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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

wonderful time of the year

So I've spent the past three days in such bliss. I feel so rested ahh I can't even explain. Even though I've still had to work at Lush it hasn't been that bad. I also have been going through my phone calling people I haven't touched bases with in a while. WOW! I forgot how many wonderful people I know. There are also a couple of people who have been going through the same challenges I have and I wish I had touched bases with them earlier. Anywho it has been wonderful.

I am enjoying my days although I had a loop dream that I missed my train for Christmas. It leaves at 4:55 tomorrow morning. I need all the good Karma I can get to make sure I can get up and to the train station at that time.

Merry Christmas all!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

lessons that will help in the new year

The idea is to find a balance between these

Catalyze change

Champion an initiative or a significant change, consistently promote it, and encourage others to get on board.
Cope with transition
Recognize and address the personal and emotional aspects of change.

Show a sense of urgency

Demonstrate the need to take action; accelerate the pace of change.
Demonstrate realistic patience
Know when and how to slow the pace so that people can cope and adapt.

Be tough

Make difficult decisions without hesitation or second-guessing.
Be empathetic
Take others' perspectives into account; understand the impact of your actions and decisions.

Show optimism

See the positive side of any challenge; convey that optimism to others.
Be realistic and open
Speak candidly about the situa¬tion, and don't shy away from dif¬ficulties; admit personal mistakes.

Be self-reliant

Be confident in your ability to handle new challenges.
Trust others
Be open to others' input and sup¬port; allow them to do their part.

Capitalize on strengths

Know your personal and organizational strengths; confidently apply them to new situations and circumstances.
Go against the grain
Show willingness to learn and try new things--even when the process is difficult or painful.

Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn't you - all of the expectations, all of the beliefs - and becoming who you are. Rachel Naomi Remen

what you learn when you burn

Ha. The past few days have been good.
I wanted to read a few passages from the Bible but could not
find mine. So I read the next best thing, my journal. Oohhh hope that isn't sac-relig. But there were some startling insights. I mean Startling, with a capital S. One was a note I had written to myself about how to deal with difficult situations:
Ask, How can I use this experience to become the kind of person my soul longs to be?
How can I use this lesson so that others can learn from me and maybe bypass a difficult life experience? How can I use this incident to heal my own heart? How can I use this lesson to help the healing of the planet?
Deep I know, but I hope to continue to reflect on those questions. Oh the lessons I've taught myself.

I need to go home and clean a little but I ventured out to get some fresh air. I've had enough, back to my little home.

Friday, December 19, 2008


This has been such a year, when I think about it all I breath a deep sigh looking forward to 2009. I have so much to learn, so much to learn...

Here are some thoughts though from other NSPers about their experience with our organization. I know I'm probably being gusy but one day I'll look back and I want to not only remember how happy I felt I want it to inspire me again.

from Jordan
A lot was said in the election about Community Organizing. It seemed to be the single most life-changing, perspective-giving part of President-elect Obama's life. It has really been hitting me that, while it may not feel that profound every second of every day to me, that we are all doing the exact same thing. The reason it is my biggest priority to connect with all of you more is that we are all embarking on what is probably going to be the most profound, life-changing experience of our entire lives. We are all going to go on to do different and amazing things, but I am sure that this time of service for all of us will be seen as one of the biggest moments of our lives. I am honored to be sharing it with all of you.
***CONTINUED FROM ABOVE***-Since I began in the NW Philly office almost 5 years ago, I loved the work of NSP. However, what completely captivated me and made me a life-long NSPer was when I went to my first national training (SD 2005 training) and, what was back then the August conference, and got to meet and experience the people. The people of NSP are some of the most amazing on Earth. You all are naturally bright, funny, intelligent, witty, passionate, enthusiastic, energetic, compassionate, sensitive, kind, caring, cool, hardworking, and utterly smart. You all have chosen to value people, live with integrity, fight for justice, treat others with dignity and respect, spread awareness, and serve others. To be honest, I did not know that people like you existed before I found NSP and I still have yet to meet your equals in any other setting. The fact that I am able to be around people like you is such a great thing for me and the fact that people like you have accepted me as one of your own is the greatest honor of my life. Although I have not been in constant communication with all of you, please know that I love and respect each and every one of you to the highest degree and am truly honored to work and serve with you. You all are such an inspiration to me and I thank you for everything that you are.

If you have made it this far, I am eternally impressed and grateful have your back forever. Just call on me and I'll be there.

from Laura

I am continually inspired and amazed by everyone in NSP. I can't imagine any other organization where I would feel so supported, valued, challenged, and fulfilled on a daily basis, and where I would have such respect and admiration for everyone I have the honor of working with. In starting to think about next year, this has become all the more clear. I've decided though that I'm not going to get stressed about the future, because that would take away from being fully present in every day that I'm here at NSP. You have all given me a lot to be grateful for, and I hope you all have most wonderful, happy, healthy, and safe holidays!

from Colin
I can’t tell you how thankful I am for being able to work at NSP. Everyday I hear horror stories of people who dislike their job, their co-workers, (not to mention those that are unable to find work) and I’m reminded of just how lucky I am. I can honestly say that I love and enjoy every person at NSP (how they keep bringing great people into the organization is beyond me) and love my job and the difference I’m able to make in individuals lives, from clients to volunteers, and to the larger community. Very few people can say that.

Don't stop believing...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

One who loves you the most

I found these awesome pictures of our awesome group...

gray room

My desk is crazy!!! This has been such a task filled week but at least it has made the days go by faster. Since this is our last week open there have been a lot of things to get turned in, loose ends to get wrapped up, e-mails to send out, meetings to attend, volunteers to appreciate and of course making sure our clients have access to resources while we're gone.

Yesterday was our Local Adivsory Board meeting which was very successful and well attended by all of our board members. Our LAB is made up of members of the Philadelphia community who advise us on the role of our office in relation to the issues affecting the Philadelphia community. I'm consistently amazed by our student leaders and the amount of vision and tenacity they have. Sarah our Local Director from the West also attended the meeting and shared some of the work she has been doing on community resources in the West community with Dr. Harkavy at Penn.

We also had some great discussions about the issues in Philadelphia that will affect our services in our office. Case managers at local homeless shelters are being let go because of budget cuts. The Case managers are the staff members at homeless shelters that assist residents in getting their lives back togethers. Essentially we are going to see more people going into the homeless shelters with less to no people assisting them move out of them. While this is very discouraging it shows that our services are going to be even more essential in this time of need.

A similar issue resulted in some intense discourse back and forth with our leadership team. I had recently read an article about the lack of guidance counselors in Philadelphia schools and the affect this was having on college attainment for Philly high school students http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/36121124.html. We had a discussion about what if any service we could be in this time. Especially since the system that we use to sign people up for public benefits is adding a FAFSA application. One of our site coordinators didn't feel like it was really our place or the best use of our skills but at our LAB meeting a couple of our board members brought up the same issue and suggested that we provide some services. I was relieved to hear some more support for our at least developing some resource energy to it but it was a tense moment. It made me wonder, should I speak up about issues that I am passionate about and find relevant or just hold back to avoid making ripples that might cause too much discomfort. In the end, if it helps us become more effective at serving the needs of the Philadelphia community, I'd have to go for speaking up...

