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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...