Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A few lessons I've learned.

Interns. Coffee-brewers. Copy-makers. These terms are all synonymous, right?

The age-old joke (idea? understanding?) that an intern's sole purpose at an organization is to make copies, brew coffee, and pick up his/her supervisor's dry cleaning is--thankfully--changing.

Just look at the Eternal Interns. These women have spent years interning. Sure, it was due to a tough job market. But they certainly didn't spend their 20s just making copies. It's been a part of their duties, but who of us in an office hasn't made a copy, or brewed up a potta joe, before?

I'm currently halfway through my second "internship". This is definitely not a unique thing; lots of people have multiple internships. But as I embark on the second half of this gig (I'll be a PULSEr for  a total of 23 months), I've realized that I probably have some tips--I won't be so bold as to call them wisdom--to give to interns who are just getting started.

Personal experience has taught (is teaching) me...

  • Don't shy away from helping with a mailing. Stuffing, labeling and sealing are some of the most boring tasks I've ever completed at my internships (and my job during undergrad). But as the labels, letters, and envelopes piled up on my desk this week to mail out our Annual Report (my baby that is finally complete!!!!!), I realized that familiarizing myself with this mailing list was a great idea. Our report went to 170+ partners in the community and throughout the nation--what an easy way to associate a contact name to an organization and a physical location. And every other month when I send newsletters to our funders, I get to know even more names and organizations.
  • Be intentional about building relationships with staff. Unless you're interning at your parents' company, you're most likely pretty new to the company. Everyone has different responsibilities, and one of yours should be to have a general idea of what's happening in the organization. Don't be nebby, but know enough that you can transfer callers to the right extension when you answer the phone (another tip: help out by answering the phone! It usually won't go unnoticed that you stepped up to the plate).
  • Never 'fess up to being an intern. Who needs to know that the point person on the project is an intern? You are just as capable as the full-time staff to do your job, if you've been asked to do it. Even if you mess up, don't using being an intern as a crutch--some day, you won't have the "intern" title to fall back on. Can't blame your mistakes on being the director of your division, can you?
  • Be prepared. This isn't the Boy Scouts and it's not a song from the Lion King (confused?), but it is common sense. Sort of. On your first day, be prepared for a lot of listening, and a lot of learning. Bring paper and pen, because you'll take lots of notes. On your second day and every day after, repeat. You'll learn a lot and you should remember it (something I regrettably haven't done enough of).
  • Leave notes for those who will come after you. Eventually, your time as an intern will end. Hopefully, you'll be on to bigger and better things. And unless that bigger and better thing is your internship but paid, someone will come after you. In each of my internships, I've been blessed enough to have a predecessor that left me tips and tricks, and what to expect out of my experience. My duties have, of course, varied from what the women who came before my outlined. But having those road maps helped. Why not put some other nervous intern at ease on his/her first day?
Internships can be quite a rewarding experience, especially if you're willing to put in the work to make them that way. The interwebz are full of bits & pieces of advice to make the experience better, but hopefully these tips can give you another extra boost of encouragement, or calm some first-day jitters.

Oh, and one more thing? People will really like you if you bake for them. ;)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Because I know you're curious.

Four of my favorite things, all wrapped up in a big ol' bow just for you.

1. Pictory.
As a former photography student in London....okay, well as someone who one time took a 3-week photography class in London, I love photos of the place. Even though I haven't been back for quite some time and haven't kept up with what's happening in the City as much as I'd like, I'm still in love.

So when I discovered Pictory, I was excited--to say the least. The photos aren't necessarily the big landmarks, but little things about London that make it London. (Click there to see the stories)

Aside from London, Pictory has lots of other great stories--each story told as a compilation from many photogs. There's something so cool about a group of people coming together to share their stories, literally from their point of view, that are very different but still, in some ways, the same.

2. Sunday mornings.
I've mentioned this here before, but Sunday mornings are one of my favorite times of the week. I go to church on Sunday evenings, which means that I have all of Sunday to just relax. In the wintertime--don't make fun of me for this--I watched the PBS Create channel and knitted. I even watched the Knit & Crochet show. Please stop laughing at me.

I spent this morning on my parents' couch in Greensburg, reading back issues of Entertainment Weekly in sweatpants and a hoodie. What could be better than that?

3. Searching for an apartment.
Okay so this is sort of untrue. Looking for a place to live kind of sucks.

I find a place, it gets taken. "This place is $50 over budget." "That place is a too far away." "That carpet is ugly." "This place smells like cats." "I don't like the layout." You get the idea.