I had some tear jerkers of client meetings. Since we've been a little slower I've had time to sit down and really talk to my clients and learn more about the stories that brought them to our office. I always wrestle with revealing client stories even if I don't include their names but in summary I can say that the routes that bring our clients here is a maze of bad decisions, bad luck, an unforgiving system and last hope. I feel like that scene in the Grinch where his heart grows beyond its size. I feel like my ability to love and care and not judge has grown much beyond what I've been capable of. I don't think I've been surprised much by what I've seen pertaining to bureacracy and the issues of the poverty. Although my understanding has deepend greatly and I've learned much more about the human aspect. The faces behind the statistics. I've grown from that.

I've also learned so much from the wonderful organization I'm apart of. Work within our regional team has been tense at times but that's to be expected in a field where passions run high and everyone seems to come in with a mission and a vision, unprepared to compromise or collaborate. But we all have a heart for our clients and have proven that there are different ways to support the community and the work we do. I've also taken sometime to go through all of our vols feedback and learn what we can better do to support them because, well, they are the ones that do client service and its important that we reach down from our clouds of ideas and jobs to give the information to our vols so that that information will reach our clients who could care less about our disagreements.

I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world although I do miss my friends and family. I'm very excited about the Holiday and break.
I don't think I've ever made a New Years resolution but if I was to make one it would be to work more on what I found is important to me, the people in my life. To stay in touch more and learn more from them, even the ones I don't really care that much for.

Besides, does any of us really know what we're doing...

Merry Christmas!

I'll share a quote from one of my vols:

One day while looking for jobs, I was beginning to join client in his momentary discouragement, feeling as though everything was out of my hands, feeling under the full weight of the realization that there is only so much NSP and me personally as a volunteer can do. Out of nowhere, client received a call asking him to come in for an interview the next day, and he was elated. I was so, so thankful for client's upcoming opportunity and replenished enthusiasm. I feel like this experience with client has been incomparably formative to my dedication to the NSP organization.

For the Holidays please join me in supporting NSP and the work we're doing, it's becoming even more necessary. Now more than ever....http://www.nspnet.org/donate/index.htm

Song: High and Dry by Radiohead

Monday, December 15, 2008

round and round and round we go

Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air. They are where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. Henry David Thoreau.

I have knots in my stomach thinking about the amount of things that need to be checked of my to do list by the end of this week. But (deep breath) it's all going to be ok.

I had a stressful time in the beginning of the year learning to work with some members in my regional team. Although I don't doubt that I work with pessimists, I also am sure that I tend to throw ideas out there like pennies towards a wishing fountain, with this naive idea that people will be as excited about them as I am and want to join in. This was not the case and after repeated events of my ideas not only being turned down but picked apart piece by piece I become quite frustrated and passive.

Lesson learned. You have to fight for your ideas if you believe in them and you have to be willing to be flexible and learn from others who may know more than you. But if you really believe that something is important, you've got to find a way to make it work. I mean if its reasonable and all. I'd rather fail with a good idea then sit wondering what if and feeling as if I contributed nothing. I am reminded of that Thoreau quote above. There's a way to make it work and I can't just assume that everyone knows more than me about things, while still being humbled by the fact that I don't know everything.

I've got a very active beginner's mind that's undaunted to the looming obstacles ahead and willing to try anything at least once. It's apart of me, but not all of me. Either way let's see if I can make it work.

Friday, December 12, 2008

everyone has a bad week

and this one was mine...
I mean I want to stay positive and upper and say yeah lessons learned, the sun will shine tomorrow, but this was a very stressful week that left me crying a lot and tired. I do hope the old adage is true that if you want the rainbow you have to put up with the rain.

Yesterday I got caught in a terrential downpour. I wish that was an exaggeration but it was not. All of my money got wet which meant that the token machine wouldn't except my money. I tried to get dry money from the septa man but he yelled at me. So I attempted again which resulted in a loss dollar. So I ventured out into the rain to find a store that would be willing to give me a dry five dollar bill. Two stores later I was back into the subway. I got home completley drenched and freezing. My shoes were filled with water and as cold as ice. I hate to complain but it really sucked. Then my phone broke. Just broke cause of all the water in it. Although I was able to keep a cool head about that because I was sure I could get it to work again and I did! Yeahhhh!!! Because lord knows I couldn't afford that.

I feel horrible about not being able to go to my runs in the morning even though I couldn't afford the tokens.

And my clients and work and draining computer time, it was all just enough to make me waiting for the weekend. I wish I didn't have to work this weekend but alas.

But I'm so thankful for good friends and long talks. On some good advice from Priys I left the house for a walk just to get out and get my head clear. To get my head out of the fog and the burden off of my shoulders. I feel like I should be a lot tougher then this. Don't people have worse problems? Don't I still have much to be thankful for. So in order to keep my spirits high I'm going to do a love list, a stolen idea, to remind me of the things that make life wonderful.

I love:

The song beyond the sea


pugs and bulldogs!!!

good discussions

spending time and talking with friends

feeling carefree (where did that feeling go)

a good book

big coffee cups

van morrison

the movie I am Sam

airports and airplanes

that I'll be back in Gainesville soon!!

Watching the Gators and being apart of the Gator Nation

When my clients get jobs

when my clients are reminded of how they can overcome things

when my volunteers laugh

when I actually complete a project

when me and my co have a good tension-less conversation

our new boss and his new baby (or at least hearing about it, I met him on Friday)

my job and the organization I work for.

so many people, so many.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

model the way

Life has a way of teaching you lessons you think you're too experienced to need.
This occured to me yesterday.
I'm in the process of thinking of an overhaul of our client service. More specifically looking at what needs to be done in terms of volunteer training, resource development and outreach to ensure that our clients are receiving the best possible service and assistance in reaching their goals and self-sufficiency. This is very important because as the econonmy worsens we are going to need to be on our toes and prepared to bring the most pertinent and useful information to our clients.
I'm working right now on volunteer training in managment. The last couple of weeks I had one-on-ones with all of our volunteers to gage their experience and comfort with the resources and client service. Now I'm synthesizing all of that information and turning it into tangible goals in our office. Mindnumbing at the least but a part of a larger vision.
Anyway, I've been watching the volunteers (creepy creepers) and how they work with clients and just are in the office. Ofcourse I see things that don't make me happy and these were addressed in their one-on-ones but the issue is setting the precenent.
I was then reminded of apart of the New Volunteer Training that I did on the leadership challenge and the concept of modeling the way.
The activity we did on it is still posted on the wall and is a constant inspiration to me. Especially when evaluating my volunteers. I need to ensure that I am modeling the service I expect and providing an example. Aka leading.
Some of the ideas put up on how to model the way are:
follow up on our visions through action

maintain a positve helfpful attitude through the thick and thin of the process

never ask someone to do something you're not willing to do

if we want to stree the benefits of hope and enthusiasm within the lives of the clients, we need to be hopeful and enthusiastic about our lives and the potential of society

not being intimidated by injustices but rather being commited to thinking of creative alternatives

set concrete goals to motivate ourselves and our clients

So before we cast a critical eye on the outside world, let's first look within and determine if we are a model of the vision we are attempting to create.

