never been happier with the team and the overall things that are happening on every level down here. It's absolutely incredible!

The work we do is pretty monotanous(sp??). We literally wipe off cans of food with bleach rags, or fill boxes with food and stack them on pallets for shipment. That's about it. BUT... we get to work together as a team, and that's never been more fun. The team is SO F'd in the head, that you cannot help but laugh. We've started this thing where every time you put something in a box, or make a move of any sort really, you have to make a noise. So when you drop a bad of rice in the box, you have to have a customized noise... "beep, boop, orgh, gah!, unff" is close to what our area of the warehouse sounds like. Even when I'm in a bad mood (which happens like 2 days a round), the team doesn't care, and just goes on being ridiculous, and expects that I join in on it. If I don't, I'm ousted. The other day I had one of these days, and Chelsea decided we were going to make hats. So she grabbed these big paper bags, placed them our heads and I ended up taping them to everyone's heads.. ya know, custom fit. So we were making robot noises with 3 foot high paper bags on our heads... truly a site to see. The employees were coming by, confused, laughing, taking pictures, but mostly shaking their heads and avoiding us. And then at the end of the day they are shocked at how many pallets of food we got through.. no joke! They can't believe how much we're getting done!

Monday nights are up in the air as to what will happen. I usually grocery shop.
Tuesday and Wednesdays are low key because that is when the GED classes are. So I have to be the chauffer. I don't mind it.
Thursdays is beach night. We get home, grab food (someone prepares our meal the night before so we can grab it and go after work). We get to the beach, do a team workout (which looks like it will be YOGA from now on), and then swim quick, and hit the pavillion for Taco Dinner (it's capitalized because it's a THING... like the VMA's or something), and then we follow with a team meeting before packing up and heading home for the night.
Fridays are up in the air, too. This past Friday we went to the mall, I bought nothing.. that was easier than I thought it'd be. Then we went to Wal Mart and played the Wal Mart game. I don't feel like explaining it, but it was a blast.
Saturday's are unpredictable - usually low key and relaxing. and in the evening, Jamie and I head to the local Mexican restaurant for $1.25 margaritas! MmmMmmmMmmmm
Sunday is beach day. It starts off with breakfast made by our housing sponsor every sunday at 8:30. Then I bike to the beach (20 miles) and then everyone else meets me there for the day. It is cloudy today, so not sure if it will happen, but I think it might.

The team is not just getting along down here, but enjoying each other's company. What used to annoy and frustrate us about each other, is now a strong point and something we connect with each other on. We are conversational, try to help each other out, and instead of getting pissed and walking away from each other, we pull each other aside and converse. I don't... I mean, I'm done with that. ha - they know what I'm thinking without having to say it... so now I just hit them. It works.

I leave for California on Friday... 9 days there! Definitely ready for it... haven't seen Zac in 7 weeks. Almost 8. Get a feel for what my life will be like post-Americorps. We both need this. It's crazy... it really is... to actually care for someone. I NEVER thought Iwould be in this position. Sorry... don't puke, I'm done.

All right... gotta check this bike beach trip forecast, see if I can't make it happen.

Live every day. Do what feels right... don't allow yourself to be constrained... you can't find happiness if you do.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Time slipped by... down in Alabama!

Well, we wrapped up things in Baltimore... we spent our last working day on the farm hosting a community day for local kids... we had 3 children wander onto the farm, and 6 or 7 college students come volunteer because they had forgotten sunglasses 2 weeks earlier and felt bad coming back to just get the glasses... so they hung around for a couple of hours.

The following day we went to work with another team, my former Corps Members team, Wolf 2. They work at City Neighbors... this is an organization started by parents of Baltimore students. They felt that the public schools were not providing a strong enough educational experience, so they created City Neighbors charter schools. Each year the school grows, and with that comesa lot of work. So we spen the day (sunday) helping them get ready for school that was supposed to start on that Monday. However, they didn't have desks, lights, dry-erase boards, a cafeteria.... ETC, so needless to say, school was delayed. No 2 hour delay, a 7 day delay... that's what I would have been talkinga bout. It was really cool to work with them. A fun team, and it feels good to help with worthwhile projects. Plus we got to check out the view of the city from the schools roof...and climb on the ropes in the gym. Solid day. Oh, and frontflips into the cardboard recycling dumpsters... no, we aren't allowed to do that in uniform...;)

The following day, things got BETTER. Wolf 2 joined us at a pool party. This was AWESOME. One of our sponsors friends (?) heard of us and the work we did and invited us to his house for a pool party. Diving board, basketall hoop in pool, lots of food (and ICE CREAM), water guns... you name it. Spent about 4 hours there. I mastered the art of front AND backflips. Had never tried either, so it was quite an accomplishment. I was like a 2 year old that just learned where the dog food dish was.. you couldn't keep me off that diving board. We had a legitimate REALLY good day.

