Uptown Cafe

the day before my birthday i volunteered at uptown café for the first time . this is a kosher anti-hunger program supported by jewish united fund. this is the sort of thing i talk about doing but never actually do (usually around thanksgiving) but this time i had resolve and fallow through. this particular volunteer opportunity coordinated by birthright next.

they are a wonderful organization i have been trying to get more involved with and failing miserably. i recently got excepted to go to an weekend retreat with them, eco shabbat, and can no longer attend to due new job training that weekend. it would have been wonderful to spend a weekend meeting peers who are like minded and driven for sustainability. however i digress.

uptown is not set up like a food kitchen. i feel that it shows more respect to the people that come there then that. it is restaurant style and the clients sit at tables, there are menus, and the volunteers bring the food. after all are served the volunteers sit and eat with the clients. the people that come to the café are not only in need of a hot meal but positive social interaction. some are low income, some are physically or mentally disabled, some have phd’s, some are immigrants.

personally for me it was an extremely humbling experience. chicago can be a cold and isolating city. we are extremely untrusting of strangers, do not make eye contact, and always have head phones in. to be completely honest some of the people i served i would have secured my purse if they sat down next to me on the ‘l’. that’s just a closed minded way of thinking but however we are somewhat conditioned that way.

it was a pleasure to sit and talk to the people at my table. Unfortunately, i can’t go into to much detail due to the confidentially agreement i singed. but the café and the people really made me think about the way i interact with strangers on the street. the people at my table were good honest people that have had a few issues and some bad luck in life. i defiantly will volunteer there again in the near future. it will help me progress to being a more patient, less judgmental person. a better person. isn’t that what we are all striving for anyways?                            



my life is saw dust part 1: research

the first thing that needed immediate attention to make my home inhabitable again (read my bolg post a tail of two kitties) was my floor. k, will, and i made quick work of ripping out the old fake hard wood laminate and saved about four hundred dollars on having  contractors come do it. there is a down side, the contractors would have come and taken the flooring with them. i soon found how hard it was to throw away any kind of construction marital in the city of chicago. i could not simply throw it out in my condo building without facing huge fines nor could i just take it and drop it off legally at a city dump. i also soon found that it cost ridicules amounts of money to have it picked up and disposed of.

luckily i have a wonderful and clever grandfather. he suggested that we cut up all the long planks in smaller pieces and he would drive them over to my parents house in the suburbs where it would be slowly over time thrown away.

we spent three days cutting up all the planks of wood so they were small enough to be carried away. this is where the saw dust started and sweep as i may i could not get it under control.

finding and picking a new floor was quite an extensive process for me. these are things was looking for in a floor:

sustainable material
very low or no toxic chemicals used
fair labor
would not scuff or dent easily
avoid formaldehyde at all cost ( yes most flooring the boards are glues together using glue containing formaldehyde. scary.)

so many products available to us on the U.S market just scare the living daylights out of me. its not only the way that the earth is pillaged of her resources but they way people growing wood and processing it are treated the urkes me. people don’t give much though when purchasing things like wall to wall carpet which trap allergens and dust mites. nor do we think of the coating on flooring gassing of and the toxic glues we are using. we are breathing in fiber glass from the foam in our wall insulation and our flooring underpayment. did you know that most tampons have fiber glass? give this a thought lady’s, once again most tampons have fiber glass in them. we as human beings should not be exposed to such things. that should be a given right. or we should be more educated consumers and understand exactly what is in the products we are buying. companies don’t make it easy however, do they?  

i was extremely disappointed by anything i saw at home depot and other home improvement big box stores. big surprise there. they had one bamboo floor which they called sustainable. just to clarify: sustainable is a very subjective word. yes it is true that bamboo is one of the fastest growing pants and grows at two inches an hour. where as it would take most oak trees something like 120 years to reach maturity and be used as building martial.   

for example when i found bamboo yarn for knitting i was really excited for it was cheap and really soft. i quickly learned that possessing bamboo into yarn is an extremely toxic process and i find it completely unsustainable. same goes sadly for most bamboo bedding and clothing. in fact the wonderful health green goods has this warring on their site:

Linens: Organic cotton sheets, duvet covers, shams & bed skirts plus organic cotton towels.  We don’t carry bamboo because most manufacturers still use a lot of chemicals when processing and dying bamboo (even certified organic bamboo because it is only the plant that is certified organic, not the processing – buyer beware!).

 no one at home depot knew much about this one bamboo flooring, home legend,  they had and all my questions were left unsatisfied. they did not know where and how it was grown and who and grown it. also i was quite easily able dent it with much easy. in addition I found tones of reviews of it online with people saying it damaged very easily.  

in my continued search for flooring i came across a product called marmoleum. i completely feel in love with the concept of it. when i this image of the ingredients of marmoleum on tree hugger  i was sure that this might be the correct flooring for me.

the main ingredient in linseed oil and its and extremely simple and non toxic prosses to make. however when i saw marmoleum in person i could not imagine it being in the bulk of my living space. if i was doing my bathroom or kitchen i would have hands down used it, but not in my main living space. i was very saddened by this decision.

i started looking at cork flooring. some friends had just put sustainable cork in their bed room and it looked stunning and felt great to look walk on. unfortunately i found the cork to soft and it showed marks to easy. i think it’s perfect for a bed room but not in a studio. im constantly moving my bikes in and out and could have seen the floor getting damaged quite easily.  
eventually on suggestions from friends i found my way to the green depot . i know cheesy name but a wonderful store. there i met jenny who was delightful and so helpful in my process for finding my perfect flooring. seriously if you are ever going to do any green building go talk to her.