At some point, it is inevitable that you find yourself and it is up to you to determine whether that moment, that encounter will be about gladness or about sorrow. Miguel de Unamuno

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

what does it mean

I'm becoming a dependent on excuses. I think part of my lethargy has come, not from being too burnt out, but rather from not going far enough. Does that sound odd?
I could be being unreasonably hard on myself. I have to be able to look at the things I've done and say, I worked hard and this is why this is possible. I know I've put in a lot of extra effort these past few months, but deep down I always feel like I could work harder and so I never feel satisified or complacent. It's an uncomfortable feeling. One that gives me pride in my ability to disconnect and remain detached.
I finally feel like my life has hit a stride. I feel motivated, I love my job and the organization I work for, I learn something new everyday and I've met some wonderful people. But yet I only feel half alive in this moment. There's just something missing. I've stayed mildy productive today but it's like you know, when you're running or excercising. How it doesn't feel like you did anything unless your dead tired at the end.
But then again, maybe I should pace myself.
I think what is most needed is a time of celebration. A time to say, look what we've done and how far we've come. For the past few years I've minimized how impactful that measure of success is to me. But it's hard running so hard when you don't know where you're going.
I also feel like I've been less connected to the people around me. I don't enjoy that. I'm reading this book called Loneliness: Human nature and the need for social connection. It's very interesting. My need for social connection wanes and at times I am comofortably independent but I am also sure that I have a strong desire for human connection. I welcome the Holidays with open arms, I feel like I'm in a connection desert!

the extra mile

I missed out on running again this morning. I just wouldn't have had enough subway fare to get there and to work this morning and tonight. Plus I had this pounding sinus headache which I attribute to the sudden upswing in temperature. It's close to the 60s while it was in the teens on Monday. I feel like a poop head in more ways than one.

I am determined to believe that this will be a good day.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

river of dreams

Yesterday didn't turn out to be as hectic as I anticpiated. I also started to get very tired, more like a haze of exhaustion.
I was uber uber excited yesterday because when I went home I had mail!!! From actual people I know rather than bills or random grad school packets.
First I got a graduation announcement from a friend in school. And then I got a letter from the nicest people. My mom and I met them at the Thanksgiving parade and hit it off based on the fact that we were from Virginia (at some point.) We talked the whole parade and they were so wonderful. The mom wanted to send me some pictures that she had taken at the parade so I gave her my address.
So she sent the pictures on a CD as well as a $20 gift card to Starbucks!!! It made me so happy and giddy and immediately perked me up.
I was then in a chatty mood so I attempted to call some friends all of whom were too busy to talk. Oh loneliness, so I went to the grocery store to get some Jones soda to maintain the cheer I felt.
I'm reading this book right now called Beyond the Ivory Tower: Social Responsbilities of the Modern University. It's sorta dry but still really interesting.

I feel like I'm becoming more and more awkward. Like I'm losing my social skills and ability to connect to people. This could be a figment of my imaginiation. It's even slightly ironic since now, more than ever, I know and have much more in common with a wider social network. But still I feel like I'm retreating and becoming a more introverted person. But I guess that's part of the ebb and flow of life. And maybe this is the point I'm supposed to be at in my life. In a sort of personal retreat to learn more about my own ambitions and needs. But I wish I could do that while still having regular deep conversations with friends.

I feel very tired today which allows me to focus more on the minute things that I always avoid like doing timesheets or building structure under the big ideas I have. When I have too much energy I can't get anything done, so this is nice.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Book List!!

I keep starting these book lists of books I want to read, but then I lose them. So I'm starting one on here so that I can always go back to it and edit it and there you go. Since I lost my book list, I only have one book, nut more will be added soon. Please offer suggestions.

When work dissapears: The world of the New urban poor
by William Julius Wilson

the long way around

Go Gators!!!

I had such a great weekend celebrating the Gator win. Josh and I reunited our weekly tradition of attending the Philadelphia Gator games. Ofcourse this weekend was packed with Gators. We found our friends Kris and Mitch and sat and watched the game with them. It was nailbitting-uberexciting. I wish I could go to the National Championship game but it will be just as exciting to be in Titeltown celebrating with my friends and the Gator Nation.

The rest of the weekend was a blur of work and getting random things done and checking out things from the library.

Today has been bittersweet.
I had a productive meeting with my co this morning, which was nice.
Then I had a meeting at the Library with one of my volunteers. We were meeting with different departments that fit into our model and we could work with. It was awesome!! I had no idea how many services the library provided. They do most of the stuff we do around employment but in addition they provide workshops on issues relevant to job seekers and the librarians act as advisors for those interested in finding a career. The librarian also gave us a list of places to look for jobs. It was wonderfully informative. Plus being in the library made me excited for a future as a librarian. Right after grad school...

Unfornately this morning I had to let a client know that we could no longer work with him. Last year he was banned from the office by the former site coordinator. We were unaware of this when we started working with him. It became apparent when I was working with him that he had an anger management problem but I was able to develop some trust with him. He also cannot read and I'm sure this made it frustrating for him to navigate the myriad information resources available. However although we worked well, he made everyone else uneasy. So this morning I had to let him know that he was unable to come back to the office. It was hard, he was happy to see me and ready to work on some stuff. He just couldn't understand what was going on and he called back to try to explain his actions. I believe in second chances but in the best interest of the entire office and some people who are uncomfortable....

So that has been my morning. Plus it's the coldest day ever. I think the temp is in the teens and their is a code blue in the city to move the homeless into the shelters. It was not easy to get out of bed this morning and I am just as excited about going back.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

in times like these...

Yesterday night I was present when an awfully racist comment was said. Although it wasn't directed towards anyone in the room I was appalled and somewhat embarrased that it was said. It was obvious that the statement was not accepted by everyone but still it had been said and it was disturbing.

It made me trully question my own commitment to making a space, a community, our world more inclusive. Should I have said something? What would I have said? Did we as a group do enough so that person would understand the implications of their comment?

And what about those 'oh that's not racist' comments that people make that aren't overtly offensive but hint at the type of discrimination and racism that permeate our society. It's much easier to laugh them off, to convince yourself that the other person has admirable qualities and so can't very well be a racist/sexist/homophobic/ person. But everyperson has their good sides and 'growth points' and no person can be seen as wholly free of discriminating thoughts. I mean they're ingrained in our institutions and the way that we categorize everything and so they must find thier way into the mindsets of everyone at one point or the other. So what do you do? and how do you combat it? And in the end, how do you stay true to your own values and morales without appearing to manipulate or 'change' others?

So how did you know if you did enough? I am reminded of the Serenity prayer, and ask again, n ot just for the wisdom to know the difference, but for the tools to change the things I can.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

philosophers stone

I didn't realize how intense yesterday was until I got home, started reading, crashed and woke up this morning in a complete haze.

I went to a luncheon (although no one ate and I had left my lunch in the coat closet) yesterday being hosted by the Philadelphia Young Non-Profit Leaders. It was with the executive director of a local organization called Woman's Way. It was very informative and the discussion about nonprofits, the next gen of nonprofit leaders and issues around women in leadership roles was really stimulating. I'm glad I decided to go to it. I need to pick up some college guides before I went back to work for the office. And then I stopped to get a quick bite to eat because I was getting fainty.

