Sunday, December 16, 2012

I'm Coming Home


Well in less than 48 hours I am coming home to Iowa. I cannot believe that it has been 5 months already. I have gone from a town of 6,000 to a university of 56,000 and now to a city and area that is considered the tech industry center of the world. In those 5 months I have learned a lot about myself, most of which is probably too personal to share on my blog but I would be more than willing to talk about one on one. But a few things that I can talk about are dreams, sacrifice, and relationships.

I came to San Francisco for two reasons: to serve the poor and to figure out what I am suppose to do with a computer engineering degree. The first is a dream I have had since high school when I realized I wanted to be an engineer. At that point in my life I knew that I would never struggle with putting food in my belly. I had just begun to understand the unjust world we live in and promised myself once I was done with engineering school I would volunteer for at least a year. Being in San Francisco I am accomplishing that dream and it has taken my second dream to a whole new level. It has helped me grow up and truly see how many great people there have been in our history, most of which will forever be nameless in main stream society.

My second dream has been to do something great. I figured a degree in computer engineering would get me there, though I'm finding it is merely a starting point. I'm in San Francisco starting to understand the global community, diversity, and craziness of the world. It is certainly not the midwest. Granted I knew this was true, I just never expected to affect me this way. At times I feel like doing something great is not fundamentally possible for me. I mean I learn about these great people and the uniqueness of their brains but more importantly what they have given up. To me, I see that I am at a crossroads with what I want in life and what I am meant to do in life. The hard part is deciding which is which. I have never been one to give up though and currently I don't see that changing!

Well my second dream kind of lays out the sacrifice thing, to be where I am right now I have given up a lot. Many would say I didn't have to but for me to focus, I do. Since I left 5 months ago I have given up my friends, family, biking, swimming, a job, the midwest, driving, peace and quiet, traditions, and a good income. Whats left? A stripped down version of myself ready to take on the world. I'm going home for Christmas soon and I thought the year is going fairly quickly, then I realized that I'm not even half way finished yet. Sacrifice is hard, but without it, it's impossible to grow.

I was in college for 5 years of my life. In that short time frame I gained 3 best friends, a brother-in-law, 2 nephews, a niece, and experienced the passing of two close friends. Now that I am away from them I'm beginning to realize how important they are to me. I was blessed with so many great people in my life and still because they are in constant support of me doing what I'm doing. Thank you all. Whether its a random card, text, facebook, or prayer, I appreciate all of you and cannot wait to see you over the next few weeks. You are what keep me going and without you all in my life I would not be who I am today!

There are a few pictures of recent events in my life below, be sure to ask me about them when I see you!

Christmas Tree at Union Square San Francisco

We bought Monopoly. What a great game!

At the top of a skyscraper in downtown San Francisco for the De Marillac Holiday party, compliments of a generous donor!
Went to the De La Salle estate in Napa to visit some retired brothers

The property where the brothers lived was breath taking

Beautiful sunset in Napa Valley

Enjoying some free wine tasting in Napa valley!

Learning a new skill with one of the LA volunteers

Trip to LA resulted in a trip to the Observatory. Amazing!

Hollywood.

The cast of Harry Potter!

video
The coolest staircase ever!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving

It has been a while since I have written in here, so I thought I would give you an update on the recent craziness of my life. As some of you know my mother and my aunt came out to San Francisco this last weekend. I could tell you of all the things that we did when they were here, but if you ask them, they would agree that this blog would be TOOO long if I did that! You can see some of our adventures in the photo album below.

What I would like to talk about is planning, hosting, good conversations, and being with people you love. This last week my mom and aunt came, it was thanksgiving, and we had 3 people from LA up here at the house. To me that means a lot of planning to make sure that they are comfortable. If someone is going travel hours and hours and spend a nice amount of money, then I think it is your obligation to make sure they have the best time possible. The good thing about this is I love to do just that. I think one of my greatest pleasures of life is to serve and host those that I love. I think so many people get tired of doing things like that, but its those things I look forward to day in and day out. To say the least, I think everyone that passed through our house the last week and a half really had a great time with myself and my community.

