Aug 2007

21 July 2007

Hi all,

It’s been just under three months since my last set of updates, and I was mentally preparing to send out my next set, complete with year-end stuff and new address(es), when I got an e-mail from someone making sure they weren’t actually off the list (no joke), so I decided to get things rolling and either extend the distribution to a longer period, delay things a bit more, or just write up to whenever I was done. In any case, here we are. And the usual disclaimer – if you want off the list, just let me know! (Midwest LVCers –I’m going to take most of you off after this round b/c our time together is over; I’m going to take the liberty and keep a few of you on, but let me know if you want to be sure you stay on the list.) And a continued plug for my blog @ ericbjorlin.wordpress.com – it’s updated maybe 3 or 4 times a week with randomness.

I’ll do things a little bit different by starting from the end, though it’s kind of the new beginning for me. You may remember me mentioned one of the jobs I was applying for was working as a recruiter for LVC in the fall, and I will, in fact, be starting that position on 13 August (with my first day in the office being 22 August). The official title is short term recruiter, with my “turf” being the Great Lakes region of the U.S., set forth as OH, IN, IL, MI, and parts of WI. However, because of the number of people they employed, my region may end up being larger than that, so we shall see.

What I’ll be doing is going around to colleges and organizations to talk about and get people interested in LVC and in applying as a volunteer, either for the 08-09 year or beyond (I saw a recruiter while in college but joined a few years after). I’ll be spending my August time and all of September in Washington, DC, @ the LVC headquarters, getting ready for the trip logistically: planning travel arrangements, setting up talks, figuring out my housing, etc. So if you think you have a good place for me (or one of my cohorts, all over the country) to go, let me know. Or if you’re willing to host me, let me know, too – I may call you if you don’t call me :) The trip takes place in the month of October, and I’ll be doing a lot of driving, but I’m excited to hopefully see some of you and other family/friends in that time. Then in November, until Thanksgiving, I’ll be back in DC to wind down and recap, doing everything from follow-ups with people I’ve met along the way to writing a report on the trip to see what could be done better next year.

I’m hesitant to mention my plans for my time after that, as it’s not yet 100% set in stone, as I still have to decide/determine/figure out if it is truly feasible, but as the director of the gospel choir I’m in would say, “Name it and claim it,” so I’ll get it out there anyway. My goal is to, from Thanksgiving until May or so, make a documentary film/video/DVD chronicling the events leading up to and surrounding the walk-out at the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in 1974 that led to the formation of Christ Seminary-Seminex, a seminary that produced many pastors currently in the ELCA (including my dad, a housemate’s dad, the NW Ohio Synod Bishop, and many others). I’ve been doing some pretty detailed research so far, and will continue to do it as much as I can now until Thanksgiving, and I really think this is the next step for me in my life. Locating and obtaining archival footage is probably the biggest obstacle in terms of the actual film, but obtaining funds is the actual #1 hurdle that needs to be cleared to make this “dream a reality,” as they say. So if you or someone you know would be willing/interested in helping with the cost of such an undertaking, (shameless plug alert) PLEASE let me. If your or they would be making a significant contribution and want more information on the film and its finances, a proposal and other details are available. I am pursing other forms of financing, but obviously the more avenues I have to work with/from, the better.

So that’s “update #1” this time – for more of what’s been going on these past 3 months, stay tuned! My first Internet link will be my blog’s plug (and subsequent links within) for you to see the latest Michael Moore film Sicko. https://ericbjorlin.wordpress.com/2007/07/19/the-good-samaritan/
Most people are unaware of the realities of our country’s health care crisis, and I think you owe it to yourself to become better informed and start a revolution of change.
Until next time – eric

(I included my fall 2007 addresses, too.)