But it's also kind of exciting. This is the REAL adulthood business I haven't experienced yet. I'm making calls (seriously, still a hurdle I'm overcoming), going on visits and figuring out budgets. "It's $100 over but includes water...think it will work?"

It's overwhelming, and we still don't have a place to live, but it's kind of fun. I'm apartment hunting. Visiting places.

I feel so grown up.

4. Amos Lee.
Supply and Demand....great song, great lyrics.

Four weeks down! Next week's post will be this Saturday morning, because I'll be in North Carolina for my niece's birthday/vacation starting Saturday afternoon. AMEN.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Some time for nostalgia.

Three years ago today, I boarded a plane bound for London, England. Through the Vira I. Heinz Scholarship Program for Women in Global Leadership, I studied Photography and Literature for six weeks at the University of Westminster.

In addition to my studies, I got to visit Paris, Amsterdam, and Bruges. I still can't believe I was there for six weeks. What an amazing blessing!

Big Ben could I pass that up?

Paris at night, from Montparnasse

Waterloo Park in Highgate Hill. So beautiful.

Thanks for letting me indulge in some wonderful memories. Pittsburgh I love you, I'll never leave you, but someone please take me back to Europe!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

This week's favorite things.

Let's be honest--if I had my way, my favorite things would be the same every week. Pittsburgh, knitting, baking, and a mix of Adele/Sara Bareilles.
But that just can't happen. I have to love more than that. Right? I do. But just always know that I'm fighting back the urge to put "Pittsburgh" as my favorite things.

1. Preschool Gems.
I feel like all of my friends who work with kids have these hilarious stories of what happens to them at work. My office is a pretty lively place and we have a fun time, but the things that come from the mouths of children are just too cute.

That's why I love Preschool Gems. I follow it on Twitter, but you can "like" it on Facebook as well. When I'm having a bad day or just need a little pick-me-up, it makes me giggle. Some of my favorites:
-"I glow in the dark and I am now a bobcat."
-"I'm going to the jungle of bees and dogs with my whole family!"
-"I can't stop thinking about mermaids."

I can't stop thinking about mermaids either, friend.

2. My front porch.

I've tried to spend time on my porch almost every day. It's huge, we have a porch swing, and I like to read. Perfect combination. I'm blogging from the porch right now! Photo courtesy of PhotoBooth.

3. Rhubarb.
Who wouldn't love rhubarb after eating this delicious cake? Via On Food and Baking, a delicious blog by my friend Emily.

(Confession: this photo is from On Food and Baking. My cake didn't look nearly as delicious, and also got eaten before I had a chance to snap a good photo!)

4. Big Hurry.
My friend Kelly (check her out on Yinzpiration!) is an excellent band called Big Hurry. If you don't know about them yet, you should.

Check them out Friday at WYEP's Summer Music Festival at Schenley Plaza. Also playing is last week's favorite, Fitz and the Tantrums. Good, free Friday.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What makes me an adult?

So I guess I'm into question-themed titles. Deal with it. (?)

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about what makes me an adult. The world defines adulthood in some tangible and some not-so-tangible ways.

Is it because I pay my own bills? I don't. As a PULSEr, my main life expenses are covered. Is it because I own a house or a car? I don't own either. PULSE provides housing and my parents have graciously provided a vehicle. Is it because I have a "real job"? As much as I am gaining experience at my current position, I'm technically a volunteer. Is it because I'm married with 2.5 children? Well goodness me. I may never be an adult if that's the criteria.

If we're looking at the fact that I can drive, buy cigarettes and lottery tickets, and legally consume alcohol then yes--I am an adult. But I can't rent a car from some places yet, and I can't run for President of the United States of America (but I am just 3 years younger than Luke was when we became for my campaign ;).

Even though I lack some of these tangible adulthood criterion, I still feel like an adult. (Especially because I just used the word "criterion" in a sentence, and I'm pretty sure I used it correctly.) The problem with these intangible ideas of adulthood is that they're much harder to quantify--and I think they're different for almost everyone.

For example. Today, I called three people whom I'd never met on the phone. Set up appointments, left voicemails, followed up. Maggie two years ago would have emailed and waited. Maggie today made phone calls (even though she was tempted to send emails and wait).

Another reason that I feel like an adult? People trust me with stuff. With money. With finding an apartment. With projects. With decisions. The simple fact that I am trusted to cook dinner for 8+ of my friends once a week still amazes me. Also, people trust me with their children. I took kids canoeing and rock climbing and drove them around in a 15 passenger van and sent them in a tube down a river.

My body now wakes me up at 7 every morning (the past two days of weird sleeping in notwithstanding).   Growing up, I couldn't FATHOM my body setting me on this regular of a schedule. Who would put themselves through the TORTURE of waking up early when they don't have to? Now, I see it as an opportunity to carpe diem and get things done.

