Monday, December 13, 2010


So am I, dear reader. So am I. I haven't posted two weeks in a row in a verrry long time. I guess I just have lots to say today.

First of all, I'll never complain about not being in the Christmas spirit again! I spent a good chunk of today sorting through holiday card lists, Googling businesses (isn't it funny how "Googling" has become part of our national lexicon?), and attempting to pare down the card list at work. No such luck. Tomorrow, I get to help sign/label nearly 200 holiday cards. Merry Christmas to ALL, indeed.

Onto my next topic, also work-related. I just feel blessed to be at my office. I've worked in a lot of places, and I've been fortunate to only have one (maybe one and a half) bad experience. But I'm just having a great experience this time. So supportive. That's all.

This weekend was Unwrapped at Union Project! In case you missed it, their stained glass restoration project was on the front page of the Post-Gazette on Saturday, just in time for Unwrapped. It was a great night, made better by the appearance of my dear friend from college Sarah who came up to visit/attend Unwrapped with me. So cool to see so many people (and so many former PULSErs, really) come together for an amazing community space.

Speaking of former PULSErs, a fantastically friendly and helpful alum, Kate, has started a crazy-cool blog. Yinzpiration. And it is just what it sounds like--inspirational folks, yinzer style. Her most recent interview was with my friend (and fiance to my wonderful housemate Beth), Jesse Landis-Eigsti. Jesse is super sweet and he has a blog where he reviews the world. Literally, he reviews the world. Parking tickets to marriage to himself, nothing is left untouched. Read up.

Also, I have sold my soul to the knitting powers that be. Next year, someone remind me to start making Christmas gifts in July! I think my fingers are going to fall off. Or perhaps I'll just start knitting in my sleep? That sounds like a great support group. Sleep-knitters Anonymous.

There are only 12 days until Christmas. So do the "Twelve Days of Christmas" begin today? Or is it for the 12 days following the holiday? I never know.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bah, humbug.

I have to be honest; I haven't always been honest on this blog. Sure, I've only had 7 posts. But those 7 posts removed all of the bad parts of my experience and left only the good.

There has been much more good than bad. And when put in perspective, the bad isn't even all that bad. But it's best that I give both sides of this experience and of my life to you, my dear reader (and most likely, family or friend. I don't get the sense that this blog is going to take off any time soon!).

So, with that said, bah humbug.

I'm just not feeling the Christmas spirit! I've got some classic Christmas playing on Pandora (set your station to Jackson 5 Holiday, you won't regret it--seriously), we put up the tree last week and I'm furiously working on projects for those I hold dear to me. We even celebrated St. Nick's day in the house last night; one of the perks of having two devoutly Catholic (and generous) housemates/friends. St. Nick has excellent taste in popcorn creations, by the way.

Even the weather is trying to get me in the Christmas spirit. It's snowing in Pittsburgh! There was a brief (okay, extended) period at the office today where I just sat at my desk and watched the flakes fall furiously, battling the wind that would inevitably hurl them back toward the sky. I actually wonder how much of the snow made its way to the ground on that small section of road; perhaps it all got recycled and Mother Nature played a good trick on me today. Regardless, I enjoyed myself immensely and even thought with relief "maybe my Christmas spirit is coming now"!

Nope. Still nearly devoid of all excitement for this holiday, commercially and spiritually. That's the part that really gets me--that I just don't feel in my heart what I typically feel around this advent season. Those of us who are believers are gearing up for a pretty fantastic event: the day our Savior was born. He was (is) a miraculous gift to his family and to humanity. Why can't I get excited for that?

And to top it all off, I've become anti-social. Me, the girl of 1,000 birthday parties and play dates and "oh mom, I need you to drive me here after you've worked all day"s doesn't want to hang out with anyone. I've taken to hiding in my room from the time I get home from work to the time I go to bed, with about an hour respit for dinner. Weird, right? It's almost as though I don't have the energy to converse. Bahh.

Maybe it's not going through the regular motions of finals and the excitement of a winter break. Maybe--no, definitely, this is the main contributing factor-- it's the fact that I won't see my sister, brother-in-law or my beautiful new niece until February (only 67 days...totally manageable. Right?).

Christmas is coming, whether I like it or not. I have a few ideas to get me in the right spirit. Good thing I have good people here to help me get out of this funk...or to let me be in it but keep checking in on me.

Thank YOU for checking in on me. I promise to not be a Scrooge or a Grinch or a generally all-around miserable person when I see you next. And if I am...feel free to yell at me. Or spread some of your Christmas cheer my way, because I'd surely appreciate it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Summing up a month in a blog post.