The startling thing about the day was how much more carefree and comfortable the downtown area was. It was the first time I had thought, wow I could see myself living in Philadelphia. I felt guilty for that but it pushed it home to me how even the residents of North Philly, don't always want to be residents of North Philly. Their needs and concerns are basic and human. To feel safe and comfortable. To know that someone cares. The Center City are, where the meeting was and where I also work at Lush, is the business district, art district, overall cleaner tourist friendly minimal minority repersentation district. In the law firm the luncheon was in, there was a view over the city (we were on the 28th floor) and I was able to see the whole city and all of the gorgeous architecture of the Center City area. In my run that morning I had once again been met with the hollowed out buildings and heaps of trash that define most inner city communities.
There are people who live in Philadelphia who have never been to North Philadelphia and when I was telling someone that I worked on North Broad street they gave me the most shocking look of disbelief. Now I see why it's taking so long to have progress on domestic issues, why so many people in these communities feel frustrated and invisible. It's so easy to be disconnected and it's much easier and more comfortable.
I know I was happy to be away, to feel comfortable to just be. In the span of a ten minute subaway trip you can literally transcend two different worlds and the seperation is so profound and deep, that I wonder what it will take for it to be closed.

We have the tools, we only need the will...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

when the lights go down

So this morning I finally made it BOMF and ran!!
I was not at all as energetic and ready to go this morning. Plus I had to work last night and tonight and now that our store is open one more hour longer its brutal. But no excuses! I was determined.
I got there on time and met everyone and it was lovely. I struggled on the running but I was able to met one of the men from the shelter who was also struggling and hopefully we will push each other. I also met some other cool cats, one this woman who works in the residence hall at LaSalle and is getting ready to go on semester at sea and some students from St.Joes. I really enjoyed myself but on the subway back I had this unsettling feeling. Like I could've pushed harder and I'm determined now more than ever to keep working till I can make it to a half marathon. I like that feeling, it keeps me from being too complacent. As I was coming home and unlocking my door, I realized that some of the people that I ran with don't have the luxury. And this is why I run, I told myself.

We finished at 6:30 and I got home at like 7:15. I made my favorite meal for lunch today, macarooni and cheese and sweet peas. I have a giant container of it and already devoured half of it. I still ended up getting to work on time although I'm used to being here about 30 minutes before we open so I can enjoy the silence.

I also got a free ride on the subway! Yesterday I had to gather a whole handful of nickles to get a subway token to work. I thought I had enough but when I got there I was twenty cents short. The man let me go through but he looked at me sternly and said 'you owe me twenty cents.' Well I guess he didn't expect me to pay him back because when I came back from running this morning I gave him ten cents and said that's all I have right now but when I come back to go to work I'll give you the rest. He looked confused and really surprised. He was even more shocked when I came back with a quarter for him. He was smiling really huge and said you're so honest and let me go through for free.
It made me feel really good because this guy is usually such a grump and I hope that it gives him a little more hope in humanity and the inherent good in all people. You have to think of the people that will come after you and I hope he's able to pass that faith forward.
You know with BOMF they sent us some statistics and out of their numbers 96% of the runners said they're trust people more since joining BOMF has increased, and that's what it's all about. Imagine what we could all do if we just trusted each other enough to work together.

So the economy...the numbers in our office have been picking and people are in so much more despair. Yesterday was a particularly challenging day. But we've been having some great successes. One of our clients got a job! and two others have recently gotten interviews!! Maybe I'm too positive to be down in the dumps. I do get weepy eyed at times and I know that something wonderful will pop up in all of this. Here is an interesting article though on issues of North Philadelphia http://www.philly.com/philly/news/homepage/20081130_Flashes_of_reality_in_N__Phila_.html?referrer=facebook

For a little inspiration, I want to share this poem I found this weekend,

I've journeyed far upon this earth
What places I have been
I've traveled down this earthly road
time and time again

Crossed deserts, barren without hope
Through quicksand, hot with shame
Traveled into caves of fear
Through hatreds burning flame

Climbed up Karmic mountains
Felt age's lava flow
Crawled into waves of solitude
With nowhere else to go
Swam in silver pools
Where ripples touched my soul
And voices of my spirit cried
I long to make you whole

Put down age-old burdens
Stood on mountain high
Heart open, vulnerable
My spirit dared to fly

Journeys now on different course
Divinvely led by Grace
Spirit dancing joyfully
Warm sunlight on my face

Ah, journey, how I thank you
For my soul has always known
That the traveling would one day bring
The joy of coming home

Lynne Newman

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I am profoundly proud of the organization I work for, so proud and so grateful for this opportunity, check out our impact report... http://www.nspnet.org/news/publications/NSP_2008_Annual_Impact_Report.pdf

Monday, December 1, 2008

you think you know

I had a wonderful time with my mom this weekend. Thanks mom for coming! We got to go to the Philadelphia Thanksgiving parade, which is the oldest parade in America. We then got to do something I've always wanted to experience which is to ride a double decker bus through Philadelphia and learn all of the facts of the city. Mom was very kind to heed my wishes to sit on top even though it was only about 40 degrees outside and very windy. It was fun and I was sad to see her go...

I spent the rest of the day on Sunday at Penn's bookstore, reading magazines and newspapers and random books. I'm trying to become more well read and also delve into some topics that I find interesting. I really enjoy it. I read through this really interesting book by Daniel Pink called 'A Whole New World: Why Right Brainers will Rule the Future.' It was really interesting! It discussed the benefits of right brainers like creativity and imagination and discussed how all of these traits were going to become more vital in our changing world. He even had this brief snippet about laughter yoga started in India and how important laughter and play are in our lives. I want to start a laughter yoga club!

Before I left UF I really wanted to start a happiness club. My final year was pretty rough with new challenges around the corner and I just figured there were probably a lot more people like me who just needed a pick me up every now and then. So I thought it would be cool to start a club where we got together like once a week and just told jokes and laughed and gave each other hugs and only discussed wonderful things. Focusing on the positve and inspiring things in our life and the people around us and finding a healthy way to deal with challenging moments or people. Just finding a way to realize that people are inherently good, more can be done if we stick toghether and laughing and being happy is so much more worth it.

I read a couple of other things including an interesting article in US News and World Report about influential leaders. I find myself consuming and wanting to consume a large amount of literature on management, leadership and social movements. I feel I'm very fortunate to have such a great amount of leadership responsiblity in my young age and I hope I can continue this trajectory, but I have so much to learn! I'm glad I have the opportunity to read and learn about what is interesting to me unlike in college when I was paying to read the most miserable and useless books of all time. I mean maybe that is an exaggeration of sorts but if you've ever read on the road you know what I am talking about.

So I have been very excited about this morning. It was meant to be my first run with BOMF (mentioned in earlier posts). I was all excited all night yet also very nervous. I don't think a lot before I do things. I'm quite impulsive and chaotically disorganzied. This usually sets me up for some dissapointments when I fail to thoroughly analyze the situation. So I was sitting on my bed last night realizing that I was going to be walking through the most dangerous neighborhood in Philadlephia at 5 o'clock in the morning and I wasn't at all prepared for how unsettling this was. But I was determined. I woke up at 4:30 very easily but ofcourse I had a hard time finding my clothes. I still live out of suitcases and bags and have a hard time in the morning finding things to wear. So I left the house much later and I knew I was going to be late. But I went anyway. After I got of the subway I headed into the heart of North Philadelphia. It was so quiet and dark and all of the hallowed out houses and broken down buildings made it resemble the place that time forgot. So I was nearing the homeless shelter and realized I was already 10 minutes late. I felt horrible and remembered Andrews words at our orientation 'be on time.' All of a sudden I saw a rush of runners come for around the corner and run down the street ahead of me. It was like a gunshot went off and I started running to catch up with them. There were two groups split off so I started following the smaller group, thinking I could catch up with them. I wasn't prepared to just start running I still had my coat on and was already hot from speed walking to the shelter. But I wanted to catch up with them. And then I just sorta stopped. If I did catch up with them, what would I say. I stopped in front of these gutted about building that had the words someone cares spray paitned on the side. I wonder what would've happened if I kept running and caught up with them and went the distance. I wonder but I didn't. Whoever wrote the quote "If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call "failure" is not the falling down, but the staying down" has witnessed the site of a skinny 22 year old girl running after three homeless people in the most dangerous neighborhood in Philadelphia.