I have a Waynesburg University Alumni sticker in the back of my car. I have a college degree and I'm using it. Adults do that kind of stuff, don't they? More importantly, I have found my passion. Some kids know it early on, some adults never find it, but for me--the fact that I know what I want to devote my life to is a pretty big deal.

Aside from these big things, there are the little things: I now take multi-vitamins and calcium supplements, use night cream on my eyes, and can actually "remember when" (for some things, anyway). I also own a mandoline. The slicer. I can slice cucumbers incredibly thin, just like every adult. Right? ;)

I think I'm an adult. I think I like it. What makes YOU an adult?

UPDATE: Another way I'm an adult? I'm growing a backbone! Those of you who have known me for awhile know that I am sort of a pushover. I've realized, though, that I am starting to stand up for myself, and stand up to others. Woot.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

What else do I love?

Here it second "Favorite Things" post. Two weeks in a row. I'm already impressed by my dedication.

On with the post:

1. Banana bread.
We at the PULSE house recently bought waaaaay too many almost-ripe bananas, resulting in many a brown banana in our freezer. Solution? Banana bread. Chocolate chocolate chip banana bread, to be exact. I have a classic recipe of my mom's that is usually my go-to, but today I ventured onto the Interwebz and found this gem, with sour cream, from Savory Sweet Life. Didn't alter the main recipe, but did add brown sugar and cinnamon to the top. The bread is delish. Consider yourself informed.

2. Dear Photograph.
A creative new(ish) tumblr with pictures of a picture from the past in the present. Confusing when put succinctly, but really all it is is people taking pictures of themselves, holding up pictures of what used to be in the same spot. So that photo of you walking down the stairs at your parents' house? Go to the same spot where it was taken. Hold the photo so it lines up with the current scene. Take a photo.

3. 'Burghers being 'Burghers.
Monday, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the silent auction table for Pittsburgh Magazine's Best Restaurants party. What a fun time--such good food! I could rant & rave about it forever, but really that's not the point of this favorite thing. 
My coworker and I had some time to eat before we worked the auction table, and we noticed that Notion had these little packets of...crumbs? That's what it looked like, anyway. Later while working the auction table, I saw someone with the packet. So I asked him what was in it. What did he do? Told me to stick out my hand, and shook the crumbs (actually little bits of popcorn) into my hand. Then offered me the whole thing. So Pittsburgh.
A few days later, I went with Anna to try on Maid of Honor dresses for her sister Molly's wedding. While Anna was trying things on, I was making small talk with the consultant (owner? Manager? Sales associate? I don't know). She told me all about going dahntahn and how it only took her six minutes from Swissvale, but now with all the cars it could take an ahr. She wrote down all of Anna's styles, even though we weren't getting a dress there. Offered to let me try things on, too. Showed me the wasp building a nest outside the winduh--he was sticking his little head in 'air to make the holes. She was Pittsburgh through and through--lovely.

4. Fitz and the Tantrums
I might always make number four music. Because it's always one of my favorite things. This week? Fitz and the Tantrums...coming to Schenley Park for free on June 24!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Thank you very much.

So, I started doing a daily devotional about 6 weeks ago. While the devotional (sadly) only lasted a few weeks before it fell into the deep dark abyss that is the books beside my bed that I have yet to read, one of the daily "practices" stuck.

For the past month, I've been keeping a thankfulness journal. At the end of every day, I write down one thing for which I'm thankful as well as maybe a short sentence about the thing. The goal of the month was to not repeat anything, and I didn't. In the future, I'll allow for repeats.

 Looking back, I don't really know why I was thankful for these particular things on their respective days. But one think I know for sure: I'm a pretty blessed woman who has a lot to be thankful for.

My first month of thankfulness. I'm thankful today for...

