December 22, 2010

Book Review: Under the Overpass

"I have learned what it means to be content in all circumstances, 
whether with everything or with nothing." 
                                                        Philippians 4:11-12

Recently I signed up for a program called Blogging for Books through Multnomah Press, a Christian book publishing company.  If you're accepted for the program, you get to choose one book at a time from a good-sized list of available books (and different genres), which they send to you absolutely free.  The catch?  You have 30-90 days to read the book and then post a review.

For my first book, I decided on a book called Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski.

Here's the blurb off of the back of the book, which immediately caught my interest:

"Ever wonder what it would be like to live homeless?

Mike Yankoski did more than just wonder. By his own choice, Mike's life went from upper-middle class plush to scum-of-the-earth repulsive overnight. With only a backpack, a sleeping bag, and a guitar, Mike and his traveling companion, Sam, set out to experience life on the streets in six different cities: Denver; Washington D.C.; Portland; San Francisco; Phoenix; and San Diego.

For more than five months the pair experienced firsthand the extreme pains of hunger, the constant danger of living on the streets, exhaustion, depression, and social rejection - all by their own choice. They wanted to find out if their faith was real, if they could actually be the Christians they said they were apart from the comforts they'd always discover what it feels like to be homeless in America."

Apparently this book has been out for several years, but this is a newly updated version with more stories from the author's time on the streets, and a follow-up interview to see where he and Sam are now, and how the experience has shaped them.

Back when I was a senior in high school (lo, twenty-plus years ago!), my mom, brother, aunt, and I got up at o-dark hundred on Sunday mornings and drove to an underpass in downtown Salt Lake to help feed the homeless with an all-volunteer group.  I remember feeling excited when my mom had mentioned to me what she wanted to do, but that first Sunday when she woke me up at 5:00 a.m. for the drive, I was not excited at all.  It was cold, dark, and miserable.  Once there, though, the reality that these men and women were dealing with that all night, every night, quickly humbled me. 

Even before reading this book, I had been thinking back a lot on those experiences and how rewarding it felt to be able to help - to brighten their day for even just those few moments.  I like to think that it made me a better person, not because I was doing something wonderful, but because I could see what it meant to them.  I feel like my kids have really missed out and need to see what life under the overpass is like too...

This book brought all those lessons I learned long ago rushing back home. 

Through scene after scene, Mike shows us what it is like to be homeless.  As he puts it, "An ongoing struggle to find safety, a place to sleep, a bathroom, and food becomes dehumanizing for anyone. One experience at a time, a person's sense of dignity and sense of self-worth gets stripped away."

In this book, Mike tackles hard subjects like drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, and violence with his caring and honest search for answers.  He also covers the reaction that they got from people who are "Christians," part of the body of Christ.  Sadly, many of those were not good experiences for them.

Driving over the top of our personal overpasses, it's easy to be desensitized and to stop seeing those that need our help, or even actively avoiding them.

I am so glad that I chose this book, and I will definitely be keeping it and re-reading it again and again, as well as sharing it with friends and family.  This is a touching read - one that can't help but change your preconceived ideas about homelessness and how we, as Christians, should be responding.

To read an excerpt from the book, click here.

There is also a special Christmas Action Plan that can be accessed here.

Please stop by here to rate my review - it can help me win a prize... :o)

December 16, 2010

Outside - at You Capture

This week's assignment at You Capture was to head outside.  We had a major snowstorm/blizzard a couple of weeks ago, making for beautiful deep snow in the yard, but this last week has been warm and rainy (and foggy!  I am SO SICK of driving to work in a fog - I do that well enough on my own, thank you), melting all the snow and leaving a muddy, brown mess.

Determined to pick up the camera from its forced hiatus (i.e., my class that sucked up every spare second of my time, plus quite a few extras), Savannah and I headed up Blacksmith Fork Canyon last Sunday right before the sun set.  We found this scene at a pretty little park where I took approximately 5 photos before my battery died.  (Note to self: next time, LOOK at the battery icon before heading out).

Thankfully (and I honestly can't believe I'm saying that!) it snowed again, so yesterday I brought my camera with me and grabbed a few shots.  It was truly beautiful, and I'm grateful for the photo assignment or I'd have probably stayed bundled up and never taken these.

Now if it would just stay off the roads!


December 9, 2010

Karma, or this is what you get when you throw your daughter under the bus...

First, let me say how nice it is to be able to blog again!  I turned in the final portfolio for my non-fiction class today, so I-Am-Done!!!  I'm trying to decide if I can/should take the advanced writing class next semester, or if I should give my poor, wearied mind a break.  My thoughts on this change about every 5 minutes.

Anyhoo, I'm long overdue for a post, so here goes. :o)

Back in October, Savannah and I were both in desperate need of a haircut, so we headed off to my favorite hair cutting place. The cost is reasonable, it's not too far from home, and my favorite stylist gives the most incredible, relaxing scalp massages that I've ever received.  I seriously would go in daily if I could afford it, just for the massage! 

Anyway, when Savannah and I got there, there were only two stylists: My favorite, hereafter referred to as the Angel, and scary-haired skunk-head.  Skunk-head had given me my last haircut, and I never could quite get it to style as well as it normally does.  Savannah has also had her for a previous cut, just to get her bangs trimmed, and she hated them.  They looked fine to me...

"Who wants to go first?" skunk girl asked, her enthusiasm about like mine when I go for a root canal.

"She does!" Savannah and I both emphatically said, looking at one another simultaneously.

I had been watching the angel work on her current customer and could see that she was nearly finished.  It had been three long months since she had last cut my hair, and my scalp was not going to be deprived!

Pulling the "Mommy" card, I firmly told Savannah: "You go first.  I'll go ahead and wait a minute longer," trying to make it sound like I was doing a selfless service.  I'm sure the poor girl could tell that neither of us wanted her to touch our hair, but what could I do?  Savannah trudged over to her chair, resignedly, barely speaking two words throughout the entire haircut.

For the record?  I thought her hair looked fine.  After all, how much damage can be done to just a trim?  Savannah, of course, disagreed.  Feeling more than a little guilty for throwing her under the bus like I did, I gave an oath in blood that from now on I would only take her to MasterCuts in the mall, her favorite.  

As for me?  My massage was divine, as was the haircut!

Now let's fast forward to a week ago...

I again needed a haircut, so I stopped off at the salon on Monday.  As I drove into the parking lot, I could see skunk-head sitting, reading a magazine, waiting for some hapless customer.

Ha!  It was not going to be me, so off I drove...

Wednesday night I drove by again.  I really needed a haircut.  I could see only one stylist working through the window, one I knew did a decent job, even if she wasn't the angel.  In I went. 

"What can we do for you?" she asked, taking a break from the person's hair that she was working on.

"I just need a good trim," I answered, already heading towards the magazine rack to settle in for the wait.

Suddenly, appearing from her lair in the back where she'd been lying in wait, came skunk-head.

So, now my bangs are half-an-inch too short (this, after I very carefully told her that I didn't want to look like a kindergartener - leave them a little below the eyebrows) and decidedly crooked.

Crap... Guess that's what I had coming.