Anyway so I went home. And then I realized how tired I was and my stomach hurt so I slept much later than was necessary and got to work much later than was necessary. But all in all it was a good morning. I met with a client this morning. She is very young and already has a child. She's so young...

Good day folks!

Quote: But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we've been told that we're not ready, or that we shouldn't try, or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people.Yes we can. Barack Obama.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I feel like an adult this morning

I had a really wonderful morning.
Well the morning was a bit hectic. I had a rough night of sleep and woke up in quite a daze. I still had a bit of cleaning to do and of course my daily search for my socks which seem to disappear really quickly between when I take them off and when I need them again in the morning.

Then I rushed out because I had a volunteer orientation with this organization I'm very excited about joining called Back on My feet. It's a running group that runs with residents of local homeless shelters. It felt really good to join this, what a wonderful way to encourage people. The great thing that I've learned about running is that it really challenges you to get out of your head and trust what your body can do. For a lot of people who live in shelters, people who've struggled with addiction and other life challenges, that symbolic goal meeting, is a great reference point as people coninue to move towards other goals like getting their life back together. Plus we hug in the morning before we begin runs. And it's a community. I can't even find the words to wrap around all of these wonderful feelings I have in my heart about this opportunity. It's so exciting.

I then rushed to the office the morning. I love being in the city in the morning. The large buildings the urbanness of it all, Philly is a great city.

This morning I worked with a new client in our office. When we were walking back to our desk and just chatting she mentioned she was sick. I was like oh do you have a cold and she was like no I'm pregnant. It will be her fourth child all under the age of 3. She has great hopes though, she wants to find a program in early childhood education and bigger goals of becoming a teacher. I want nothing more than to help her reach her goals. She was a pleasure to work with this morning and had such great determination and energy.

There are beautiful things in this world, if you take the time to see them. There's hope in the nooks and crannies of this desperate world. Theirs a way, a road and their are people willing to help. But there are also great challenges. Great challenges that we cannot so easily glaze over.

I have felt more comfortable in my role as manager in the office. I've thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to develop and support our volunteers in their role and I've got a knack for it. There have been challenges, but I like them. They feel like a good workout and it's great to hear a volunteer say "I feel so much better about that" or "Thank you for talking with me about that" or "I feel confident now." And it's wonderful to see how this experience has impacted our volunteers. What they have been able to discover about themselves and the world around them.

In honor of Thanksgiving, I'd like to say some things that I'm thankful for:

this wonderful organization that I work for and the opportunities I have every day to change peoples lives

moms that send warm jackets

loves in my life

my good good friends who are like warm hot chocolate on a cold day

changing leaves and mild snow days

UF and Gators

memories and futures

good music like water to a dehydrated soul

smiles from strangers

the ability to love the people in my life freely and openly

choices and the ability to make them

Home wherever it is

not feeling the need to run baby run


pretty bracelets and colorful sweaters

the people that support me and the opportunity to give back to them


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

when the sun shines again

I am so looking forward to a vacation of sorts. Time to be away to just rest, it'll be nice.

I've been having these really fruitful one on ones with my volunteers and yesterday I had a very long conversation with one of my volunteers about life. We discussed our generation and the idea of connection. And also at which point you learn to leave the place your from and come to the place you are. I feel it happens in time. Time, it really is the answer to everything. It was off topic yet quite refreshing.
I passed by this book in the store yesterday called Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connections. I live alone. I thought it would be wonderful and in ways it is but I hope next year I can live with some others. It would feel nice to be apart of something, in a home, abiding by a set of rules, all of that. I come home and there is nothing I want more than to have someone there that I can just share with, someone that I can be shared with (?) and just a good relationship. In time, everything comes when it comes and you just have to prepare yourself. I think I am where I need to be right now.
I had a wonderful moment this afternoon, when I client came in and thanked us for helping him find a job. It was a good moment. A time to sit back and say, okay so that's what I do. It feels good.
The economy, it sucks. What can you say about that. I've been reading a lot of books on the economy lately to get a better understanding of all this mumbo jumbo that's going on. As much of all is this is a bum in the rug, the challenges have been a really wonderful learning experience. Knowing what the needs of a community and people are in, our vulnerabilities, understanding the affect on the nonprofit sector, it's all been very helpful.
I've also realized in all of this economic disaster how much some stuff just doesn't make sense. Our rules, our rationalizations. Does anyone really know what they're doing. It's like we're throwing darts in the dark, hoping to hit something and in the end just making a lot of harmful misses.
Life is a game of mind over matter. I learned that when I was attempting to run that 8k. I was able to go so much farther than I thought I could. I really had no idea what I was capable of yet I kept holding myself back. Then when I just let go of my own limitations, there were my possibilities.
I feel like I've been having that conversation with a lot of my volutneers. They all have these glaring insecurities, but I look at them and there are so many things they do well and so many things they have already accomplished.
Why are we so blind. I guess it's better that way, but it helps when someone else can see what you can't. It's even more helpful when they let you in on it.

Song: Where we gonna go from here by Matt Kearney

Quote: Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create. Albert Einstein

Friday, November 21, 2008

Let it Snow!

And it did.

This morning was another hard one. I feel like someone who has been playing dress up and finally realized "no I just want to go play outside." I tossed and turned and finally had to face the facts that morning had come and I was expected to become apart of the many working responsible people out there. So I rolled (literally) myself out of bed and then went to the bathroom and when I came out, I saw the most beautiful magical sight. It was snowing. I have this huge window and through the top I could see the large white puffy snowflakes falling from the sky. I got so happy so I ran to the window and everything was covered in snow! I immediately turned the radio to the station that's been playing Christmas music and guess what song was on...Winter Wonderland!! I just started dancing and jumping around. I haven't been apart of something so magical in a very long time. I couldn't get dressed fast enough.

There have been flurries all week and last night when me, Patricia and Josh were walking from Jim's we saw them and started squealing. Oh the little things.

This morning has been slow and quiet. Just the way I like it. I worked with client today who is looking to move out of the recovery house she is in. It was a tricky situation and in the back of my head I was weighing what I thought was important for her with what she was telling me what was important for her. It brings me back to that idea of service. I'm here to give, not here to show. So I continued to ask some qualifying questions to better understand her situation and what obstacles she may be dealing with.

At our next volunteer meeting, I've been trying to find some questions to facilitate a discussion about what it really means to bring people towards self-sufficiency. Our clients put a lot of trust in us and look to us for these really big answers to the questions in their life. I hope we are answering them. I had a weird moment this past weekend. When we are in Richmond we ventured out into the suburbs and it was the first time I had seen strip malls and large houses atop hills in a long time. Then, being around others for a while, I realized how much of a different world I exist in. Poverty and the plight of the underserved seem to be on my mind all the time. Not necessarily by choice, it's just a way of life. But seeing others so unhinged from it, completely enjoying the wealth of freedom that comes with being in a more comfortable lifestyle, I also desired this chance to be unhinged. But I do love what I do and I wouldn't have it any other way. Plus when I stop taking myself so seriously and put things into perspective, I realize I'm as free as I want to be.