It's been awhile. A month and nine days, to be exact.

So, what have I done? That's a good question. The answer is, a lot. I've gotten more put on my plate at work. Not so much that I can't handle it, but there are definitely always things to be done. I don't really get "bored" at the office and if I do, it's because I'm procrastinating....which clues me in that I need to get back to my ever-evolving "to-do" list.

Things at the house are going well. We're still eating together four nights a week and cooking in pairs. It's so wonderful to serve each other like that; it really brings us together, I think. It ensures that we spend a solid amount of time together each week. Some people don't make it to every meal, but in general we eat as a family. Even when we don't all cook for each other, we tend to eat around the same times and pull up a spot around our (tiny) kitchen table.

My favorite new tradition (is that a contradiction?) in our house is popcorn Sundays. Every Sunday evening around 7, most of us gather 'round the same tiny kitchen table for popcorn and chit chat. I come home after church to the smell of popcorn (not microwave...the real thing) and the sounds of everyone laughing and talking. It's a good thing.

Seminars have been interesting. It's hard to remember what all we've done over the past 6 weeks since I last blogged but I'll try to recap. We visited the food bank one week and I got to see Waynesburg's former Bonner coordinator, Brian. It was good to see him, and to pack boxes at the food bank. We also went to the Pittsburgh Project and learned all about what they do. I'd never been into the classrooms before so it was great to see what they used to look like, and how they've changed. We also got to see the farm, which I helped to dig last November. It was great to see something (even just ground cover) growing where we had spent so much time digging in the chilly rain.

We had retreat in October! Unfortunately, it was the same weekend as Waynesburg's Homecoming game. I wish I'd been at the game to see everyone, but it was a good weekend nonetheless. I'm pretty hesitant about retreats because I always feel like they aren't really retreats--they're usually pretty time-consuming and more exhausting than a typical weekend at home. This retreat, thankfully, was different. We had plenty of time to just relax and hang out, which was great. We went to Ohio Pyle for a few hours; it was great to see everything during the fall with the beautiful colors. This fall isn't the best for the leaves but they were still pretty.

I've spent a lot of time lately reflecting--reflecting on what I do every day, how I react, etc. It's helping me to determine what I do and don't want to do in the future. For example, I like to have lists. When directions are vague, I feel less motivated to get a project done. I've been trying to take note of my feelings and reactions to different situations, in hopes that these observations will lead me towards a clearer path. Even knowing the field I'd like to pursue would be a big step for me right now!

Our house had a late "housewarming" party on Saturday night. It was so great to see my Waynesburg friends that have stayed around Pittsburgh. I love my housemates, but it's so nice to see a really familiar face sometimes. I think I'm so blessed to have two worlds colliding like I do; I get to experience the newness of the city and our relationships with my housemates but can experience the familiarity and ease of my friendships with my WU friends on a pretty regular basis.

I'm getting pretty tired and remembering is becoming even more difficult...but I am still enjoying myself here in Pittsburgh. Your prayers and support mean so much to me and my housemates as we continue to serve the Lord in the City of Champions!

p.s. I'm trying to convert the girls into Pittsburgh far, I have one Pens fan (unfortunately, she's also a Browns fan!). A few of them are happy when the Steelers win, but just for me. I'll win them over, yet.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dear Mother Nature,

From here on out, I am respectfully asking that you halt the rain between the hours of 8 and 9 a.m. and 5 and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. Thanks.

Walking to work in the rain today was somewhat of a miserable experience. I had my umbrella and--of course--my Waynesburg rain jacket, but neither of those protected my legs. I was soaked from my feet up to my knees. I was trying really hard to be positive about the mile walk (that usually seems quite quick) but it, in a word, sucked. Hard. Luckily, the morning was not an omen to the day.

I have felt quite accomplished lately. Things are moving forward with the website overhaul, and I'm beginning to handle things with that on my own. I still need my supervisors, but I'm slowly taking the project on as my own.

I'm also slowly getting the rest of my projects under my control. I'm intimidated by the scope of the things I have to accomplish, but also grateful for the challenge and the opportunity to expand my skills. It's certainly not all daisies and roses. I still have to psych myself up to make phone calls and get nervous when I hear the phone ring, because it might be for me. But it's all about baby steps, people. Okay, maybe most of my job is about giant steps similar to Hagrid's brother Grawp, but some things deserve to be baby steps, just to balance everything out.

