Safe and Warm in LA.

I should be going to bed, but I want to try to squeeze an update in tonight. I’m not journaling this summer, so my letters to Justin and my blog entries are really the only mementos I will have when all this is said and done. I told Justin that if he decides to break up with me, I’d really like to have the letters I’ve written him in these past few weeks.

Today was a really good day. I went to the Midnight Mission and had a really great time — it felt very Haight-ish today, mostly I think because I ended up hanging around there way longer than I needed to, just to be there and be with everyone, like I always used to do. We had a great tour from David, a 50-year-old former artist/marketing design professional who has lived in Santa Monica for the past 30 years, but developed a severe alcohol problem in the last 10 and checked himself into the Midnight Mission five months ago. I’ve talked with him a lot but never really heard his story, so it was cool that he opened up to us. Some of the grueling details he told us, like drinking beer from a straw because he couldn’t stop shaking long enough to hold the can anymore, were horrifying. I also found out that Moses, a guy who has become somewhat of a Midnight Mission legend for our kids, is from Youngstown! So I’m excited for Mom & Dad to meet some of those guys Saturday morning when we serve breakfast and see a place like that in action.

I also go to go to this amazing place called Alegria where we just started working — it is an apartment complex/community center run by the Salvation Army for families living with HIV/AIDS. So you go there and there are these kids playing and having fun like normal kids, and then you remember that any of them could be HIV positive, any of their moms or dads or sisters or brothers could be currently dying of AIDS. It is pretty nutty, but really awesome at the same time, just that there is a place for them where they can be in community. And our kids were being really incredible with them, just engaged and playing and loving.

Week 5 ended really well. The kids were just amazing — I connected more with them than I have any group all summer. Their eyes were really opened, and they got really emotional Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights after Club, some crazy, borderline hysterical crying, wailing, falling to the ground. But they were fun to hang out with, and really for the first time this summer, I was sad to see them go.

We had a good weekend, even though I was stressing about it a bit being too structured and not enough relaxed. We went up to Newhall again, this time for the whole weekend, and with the San Francisco and San Diego staffs, as well, for our “Area Retreat.” We hung out at Heather’s house Friday night — basically planted ourselves on her couch and sat in front of the TV for the evening, getting up only to get more delicious homemade food. Becky, Nadine and I stayed at Don’s house, one of the adult leaders from their trip. He and his wife, Sue, were amazing to us — they cooked us these really good cornmeal pancakes and bacon one morning for breakfast, and the next morning they set out bowls of granola and yogurt with blueberries, peaches and bananas all cut up for us. We spent Saturday at Huntington Beach, laying on the sand and playing in the ocean. It had been a long time since I played in the waves, and once I got over my initial shock when the first huge one took me under and spun me around and made me think I was going to drown, I had a good time boogie boarding and splashing around. We went to their church again Sunday morning, for an interesting, thought-provoking sermon. It has been a while, as well, since I have heard a sermon from an overbearing, preachy pastor, and I definitely got an earful on Sunday. There were numerous times during it when I just had to stop listening and start praying — listening to it it was one of those experiences that makes me ashamed to be a Christian. But on the way home, Becky, Nadine and I hashed through it and shared some thoughts and reflections — fortunately, we were all in agreement that a lot of what he said was way off, and my true worship that morning came from our time together in the car. So, it all ultimately worked out for good.

Week 6 has really been great, too. We have 61 here: one group from Long Prairie, Minnesota, one from Stillwater, Minnesota, and one from Hammond, Indiana — who, incidentally, came to San Francisco two years ago during Week 8! I definitely remembered their adult leaders, so it has been fun (but somewhat intimidating and creepy to think about them knowing my two-years-ago, Week-8-San-Francisco-summer self) to hang out with them again. I feel like I’m connecting with the kids well this week, especially compared to how I felt about the last big group we had. I think I’ve finally found my balance, the pendulum has swung back to the middle (personally, spiritually, emotionally, work-relatedly), and I’ve gotten into the groove of this — just in time for there to be two weeks left.

Anyway, that is all to report. It has been hot here — in the 100s. I haven’t seen rain in two months. Mom and Dad will be here Friday — I’m excited beyond belief about that. Then two more weeks, a drive back to Denver, a few days with KJ (hopefully!), a train ride to Albuquerque (I found one for $65!), a few days with Brenna, a drive in a rental car to Glenwood (with the new FM transmitter I just bought for my Pod — mmmmm, consumption), and a week of wonderful with Jut in the desert. I am so very, very blessed.

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