Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Bite Sized Pieces"

I am not the most patient person in the world. Age is helping me to get better at this virtue, but the word NOW is only second best to the word YESTERDAY to me. I have come to believe that part of the reason that my recovery has been slow is because I get depressed that this process is taking so long. I have to remind myself every day that even baby steps are still steps in the right direction.

I have created a paradox of sorts for myself. I get depressed because beyond my Community Voice Mail account, I really don't have the resources or the energy physically or mentally to speed up my recovery process (never mind that fact that I have clinical depression anyway). My depression causes me to further become depleted, and then I fall behind on my goals. It's quite the merry-go-round that I can find myself on. So, how can I get off the merry-go-round?

I can resign myself to the fact that my financial and life recovery process is what it is. It's going to take time. There are lessons to be learned. There are life skills that need dusting off, or that need to be implemented. There are decisions to be made and sacrifices to be considered. I get scared and overwhelmed by my choices, because when there is so little money and resources, there are very few palatable choices available. However, I've also come to accept and spur myself on with the fact that I do have choices. They might not be the choices that I would want to be faced with forever, but I do have choices.

So, facing the fact that I have choices, one thing that I am choosing to do is plan my recovery goals into bite sized pieces, or baby steps. I'm also choosing not to feel like a failure, but instead I can feel empowered for taking baby steps. Here's a practical example from my life:

A few days ago, I got sick and tired of being too sick and tired to perform heavy duty housekeeping around my room. I was totally overwhelmed by my need to scrub the shower, clean the baseboards, etc. I didn't want to borrow a vacuum from the hotel front office, but I couldn't seem to get things together to buy a vacuum. On top of all of these considerations, I had to try to bang out some work that day. I thought my head was going to explode with the considerations of housekeeping, possibly getting sore and tired from housekeeping, not having enough tools or time to get everything done, and oh yeah, having the mental space to be creative enough to write internet content for my employer.

What I decided to do was to break the task down into bite sized pieces. I decided that I could clean my kitchenette area. I could borrow the vacuum up front. The floor would be able to stay clean enough for a week or two until I could buy my own vacuum. I could scrub the shower. There are other parts of the room that need a good doing-over, but those could wait. I decided that any cleaning that I engaged in would be progress. I would feel better, and my living space would be healthier. Sure enough, I did feel better and more accomplished with the little that I performed. While I didn't hit my financial goal that day, I reasoned that I needed to take care of home so that my mind would be clear enough for me to accomplish my higher priority, which is work.

If you are reading this, and if you are in transition or homeless, then know that some issues that you will have to overcome are simply going to take time to resolve. If you have kids, then you know that sometimes you have to feed them bite sized pieces of food. Sometimes, even the bite sized pieces are too big, and you'll have to split those up into smaller, more manageable pieces. The important thing is not the size of the food; the important thing is that it's being digested. Life is the same way in many cases. 

My name is Terrah, and I will be sharing with you ways that my Community Voice Mail phone number has helped me, and I will be sharing tips on how it could help you as well. It might seem like a small thing, but having a phone number gives hope, and that hope can be the seed for so much growth in your life recovery. I hope you continue to read my post, and I wish you well in your journey. These lilies represent the fact that within the seeds of one form of life, rises the beauty of a new form of life.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"The thing from which it has freed us"

353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, in France, wait for the end of hostilities. 
10:58 a.m Nov 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War
Today is Veterans Day, and by my calculation, this is the 92nd year this day has been recognized in our country.  Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day, to commemorate the day that the actual fighting ended between the Allied nations and Germany during World War I.  The thinking was that this “war to end all wars” would be the last of its kind, and the armistice would be remembered as the last instance of large-scale warfare between countries.  With the wars that followed, the decision was made to honor the people who had served our country, and Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.  

To commemorate the first Armistice Day in 1919, President Wilson said the following: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"

“…The thing from which it has freed us” Wilson was talking about, was the fighting, and unfortunately, there will always be wars from which young men and women in uniform will need to free us.  When I read these words, however, I am reminded of another “thing” from which we need to be free:  homelessness among veterans. 

This is a battle that happens after the fighting but is one that continues for far too many veterans from all wars.   It is a fight that is being waged by veterans against the economy, the lack of affordable housing, health issues, their own difficult past, and yes, sometimes against the VA and other agencies that are tasked with supporting them.  We’re not winning this war right now, but we’re still in the fight.

Here at Community Voice Mail, we’re doing our small part for veterans who are homeless (or as Donna Beegle rightly says, “Veterans who don’t have homes”).  About two years ago, we realized that while veterans are over-represented in the general population of homeless people, and 11% of our clients are veterans, we weren’t providing phone numbers through the Veterans Administration (VA), where many veterans are seeking help.   If we aren’t where the veterans are, our service can’t effectively help end veteran homelessness.  We decided where we might be able to have the biggest impact within the VA, and worked with U.S. Senator Patty Murray and her staff to gain approval for a federal appropriation that would let us conduct a one-year pilot project in Washington State to provide voice mail and information services to nearly 3,000 homeless or at-risk veterans.  Things were going great, and we were ready to go…

But then things came to a stop.  The federal funding to do the project fell through when Congress failed to pass the 2011 Federal budget.  We had a good plan and the support of the VA in our state, but no available funds to conduct the pilot project.  The weeks and months ticked by, and we were no closer to getting CVM numbers into the hands of veterans who need them. 

Finally, we decided to just do it.  Instead of waiting for funding, we told our VA contacts that CVM was going to fund a scaled-down version of the plan, and seek financial assistance from corporate and private foundations. 

It turns out, people care about veterans.  A lot of people.  And fortunately, our simple plan to provide veterans with a reliable way to be contacted and a stream of useful, actionable information resonated with the foundations we approached.   Soon, we had funding commitments from The Boeing Company, Medina Foundation, Tulalip Charitable Fund, and Suquamish Tribe, and these welcomed grants have enabled us to launch our project this month!  Within a year, at least 750 veterans who don’t have a reliable way to be contacted will be using a CVM number and receiving messages about jobs, housing, benefits, healthcare and other important resources.  We’ll keep you posted about this project in the coming months.

On Veterans Day this year, consider this:  there’s a good chance that the homeless person you encounter on the street once wore a uniform for your country.  Between then and now, you won’t know what has happened in a veteran’s life unless you take the time to ask, or at least have a friendly chat with them.  And while you’re talking with the veteran, you might want to say “thanks” for all they’ve given and all they’ve sacrificed while they served our country.  And share your hope for a day when no veterans are without a home to call their own.