Why is serving and hosting so important? Because I think it allows for those conversation that would never really happen otherwise. For instance, I was able to learn more about how my mother and aunt were raised in a farm house back in the day. I got to learn a bit more about how they interacted over the years and how important their families are to them. It's inspiring. I was also able to sit down with my mother and talk about retirement, saving money, and the hardships that I think about when I look into my future. I was also able to learn more about one of my LA friends that was up here. I was able to learn about her struggles, hopes, and dreams, and honestly just her struggle. Sometimes just hearing that someone else is also truly struggling can really make you feel a bit better. I was also able to talk to the vice president of my school in the last week. We talked about what do I truly want to do? Why did I come out to San Francisco? And even better he seemed like he legitimately wanted to help me. 

I think the close conversation we can have with those we love and are close to really makes life full. I think at times I miss that out here. Granted I can talk with my friends and family any time with technology these days, but talking online is in no way the same as someone physically with you.

Just having my mother and my aunt here with me made me feel so at home. Having the LA people up here was nice too because it was just great to talk with them about their jobs, struggles, and most importantly, share in laughs conversation with them. They are so similar to us here that its nice to see and hear about people doing the same thing. And ironically how similar they are to us in terms of what matters in life.

This last week truly gave me the inspiration I needed to continue on with my volunteering, but more importantly not give up on my hopes for the future. It showed me that I will always have those around to support me. On the other hand, it made me really wonder the importance of being with those you love versus chasing your dreams. We only have so much on this earth and and our loved ones might have less... Where is the balance with spending life with those you love versus doing your duty to God and society? Good question. Good question..

To have that support of your loved ones is really important and for that I would truly like to thank my friends and family for all that you do for me! Thanks! Thanks! Thanks! I will be home in 3 weeks everyone. I hope that we can see each other while I'm back in the midwest. If we cannot, then I expect you are planning a trip out to see me, I would love to host you. :)

Below is a huge slideshow of all the pictures I have taken in the last week. Enjoy! 

PS. The thing I found most hilarious about my aunt and mom was the fact that they both love taking pictures. So you will probably find lots of pictures of them taking pictures of other stuff. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Progress

First off, if you would like to recieve email updates when I have a new post on here, just type in your email and click Submit ----------------->

A few weeks ago I bought new running shoes. One of the things I am really trying to do while getting back into running shape is to run without music. Why? Because I think we all need quiet time to ourselves once in a while and I think running would be the perfect time.  I don't think I will be able to run without music all the time, but progress is progress. The first week I ran almost 25 miles.. and then my immune system shut down. I'm nearly though this sickness and then it back to focusing my time and effort of the thing I have been missing. Running.

A few weeks ago I gave out my first wait-think plan to a student (a sheet of paper that is apart of our discipline plan at school). Only days later, I sent my first student to the office. Since then I have sent 2 more kids to the office and given out 5 or 6 more wait-think plans. Mr Nennig is slowly starting to understand what is means to discipline. Progress.

Last Friday was the first time that I was completely in control of the 4th grade class all by myself for a whole day. The main teacher of the 4th grade was out for a wedding and so I was the "sub" for the class. I taught reading, writing, and vocab. I also lead the class meeting as well as my usual duties of homework support and art class. It was a long day, but only one kid cried the whole day! and I didn't give any wait-think plans out. Progress.

At work it I have been struggling a little bit with keeping myself busy because my position is different than the other volunteers. I don't actually "teach" a legitimate class that requires lesson planning and grading. This means that I really don't need to plan or worry about grades, which means I have time to do other things like tech work. Well the tech work for me at school has slowed down so I have been resorting to other things to try and fill my time positively. I am helping my roommate with the 6th grade during their time in the computer lab to teach them how to "Google" something. Its interesting to see kids type in 'google.com' and then search 'why the the Egyptians always worship so many gods?'. I have also taken more interest in my enrichment class. Rather than doing the same things I did last quarter, I am helping the kids through the process of creating a Android application. It is something that I can do and they seem to like it. If I cannot find something to do during the day, then I have found myself wondering into classes and observing other teachers to see what I can do to become a better teacher. Progress.

Can Anyone find a common theme in this post? Progress. I think this is what I need. Something that forces me to move forward. Now that my world is slowly changing from the unusual to the usual, its time I start taking control of it. So what the next progressive step for me? I need to find something that is fulfilling. Despite the fact that I am volunteering and helping kids everyday, I look at my life and ponder the fact that if I wasn't here in San Francisco would anything suffer? I look at my roommate that I work with and he teaches social studies and if here were to leave my school would be in shock looking for someone to fill his spot. Another one of my roommates told me that she is finally doing something that she feels like she is needed at her hospital. I think thats what I'm missing right now and I need to find that sense of need.

