Crazy Ride

Man, what a crazy ride it has been!


This journey has taught me a thing or two. Or… three… okay, a bunch more. When I started this blog, I’d been thinking seriously about launching a nonprofit. If you look back through the pages, you’ll see some very detailed information on what that was going to look like. And, I’m glad I wrote it all out. It helped me get to where I am today.

So, where am I now?

Through my own experience with analysis paralysis, ups and downs through an 18 month unemployment stint, countless classes/workshops/seminars, asking questions and setting up informational interviews, visioning exercises and plugging in to various activities… I learned that the vision I had to start this nonprofit did not fit me. I still believed in the vision whole heartedly, but realized that some key aspects of what I wanted to create for the organization… didn’t fit me personally.

It’s difficult to go back to the drawing board when you thought you knew what you wanted to do. Fortunately I was able to take the four main focuses for the nonprofit (crisis management, job training, life skills, and sustainable living) and spin them into a social entrepreneurial endeavor that does fit me.

That is important in the end, you want something that fits you. That makes you excited and ready to tackle the day!

I wanted to be able to take the vision I’d come up with for the nonprofit and still do something with it… but what? It seemed like it was on the tip of my tongue… or just out of reach for a long time. I felt like I was almost where I needed to be… but, I just couldn’t put my finger on how it would work out.

My room-mate and I talked for months about the possibilities of what could be done. I am very thankful to have had her as a sounding board. Someone with an open mind and servant’s heart for the community. After being unemployed for so long, we saw a vast array of issues people needed help with – and, we weren’t seeing a lot of answers. She had been laid off around the same time I had — around January of 2009.

I found my focus shifting from wanting to serve a broader people group to wanting to serve the unemployed, the destitute hit by this economy – from no fault of their own. Not people who were manipulating the unemployment system. But, people who were striving to find work, who needed unemployment benefits to survive… to live on. Highly intelligent, capable, hard working people who were not able to find jobs. I found myself wanting to shift the four main areas: crisis management, job training, life skills, and sustainable living to help in this demographic of people.

After all… who best to help… than someone who has lived through it and understands the issues.

I have seen the pot holes and pitfalls that are involved… more than that, I have experienced them. Obstacles your not sure how you can get around… your car breaks down, your insurance runs out, the cell phone bill is more expensive than you can afford, you wonder where you can find affordable food to feed your family, your living situation changes and you have to find something else fast… and your savings account starts to dwindle until you have very little left.

I’ve also learned how to reframe my realities to see opportunities where other’s might see failure or impossibilities. I know how thrive through very difficult circumstances… grow from adversity… and I can help other people to do the same.

Then it hit me… an AHA moment.

I can coach people one-on-one. I can teach people how to implement customized action plans. I can help navigate people through the crazy unemployment system, teach how to take stock of current situations, show people how to find low cost healthy food, alternative transportation, develop job strategies, cut expenses, stay healthy/sain and social. I can help people identify obstacles and determine their worst case scenarios. I can show people where opportunities are to thrive.

Unfortunately there is a lot of missing information, lots of questions… not very many answers. I don’t understand why that is. My goal is to change that. I see a need to fill a gap and connect people to experts who can answer their questions from financial, real estate, bankruptcy, mortgage… social services, health care, counseling, and career coaching.

There are many many downsides to unemployment. Unfortunately, there are so many upside down perspectives on what the population of the unemployed look like. They are lazy… that people who have been unemployed for more than six months are riding the system. More than twelve months… what about more than eighteen months? I beg to differ. That’s not the reality I’ve seen.

I am launching a crisis management coaching practice that teaches people to survive and THRIVE through an unemployment crisis.

Stay tuned to learn more.

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What services will the resource center offer?

So, now you have a better idea of what’s available tangibly at the resource center. You can visually get a cup of coffee downstairs, hang out a little, check out some local artwork, listen to a little music, wander upstairs, and see better what’s inside. We’ve looked at the interior… now, let’s look at what the resource center offers.

First off, I think it’s easy to think that this will be a place that will offer emergency services. So, let’s clear up any misconceptions early on. The purpose of the resource center is not to provide emergency services (food pantry, emergency shelter services, etc). I do not feel equipped to focus my efforts on emergency services. If emergency services are needed, we will have information and contacts – real people we can connect folks to, who can intercept people with these needs.

common_ground_logo1The resource center is a “middle ground” for people. They may be in varying degrees of poverty: including the working poor – people making $7 and $8 an hour trying to survive, folks on unemployment, etc. Our focus will be to bridge the separation between the working poor… the just-making-ends-meet middle class… and the middle class. We’ve got a lot of programs and emergency services targeting homelessness and the indigent working poor – services that help people become self sufficient. Which is awesome! But, what happens next? We’ve gotten folks self sufficient, now what?

