When I decided to do some blogging tonight, my original plan was to write an entry about my first few months as a Real Life Superhero. However, I’m also going to take a look at the course of my life in general.

First of all, a few words on my Real Life Superhero adventures.

These first few months as a RLSH have been a good start! There is still so much more to do, but I feel like I’ve been making progress.

Some of the changes have taken place online. I’ve renovated my website, including at least two new pages: a RLSH page to describe the work I do, and a Causes page to describe the local, regional, national, and global causes that I support. I’ve also been talking with members of Heroes Network and about everything under the sun.

Some of the changes have taken place offline. I’ve been spending more time working directly and indirectly with local community groups. Highlights include speaking out at public meetings in opposition to the Mayor’s suggestion that we privatize the local water supply; working with other community members to organize a new climate change group and a week of local climate change action; and starting my Donations program, which has given over $100 to local community groups and raised public awareness about the good work of these organizations.

The local media has even taken notice. An article about my work as a Real Life Superhero appeared in the Southern Illinoisan, which is the biggest newspaper in Southern Illinois. I’ve also heard that my comments at the City Council meeting made it on the local TV news, although I still haven’t seen the footage.

What really blew my mind, though, was that one of the events I was involved in organizing — the Sustainable State of the City Address — made it onto the front page of the Southern Illinoisan! For those of you who don’t know the politics of the paper (and the region), it was pretty impressive to see a story on climate change making front page.

I attribute this success to a combination of good timing, good organizing, and good reporting. Our event was held the day after the Mayor’s State of the City speech, which was also in the middle of the global climate change conference in Copenhagen. We put a lot of thought and discussion into what to include in the press release and the talks we gave, and members of the press were very responsive and did a good job of covering the story.

I especially want to thank Janet, Sarah, Barb, Katie, James, and everyone else who came to meetings and help pulled the group and events together. They’re the ones who got the ball rolling, and kept it rolling — I pretty much just showed up to meetings and tried to keep pace! It’s only a start, of course, and we have more plans in the work to continue addressing climate change on a local level. Even so, it was good to reconnect with old friends, connect with new ones, and see people from different parts of the community coming together to do what we can on such an important issue.

October, November, and early December were a rush in terms of community involvement. Once the week of climate events was over, though, it was time to slow down a bit and take stock. The students and faculty were starting their winter break, and I started a bit of a winter break of my own.

First, I spent some time with members of my “local family” — people who I don’t have any blood relation to, but who I’m close enough to that I consider them kin. I have a group of friends who I spend most Thursday nights with, and another group of friends who I spend most Sunday nights with. I spent a little extra time with each of them in mid-December, including a birthday party and a holiday party. This reminded me that I’m very blessed to have such wonderful friends, and that I love them dearly!

Then, I took the train to the distant north — a town by the name of Brookfield, on the outskirts of the legendary Land of Chicago. I spent almost a week there visiting with my mother, my stepfather, my brother, my sister-in-law, my sister, and her fiancé. I also spent much of Christmas Day with my extended family on my mother’s side, including my grandmother, who has been in ill health but was able to visit the longtime family homestead for a few hours on Christmas Day.

It’s hard for me to even imagine what it must be like for my grandmother to have lived in the same house so many years. I feel at home in Carbondale because I’ve lived here for thirteen and a half years now — but that’s been spread out over half a dozen different residences! In contrast, she’s lived in that house in Bellwood for significantly longer than I’ve been alive. I think her oldest son still lived at home when they moved there, and her other children spent some or all of their childhood there. And her children brought back grandchildren to spend their holidays there.

It’s no wonder, then, that after several months going back and forth between the hospital and the assisted living facility, she was eager to go home, if only for a few hours. It took considerable effort to get her there and back, especially on a snowy and icy night. But she seemed happy to be back in her chair in her living room again, and happy to have family gathered around her for Christmas. And she even got to see a DVD with messages from a few other relatives who weren’t able to make it.