Are you needed where you are right now? Is there a reason you are where you are? Or are you just comfortable?

I personally believe that joy comes from feeling needed. And if you don't feel that you are needed, then maybe its time for a change and maybe mix things up a bit. Just a thought....


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Feeling Home


This is long, so kick your shoes off, grab a drink, and enjoy.

If you have been following my blog, you probably know that I have been missing home a bit. Well in the last few weeks, I would say that I can finally say that I have been seeing small glimpses of home and it has made it easier.  I suppose you just have to appreciate the small things in life. For instance last Saturday I went over to the Brothers house and played Uno with one of my roommates and a few of the De La Salle Brothers. It was really nice just because it was relaxing and kind of a homey feeling. It was simple, but I think thats what I needed.

Then a few days later I was fortunate enough to teach my family about Google+ Hangouts. I have decided that even though the quality is worse than Skype the benefits are far better. It really made me happy to see all of my family at once and get to talk to them at the same time. And the kids were in bed so it was just like old times. My family is growing and it made me realize that I am too. Two of my sisters have two young kids, my other sister is in the process of buying a house and is in a serious relationship, my mom is looking to retire while my father recently started a new job. And me, young and full of hope, sits in San Francisco hoping that one day I will know what I should be doing. My family is busy at home and everyone seems to go to bed before 11pm anymore and yet, everyone was up hanging out with me until 11:30pm their time, it really made my day. Thanks family :)

Just this last week I had the opportunity to hang out with a previous coworker here on business and it was great. We were able to catch up and talk to each which was really good. I would say previously we were pretty good coworker friends, but after getting to hang out with him for 4 days, we became a lot closer. We talked about our lives and where they were headed; we talked about our short comings and our worries with life, but we also talked about our joys and passions in this world too. Neither of us ever stay up past midnight and I think 3 of the 4 nights we stayed up until 2 or 3am talking. It was just really good to have someone here that was and is apart of my life. With so much new in my life it was really good to have that. We talked about family, relationships, work, technology, scotch, and hard times in our lives. It was a good conversation that I feel like I have been lacking here in SF.

If you have known me for the last 4 years a recent passion of mine has been running and biking. One of the things I have been lacking here in SF is long bike rides and just running in general. Since long bike rides out on the open road isn't really possible in San Francisco I must resort to running. If I'm lucky I run once a week right now and that just cannot do anymore. Running is my release, it is my stress reliever, it gives me time by myself, it allows me to think... or not think. I'm starting to realize that running is not only my passion, but also my sense of home, the one thing I can always take with me. So pondering over this the last few days, I bought new running shoes (because my last ones were literally falling apart) on Sunday. Since then, I have yet to get out and run. So, today is the day, and I'm excited.

I always talk about home being in Iowa, but feeling home, sometimes you have to realize, can be right where you are, with the people you are now sharing experiences with. I had this realization on Monday. Two of my roommates were in a car accident going to work. Before I continue, yes, everyone is alright, just sore. My roommate fell asleep at the wheel while driving himself and another roommate to work. The car hit the median and flipped. If you know my story at all, this hits home very much for me. I'm so happy that they are only bruised and battered and nothing else. It is definitely weird being on the sidelines, rather than the one in the car. You really realize how much you care for them. Thank God. Thank God. It's allowed me to look into my past and rethink my whole experience of my car accident. Surprisingly its still hard to talk about and I'm not sure if I will ever be able to tell the full story, but hopefully my roommates will be able to start to see why life is so important to me. I really appreciate all of them. They are just like my sisters, I'm annoyed when I'm around them all the time, but would miss them way too much if they weren't there. So I will appreciate the time I have with them and share and enjoy the lives we have begun together out here.

Lastly, this morning I had a great text message from my mother. She is coming for Thanksgiving! I'm pretty excited about it. So it will be good to see her in a month!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My LA Experience


Well this last weekend I had the opportunity to go to Los Angeles. The school I volunteer for took the teachers to a Vincentian Symposium in LA.  They were flying us down so I took the opportunity and stayed in LA for the whole weekend (including Monday because there was no school on Columbus day). The best part is VSC West has another Volunteer house in LA, so I was able to stay with they and do a bit of exploring with them for free. So we left on Thursday evening and I am now flying back Monday night.