How do folks know how to make healthy choices? What do those choices look like? What is a healthy decision? Do you always know what is healthy for you? I don’t. I think many times, we think that once people are self sufficient… that’s it. That’s all they need… they’re fine now. They’re on their own. We’re on our own – you and me… we’re self sufficient.

But, it doesn’t stop there. Is it better being left alone with no guidance? I don’t like that for myself… and I don’t think that’s good for other people. So, let’s continue guiding, teaching, and empowering. Let’s continue to take an interest… and not just with the people we consider less fortunate. If you think about it, everyone at some time in their lives, go through some type or varying degrees of difficulties.

Let’s take a look at what’s being offered at the resource center…

active-spokes-736015I want to create an information hub… a place where people can access needed information, get answers to questions or be directed to a real person who can answer their questions. Information will be available related to neighborhood happenings and concerns, social justice issues that affect daily lives, and resources for job, housing, and food.

We will offer hands-on training classes (the heart of the matter) focusing on job and housing resources: GED classes, job training, how-to classes for do-it-yourselfers, the realities of homeownership and renting, and gardening. There will be a one-on-one mentoring program in place and classes to teach life skills.

Community space will be available for special speakers, non-profit organizations, churches, job networking groups, city meetings, neighborhood planning meetings, and garden groups.

There will be a reward program for using the resource center. More on this later.

Want to know more? In the next few posts, I’ll be pulling apart each one of these services in more depth.

Come on upstairs… check out the resource center.

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Remember, I’d imagined an upstairs…

If not… check out the coffee house… keeping it simple post. Let’s start off with where we left off with the this post for the coffee house.

On the way up to the 2nd level, you will see community artwork exhibits hanging off the walls – continuing/connecting the importance of drawing the community together, as with the coffee house. For the transition area, think of an open staircase – not enclosed or boxed in. There is signage from the coffee shop downstairs directing people to the 2nd level. Ease of access will be accommodated, the entire building will need to be ADA compliant.

On the second floor there will be access to the organization’s offices, as well as space for the resource center itself. Once upstairs, you will be greeted by a reception attendant. Who will be able to help direct people to information, trainings, mentoring, and programs. There will be a small, yet comfortable seating area. Mimicking the feel of the coffee house downstairs.

Like the coffee house down stairs, there will be chalk boards hanging down. This time with local community happenings: voting issues,school board meetings, crime watch, neighborhood association meetings, etc. A small bulletin board on the wall for residents to post. A dry erase board with the resource center’s schedule of events.

There will be space for 3-4 desk top computers – which will have access to the internet and be specifically channeled to food, job, and housing resources, a training class schedule, partnering organizations, and available programs. Social networking sites will be blocked.

There will be a conference room and two rooms set up for class rooms. The class rooms will also be used for community meeting spaces. All rooms will be installed with technologies for presentations. Including (but not limited to) projector, wall screen, and presentation dry erase boards.

Offering a comfortable, welcoming, come-as-you-are, hands-on, safe environment that promotes proactive productivity.

Introduction: The Community Resource Center

So, why a resource center?

Well, just like the coffee house, it was a natural selection. A resource center is another way of building community and strengthening the neighborhood. An information hub. Local happenings. A place where people can come to learn, be trained, and be equipped. See a familiar face. Ask questions. Receive one-on-one mentoring/guidance. A place where they can learn to fish.

fishingYou know the saying… give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day… teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. The goal of making information accessible, resources available, mentoring, and training classes is to teach the man to fish for his lifetime.

You’ve already realized I have a passion to build community. Well, I also have a passion to see people succeed in their lives. My heart is wired for outreach. Equipping. To serve. Empowerment. Compassion. And… to model mercy.

I am a connector. I am internally wired to help people, to foster connection. Connecting people to each other, to what is around them, and to healthy solutions that fit their lives. And… I love doing it.

This resource center is about connection. Sustainable living. Collaboration with existing organizations. Partnering. Creating good clear communication. Creating strong healthy programs that fit the needs of the people/population group. Creating classes that provide hands-on training. Not duplicating what is already out there. But, finding the gaps and filling in. If the resources already exist, we will make the information accessible and direct people to the appropriate contacts. Contacting our partnering organizations and introducing the person. Taking an interest.

Hitting The Wall

2677951937_86a6596446So, have you ever hit a wall? You are in the middle of a big project and… bam! There is this big, brick, sturdy, what seems to be unmovable wall. Where did it come from? And, why is it there? Or… maybe it feels like the bridge to your next thought has washed away somewhere.

Well, that’s where I am right now. As I’ve been blogging away happily, brick_wallI’ve been able to clear the cobwebs out of my brain. The vision is becoming more and more defined, which feels awesome. Lots of good momentum and progress. Then… about two weeks ago, I hit a wall.

So what happened?

