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. :)