The Symposium
On Friday our keynote speaker was a lady (leave me alone I'm not good with names) that was currently in the process of transcribing these books of letters between Vincent De Paul and Luis De Marillac. The letters are in French because of their origins and she is making them available in English so that they can be translated into other languages, never really knew how important English is I guess. Nevertheless, there is a surprisingly large amount of letters between the two. They had worked together for 35 years before email, so I suppose it makes sense. The interesting part about this lady though is that she truly had a personal connection with St. Vincent and was able to really tell us about him and his interactions with De Marillac. 

He had such a strong love for the poor, but he wasn't always that way, in fact not until his 30s, almost 10 years after being ordained, did he find his true calling to the poor. Originally, Vincent wanted to be important, powerful, and be able to support his family at home. In his time, the easiest way to do all of this was to get into a solid career of the priesthood. Ironically though, during this time is when he first met Luis De Marillac.

Throughout the talk this lady pointed out that Vincent was the spiritual driving force and Luis was the one who would keep the hospital, shelter, or school running after it started. They truly were an unstoppable team that truly changed the face of poverty in France in the 1600s. Talk to me sometime about this awesome couple and their vision....because there is just too much to include in this blog tonight!

The LA House
At the Vincentian LA Volunteer house there are 10 volunteers. They are in the exact same program as me and we go on retreats with them every other month. The last time I saw them was when I first had retreat back in August. To say the least it was good to see them again and experience LA! While I was there I was able to talk to the LA house about their community, very different than mine. It was interesting though to talk to them and learn about the uniqueness of their community. 

Saturday they took me to Venice beach, the ironic part is the area actually had water canals! It was really cool to see.  At the beach we had a bonfire and roasted hot dogs and had s'mores. We then watched the sun set on the ocean, awesome. Once the sun went down we talked a bit more and then I went to play in the ocean. Since the tide was low I was running out and then back in with the waves, so much fun! 

Sunday we went to another beach and I ran a few miles on the beach which was great. Then we went to a street fair and listened to some live dubstep (currently one of my favorite genres). We also got free drink tickets for a bar so we decided to stop by (what do you expect we are volunteers!). The coupon was very vague... so I made a smart decision, asked for Gold Label Johnny Walker scotch... aged 18 years. That had to be the best glass of scotch I have ever had. After our drink, we went to the Hollywood sign. There is a path that you can hike to see the sign on the mountain. It was getting dark at that point so we climbed it n the pitch black.  This was by far my favorite moment in LA. Why? SILENCE! All you could hear on the mountain going up the trail was crickets. Crickets! I haven't had that type of silence since I was in Iowa, I truly loved it. It was also really cool to see all of LA on top of the mountain at night... there are sooooooooo many people in this world. Only one phrase could explain that sight, "beautifully organized chaos". The city's design was so beautifully organized, truly a work of art in a sense... but the second you get off the mountain and try and live/drive in it, it becomes the most chaotic feeling in the whole world. But I suppose you could say that about any micro vs. macro scaling.

Monday was a lazy day. I was able to chill out at the LA house and recharge my batteries a bit. I then left for "home" to San Francisco that night. 

On this trip, I learned one valuable lesson, I like my community here. No matter how much I struggle with it or feel like just being on my own, in its own weird way, it all works. I am grateful for my community and wouldn't trade them for anything right now. I guess sometimes it just takes time away from something to realize how much you really care for it. I won't forget that.

As always, pictures are below:
Two of my coworkers dancin' the night away!

Me and Snoopy having breakfast together, no big deal.
Beautiful beach day in LA!

This is what my students call me now.

Fire on the beach.. not quite Iowa but close... sorta.

Roasting weenies on the fire. mmm.

Watching a great sunset that seemed to last forever


Even in LA you can find Cycling events! 

Another nice day at the beach.

Look how the sun shines on the ocean. Awesome.

One of my VSC friends was wearing this hat and I figured it probably looks just as good on me too! right?

A free glass of scotch, aged 18 years. Yummy.

I know you can't see it but this is the Hollywood sign up on the mountain I'm about to climb
See! This is proof I saw the Hollywood sign! And yes I went right and not left!

LA with all it's light polution

The grid. This type of stuff you can only see in the movies.