I have learned this week that I have much to learn. Not very insightful, just more of a revelation. I'm still very young and couldn't possibly know as much as my brain has the possibility to know. Plus, as the snowfall taught me today, the world is full of wonder and magic. I want to be in this constant state of wonder and learning about it all. And hopefully never lose that ability, to be constantly learning and alive to the world. Enjoy your day!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

diamonds on the soles of her shoes

It's cold.
Last night I walked home from Lush, I do that occasionaly. It's a safe walk although it involves 3o blocks and crossing a bridge. Which I am most definetely not a fan of. After about 20 blocks I went to sweep a piece of hair behind my ear when I realized my ear was numb!

I passed out when I got home, which is becoming a constant occurence. And this morning it was so difficult to get out of bed. However I qualify coming into work an hour late with the fact that we have a Board meeting today after work followed by the volunteers HuHAW event. So in the end it all evens out.

Today I spent most of the day preparing for my upcoming one on ones with the volunteers. I'm interested in hearing from each one of them about how their experience is going. In addition, I feel that our service to our clients needs some refining so hopefully this will be an opportunity to go over with my volunteers areas where they can improve. I'm excited about sitting down with each of them but collecting all of the information to create these one-on-ones was daunting. In addition to developing the questions and assessing what objectives I wanted out of this, I'm going over all of the meetings that the volunteers have had with clients since they started. We keep detailed records of every person we meet with. We then use this data to compile monthly reports and send information to stakeholders and the National Office uses it for assessments and such. It's cool because we're able to assess exactly what our office is doing and in what areas we can improve.
I also got some tips from some of the other offices who also do one on ones and then read some very helpful articles and hopefully can develop some sort of structure to implement this things into changes into the offices.
Fortunately all of our volunteers have been doing well but I will have to do some iffy "growth edges" feedback.

I'm also working on designing the leadership structure of our office which is fun....

All of this makes me very tired, tired at the end of the day. It's a lot of thinking which use to energize me but now just poops me out.
I'm excited because Patricia Nichols is coming into town tomorrow night and me her and Josh Jax are going down to South Street for some cheesesteaks. I haven't had a good Philly cheesesteak in a while and I'm getting antsy. Just thinking about steak and cheesewiz and fried onions and good rolls (salivating). Oh yeah.

Our new boss Josh said something last week that has had me in a musing state. He noted that in the case of our volunteers there are some who come to see the world and others who come to save the world. He also noted that those who come to see usually fair better then those who came to save. This conversation evolved from another conversation we were having about volunteer development and engagement. In our organizayion, as I'm sure is the case in many organizations, there is this need to balance how much we are focused on volunteers with how much we are focused on the work we are doing.
In my personal opinion I think our volunteers are in that seeing the world state, where they look at service as an opportunity to learn and grow. However I could be projecting. I look at my service opportunities as an chance to learn and grow. I know I didn't come here to save the community but rather to serve the community. I brought this up in my weekly report and my boss asked me, how was I going to keep this at the forefront of my mind. I'm thinking about starting off most mornings with a meditation about what it means to serve. Or at least take some time in the day to do it. It's very important for me to remember this and to remain humble about what I'm doing. Although I'm also aware that I should pay attention two what things I have to give. And learn how to further develop them.

Okay time to end up the day. Bye friends!

Song: Mexico by James Taylor

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

to love and have no fear

I had the most wonderful weekend in DC/Richmond.

My friend Katherine stays in this beautiful home in the Capitol Hill area of DC. It was a lot of fun and made me so want to live in a home with a bunch of people rather than my lonely studio. I haven't laughed that much in a long time although I don't miss sharing a bathroom with six girls for three days.

I also got to spend time in our National office and see everyone, which was wonderful. Plus when were in Richmond I had a chance to stop by the local office there and see Jen and Tempa!

I attempted the 8k and it was a good attempt. Although seeing everyone complete their half marathon made me want to work really hard to be able to do it. I pushed myself though and was able to do so much more than I thought I could. It was a mental race for sure which, in reality, everything is a mental race. We are all more capable of things then we think. At the end we got medals which are quite shiny. Although medals are ironically de motivators for me. The reason that I started doing these races are that I want to be able to participate in this program http://www.medals4mettle.org/ which gives finisher medals to people who are struggling with life threatning diseases.

The running experience was really fun for me and I want to keep doing it. Mainly because its a great way for me to get fit, clear my mind and find other ways to give to my community. I just signed up for an orientationt to become a member of back on my feet http://backonmyfeet.org/main/index.html. It's an organization that moves homeless people towards self-sufficiency by getting them involed in running groups. I know from the homeless men that we work with that shelter life can be so debilitating and it's nice to have somewhere to go to clear your head. Plus it's a great way to get the word out about NSP. It would be a good partnership. If this pans out then I would be running at like 6 in the morning but it's right near my office so I guess it wouldn't be that bad, ahh beginners mind.

On my last day at DC I wandered off and saw some sights before I had to get to my bus home. It was really nice. Everytime I've been to DC it's been with a group or on some sort of set schedule so it was good to spend some time to myself.

It was all very theraputic and I've come back to work with such clear mind, it makes me want to go away every weekend!

I just get too caught up in things sometimes, I hate being busy. Unfortunately I was on Monday and I'll be for most of the week. I wake up with knots in my stomach urrrgggh.

It was intersesting hearing Katherine describe my position. She would always introduce me as "Ashley, she runs our local office in North Philly." I have never thought of myself as running anything. And then today one of my volunteers was telling her client that I was sorta like her manager. This is all very weird to me. I'd like to think of my position more as leading the office and supporting the volunteers but I guess it is more of that other stuff on a day to day basis.

I also took some time to spend in reflection this week. Reflecting on what I'm doing, how I'm doing and how I feel about it and what I could be doing in the future. It's been almost therapeutic. I have some deep thoughts to share, but another time friends, another time....

Song: Fake Plastic Trees by Radiohead

Quote: Before you criticize someone you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize someone you're a mile away from them and you have their shoes. Jack Handey

Thursday, November 13, 2008


It's raining pretty badly today and there is such a chill in the air.

This morning I went to the Brookings Institute report on Immigration in Philadelphia. It was also intended by the Mayor who gave a brief overview of immigration in the city. It was interesting overall. Some facts I learned: 1/2 a million immigrants currently live ni Philadelphia which is 9% of the population. A lot of the immigrants in the city are actually refugees from countries such as Ukraine. 15% of the children in the region are 2nd generation 43% of them do not speak English very well. In addition Philadelphia immigrants have same employment rates but households who are headed by immigrants have to work much harder than American citizens because they usually have lower paying jobs.

The overview of the report was followed by a panel discussion of the issues in immigration in the city where some of the main issues brought up were connecting these new citizens with services in the city, the fact that most of the immigrants are coming in with a lot of work history and job experience.

The interesting part was that at the end an immigrant from Africa stood up and talked about his attempts to gain citizenship. He only has a GED and so can only get jobs that are in teh 5- $6 an hour range. At this rate there is no way he can afford his citizenship fees. It was an interesting dilemma which, after all of this discussion and dialogue and interetsing policy points, no one had a solution for this man. I left the event slightly discouraged.