Back to campus we went. We spent 2 days in transition, or 3, who cares, and then left for Fall Break. I lucked out BIG TIME. One of the STL's on campus has a condo on Lake Erie. I was invited. 4 of us drove up Thursday and spent 4 days on the lake. It was awesome. I did nothing. I didn't go venture into town to explore (except to go to Fazoli's once.. where the breadsticks have 103 calories... Lynn?). I didn't talk to anyone on the phone. I barely talked to those I was with. I read 2 books, chilled online, took naps, drank a bit, sunbathed a bit... the whole thing of relaxation. His parents took us out on the boat once, grilled out.. just an overall excellentw eekend.

Nothing too exciting happened back at campus. We prepared for 4th round down in Alabama. But since we didn't need to bring tools or anything, and because my team kicks ass, we had nothing that was necessary to get done. So I went about 36 hours without seeing them, and barely talking to them. That is literally unheard of, especially during transition. So proud of these guys... it's sounds parental to say... but .. well, what else can I say.

One day after one of the trainings, feeling a bit frustrated that I was keeping things from the team, we circled up in the field outside the building we live in. I told them that I didn't want to make a big deal out of it, but that I wanted to be open and honest with them and felt that I was hiding something from them. SO, I told them about Zac... it was awesome. They giggled a bit, but mostly were like "Ok, cool" and then preceded to ask questions about our relationship. I feel much more comfortable with them now.

I spent one day down in DC working things out for a CM trip down there in November. It was a really long day, with some hiccups, but it turned out to be pretty beneficial. Also got to go out to dinner with most of the Badger TL's, so that was nice... such fucking awesome group of people. SO much fun... some things will be missed come Nov. 23rd.

I also talked with my Region Director about becoming a Unit Leader next spring/summer... promising conversation, so I'm excited for next spring to get here... not too fast, but sooner than later. It's a great opportunity, and I know I'd really enjoy the accomplishments that come with it.

Anyhow, now we are in Alabama. We had a nice, cozy little road trip down here, and LOVE IT. Had our first day of work today. Spent Friday and Saturday nights at the beach. Went to Mobile on Saturday, so now we have 3 bikes. On Sunday I biked to and from the beach (40 miles r/t), and spent the day there with the team.

We work in a canned food facility, sorting and packing food for the families affected by the oil spill.. mostly. It's pretty cool work.. .more info on that to come. But we work at our pace with great people.

So far.. things are just great. And I found a GED program for two of my CM's, so the one who is in MD flys down on Wed to rejoin our team. Couldn''t be happier about that. Things are really coming together this last round.... I'm excited.

So much more to come... lata ya'll

Friday, August 20, 2010

Wrapping Bmore up... already

Well, it's been 5 weeks as of tonight. A crazy 5 weeks at that.

The round has definitely been a tiring one. We've spent the first half of most days out on the farm starting at 7am, and then doing other landscaping and house rennovation work for the rest of the afternoons. Working outside has taken it's toll on us, and there is also quite a bit of cluster in the communication we receive from our sponsors, so this is quite the opposite of an energy boost. But we've persevered, and we have done a LOT at TSW over the last 5 weeks, and plan on finishing the last week out strong. We've built two patio's harvested um-teen hundred pounds of produce (probably) done a lot of dirt moving, paint stripping, cleaning, lawn mowing and the list goes on. We're ready for one last, relaxing week of it before heading back to Perry Point and then.... ??

The chickens are also making our lives more interesting these days. Lassie, the oldest of the 11, has started laying eggs. She layed her first one on the back porch.. odd location really... but it is not as odd as the place she has layed the last 4... my 2nd floor bedroom closet. The chickens are not even allowe din the house, yet she finds her way in, and upstairs every day to lay her egg in my closet. It's frick'n awesome! They are much richer than store bought eggs too... it's incredible the difference in organic eggs.

Teamwise... we've lost Bob for the round. ACL surgery and recovery. Another CM went back to the Point for personal reasons for two weeks, but is now back. We were down to 6 at one point, and then I left for a weekend to go home. So they had 5.... we've taken on a Survivor theme to the team... "There can only, B1 (left)" These kids are great.

I left for 4 days to go back to WI for a friend's wedding. It was a great weekend. My sig other got to meet my family and everything went great. Got to meet his, too. That was also great. So different... so fun. It finally feels like a real relationship... can't wait for it to be complete in Cali come January!

Things are going really well... I'm working with Summer of Service kids. They are kids that have some kind of court-mandated volunteer service, so they are at the farm 4 days a week. They are coming from a hell of a background, and I love working with them. I feel like we are breaking through the walls they have up to, and they are realy turning their attitudes around with us. They start the week off disobeying everything we say, and end the week with respect, laughter, and handshakes. It just sucks that we only see them for 4 days, then they are gone and we get a new group... no sustained progress. Makes me excited for the Teach for America possibility. I really believe Iw ill enjoy and find success in that program. Today we went to the high ropes course with the kids... the group I was working with was the most put together and caused the least amount of trouble. We had a pretty great time. The group I worked with on the farm this past week may have had an even less eventful day.. those guys were all SO well behaved... it's incredible the difference. These kids are as young as 15... with charges such as armed robbery... and some have been smoking weed since they were 11. They're great people, just coming from an unstable foundation... they're really brilliant, too... bright kids.. I hope the work I've done with them helps them realize and pull from this.