This weekend was all about Waynesburg! Friday night, John and Brett came up to visit and we ended up meeting up with Jillian and Jen (who I hadn't seen since she got married over a year ago!). Saturday, I had to talk to some first-year Pitt students about East Lib and all that ELDI has done in the past 10 years with all of our various partners. Then I went with Jillian and Jen to Natalie's housewarming party in Sewickley, where I got to see many more WU grads. It was also nice to meet some people who are outside of the East End. Not that I don't love having friends here, but I like expanding my circle as well. Jen, Aaron and Jillian all joined me for church on Sunday evening as well. So did Brett Probert! Hopefully, we'll see each other again in the next 6 years.

We went to the great race! My wonderful housemate, Laura, placed 11th out of all the women in the 10K. Eleventh over all! She's an amazing runner, and I can't wait to watch her run again. After her race, we went to Pamela's. SUCH an excellent decision, despite our 45-minute wait. Once we were there, our food came quite quickly.  Mmmmm. Sunday was a big day for a few other reasons--our housemate Beth got engaged, and Alicia found out that she's going to be an aunt! So a good day all around.

I can't believe we're on our 5th week already, and the 4th at our placements. It doesn't seem like much now, but we're one month down. Only ten to go! How did that happen? Thanks so much for all of your support thus far; your prayers are much appreciated! Continue to pray for us as we battle cases of the Mondays, making it through hump day Wednesdays, and enjoy the relief that comes with Friday. =)

Monday, September 20, 2010

My house is HUGE.

Seriously, my house is huge. Three stories, 8 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. No wonder 8 women can live together in one place; we don't have to interact with each other if we don't want to!

But of course we do. I've really enjoyed getting to know everyone in the house. We're past the point where we're just housemates and actually becoming friends, learning each others' idiosyncrasies and strengths, and weaknesses too. We're coming to find that we have more in common than just being in PULSE or liking the same music...we have similar views on issues, but we can have healthy debates concerning issues on which we don't exactly see eye to eye. I just keep seeing how blessed I am to be at the PULSE house this year.

Another cool component of PULSE is our seminars. Last week, Francois from the CCO (I tell you, it's all around me!) came and began teaching us about core communications and how to talk about something, and come to a decision or a "next step". It was eye-opening. This week we're going deeper into goal-setting; we started discussing it at seminar in the first week and we're going to have a check-in and then go to a Pirates' game! Another chance for the girls to see a BEAUTIFUL view of Pittsburgh, and for me to go somewhere I haven't been for a few years. I'm not sure what I'll wear, though...can't break my own rule about wearing other Pittsburgh teams' jerseys to a sporting event!

Speaking of sporting events, though, Anna and I went to see the Pens practice at Consol Energy Center on Sunday! It was beautiful. I think Anna thought I was crazy, though. I was so giddy with excitement! It'd been a few years since I went to a game and seeing the new arena was just awesome.

We also get mentors through PULSE...I get to meet mine, Amy from the CCO (see? ALL around me :P), on Friday. We don't have real guidelines for this other than to share in our lives together. I think it's going to be a great experience for me, and for the other girls as well. We've been linked up with some truly remarkable people and I think God is going to use them to play a cool role in our lives this year.

I'm beginning to really like the church I attend, Open Door. It's certainly not like a church I've been to before in many respects, but reminds me of past churches in other ways, too. I think it's right where I need to be for the moment; I was really challenged and uplifted by the worship gathering on Sunday and the week before. I'm going to try out other churches but the best part about this church is, I can try other services in the morning and still head to Open Door in the evening. It's kind of keeping me in my Upper Room "routine" of worship services twice on Sundays.

Thanks for your continued prayer--I'd just ask that you remember my housemates and I as work becomes less orientation and more actual work. I'd also ask that you pray for me and the goals I have set for the year, both personal and private. I'm so thankful for this year and for all of your support, through comments, emails, Facebook messages and prayer. It's amazing!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

On the top of the office...literally.

It's now been about two weeks since I began my grown-up job at East Liberty Development, Inc. It's hard to believe that I'm actually settling in there, beginning projects and following through on them.

I was pretty intimidated on my first day. My supervisor sat me down and gave me my list of goals, and told me in no uncertain terms that it's all my responsibility, and that if these things don't happen it will be no one's fault but mine. These are my projects and I have to follow through on them! It's great to be trusted, and I think I'm up to the job, but it was intimidating. My goals for the job include: overseeing the redesign of our website, facilitating email action teams of concerned residents, developing a communication strategy and compiling the annual report. I don't have a ton of experience with a lot of this, but I think I can combine what I do know with what I learn and make something really cool out of it. And learn a LOT.