Our new boss has started and it's exciting. We did another strategy session because of the recent economic issues and the new challenges posed for our office. We did this thing called SWOT which is an analysis of our strengths, weakenesses, opportunities and threats. It led to some good discussion including that of the challenges in communication and work styles between me and my co...

I'm leaving for DC tonight and I'm realy excited and hoping that I can get to the bus on time. I have a meeting with my boss today and it's already 3:30.
I've been working on a list of things I'm excited about doing in Gainesville when I go back in January. I was looking over it and I noticed the first words of my list goes spend, spend, spend, go, go, go, go, run. Really! So I need to reasses that..

Okay, off to get some things done before the end of the day...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

learning groove!

I just learned something!

Restlessness makes me work harder and sparks off my creativeness.

And then when I take the chance to objectively view the situation I realize I am right where I need to be.

Still thirsty!

blue skies

I feel inadequate.
I am off from work today for Veteran's Day. I am excited about this day but still struggled with the desire to rest and the desire to be active.
I have this restless energy and I wish I was at work. There is so much to be done and I feel that I haven't been working hard enough. Even though there are things I should reflect on and go, good, did that it was successful, still there is a restlessness.
My focus and I feel like a firework shooting off in all different directions. I have work tonight which I am equally unsettled about because the last thing I want to do today is spend four hours selling people organic cosmetics but this is where I find myself.
Still I think the best thing for me is to find solace. I feel as well that many of the inner restlesness is not of my own spirit but rather a culmination of expectations about who I should be and what I should be doing. I should learn to find my own voice and learn when it is appropriate to heed others.

This is probably why Runaway Bride is one of my favorite movies. I myself agree with the character Maggie Carpenter when she pronounces "I am profoundly and irreversibly screwed up." But don't we all feel that? Is there anyone that feels completely confident in anything they are doing or if they are even doing anything worth doing. Take time, find your own groove. Listen and learn.

I'm thirsty.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Watch this!

The difficulty in finding employment in Philadelphia...


fall is so beautiful

Our volunteers chatting away with the founder of YouthBuild at the mixer they put on!
Deep in thought!

The foliage outside our office window!

I had a semi relaxing weekend. Most of the weekend I was under the weather and dealing with a massive headache but still it gave me some forced downtime which is always nice.
On Friday our volunteers hosted a mixer in our building. It was a hit! We finally got to meet some of the other organizations in the building and also let them know about the awesome work we are doing. Plus it was just fun.
To the left is a picture of a few of our volunteers, Shawn and our new awesome Regional Program Manager Josh. Plus notice the awesome foliage in the back. I was talking to a volunteer when I looked out the window and noticed it. It was the first time any of us had seen the sun that day and it lit up the foliage outside so beautifully.

Being apart of Fall has been sort of healing process for me. It is teaching me the art of being in the moment and learning when to let go. I live in a beautiful neighborhood and all of the newly changed leaves are just gorgeous. Yet now the leaves are quietly falling away and I am realizing that fall is a part of a whole not a whole within itself. It doesn't stick around forever and once its gone, there will never be a fall like it. So I spent a huge part of my weekend just simply walking around and taking it in.
I also did some hard core reflecting and reading this weekend. I started and finished Nancy Pelosi's Know Your Power. I wasn't uber impressed from the beginning but it turned out to be a really good read and really inspiring at this point in my life. I'll highlight an excerpt:

Lindy taught me to think differently. I remember telling her that I thought I had too many opportunities, that perhaps I should give up one of my positions. This was prior to my election to Congress, when I was chair of the 1984 Democratic National Convention Host Committee, and also chaired the committee that enforced the delagate selectionr rules. In her wonderful southern accent, she said, "Darlin, no man would ever , ever have that athought."

And then she gave me a significant piece of advice. "Nancy," she said, "know thy power." Know your Power. I had power in my hands and I should use it. Lindy's words had an enormous impact on me.

I also finally finished up Life Entrepreneurs and now want to give it to every person I know. I skipped out on the game this weekend which I feel bad about. I really do enjoy being social. But I knew that it was important to take at least one day to myself. And what a wonderful day it is.

Okay well now on to what will hopefully be a productive day at work.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Truly, Madly, Deeply

I have had an eventful past couple of weeks. The Phillies winning the world series, the parade, this rocking halloween party where I got to meet some new peeps, work work work work work everday, the election, new boss, blah!

Last night I hung out with some friends and watched the showdown of the election. Then we ran out into the streets into the thrungs of celebrating, drum beating West Philadelphians and celebrated the beginning of what will hopefully be a more optimistic and hopeful future for us all. Hopefully.

I have a dip in energy as the result of many things. And of course my emotions are on some sort of rollercoaster today. I'm keeping myself away from emo like music and reports on poverty and have instead overstuffed on chocolate and twangy country songs. I have to take a comp day because I worked on Sunday but I always find it hard to take time off cause there is so much to be done. I'm just a ball of hormones.

Last night I got a box from home and I was so excited as I was opening it up. Mom sent pictures which I was more excited about than the actual abundance of warm clothes and jackets. I now have this picture me and a few of my friends took at school last year. It makes me smile, and I can't think of a more wonderful gift than that.

Work on both ends has been busy. It's funny to me to see the stark differences in personality in my volunteers. It's something I've never realized before when working with people or maybe just not this acutely. I just see these patterns yet am still consistently amazed. The weird thing is that I just see it with my volunteers and not so acutely with other people. I don't want to peg them so easily but there definitely consistent patterns in how they interact with information, the people around them and how they perform in general. I also see the patterns in the needs of our office so I'm starting to feel more confident about how and where to place our volunteers to maximize their impact. I also care about them deeply and want to see them grow and reach their goals. This is the heaviest burden. I've had to learn what I can and cannot do in their movement forward. You can't be everything to everyone but at least be something to someone.

We have had an increase in clients. I hope that our clients leave our office with lives more enhanced then the ones they entered with. I've developed that focus almost like a flash of insight. Connecting people with information and resources that move their life in a more beneficial direction excites me.

I almost don't want to have too high expectations or goals. The feeling of falling short or even the thought of it is highly debilitating to me. But I was struck by something last night. Not the first time this has happened to me either. As much as I was excited last night I realized that were was a distinct difference in the energy and enthusiasm displayed by the people around me. I was only minimally engaged. I didn't have the thrill and rush of victory that others who had put in personal contributions, energy and dedication and who had wanted this, really wanted it. I envied them because they felt something I wasn't able to feel, accomplishment.

I did think it was interesting that Obama didn't really win a landslide victory in terms of popular votes. It was really almost 50/50 everywhere. And considering that Obama did a lot more campaigning and such, it will just all be an interesting turn out of events these next few years.

Okay, so I'll see you. Trugging through this day. I work almost every night this week but fortunately it has been slow. There are couple of managers training this week at our store and I really love one of them. I hate goodbyes more than anything. ever.

Quote: Failure's hard, but success is far more dangerous. If you're successful at the wrong thing, the mix of praise and money and opportunity can lock you in forever. Po Bronson.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Philly Parade Pictures!!!