Flying home... The sunsets are so beautiful in the sky!

Monday, October 1, 2012

What a Bike Week


What has been on your mind Kevin? Well let me tell you. This last week revolved around bikes, both the good and the bad. Last weekend I had the opportunity to go to Tour De Fat, which is a huge biker (cyclist) event in Golden Gate Park and see many different things with bikes. I saw a Velodrome,  unique mechanical bikes, machines made from bikes, bikers, bike clubs, valet bike parking, music and comedy about bikes, just everything was focused on the cycling community. I was like a kid in a candy store with all the different bikes and riders there. It was crazy awesome.

Another adventure I was able to partake in this last week was Critical Mass. Critical Mass is a huge cyclist event that happens the last Friday of every month all over the country. San Francisco had probably 5,000 riders on the streets when I was there. From what I understand is it starts at the same place every time, but then no one really knows where it will go and for how long. People jump in at anytime (like me) and jump out anytime, but for the most part it lasts about 2 hours. Now, imagine 5,000 bikers randomly coming together to take over the streets of downtown San Francisco. Chaos! Cars were backed up for blocks, everyone was honking, bikers were smiling while riding down the middle of the street in crazy cloths in a huge mob of cyclists, just absolutely ridiculous. It is cool though to see how many bikers are out there.

My last story is mostly a sad one, but one that is testing me day after day still. On Wednesday one of my coworkers took myself and the other volunteers I work with out to eat. That day I had road my tri bike (my nice bike) to work that day. Fortunately I had my lock with me, so I figured it would be no big deal. First mistake.  When I got there I decided that I could just lock it up outside because I didn't want to bother the manager at the restaurant about bringing my bike in. Second mistake. I locked up my frame and both my wheels because I have a cable lock that stretches through all of them. Third mistake. We got a table right next to the window so I could see my bike easily. One of my coworkers though, sat in my view of my bike, I was facing the window. So every so often I would move about a half a foot and look to see if I could still see my bike, yep still there. Then at one moment I decided to look up, and it wasn't there.... it wasn't there. I got up from my spot, went outside, looked around and it wasn't there... That. was hard for me. I came back in and thanked my coworker for dinner and  turned down the cab ride she wanted to give me. I just needed to be alone. I walked 2.5 miles back to my place, in bike shoes. It gave me a lot of time to think, but obviously thinking really wasn't going to help.

After a restless night, I started to question what the heck I'm even doing in San Francisco. I feel like I'm doing mediocre work, everyone I love is at home, I am missing great moments with my family, integrity does not seem to be present in this city, relationships here are superficial, I mean, am I even supposed to be here? Is this just a boys messed up dream? 

To say the least it has been a rough last few days. To me, and I know this sounds pathetic to most people but, it felt like that bike, what it stood for and what it reminded me of, kept me grounded. It was my home. It was the one thing I brought from home that I truly cared about, it reminded me of who I was and the great things I have done on my own, but also with my friends and family. That bike was my release. It was my escape to whatever crap life threw at me, I could get on and ride away, think, pray, and just release any emotion I had. But now that is gone and I have had to try and refocus myself.

Though it is extremely hard for me to think about all of this, I move forward. I continue on. Not because I don't care, but because I have to. There are much worse things in life than getting a bike stolen, no matter how sentimental. I still have my friends, I still have my family. I have a great life and I live extremely comfortably. Those I am helping here in San Francisco need me. As much as I think I am useless many days, I am needed and because of that I cannot give up.  I am learning quickly that sacrifices are required for anything worth pursuing. And as much as it pains me to say it, loosing my bike might be just the push I need to really start focusing out here. Because I still have no idea what I want to do. I think people are interested in me, but quickly loose interest when they realize I don't have a focus. They are right, I need to find focus. 

As always, here's my life as a pictorial:
Just a great picture. We need one of these for Iowa. Maybe of  the bridge connecting  Iowa and Wisconsin and Dubuque?

I saw this tent being set up. Openworld is this week and I expect you will hear about it in my next post!

The first day that I went to the beach in San Francisco and it wasn't foggy.  If you look close enough though, you can see it rolling in.
This first set is from Tour De Fat. Many crazy bikes there.








Look at all the bikes!


This is is from Critical Mass. There were bikers everywhere! Music and mass chaos, what more could you want from a evening in San Francisco?