24 July 2007

So let’s go back to business and back up to the start of May 2007, about where I ended last time. (I may have missed something the end of April, but nothing exciting enough for me to have a strong memory of). After my busy and crazy April (including Spring Break, spoken of last time), Early May did see some excitement, though, including the end of my rugby time in Milwaukee. On my last Saturday playing, though, we played a B-side (like J.V. is to varsity) of 10s (10 people per team instead of the usual 15), and I was able to score my first (and only) try! (A try is the rugby equivalent of football’s touchdown, I suppose – if you’re a big rugby person, don’t blame me it’s not popular knowledge in the U.S.) I was very excited for that, and while I won’t say that I’ll never play again, I surely won’t until I settle down again somewhere (where they have rugby), but if my rugby career IS over, I can be satisfied with knowing I got that one try.

The 10th of May was also an exciting day for me, as I turned 25 – the big quarter century, as they say. I certainly don’t feel any different, but it is kind of interesting to think about. In many ways I feel like I expect a “tween” might, at least the inbetween part. I’m far enough past college now that I shouldn’t try to consider myself in that realm, but I surely don’t feel “grown,” especially with my status of just finishing living with 5 people who had just graduated and as someone who still has yet to settle down to a profession/vocation. I was a young one in my grade, though, and I surely don’t feel like I’ve wasted my life at all – far from it, as I’m happy how my life has gone these past 3 years (for the most part… :), but we won’t get into that). It’s just that I’ve had to adjust my thoughts on what it means to be 25, that’s all. And as I like to tell my friend Jason, I’ve just set the example that you don’t have to have your life figured out once you graduate college – nothing wrong with that, though, or with Grad School – where my brother Adam will be in a few years – it’s just that there are many possible avenues when you arrive to your mid (and late) 20s these days.

The gospel choir was VERY busy in May and early June, singing for an ordination service as well as the Greater Milwaukee Synod Assembly, among other events. We did start to take it easy in the summer, though we still sang about every other week @ church. This past Sunday (15 July) was my last time being able to sing with the choir in a performance. I had a few practices afterward, but it was a sublime experience. I had the honor/privilege/task of singing the lead/solo part for one of the songs after 10 months in the wings :) I taped the last two Sundays of our performances, though, which I’m hoping to show friends and family who weren’t able to experience us in person (most of you), so don’t be afraid to ask to see the tape sometime.

As May concluded, it meant the end of classes and the implementation of finals for all the Shalom students. We had a year-end picnic and I said my goodbyes to most people before graduation the next week (more on that next time). I have so many stories of this year @ Shalom, some of which I’ve told in the past, but many more than could be shared in a few e-mails. It was unpredictable and challenging, but it was exactly the experience I was looking for (even if I had no idea what I was getting myself into). I had Memorial Day off and went to a Brewers game for $1. It was an obstructed view ticket, and we ended up standing @ various points around the park – it was fun, but there’s something to be said about having a seat you’re paid for reserved to sit in (where you can see).

That seems to be all for that (except for the fact that my calendar notes tell me I biked over 200 miles in May alone, though I’m set to eclipse that in July – stay tuned), This time I’ll point you to a website I found recently, www.millioncount.com where a man is counting all the way to One Million! He get through 12-15 thousand or so numbers a day, and you can donate to PUSH America to help those with disabilities.

eric

28 July 2007

The first week of June was a busy one, a sign of what my summer would be like. After a few days with Seniors finishing up last minute end of the year things, we celebrated graduation on June the 7th. The ceremony was held @ Cross, the church (I go to) next door. We had 20 graduate, and the place was packed (we also had a sister school in its first year of operation share the graduation with us, and they had 6 graduates). It atmosphere was electric, a mix of jubilation and sheer ecstaticity. Everyone was so happy to witness these graduations for students that many had written off years ago, for some who were the first to graduate in their family. With the school being so small, I was able to interact in a way, some large, some only very small, with all of the 20 graduates – a far cry from knowing 40 of the 2000 or so graduates last Spring. In that ceremony, I knew that these students were embarking on great lives before them, some heading to college, some to vocation training, others to jobs. But whatever they are to become, I know that I helped them in some small way, and I will carry that forever.

