Tag Archive: homelessness


Me: The birds look like apostrophes

Him: What are the words if the birds are apostrophes?

Several of us gathered today to say goodbye to a friend who passed away. We met at City Hall, where most of us originally entered one another’s lives. And we walked together to the tree on the other side of the river on which little medallions were pinned to mark the deaths of  others who, like our friend Chris, were houseless but not without friends in life or in death.

Several people told stories of their friendship with Chris. Universally, we agreed he was a gentle man. A quiet man. A man who forced us to slow down and think. And rethink. And as I listened, I realized I was not only mourning the loss of Chris, but also the loss of that time. That time when we all gathered several times a week to slow down, sit down…and talk. And listen. And plan together. And just to gather with a group of people from disparate backgrounds and experiences – a group of people who, under normal circumstances, might never get a chance to meet – and become aware of each other as fellow humans…and struggle together. And learn from each other. And totally fuck up in the presence of each other. And forgive each other. And try again.

I didn’t tell any stories today. Today, I listened. The truth is, I didn’t have a lot of stories to tell about Chris. I cared about him. I tried to look out for him the best I could. I respected his growth and his journey. I remember him.  I will miss him. But it’s not enough to miss someone like Chris. It’s not enough to mourn and be sad and go on living and forgetting all that I have learned through my friendship with Chris, and through all of the other unlikely companions I’ve been blessed to come to know over the past few years. There were so many lessons learned. So many I forgot. It’s time to remember them now. It’s time to come out of hibernation and be present in the world again, and open to listening and sharing and relating.

The things I have learned as an occupier are lessons I have needed to learn my whole life. And I’m not merely talking about social and economic justice. I’m talking about taking the time to really see people. To see AND hear them. Taking the time to be present in public spaces and share with people. I don’t think I’m done learning those lessons yet. I don’t think I’ve learned them well enough, and I think they are too easily forgotten. I still have a too-frequent tendency to hide myself away. To hurry from one thing to the next without stopping and giving time to appreciate the unexpected. I still frequently neglect the things that are most important while freely frittering time on things that have no soul-nutritional value.

This is how I know that Occupy is not dead. Because we haven’t learned these lessons yet. We are too easily distracted and divided. And until we can learn to come together and be present, we will continue to Occupy where we should be Living.

Rest in Peace, dear Chris. I hardly knew you, but I certainly loved you. In honor of your memory, I plan to spend at least an hour every Sunday occupying the steps of City Hall with my sketchbook and journal. People watching, and hopefully conversing. Maybe I’ll bring a sign…maybe I’ll go incognito. It’s not 3 General Assemblies a day, every day…but it’s something. Maybe I’ll see you there.

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Habit-Forming

I figure the best time to “start blogging again” ™ is April Fool’s Day. That way, if I don’t ACTUALLY “start blogging again” I can play it off like it was some big April Fool’s joke.

In actuality (or maybe not, depending on whether this is an April Fool’s Joke) I would really like to start blogging again (for realsies – no quotesies) and it seems like the first of the month is a good time to start. Or the first day of my actual unemployment (after the severance pay is gone). Or the first day I’ve vowed to actually Do Something(s) Useful on a daily basis, therefore keeping a blog to document the Something(s) Useful I have done on a daily basis…

You get the picture.

I figure I’ll start easy, like old times, by just talking about what I did on a given day. A day in the life of an unemployed single mother. Maybe I’ll throw some pictures in for good measure. And, perhaps this act of reporting out will motivate me to continue to find interesting things to do on a regular basis and keep my ass out of depression mode and in inspiration mode.

So, today. What did I do today?

First there was Cole, who returned from his weekend with his father early in the morning. We read a bit of Penpal, which is getting quite suspenseful (I swear the author is becoming a better writer as the book progresses.)

I’ve been trying to spend as much time out on my front porch as possible now that I am free from the encumbrance of a morning rush. Today, I made myself a bagel and a cup of yesterday’s coffee and sat out reading Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich while I ate. After which, I went out for a walk, listening to music and writing poetry in my head.