im going to have to leave it at this for now and talk to you about my perfect flooring and my many adventures at the green depot the next time i blog dear dear reader! 

a tail of two kitties

i have been an extreme procrastinator when it has come to writing this particular blog entry. to me, all the thing i want to touch upon and explain have seemed like a daunting task. so in order to begin i find that the best thing to do is break this into two or more entries and  just to start from the beginning.

for my sweet 16th birthday i gifted myself a kitten. behemoth (hippopotamus is russian)  i called the little black fuzz ball after the character in my (and my mothers) favorite book the master and margarita . he was my littly buddy and came everywhere with me including party’s. 

at six months old my poor kitten drank some antifreeze and his kidneys proceeded to fail. i am to this day unsure if he came across it on his own of was force feed due to the fact that he is a black cat. There was a lot in his system. my mom found him laying on the door mat in a pool of blood and unable to move. we immediately took him to the animal hospital and over night his condition worsened and he started to slip away form us. early in the morning we got a hold of our regular vet and he immediately came and took behemoth under his care. it was a miracle but somehow dr. shaperio  brought him back from the bricks of death.   

almost losing him was one of the hardest things i have ever had to go through in my life. i was overjoyed beyond words that he has made it though and was staying with me. however the experience was extremely traumatizing for him and he was altered. he became skittish and somewhat ornery with a little bit of aggression and very protective of his back side. He would claw and his hiss if you happened to pet him anywhere near his tail. He also become somewhat afraid of his litter box. maybe if reminded him too much of how sick he had been and he just developed a negative association with it.  

while living with my parents this was not much of a problem. for we had just cut a little kitty door for him and he could go out and in as he pleased. it became more of a problem in my various apartments but was under control. he lived with my parents for a while i was living in italy and once again he regained his joy and command of the outdoors.  it must have been quite a shock to him when i moved him to my new home, a studio condo in a high rise in the middle of the city with absolutely  no accesses  to the outdoors for him.

at this time i was a full time student at columbia college chicago  and working various jobs. needless to say i was not home much and my kitty lacked attention and companionship. he had been close with my parents late golden retriever sunny. she passed away two years ago now and i missed her terribly.

i was dating a guy at the time that was out of town on business trip all the time. his roommate and her boyfriend wanted to get a cat and since we has out of town they asked me to come along. we went to kinda of strange place called touched by an animal. i wont get to much into it but it was run by a crazy cat lady who was a nun and wrote high school science books. this is where i meet toreno. 

he was found wondering the streets not far from touched by an animal. his family had been evicted from their apartment and he was abandoned there. when the land lord came he found him alone in the empty apartment and opened the door and shooed him out. the lady at touched by an animal got wind of this and caught him wondering the streets. it was she that named him for he was white as snow and the olympic games were taking place in toreno italy. I found all this fitting and having just moved back from florence myself the name stuck.

the above image was create by my dear talented friend will endelmann
i was not intending to get another cat but toreno was so sweet and affectionate he had to come home with me.

both my boys were with me for two years until my health slowly started to decline. my docter informed me that i had developed sever allergies and was starting to do permanent damage to my nasal passages. i could not spend much time within my home until i became puffy and congested. my small studio was not large enough to contain the three of us comfortably. new homes needed to be found for my boys. once again one of the hardest thing i ever had to do.

toreno went to a co-worker of my moms. she has two sons and they all welcomed toreno warmly as a member of their family. he likes loads of attention and much doted on in his new family. they also have a groomer come and pamper him every two weeks or so and have ample outdoor space for him to roam. i have an open invitation to visit and am given photos of him every so offen.

behemoth had liter box issues and aggression issues and was much harder to place. chicago no kill shelters are so over crowded that they only have room for strays, nor did i think his temperament could handle the stress of shelter life. i posted many honest craigs list adds hoping to find someone out in the suburbs with space for him to be outdoors. no such people were found via craigs list.

my deer kind wonderful friends in the giving tree  live out in yorkvill. they have some wonderful neighbors including tom and toby. tom and toby are both vets and have a little farm about ten min form their home. on this farm they have horses, goats, pigs, chickens, donkeys and other wonderful animals i am currently forgetting to mention. these kind hearted people agreed to take in my kitty and give him a home on the farm. i could not have thought of a better outcome for him. i am free to vist him when i am out in yorkvill and have found him adapting to his new life.

i miss them both more then my heart can handle but i am fully convinced that the outcome of their new living situations are better then anything i could have hoped for. in addition i have began to regain my health and am not as chronically ill. hopefull come of the damage that has been done will revert.  

so this is the back story of the renovations that i have been working on in my condo. i temperately lived with k for about 4 months and owe a lot of gratitude to his roommate joe r. it as taken a lot of time, hard work, research and planning to turn my condo back into a wonderful home for me. i will be talking about all this in the blog entries to come. all these remodeling are bitter sweet to me. my home is coming along just as i had wised. however part of me feels trapped now. a lot of money has gone into it and therefore i will not be leaving any time soon. i still daydream about k and i having a small home in the pacific northwest where i can have a garden and a bee hive. however i am yet young and don’t need to rush into such stability.