One more thing that happens at the end of the year (before students can graduate, actually) is called their Defense of Graduation (a “DOG” for short). Each student goes before a panel of teachers and community members to show their proficiency in each of five main subject areas, as well as an autobiography, through an oral presentation. I was able to sit on one such DOG committee, and it was an amazing experience. Hearing the struggles of this one student had gone through before he arrived at Shalom and then during his time in high school was quite astounding. Through moving and family issues and drugs, he found a way to persevere and graduate. It was an amazing story, and I’m glad I was able to be a part of his presentation and schooling. For every one of these students, there is a surely a powerful story of persistence and perseverance to overcome the obstacles set before him or her and succeed. It is truly an amazing place.

That weekend after graduation, I traveled to Ohio on Friday the 8th on the megabus to attend a marvelous wedding on the 9th. I got to see my parents a bit on the Friday night and Saturday and Sunday mornings, but what brought me home was the wedding of two camp friends, Ben and Rachel. I had been to Rachel’s brother’s wedding two summers ago, and they had two very different weddings but both very great. Rachel and Ben celebrated with an afternoon ceremony @ a church in a Toledo suburb (where she went to H.S.) and followed it with a great reception @ a hotel in downtown Toledo. It was good to be able to catch up with Rachel and Ben a bit, but it was equally amazing to be able to catch up with so many people I had worked with @ Mowana in years past. In all, I think I knew about 25 people @ the wedding and reception who I had worked with along the way (mostly from 2002 and 2003, but a few from 2004, too, when I was there two weeks). My wedding is still seemingly a long way off (if I do get married, which isn’t a foregone conclusion, and that’s OK – just A FEW things that need to happen before marriage… :) ), but camp has been such an important place in my life, I know I’ll have a good number of former staffers on the guest list, I’m sure.

The 10 or so days after my return saw a quite time @ Shalom, where students weren’t in attendance and we did various staff wrap-ups and cleaning and such. After a week with all the staff still in attendance, we had a small lunch out, after which I headed to the beach! It was pretty hot that day, as I recall, after a week of no rain and high temps, but I hadn’t taken my swimsuit, so I just relaxed and read on the sand, which was fun, too. I’ve since been back once or twice, but the H2O is always so frigid (stupid Lake Michigan can’t get warm…) that I can barely go in, if I do at all. I had never been in Chicago @ a time to go to the beach, though I lived in the area for 6 years, so it’s been fun to get that experience and realize a Great Lake beach isn’t as fun as an ocean beach (even if it is “hot town, summer in the city”).

Before I go this time, I did want to alert you to a slight time lapse between now and the next update(s) in the sequence because I’ll be spending the next week volunteering @ Camp Mowana! I’ll get to see Adam (my bother, who I haven’t seen since Easter) and other people I know from my years working there (who I haven’t seen in longer than that). They do have a lot of new staff, though, and I’m excited to meet/work with them, too. So on that note, go to www.mowana.com and see what you’re missing! If camping or staff isn’t in you any more, you’re never to old to volunteer, and there are no special requirements that need to be met, so think about it for next summer!

eric

8 Aug 2007

Hello again everyone,

After a bit of a break, I’m back with a few more updates for this time of the year. However, due to a file error with the planned update, I’ll have to wait a few days to get out the next update in the series. Instead, I thought I’d share a bit of what’s been going on since my last e-mail (which I then won’t do again at the end).

Last week, as you should know, I headed out for camp. My mom came Thursday night and we packed up the van before taking the long trip back to Ohio on Friday. We stopped quick in Chicago in the morning to do a year-end LVC thing, and then it was to Wauseon to my ‘rents place. After some unloading and time with each other, I went to bed and woke up pretty much ready for camp. I arrived @ Mowana about 3:30, greeted by my brother, a few familiar faces, and many unfamiliar faces. However, it wasn’t long before I had been introduced to those I didn’t know and fell nicely into the group. I don’t know if the staff felt that way, but I felt very comfortable with everyone, even if we had just met (though apparently some people had heard whispers/rumors/talk about me prior to my arrival), perhaps because I’ve been in their shoes so many times before. Saturday I played some Scrabble, ate some Russian soup, makes smores, and hung out with the crew before bed.