I’m doing a sort of experimental project with voice recognition software. What I’ll do is walk around dictating lines of poetry that pop into my head, and not looking at how it’s translated  into text until much later, after I’ve forgotten what I actually said. Sometimes it’s much better than I ever could have imagined. Sometimes it’s a nonsensical jumble of words. At this point, I’m so averse to writing actual poetry that I would want to claim credit for that I’m happy to take whatever I can get. Perhaps I’ll share some one day. Today, all I got was:

“I am a irrepressible you are implacable but replaceable”

I walked for about an hour or so – enough to sweat and get a little pink – and then I made my way down to the pop-up tent city protest that was taking place just east of downtown. I hung out there for a bit, holding a sign and scheming with the Occupy Austin co-conspirators about stuff.

I’ve been avoiding a lot of social contact over the past few weeks. Avoiding talking things over with friends and acquaintances. I have some ideas for projects that I’m pretty excited about, and because I haven’t shared them, arm-wavingly, with other people, I have been slowly losing steam about getting them started and losing interest. This blog was actually something I schemed to help reverse that trend, although some of my ideas aren’t appropriate for discussion here because they’re private and I don’t want to share them until they are more fully developed. I’m glad I took time out today to talk to people who were able to offer feedback and enthusiasm for some of the plans I am hoping to hatch over the next few months, especially since some of them have plans of their own that I think would be compatible with mine. 🙂

ImageAt any rate, the pop-up tent city action was small, loosely organized, but so wonderful. I honestly can’t express enough about how thankful I am for the work that Occupy Austin and all of its loosely associated factions are doing. Yes, it’s chaotic and frequently disorganized. Yes, there are times when I feel like we don’t have focus. Yes, there’s all manner of other critical things one can say about the group and the individual actions, but the thing that still floors me is that we are a group of people who never ever would have met each other in any other context – some homeless, some housed, some jobless, some employed, with varying degrees of wealth and different cultures – working together to try to make a better world.Image

Sometimes that means standing on a street corner in front of a couple of pitched tents that say “The Shelters are Full” with signs proclaiming “400 beds, 10,000 homeless people” and “open up the buildings.” Sometimes that means organizing a show with a band from Oakland. And sometimes these individual actions seem meaningless, and maybe sometimes they are to some, but they mean a fuck of a lot to me. I’m proud of all of the people who take time out of their lives to organize actions, and so glad I now have the opportunity to support those actions more.

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I was out for a couple of hours before I started to get a little sunburned, and figured I should head home to fix dinner for the kiddos. Cooking is one of those other luxuries that I now have time for since I am unemployed. I used to spend Sunday cooking meals for the week, which worked out pretty well, but always made my weekend feel really short. Now I can just cook meals any old time. We’ve been trying to save money on groceries by shopping from a strict pantry list, with only minor deviations, so my challenge is always to find something that utilizes ingredients from that list. It’s been a fun challenge. Today, after winding down for a little while with Wendell Berry’s essay “The Body and the Earth” from _The Art of the Commonplace_,  I made Chickpea Salad with cous cous and steamed broccoli. It was pretty good, though it would have been better if I had made it in the morning and allowed all of the ingredients to have a party together in the fridge and become more marinatedy. Still, it was a nice healthy-ish meal, the kids didn’t complain, and it was super easy to make.

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After we ate, I ran out to Occupy Austin General Assembly at the Texas State Capitol. It’s been a very occupy-ish day today. There were only about 6 or 7 people there total, but we somehow managed to draw 4-5 DPS officers to us, which was annoying.

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Plans are being made to have a Mayday picnic with teach-ins and other activities, and I’m really excited that I have time to help organize. If you are reading this and you have a skill that you want to share, feel free to let me know. I’m going to be in charge of the teach-ins and skill shares. Aside from potlucks, that’s really my favorite thing to do.

General Assembly was short and informal. We talked about teach-in topics and technology and various things. I made an announcement someone asked me to make about an upcoming event, and the Occupy Austin End Homelessness representative announced their weekly meetings, and then it was over. The DPS agents who were standing around the whole time came down to make sure we didn’t have any contraband (i.e. CHALK – or something equally nefarious like water pistols!) and we all went our separate ways.

So, now here I am. Sunburned but full of excitement and plans. Bursting at the seams, it seems. Ready to close the book on today and get ready for tomorrow’s adventures.

P.S. I almost forgot I am going to end each day’s blog with a list of links that I’ve run across throughout the day and squirreled away at various places around the internet. A link dump, is what the kids used to call it, but that would just make everyone around here guffaw, so I won’t call it that:

Declaration of the Eviction-Free Zone

Ongoing Tech Problems Can Make You Feel Pranked

Announcing SXSWUni