In retrospect, the whole experience has given me pause to consider many different aspects of life, and family, and so on. I don’t really have any concrete thoughts on the matter, but I’m glad she was able to make it home in spite of the difficulties, and I’m also glad that I was able to spend time with my immediate family. If I had more money, or even my own transportation, I’d visit them more often!

Speaking of money, I’d like to talk more about my money situation — or more accurately, my lack of money situation. On a brighter note, I’d also like to talk about my continuing improvements in health. This entry is already growing a bit too long, though, and I should be going to sleep soon anyway.

So, next time I’ll talk about my money woes, and my ongoing efforts to do something about them. I will also talk about my health, and how my slow but steady increase in energy and muscle mass may very well turn 2010 into the best year ever.

In the meantime, I’m off to bed. And so, Gentle Reader, I bid you a fond farewell, and wish you sweet dreams.

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DONATION: Student Farmworker Alliance

This week, I’m making a donation to the Student/Farmworker Alliance:

I’ll be making this donation tonight at “Jam for Justice,” an exciting music and art event brought to you by local SFA organizers in order to raise funds, raise awareness, and have a good time in the process.

Jam for Justice is tonight at 9 pm at Tres Hombres in Carbondale. Come have a drink (if you drink), listen to awesome music, and support farm workers all in one night! Bands include: The Ivas John Band, Nighty Night, The Jug Dealers, and Matt Mings on acoustic guitar. There will also be Live Art for auction by Justin Rosenfield and raffle tickets for sale. Raffle prizes include: a $50 Longbranch gift certificate, 2 free entrees from Global, fair trade chocolate from Town Square Market, gift certificate for Fat Patties, a two-topping Pagliais pizza, and more! Cover charge is $5 at the door — and I know economic times are tough, but this is cheaper than a movie, and far more entertaining than anything Hollywood has to offer at the moment.

In case you’re not familiar with them, the Student/Farmworker Alliance (SFA) is a national network of students and youth organizing with farmworkers to eliminate sweatshop conditions and modern-day slavery in the fields. They work in alliance with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a membership-led organization of mostly Latino, Haitian, and Mayan Indian farmworkers and other low-wage workers based in Southwest Florida. They understand their work – which formally began in 2000 – as part of larger movements for economic and social justice.

Most of my donations toward Causes will be going toward purely local organizations. However, the local supporters of the SFA and CIW have been very active and productive in this cause for several years now, and I want to support their local work in the service of a broader social justice cause. Their work has offered concrete material support for the SFA and CIW while also inspiring local people, especially young people, to get involved in this and other solidarity work. Solidarity with working people in other regions is very important, and these local organizers are leading the effort to ensure that our food and services aren’t brought to us through the exploitation of workers in other regions.

If you’re fortunate enough to have money in your pocket after you’ve paid for food, shelter, utilities, and so on, consider making a donation to Student/Farmworker Alliance, either by attending Jam for Justice or contacting local organizers Erica Dodt [ ] and Katie Lenza [ ]. You can also contact them if you would prefer to get involved by volunteering, participating in future events, etc. They’ve done some great work for the cause, but that work will only reach its full potential with proper support from people like you.

Thanks for listening, and thanks for any support you can send their way!

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DONATION: Food Works

This week, I’m making a donation to Food Works.

Food Works was formed to draw attention to local food, local farmers, and issues of social and environmental health. Their mission is “Local, sustainable food systems development for Southern Illinois.”

I’m a really big fan of local foods and local food systems. Here are just a few reasons why:

(1) Eating local food reduces your carbon footprint. In other words, if you live here in Carbondale, it causes less pollution to ship your food from Cobden to Carbondale (about 15 miles) than it does to ship it from California to Carbondale (about 2,000 miles) or South America to Carbondale (about 3,000 to 5,000 miles).

(2) Eating local food supports the local economy. You know how people are always complaining about how the U.S. is in a recession, and how Southern Illinois is even worse off than the national average? Well, if we buy local food, most if not all of that money goes to people who live and work in our area. They, in turn, will spend at least some of that money locally too. If you buy non-local food at a corporate chain, the opposite happens. Most of that money goes out of the region, and most of it will be spent out of the region — or hoarded by shareholders in the form of corporate profit.