Sunday, after staff worship and breakfast, I needn’t go to their meeting, so I cut out to see the Simpsons movie (a pretty good flick — my review here: http://www.mkeonline.com/story.asp?id=1402146 ) that I had to see that weekend in order to review it for the MKE newspaper, my 4th and final such review. When I returned, I helped prepare the “Trailblazers” site before the campers began arriving @ 3. Trailblazers is a program for 3rd-5th graders who stay in tents during the week and cook all their own food, and a program I never participated in while on staff. It was a group of only 6 campers, split evenly by gender, and it was really a lot of fun to get to know them. My official volunteer role was their Bible study (Discovery) leader, but I did many other things with them, including showing with them in the creek, swimming, bowl burning, and eating almost all of my meals with them in the woods (the food was very dilish — not camp food!). I could share with you many great stories about the week, but I’ll keep it brief. It was different (obviously) being a volunteer and not a staff member, but it was great, too. More on my blog if you haven’t read it yet.

Friday, after the picnic and staff meeting, I went out with them to get ice cream and then played Scattergories with a few of them before bed time. After Saturday morning there, I returned to Wauseon to be with my parents. We hung out the rest of the day and Sunday, and on Monday we went bowling and out to eat together (I suffered a big loss in the bowling category, but I still scored over 100, so I was happy). I hung out Tuesday, too, and then it was on to Chicago for the evening before returning today (Wednesday) to MKE. The house is getting empty as people slowly leave and take their stuff, but we kind of all had out time to end things as a group a few weeks ago. More on that in another update!

I’ll give you a website here to check out, too: www.kiva.org (c.o. Jason Beck) is a website wher you can give low interest loans to people in developing countries. It’s kind of like aid, but you’ll likely get your money back! It’s the process that won the man the nobel prize recently.

One more to come later this week! Until then, eric

10 Aug 2007

So after getting my computer and files back, we’re back to the middle of June:

I got the 21st of June off of work because we had to travel that day to our final LVC retreat in northern Wisconsin. We didn’t have to leave until about 4:30, so it was nice to have a relaxing day off. The retreat itself was shorter, too, lasting one day less than the others, arriving Thursday after dinner and leaving @ Sunday lunch. This was a “camping” retreat, in the sense that most people brought tents to sleep in instead of mattresses found in the buildings provided. There wasn’t a lot of “programming,” which was fine by me, as it allowed us a bit more free time to simply relax and have fun. With that in mind, I, along with about 20 others, went to a local public beach Friday morning to relax and play some sand volleyball (10 of us played vball – great fun). We returned to the camp for lunch, followed by some good closure time as a house (even though this was a month and a 1/2 before things would actually conclude). Then we had time for “Crazy Olympics,” which was a kind of a scatterbrained attempt at field day, but it was fun nonetheless, and our house made a very good showing after some good efforts but not much “success” (at least as society might define it) in previous competitions. That night I stayed up and chatted with a few people after we made smores, and then it was back to the tent.

Saturday, from the conclusion of breakfast cleaning until dinner prep, was reserved for another trip to the beach. This time we, all 35+ of us, went to a local state park to explore their beachfront on the lake. I had a lot of fun running on the beach, building a sand castle (city), reading, and hanging out with others. We were there a long time, reminiscent (for me) of days when I was younger on beaches of the Atlantic, but others found it to be too much sun for them. Many others, including a few of my house mates, didn’t fare as well. That night contained the highlight of my retreat (much in the same way “sock wresting” was the highlight of my winter retreat): “The Best Game Ever” (A.K.A. 3-Phase Charades, but I have no qualms about the former name). The premise (quickly): players write famous names on paper to be used in three rounds. Round 1, you can say (basically) anything to get others to guess (30 seconds or so per clue giver); round 2 you get a singular word but as much charade-style gestures as you desire; round 3 is silent with only gestures. It required quick and clever thinking and got us all (the 14 who played) laughing and recalling people such as Elian Gonzalez and Nelson Mandela. It good for a semi-large group, and I really hope to play it again sometime soon. (Thanks Becky!)