I made a lot of great connections my first week, met a lot of cool people and learned a lot. But one of the coolest things I got to do was go on top of my office building to get an aerial view of the Target construction happening down the street. These guys broke ground in the end of July and it's amazing how much they have done already! I could gush about Target forever, but this particular store is awesome because it only takes up 1/3 of the land of a normal Target because the store is actually parked on top of the parking garage. And there are going to be windows. It's just going to be sweet and I'm really glad that I get to follow the development as closely as I do!

PULSE isn't all about work, though. I've had a great time getting to know the other girls and meeting former PULSErs. There are a lot of PULSE alumni living in the area; in fact, we had them over for a barbeque last night! It was great to meet some people who had gone through similar experiences and that are still living out their faith in Pittsburgh.

I've also been getting to know East Liberty a lot more. I work about a mile away, so I walk there and back every day. I probably won't enjoy it as much in the cold, but it's really nice to walk through the neighborhood every day. Sometimes I take different routes to see new things, but even when I walk on my "main route" I am still learning locations and streets, and that has been really helpful.

I feel like I'm not doing a good job of conveying my experience on the blog, but I promise that I'm really, really enjoying it. I am learning A TON at my placement: about communications, social media, PR, urban planning, development, nonprofits, trees....all of it. I'm even beginning to understand their acronyms. This is a big step! I don't know if this is all non-profits or just the ones with which I've worked, but it seems that every place I work has a ton of acronyms!

I just ask that you continue to pray with me and for me as I continue living in Pittsburgh and learn what it means to be a grownup Christian in the city. Pray for my housemates and our program's director and his wife as well! Thanks so much--if you'd like to be on my email or mailing list, email me at graham.margaret(at symbol)!

Monday, September 6, 2010

The first weekend, and the last days of freedom.

If I had any doubts about being in Pittsburgh for the year, my experience on Friday confirmed my desire to be here. Actually to be honest, I was starting to doubt it.

Maybe doubt isn't the right word, but I was certainly getting jealous of my housemates having this cool experience in a city they've never been to (aside from interviews), to be away from most of the people they know and start on this voyage into adulthood...while I'm just an hour from my parents, going to some places I've been before, and in general being kind I was honestly feeling a bit bummed on Friday. Even though I totally believe in what my placement is doing, and how I have the chance to change Pittsburgh, I was beginning to wonder if I had even made the right decision.

Of course I did. God has me here for a reason! And that was confirmed again Friday night. We went to the Strip District to eat Primanti's, then over to Station Square to walk around and hop on the Gateway Clipper. I hadn't done that in about 8 years and it was great to see the city on the water, at night. Then we went up the Duquesne Incline and looked at the breathtaking it is up there! Though I'd just done that in November of 2009, I really appreciated Pittsburgh all over again up there. It was like God's little way (or I guess a big way) of reminding me that I LOVE Pittsburgh and that He wants me here, at least until July 29, 2011.

Saturday was our first foray into grocery shopping. All 8 of us went...I don't think we'll do that again. Not that it went poorly, but we really don't all need to be there at once. But after Giant Eagle we went to the Holy Trinity Greek food festival...delicious, to say the least. Gyros and baklava? Yes, please. After the festival, one of my closest friends from college came to pick me up! Whitney and I went to her grandparents' house for a family birthday party, then came back to hang out at my place. It was so wonderful to be in a new place, but hanging out with an old friend.

Sunday, we all went to Pittsburgh Mennonite Church as a house, because PULSE is a Mennonite-affiliated program. The church was beautiful and the service was fine, but...that's just it. For me, it was fine. It wasn't what I'm used to--not that church should make us complacent or keep us in a rut, but I just didn't feel "right" there. They were welcoming, wonderful people and I had a fine time, but I don't think it's the church for me.

In the evening, we all tried out Open Door at the Union Project. This service was more "my speed"--I don't know if I'll go there every week, but I'd like to try it again. It was more comfortable. Not in a complacent way, but in an "oh, THIS is how I connect with God" way. So we'll see what comes next, as far as church is concerned. I can't try every church in the area...but I can try a few more.

Monday was quite relaxing...I really just baked cookies and hung out because TOMORROW the real world begins. As we were driving to church on Sunday Chris pointed out a cafe that is usually quite busy on Saturdays & Sundays. I realized at that moment that Saturdays and Sundays are now my ONLY chance to do anything like that, because I'm now a grown-up. I don't think I can handle this!

Please pray for my first day, my first week, and for my housemates' experiences as well. We're all a bit nervous--but my housemates told me today at dinner that they'd be super nervous if they were me. Eeek!