(3) Local foods are fresher, tastier, and more nutritious. Our advances in refrigeration and preservation technology have made it so that we can ship food thousands of miles and store it for long periods of time without it spoiling. This is a good option to have in some cases. However, some foods — like greens, vegetables, and fruits — suffer a loss in quality from this treatment. Local foods are fresher because they’ve been harvested more recently — sometimes on the same day that you buy them!

(4) Local foods bring the power back to local people. Currently, almost all of the major decisions about our food supply are made by far-away corporate and government bureaucrats who know nothing of our local conditions, local needs, and local perspectives on food issues. They pass regulations which lower the standards of our food quality, and they cut corners for the sake of profit in ways that put our health at risk. Local food systems allow local people to reclaim power over the food decisions that affect their lives and the state of our region.

Food Works is doing some very important work to develop our local food systems in an ecologically and socially sustainable manner. They initiated a Community Food Assessment to discover what the state of our food system is here in Southern Illinois, and they’re working on developing a new and transitional farmer training program, as well as promoting the many good foods already available here in Southern Illinois.

If you’re fortunate enough to have money in your pocket after you’ve paid for food, shelter, utilities, and so on, consider making a donation to Food Works. They’ve got some good projects in the works, but those projects will only reach their full potential with the proper funding.

Thanks for listening, and thanks for any support you can send their way!

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DONATION: Gaia House Interfaith Center

This week, I’m making a donation to the Gaia House Interfaith Center:

The Gaia House Interfaith Center is a local community center with a 60-year tradition of serving the Southern Illinois community and SIUC campus with programs that address the burning issues of our times. They are a gathering place for community events and a focal point for social justice activity by people of all faiths and beliefs.

Over the years, this community center has played a pivotal role in my life and my community involvement. This is where I first went to a Student Environmental Center meeting, which was my first introduction to the environmental movement. It’s where I had my first job after receiving my bachelor’s degree. It’s also directly or indirectly the way that I’ve met many of the people who make me feel at home here in Carbondale.

Nowadays, the Gaia House Interfaith Center serves the community through a variety of exciting programs:

* a spacious and charming building where people can host meetings, dinners, and other events;
* weekly dinners such as the InterVeg vegetarian potluck and Rice & Spice international slow foods dinner;
* annual events like the Vegetarian Thanksgiving Dinner;
* a lending library covering many spiritual, ecological, and political topics;
* a long-term home for numerous spiritual, social justice, interfaith, inter-religious, and multicultural organizations and events;
* weekly Theology on Tap discussion of religious and spiritual issues over the beverage of your choice at a local pub & grill;
* the Gaia House Development Group which is working on a project to rebuild the Gaia House as an ecological dorm and community center that will serve as a model of sustainability for our region;
* and other miscellaneous programs and resources too numerous to mention.

Maintaining physical meeting and office space for all of these groups, events, and resources takes a lot of work and a lot of money! Some of the center’s support comes from local religious, spiritual, and social justice groups who use their facilities or support their work. But the rest of it comes from people like you and me who care about all of the exciting things that the Gaia House Interfaith Center brings to the community.

If you’re fortunate enough to have money in your pocket after you’ve paid for food, shelter, utilities, and so on, I’d like you to consider making a donation to the Gaia House Interfaith Center. The diverse and progressive programs and activities that they support are a big part of what make Carbondale a great place to be.

If you don’t have any spare cash, consider volunteering. They have a big work day coming up this Saturday from 9:30 am until lunchtime, with free Fair-Trade coffee for volunteers, and lunch if you stick around that long! They also have a variety of other ongoing volunteer opportunities.

If nothing else, you can always support the Gaia House Interfaith Center by showing up for one of their events or programs. They’re always happy to see new (and returning) faces, and you’ll be happy to receive some good food, or good conversation, or good food for thought — or all of the above.

Thanks for listening, and thanks for any support that you can send their way!

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My name is Treesong. I'm a father, author, talk radio host, and Real Life Superhero. I live in Carbondale, Southern Illinois. I write novels, short stories, and poetry, mostly about the climate.

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