After saying goodbye to everyone (though I’ve seen a majority of them since), we traveled home, and Monday saw the start of the summer math class I was charged to teach. We’ve met M-Th, 9AM – noon, for 5 weeks (except for 3 days off, to be detailed later, making 17 days of class). The numbers were low, but significant, usually about 6 people. It took some planning, but not a lot, so the summer was a little more relaxing, but it still was work. In the afternoons I’ve also been doing some curriculum work, preparing some things for use in the fall upon my departure, mainly doing some rewriting, updating, and computerizing of some things that are integral to their system of earning credits for showing certain knowledge. I’ll tell you more about those days off next time.

We shall stop there for today – I’m forgetting what all websites I’ve pointed you to in the past (I should make a list… maybe I will), but if I’ve forgotten, maybe you have, too. Anyway, since I mentioned megabus and use it so much, I want to point you to the website @ http://www.megabus.com/us – so many of my travels this year would have been impossible without this system/service and the availability of things like roundtrip travel to Chicago for $4.50. If you live in the Midwest, check it out, or even on the west coast, now, they just opened up routes (And there are apparently other such bargain bus routes in other areas, such as DC to NYC for $35 round trip, so look for those if you live elsewhere, too.)

It’s nearly my last day in Milwaukee. I’m on my way to DC Sunday, and while I hope to be able to send out my remaining updates for the moment next week, but I’m not totally sure that will happen. So until next time,

eric

19 August 2007

After another long but AMAZING week which constantly kept me away from the computer, I’m back to share the last few e-mails before the longer break sets in. Where were we…

The last week of June, in addition to the start of summer school, was plenty busy elsewise, too. That Wednesday was the first “day off” from classes as Jean, one of my co-workers (one of the English teachers), treated me to a day in Chicago, specifically to see the Cubs play the Rockies @ Wrigley Field. Jean had never been to Wrigley (she’s a little older than my mom), and I was happy to once again share Wrigley with a friend and escort them on their first trip to the Friendly Confines. Our seats were upper deck, second-to-last row around first base, but there is nary a bad seat @ Wrigley, and I’ll always enjoy watching the Cubs play there. Some parking issues and a restaurant that was “running late” opening caused us to change our pre-game plans, but it all worked out as we arrived in time to see the Cubs win 6-4 (with my favorite current Cub Carlos Zambrano doing the pitching). We rode around on the El while it poured down rain (minutes after the game concluded) before traveling back to Milwaukee in time for a good night’s sleep in preparation for school again Thursday.

However Thursday also meant for me another trip to Chicago, this time taking the megabus to start my more “formal” research on the planned documentary mentioned earlier. I stayed w/ a friend Thursday and Friday night, going to a picnic the first night before waking up early to head out to the ELCA Archives just east of O’Hare airport. They were very helpful, and I’ve been back once since and will likely return again. I’ve been able to see the archival film/video footage they have available and get an idea of other resources they have I can use along with a sense of what kinds of things I might look for in other archives around the country. I came back Saturday afternoon so I might be able to sing with the gospel choir on Sunday morning.

Then, with the 4th and subsequent days off I was given, I had only a 2-day workweek that first week of July. Milwaukee had their fireworks display on the evening of the 3rd, a rainy evening, at that, but one of my housemates and I took the bus to the lakefront to watch the display. Though it was about an hour, there were a few breaks where we thought it was done, so we only watched about 40 minutes of it, but that was plenty for me (I’m not used to a “big city” fireworks display). On the morning of the 4th, I got up at a decent time so I could take the megabus to the Twin Cities to visit family and friends up there. I arrived late in the day, but there was still a bit of time to attend an LVC BBQ and then the Minneapolis fireworks (much more “eric-friendly,” though some said they were too slow for their liking) before getting a fireworks display by the neighbors of the house where I stayed that night. This, mind you, was very much in the city limits and a residential area, but that didn’t stop them from using setting off some pretty large fireworks that would have been at home in a Holgate display.