Just as I was typing this post, "Great is Thy Faithfulness" came up on iTunes. What a great reminder...God is faithful and He will be through this whole year with PULSE. :)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Orientation & placements

I just realized, I didn't write about my placement in my last (first?) post. I'm working at East Liberty Development, Inc. ELDI is a 501c3 Community Development Corporation dedicated to the revitalization of East Liberty. I will be working as a Communications Coordinator for 35 hours/week. Basically, my job is to manage communications between ELDI and basically everyone in East Liberty--residents, community leaders, developers, funders, service partners, shoppers, all of it.

Specifically, this includes working on a redesign of websites, digital and social media, e-blasts, developing communications strategies (for both the residential and business districts), marketing, compiling/writing the Annual Report, writing press releases and articles and (finally) event coordination. For those of you who know me well, you're probably thinking..."PR? I thought Maggie hated PR."

Well. I do, but when I interviewed for this position I was actually EXCITED about this job. I don't know if it's because I have a greater understanding of my skills set and the role they can play in restoring the kingdom, or if it's due to my passion for the mission of ELDI, but I am EXCITED. About Communications. Obviously, God is behind this! All three positions for which I interviewed told me straight up that my job would include some PR. Basically I had this feeling like "Okay, God, I get it. PR it is". He's not done with me there, yet.

But before I can actually be at my placement, we have to do orientation! We've gotten to see a decent amount of our neighborhood thus far. Our first day included going to Highland Park (beeeautiful) for some orientation games thanks to our friends at the CCO (it follows me everywhere! ;]). Then we went to the farmer's market and came home to find fresh peaches on our table from one of our board members. Not a bad way to start the year, right? Tuesday was a lot of basic paperwork kind of stuff and getting to know the program. On Wednesday, we went to my placement and met with my supervisor who took us on a sort of guided tour of East Liberty (wikipedia has a pretty decent history, actually). We learned what it was, what it is now, and how it can be in the future--if folks like ELDI continue to make the right decisions and partner with the same organizations and residents. Then we had lunch at Abay, an Ethiopian restaurant. We also went to the Union Project and helped some folks at gTech--both amazing organizations!

Today, we went on a bike ride. Most of us drove down to the South Side and went along the river trails up beside East Carson, across the Hot Metal Bridge, then down up the Mon to the Smithfield Street Bridge and back to East Carson. And then most of us did the loop again. My butt is pretty sore but it was a beautiful way to start the day! We did a lot of paperwork this afternoon and had dinner with last year's PULSErs. It was great to speak with them and learn more about their experiences and what they're doing now.

My favorite thing we've done so far, however, has been just hanging out with my fellow PULSErs. They are all amazing women, and I am so excited that God put them here in my life for (at least) the next 11 months! I really feel so blessed to be a part of PULSE. I'm already learning about all of these connections with various Christian communities around Pittsburgh and all of the opportunities we have up here. I have no idea what God is going to do next July when this whole gig is over, but I can just feel that His plans are pretty amazing (aren't they always?). I wish I could put down in words how excited I was to be on our tour of East Liberty was just really, really exciting.

Now that I've finished this ridiculously long post...keep us in your prayers, please! Many of us are worried about transportation to our placements and all of the other stuff that comes with the first-day jitters. Prayer would be great--and communicate your prayer requests to me, as well!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What is this PULSE thing again?

So here I am--living in a big old house in East Liberty, at my desk, writing a blog. This is not exactly what I pictured for my post-grad experience. I always figured I'd be attending graduate school somewhere, earning a higher degree. Instead, I signed up for a year of volunteer service and leadership cultivation through the Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience (PULSE).

What is PULSE? In case you don't feel like clicking on the handy link, PULSE is an organization that desires to cultivate a community of young servant leaders to transform Pittsburgh. It is a chance for me to serve in a city I love a lot, learn more about how to best serve cities, grow in my faith and develop useful skills for the workplace all at the same time.

This year, PULSE consists of eight women. So far, we're getting along well! I am so excited to be in a place where so much love, support and growth will occur. I was admittedly a little worried about eight ladies living together in one house, without ever meeting, but I think it's going to go well. God has some big plans for the eight of us to be at the PULSE house together this year. We've already done a lot of laughing, bonding and eating as a group. :)

Orientation updates will come later--but just know that I am feeling incredibly blessed to be at PULSE this year. There are times that this whole thing sounded crazy and I even second-guessed my decision a few times, but I really feel that God is doing some amazing things in my life and PULSE is just one way He's making that happen.

Keep reading, friends. And update me on your lives, please! I'd love to hear about them.

p.s. The title of my blog? A nod to Mother Theresa, who said "You may feel that what you are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less without that one drop." I'm only putting a drop or two into those beautiful three rivers, but I'm excited about it. :)