Well, behind the scenes of the blog, I’ve been taking classes from “grant writing” to “the roles of collaborators”… and what seems like everything in between. I’ve been identifying organizations to volunteer with… networking… asking lots of questions. I’m working on “de-bugging” the vision, I’ve got a research project that will determine if Austin is a location that works, I’ve been pulling apart who the target psychographic is, and at some point… I’ll tackle my business plan. And… in the process, I’ve gotten over-loaded with information.

Information over-load. Not a bad thing. It’s a reality of research.

How do you deal with it? What if you want to start doing something? You’ve been researching for a while… and you’d rather being doing something about it. Have you ever felt that way? I’m right there… right now. One of the things I have learned is that I’ve got to give myself some balance in order to move forward. If I feel like I can’t DO something more hands-on with where I am, then I can do something in other areas of my life.

What does that look like?

Well, for me, it means shifting gears and taking a week just for me and for catching up in the apartment. What happened laundry1-main_Fullto the floor… where did all these crumbs come from? And, why isn’t the vacuum working? Hmmm… looks like I’ve got some work to do around the house. You should see my laundry pile! Yikes. And… oh my, I just looked at the kitty litter box.

One of the things, I’ve learned is that it helps me to switch gears and do something such as home projects or finding things to take to Goodwill, so I can feel as though I’ve accomplished something. It also lets my brain focus on something else, so I don’t feel as though I’m hitting my head needlessly against that brick wall. They may seem like small projects, but they have a finish line to them. It really helps to take the time to decompress and focus on the “life stuff”. Then I’m ready to tackle the vision with new energy… and new ideas. So, for the next week, if you need me… I’ll be cleaning out the closets.

Have patience with me… I will be back to blogging soon.

Initial insights, more in depth… asking for help, what holds us back?

Continuing on. Today let’s look at why it’s so hard to ask for help.

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If you fall down, pull up your boot straps. Get back in the saddle and go again!

Ah… that creates a challenge. Do you see the challenge? We are proud people. Asking for help not so easy.

“that’s an obstacle unto itself. Some of us are better at it than others. Asking for help isn’t easy. If we want to ask for help, does that mean we’re weak?”

No, definitely not. We are not weak if we ask for help. Though some will say or think that we are. I think it’s just the opposite… we are stronger if we ask for help. Because we are including people. On multiple levels…

But, still there are people who will say and go to the grave believing it’s a sign of weakness to ask for help. Why is there such a bad connotation to it? (More on this later… we’ll revisit again.)

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I can do it myself! I've got it all under control. I have no idea where to go.

What is it about asking for help that is so bad? Is it bad to say… I can’t do it all on my own? I can’t juggle everything myself. Isn’t it realistic to be able to say… I can’t do everything myself?

And.. yet.

Think back to your own situations. What keeps you from asking for help?

What would be some other things that would keep other people from asking for help?

Stubbornness. Pride. Independence. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of being judged. Fear… in general. Self doubt. Stepping out of our comfort zones. Burdening others with our problems. Emotional baggage… hopelessness. Feeling helpless. Not knowing where to turn… and, not knowing what’s available. Thinking we don’t need any help… and, thinking we have to do it all on our own.

Or… maybe it’s our physical situation. Maybe we’ve not had a model of what it looked like to ask for help. Maybe we’re following in our past generation’s footsteps.

Intial insights, more in depth… looking for answers, needing tangible tools.

Let’s look at how these insights play a part in the bigger picture. The more we understand the better we can be at coming up with good solutions that “break through” as opposed to just offering band-aids.

“People don’t know where to look to find the answers they need… and many times don’t know who to talk to. We, as people, need tangible tools to be proactive… to make healthy and responsible decisions…”

This can go for any struggle we have… health, housing, food, relationships, job, family issues, addictions, etc.

image4963930xSay you’ve lost a job. Where do you turn? What do you do? How long has it been since you’ve done the job search process? Do you locate the newest newspaper and consult the local help wanted section? Is your resume in order? Do you have a resume? Do you know how to write a resume? Do you even know what you want to do? Are you in survival mode?

I could go on with these questions… there are a slew to ask. Many of you may know that now-a-days looking for a job is so much more than looking inUnemployed Worker the help wanted section, searching Craigslist, or scouting the neighborhood for signs in the windows. It’s about “creating your brand”. What do you have to offer… what are you bringing to the table… what is your expertise? How do you present yourself in person, on paper, on the internet, through business cards/stationary? Touch, smell, sight, and sound.

Let me ask you this… how would you know that you needed to create a “brand” – the brand known as you, if you were never introduced to the concept? Where would you go to hear about it… where would you be introduced to such a concept? It’s becoming more main stream… but, I didn’t hear about it until I started actively participating in a job networking group. I wouldn’t have known. Sure, the networking group was readily available… but, if someone doesn’t know it exists, how would they know that’s where they’ll learn this?