Thursday and Friday I spent with my grandparents (dad’s ‘rents) who live in a suburb of St. Paul. They picked me up at the Mall of America and we walked around in there a bit. While I was there, aside from having some amazing food, we saw the campus of where my dad went to Jr. college in St. Paul, played some cards, and I did an on camera interview of them about their early lives until about when my dad was a teenage. I hope to maybe have the chance to do some more interviewing of them around Thanksgiving. Friday night, in order to be close to my 7AM megabus the next morning, I stayed in Minneapolis with a different batch of LVCers. We had fun getting 1/2 price appetizers from Applebees (I got my Queso Dip and Chips, even though it’s no longer on the menu :) ) before some card playing and bed. My bus got me home early afternoon Saturday.

I did more that Saturday, but this is already a long one. I start in the office Wednesday. For the website, I’m going to share the site www.freecycle.com even though I’ve never used it myself. I just heard about it this week, but you can basically get stuff for free from people who are giving it away! Why not, right?

Shalom – eric

21 Aug 2007

 July the 7th had been marked on my calendar for a long time, ever since I had heard that one of my favorite bands, Guster, would be performing at Summerfest (a huge musical festival held every year in MKE). So I made sure I was back from Minnesota in time to see that that Saturday evening. The place was VERY full, and I didn’t have the best view, even though I’m tall, as there were bleachers many people in front of me stood on (I know a bit more what it’s like to be short now). But the music was still amazing, and it was just a lot of fun. That Monday I decided, somewhat spur of the moment, to see a band I had just discovered a month before, The Polyphonic Spree. It’s hard to describe what a truly breathtaking experience it was (though I tried here in my blog: https://ericbjorlin.wordpress.com/2007/07/10/a-spiritual-concert/). The band sang powerfully of love and hope and community, and all 23 (yes, 23) members seemed to give all of what they had to their performance. I will definitely keep up with them and see them when they tour next, and I highly recommend you look into them, too (their recordings are good, but their true power can only be felt live).

The middle 3 weeks of July, my last full ones in Milwaukee, were also pretty busy, but somewhat randomly. I had 3 full 4-day weeks of summer class. The numbers continued to be small, but I think the personal attention really helped build confidence for those in attendance, and I feel like a lot was accomplished by the girls who came those days.

As a house, we spent one evening going out to eat, and another evening we hosted a small cookout for a few of our co-workers (I think about 15 attended altogether). Other highlights for me were being able to attend another Brewers game (in some pretty nice seats) with a few guys from choir and the chance to hear a (free) taping of the NPR show “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me…” in Chicago’s Millennium Park with a handful of other LVCers on the 19th of July. The 15th saw me give one more children’s sermon, and it also marked the last time I sang in public (I went to a few more practices) with the gospel choir. I did videotape us singing our last two Sundays, and I’d be more than happy to show you what you missed by not being able to see me sing.

After my last day with students on the 26th, my mom arrived that evening, and Friday it was back to Ohio to prepare (as you should know) for me week at camp, 29 July – 3 August, and then time with my family and back to MKE, which I’ve spoken about already. We just finished LVC orientation last week, which was amazing (I’ll share about either next time or next update session…), and I start work in the office tomorrow (Wednesday), which is sure to be an intense month of planning. The next installment will be my final one for this group, and, if nothing else, I some closing thoughts about my LVC year as I continue to process all that has happened in the past 12 months.

I’m short on a website this time to share, but updating freecycle.com, make sure you put your work or home address (of the city/place you’re in) in the comment box when you try to register or else you’ll be rejected and have to try again. Such was my experience.

God go with you — eric

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