Here are some pics from the parade on Friday...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

When the lights went out in Philly

So last night was unbelievably exciting. My friend Josh called me to let me know that the Phillies were two outs from winning the world series and I immediately ran from the warm homely space of the 34th street Starbucks into the crisp night air of Philadelphia. I was met by a chorus of one then two, then four then uncountable yells nd cheers spilling from the buildings around me. Cars and Taxis raced by honking their horns fiercely and waving rad ball caps with the now well known white stiched P. The Phillies had won the world series.
Momentum has been building in this city long before the world turned its eyes to the birthplace of our nation. I remember leaving work one night, going to the subway and seeing every cart filled with Phillies fans, red caps. It was then that I realized how historical and inspirational this moment was. I have never felt so grateful to be apart of something.
Since I've come to this city, I have been faced with the worn desolate and downtrodden of the city. I have come to love this city even more though even after being faced with the maze of social services that plague every large city. There is something about Philadelphia that tugs at your heart and woes you into a courtship. It has it's dark side but it has its triumph and it doesn't claim to be anything more than a city that won't give up and won't be put down. And you believe in it against all odds.
Last night was needed and much deserved. While I don't claim to be a fan, I haven't steadily endured the years of heartbreaking defeat like many of the fans here, I am very much in love with this city and excited about the win that has pulled this city into a new hope.
Almost symbolically today was the first day this week where the sun shone brightly and the morning air was at peace. Everyone in this city loves this team and it is exciting to see the unity that is emerging after the win.
Last night was amazing and it was hard to resist staying out in the night air embracing the cheers and high fives and seeing the pure excitement on the cold faces passing by.
Now the city awaits the Friday parade. Everyone needs this once in a while, a feeling of triumph joy and victory. I love Philadelphia!
Quote: "We're losers no more. The organziation, we're winners. Nobody can take that away from the city of Philadelphia, and nobody can take that away from us." First Baseman Ryan Howard

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Here I am

I have found it necessary to attempt to be fully present.
Not just in my situations but here in Philly and this experience. I'm not really sure what that means but it occured to me today that here I am and here is where I will be.
Our volunteer is working on this wonderful project in her downtime, it's so gorgeous
The view from the large window in one of the rooms in our office

Hi, I have to wear thirty shirts to go outside

Why I love coming to work early in the moring, the gorgeous sun behind large tree.

I have a ton of restless energy. It's one of those days where there are things to be done but so many of them it is unclear of where to start. Oh I just thought of something I can do. Oh and I just got a call from my boss reminding me to turn in my timesheets, I think I haven't turned them in since September so there's something...

In the meantime here are some pictures from my office this morning:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


So this morning I was met with one of the coldest, dreariest days I have ever encountered. And tonight they're expecting snow showers. SNOW SHOWERS!

Morning got started off with a bang because we had a really good meeting with one of the organizations in our building about how we could collaborate. They're a couple of volunteers training right now and its pretty calm in the office. I have to go to work tonight which I am not very excited about. I'm not really interested in anything that doesn't include the words soup or hot chocolate.

Our client numbers are steadily increasing. I was working with a client yesterday who was looking for housekeeping jobs. The issue, people aren't spending extravagant amounts of money, which means they probably aren't going to hotels which means a lot of people in this city are being put out of work with very few if any skills that can be easily transferred to other types of work. I had a really interesting discussion with my friend Priya last night about what is best for the economy, that being whether people should spend money or whether they should not. I am seeing the effects of people not spending like they used to, entry level job cuts and less openings for temporary jobs as well. The low income seem to be the least involved but the most affected by these unstable shifts in the economy. So I don't think people should stop spending completely, but our extravagance in times when people in our country can barely meet their needs seems out of place as well.

This week I have been in an inner debate about the role of our nonprofit sector in the overall health of our country and communities. Especially in times like these when the real solution seems to be a complete restructuring of the way we do things rather than just bandaging up the system we do have and the people who get pulled through it. But there are people that need help now who could care less about politics or big picture things. Or should I say don't have the privilege of thinking that way.

Okay back to work, I actually have things I need to get done and if I stay focused this actually might be a productive day.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Our volunteers preparing for 'client survivor' I had to be the mean shelter lady

In DC at our meeting, talking about how wonderful NSP is

Volunteers at our New Volunteer training on Sunday learning about making a budget on a low-income

Dysfunctional Hierarchy

Our Director of Program Tony telling us about program development and assessments, oh my!

Cannon and Fops!

Enjoying our awesomeness at the meeting


The girls after dinner

Kanlaya (sp?) yummy Thai place

Breakfast! We got to spend three days in these wonderful law firm with wonderful food, all donated

Waiting outside union station for the rest of the group

Ben's "Birthday"

...from DC and of our volunteers!

birds without wings

If there was any week to treat mess ups/failures like learning opportunities, this is the week.
I feel like the ends of my life slowly unraveled. Although when I look at the times similar to this, patterns in my behavior emerge:
1. Avoidance of responsibility
2. Lack of accountability
3. Not planning ahead
4. Lack of follow through.

So yeah, it would be tedious and almost masochistic to go through the details of the week but the end results were having to pay $300 to use our office space for our all day training yesterday, getting written up at Lush for not having anyone to cover my shift, not taking my comp day when I was supposed to take my comp day and well let's just end it at that.

These weeks are always the most fun, but yes learning experiences. Opportunities to confront the pitfalls in my temperament and work towards working through them or providing safety nets for myself. I just would like a nice vacation away from everything so I can get my head screwed back on. But alas...

So DC was AWESOME !! It was a really great trip and really gave me the energy to hit the road. Ofcourse being out of town for three days didn't help my disorganization at all but I really enjoyed being away. I love my organization and the people I work with, it can't be said enough. There was some challenging talk about the economy and how it will affect our organization and the world of philanthropy over all. It was one of those long, everyone is quiet in the room conversations that involves some deep emotion.
Life is a challenge, you gotta hit the road running..

Our office had the all day training yesterday. It went well although our vols starting getting really tired towards the end of the day. It was def. a challenge to keep the energy up but the conversations were really great.

Our office is actually getting into a rythym which means I have a more structured work week. I'm still having a scatterbrained day, I forgot my cellphone and my landlords key to the building but what can you do.

Song: philosophers stone by Van Morrison

Saturday, October 18, 2008

go the distance

I took the day off at Lush. It was much needed and I'm excited about the long day of possibilities.
That's what it feels like, I work all the time now and all of time is scheduled and I spend 12 hours a day looking for what other people need. This morning I was taken back by the feeling of possibility and openness in my day.
I'm called back to the days of my earlier posts where I tried to decipher why it is that I serve. I was reading this in the call of service and it brought me to the thought:

The longer she looked into the matter,however -- the closer she looked at her own life -- the more she realized that her burnout had its own distinctive history and character...The call of service is a call to a new chapter of life -- its earlier story, its prior chapters, with their achievements and losses, will surely come to bear on what happens in the future, though each person's idealism can have its own surprising victories, some of them achieved against the great odds of a particular past. "My whole life before I started the service work was a long stretch of burnout," a student told me, offering a much-needed ironic perspective on the subject. When we single out the low spells of volunteers, we forget that for others...life itself may be a sadder story than the passing low points that are called burnout. Youthful activists are often able to use such low points to become more realistic and reflective and, in the long run, sturdier in the community service work they usually continued doing.

You know when people run races how theirs that gun shot that goes off. I think in all of our lives we have a gun shot moment. Something that starts us off running and it may take a while into the race before we realize why we're running or what exactly we're running to. I think in a much deeper way my service has begin to tap into a lingering question of need that lies deep within the character of my life. Spending days working so hard to get people what they need makes you start to realize that needs are a part of the human experience, and they are very much apart of yours. What if you search and you search and it can't be found, where do you go...