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Let’s also take into consideration people who may be starting from scratch. There are many people trying to figure out how to summarize their entire work history on a couple pieces of paper. Who may not know the language to use, what’s most important to include, they may not have much to include or it’s all over the place – what do you do with that?unemployment_250x251

There are people who may have never used the internet (or may not have access to a computer). If they have access, they may not be equipped on how to use it for locating a job, and certainly may not have any inclination of what Linked In is.

What about the people who need just to have a job, and have taken any job to survive to put food on the table and clothes on their backs. Or, the people that don’t have a work history, what do they do?

Initial Insights

This last week, I’ve been working on pulling together my initial insights and questions for the resource center… what I was thinking and observing in the beginning, that got the ball rolling in my brain. These are some of the initial insights that have fueled my desire in creating this vision.

Jumping in…

which-direction-featuredIt had occurred to me a number of years ago, as I had gone through some personal adversity, that people don’t automatically “know” all the answers (or even just some of the answers)… or what in the world the next steps are to take. I certainly didn’t know the answers. People don’t know where to look to find the answers they need… and many times don’t know who to talk to. We, as people, need tangible tools to be proactive… to make healthy and responsible decisions. But, we need a little hands-on help in getting there… we also need a little connection with people who want to be on board to help us.

It also occurred to me that we are people who are taught to be strong individuals. To do it on our own. When we fall… we need to pull up our boot-staps and go again. But, how do you go again (or go the first time) if you don’t know what you’re doing?

helpThen there’s asking for help… that’s an obstacle unto itself. Some of us are better at it than others. Asking for help isn’t easy. If we want to ask for help, does that mean we’re weak? Where does this notion come from?

We struggle.

We are a people who struggle… to communicate our needs to each other. More than that, we just struggle to communicate in general to each other. Our culture does not teach from an early age clear, honest, real communication and connection. We don’t learn how… or we don’t understand the full concept of really listening to each other, asking questions, having dialogue with someone, and what it looks like to connect. Because maybe, our parents/families didn’t know how to provide or model that (for whatever reason). Instead, all too often, we learn how to hide and put on our facades, we put guards up, and talk at or over each other.

So, we put expectations on each other… people must prove themselves to us. We put our boundaries up, we put people in boxes, we place judgment… and, we don’t trust.

We’re pretty jaded.

So, how do we break through this?

Phase 2: Tying in the Community Resource Center…

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So, OK… we’ve taken some significant time to pull apart the coffee house. Going forward, join me as I start to pull apart what the community resource center looks like, where it came from, how it ties in and plays a part, the goals, and services.

After that, I want to jump into community programs, psycho-graphics (instead of demographics), questions… and some hiccups I’m having.

Building Community with a Coffee House… The Pièce De Ré⋅sis⋅tance

I’ve saved the best for last!

What I’m most excited for… are the dinners. The special dinner events that bring people of the community together.

Now… this is partly why I’ve envisioned a coffee house instead of a cafe. The simplicity of the vehicle… for the events that we offer to stand out. And most of all, I want this to stand out.

Can you think of a meal that was one of your most cherished or most favorite?

What were the smells, the tastes, the sounds… who were the people? What made it so special?

jarsIn my previous church we had a congregation wide dinner ministry (dinner for eight). With the concept that eight people would bring a dish to share (potluck style) to an assigned host’s home. I love being involved in these kind of meals. They give people the opportunity to get to know other people. By a simple meal. Breaking bread together.

Some of my most favorite meals were when I rented a big three bedroom house in New Jersey, when I was working in Interior Design. Friends and new DSC06068connections would come and gather at my newly acquired residence for any holiday from Thanksgiving to Arbor Day. I had this big house & I wanted to share it. We converted two ordinary tables to fit 12-14 people — by using a 4×8 piece of particle board. Draping it with bed sheets (table clothes) and center pieces. Dishes were mismatched… no one cared. Everyone brought a dish to share… there were music, games, laughter, and wonderful memories.

210007307I want to host special dinners for people in the community with a similar bent to what I hosted in New Jersey. Serving family style… delicious food… a long dinner table set… with mis-matched colorful china and dishes… vintage cotton table clothes. Glasses… mason jars for flowers… dish towels for napkins (an idea recently seen at Foodheads during a catering event). Place settings a-symetrical… with very few… if none at all the same. Symbolizing diversity.

Food would be brought in via local catering companies.

This is where community is… around the table… breaking bread together.8b22432r

How does this work… we knock on doors… meet our neighbors… and personally invite. This is where I hope some of the barriers come down. We invite those who cannot afford next month’s rent and those who can. We serve. We offer a meal, a safe place, a comfortable environment. True hospitality. Authentic connection for real people living real lives.

Can you see it?

I can!