Well... one more week left.. then one more round left... and then myAmericorps NCCC experience is done. Crazy.

My boss has also resigned. He has taken a police officer job in Appleton. Might be applying for his position as well... I think that would be another great position to make positive change.

Things are good....

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Rush of the big city...

We're on a farm... but it has not felt like it lately.

Oufirst week was crazy, followed by a 2nd crazy week. What does week 3 hold for us?
That first week I told you about how we were quickly introduced into the topic of human trafficking .Well, later that week a gentleman came and spoke to the team. His daughter was kidnapped and put into sex trafficking in 1988. She didn't survive. He told the team his story and the terrible things that happened to his daughter... disgusting.

I actually did not get to meet him. I was back at Perry Point (our base). One of my CM's injured his knee, so I had to bring him back so he can go to Dr.'s appointments. He actually has ACL surgery this Friday... he has no ACL from what I's worn away. He'll be out for close to 2 months... he was supposed to be the Assistant TL this round, so I'm bummed he won't have that opportunity. Hopefully he can get back to live with us by the end of the round, but it's not likely. At the very worst, I hope he's back to us before the beginning of 4th round. At least Baltimore is only 45 minutes away... he should be able to visit every now and again.

The first Thursday we were in Baltimore TSW held a fundraising dinner. They had about 65 people over and ate on the Veranda of the 1890's home. It was GORGEOUS. My team made up the serving staff... it was great. We were each allowed to enjoy the full $65/plate menu.. and all of the leftovers. Smoked Macaroni and Cheese was the favorite of the night... FOR SURE.

This past weekend there was a wedding on the property. We had to build a patio for the dance floor. We spent that last week working 50+ hours, 10+ hour days (I did one day of 14 hours) to get it all done. We burned out a tree stump (our idea, first time, big success), did a little work on the farm, spread lots of mulch, chased lots of chickens (they kept eating the fresh grass seed), cleaned a lot, painted.. you name it. I drive the tractors... that's awesome. The team is warming up to the idea of driving them as well.. some of them are legitimately afraid to drive... fine by me.. hand over the keys!
It was a lot of work, but it paid off. The wedding (was a wedding) and the dance WAS INCREDIBLE. We certainly broke it in.... another BAdger 1 super success (BAdger is not a mispelling... it stands for BadAss Badger). We've been meeting expectations if I must say so. Our sponsor said they heard we were the best... we like to believe so. Just ask anyone on the team... we need to work a bit on being modest... but hey, when you are the best, why not shout it?

We discovered the nearby river last weekend. Not very deep, but it's FRESH WATER! We were chilling in a calm section and hear some shouting...... an investigation ensued... and we found bridge jumpers! So we spent the next 4 hours jumping off the road bridge into the 7 feet of water below us... crazy?? no, just cool. We visited again this past week after work. We had a hell of a rainstorm, so the water was super muddy, and Chrisitian was afraid of diseases that will make her hair fall out, but she got in. Christian also thinks her life is coming to an end because she turns 20 on Tuesday..lmao. Young buck for sure.

The team is doing awesome. We're having a lot of fun, and fighting like always. But we laugh a lot more when we fight these days. Our sponsor tells us we are the least dramatic team they have had yet.

Oh, and at the wedding they had potato salad, coleslaw, grilled chicken and BBQ pork... we have the fridge full of leftovers from that, too. We don't get to keep the booze.. lame.

I went out for my first drink in Bmore last night. Met up with Mona (my former teammate turned TL). She is now with her team, who is also in Bmore. She's doing well, really well, and is now seeing what it's like to be a TL, and why some of the rules and ways I did things were done as they were/are. CM's are unforgiving and relentless... pains in the ass. I've got a good bunch, but they take work, and pruning, and weeding. They're shaping up nicely though.

I go back to Wisconsin for 4 days on Thursday... WHIT'S WEDDING. Very excited. And I have a date. Plan to see all of my family and some great friends. Plan to drink most days/nights. Lots of plans. I have 1 day left of my weekend, 3 days of work, a 4 day weekend and then 3 weeks left in Baltimore... time is flying. After that we only have 1 round left...

I don't really know what the plan is for our work the next couple of weeks. There isn't a rush for anything anymore.. I don't think.

Right now I'm sitting outside a business center, stealing internet at 8:30 on a Sunday night in Bmore. Just me, no one around me. It's quiet besides the cars. Took a bus here and the same to get home. I can get used to this.
Here are some pics of the work we've been doing.

We live in this house.

Pre patio and stump removal

Steve... being a fire god (as we burn out the stump)

Team Dinner.. .Jamie and Mona came to visit that first weekend.
This is the new walkway from the driveway

the patio in full on wedding day....