-05/08: my mom. We don't alway see eye to eye, but she loves me and would do anything for me.
-05/09: the beautiful weather and the chance to enjoy it.
-05/10: the support I have here at my (PULSE) home. They're always here.
-05/11: Chris. He really believes in us--so important.
-05/12: new life. Alicia's brother and sister-in-law had a little girl, Adele, today.
-05/13: the ability to go out to eat. So many people in the world can't, and I live in a restaurant hot-spot.
-05/14: the chance to see Molly. She is such a wonderful person; I wish I knew her more.
-05/15: my wonderful community. It was great to see PULSErs and the neighborhood together cheering for the Marathon.
-05/16: my freedom. I'm not one for patriotic declarations, but the Freedom Riders inspire me.
-05/17: Sam and her support whenever I ask for it. She's great.
-05/18: another year in PULSE at ELDI to continue learning and growing.
-05/19: living in the city so I can see cool things like Cirque du Soleil. How awesome.
-05/20: quiet nights at home on the couch. Enough said.
-05/21: the Cyktor family. What wonderful people.
-05/22: my supportive church family.
-05/23: professionals willing to meet with young people. The advice they offer can be invaluable.
-05/24: my placement at ELDI. I couldn't have picked a better match for me, and it's amazing to look back on how God has worked through that process.
-05/25: laughter. It's always the best-whether it's medicine to cure whatever ails you or the cherry on top of the day.
-05/26: 4-day weekends.
-05/27: my big sister. She's so supportive of my ideas and just wants what's best.
-05/28: my niece. Anna's so beautiful--can't believe she's almost a year old
-05/29: indoor plumbing. Seriously.
-05/30: my very best friend, Amanda. We've been friends for over half of our lives.
-05/31: my big front porch with space for reading and eating and community-building.
-06/01: the wisdom and sympathetic ears of my friends.
-06/02: silly time spent in the car with Anna. And time spent in my room with Anna. And other times spent with Anna. Basically, Anna.
-06/03: making new friends and connections.
-06/04: Pittsburgh and the people here. It's just lovely.
-06/05: neighbors who willingly donate to PULSE. "Keep up the good work!"
-06/06: forgiveness from friends who dish out more to me than I deserve.

So there it is. A month of thankfulness, right from my journal.

What are you thankful for, Pittsburgh?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles.


I really love raindrops on roses. Whiskers on kittens, too. Ever seen a brown paper package, tied up with string? It's one of my favorite things.

Har har har, I know. But really. I've been thinking lately about things that I love, thanks to an activity I'm doing about thankfulness (that I'll post in a few days, when the first month is up). I've decided that I want to write, weekly, about my favorite things. Then maybe some day when I'm old and grey and I regale my grandchildren with the stories of these things called blogs (who knows where we'll be by then), maybe I'll look back and remember some of those things. At the very least, it will serve as a reminder in two years.

So here it favorite things. Edition one.

1. Chaco tan lines.
Those aren't my feet (I'm not that tan yet...), but they reflect my summer goal: get as ridiculous a tan as possible on my feet from my favorite shoes, my Chacos ZX 2s. To me, these tan lines signify a summer well spent in the sunshine, having adventures. Who doesn't love a summer like that?

2. Jam sessions on the front porch.
This weekend Joel, dear friend of Anna and a future PULSEr, came to visit us. Beatle (as he is affectionately called by a few Blufftonites) plays the guitar. 

After running to the grocery store to "just pick up a few things" and coming home with a full trunk of fresh produce and ice cream, we took to the porch for some singing. Joel played and we all sang and it was lovely. Occasionally we heard a crack of thunder, and a gentle breeze blew over us. Sounds like a cheesy book but that was my real life tonight. How awesome is that?

3. Reading.
Something I've loved forever. I don't think reading will ever NOT be a hobby of mine. But I've particularly appreciated it this week, spending most of Memorial Day on the front porch (noticing a theme here, perhaps?), as well as the days afterward. Who doesn't love curling up with a good book on a cold day, or escaping the heat with an intriguing storyline? Fools, that's who. 

4. This song.
Just in love with this song. No real reason. It's just catchy.

So...first "favorite things" post down. infinite number to go. If I don't keep this up, punch me, okay?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What are your strengths?

So as most of you know, I'm a participant in PULSE (the Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience) this year. In addition to our time at our individual placement nonprofits, we also have weekly seminars every Wednesday afternoon.

Way back in December, my dear friend and author of Hello World Anna, led a seminar on StrengthsFinder. Ever read it?

Before you even read the book, you're supposed to first sit down and take a somewhat intimidating test, with a time limit. You pick A or B for what seems like a million different scenarios, some that seem the same.

But whatever. You click and you click until your little fingers just can't click anymore and the test is over. It then gives you five strengths (StrengthsFinder...get it?). In addition to a 20-page PDF of your individual strengths, the book explains each of the 32 different strengths in detail.

I made it through all of the scary questions and the millions of clicks to receive my five strengths. In order, they are:

Without going into all of the details, these are pretty accurate descriptions of me (you can read theme summaries here). I'm a sucker for these personality tests. Myers-Briggs? Taken it, or a variation, at least 5 times. I've taken more spiritual gifts surveys than I know what to do with. Last year when I went through career counseling (at the end of my senior year of college--clearly a "wtf I am almost in the real world" moment), I took multiple personality/strengths tests. But what do they really mean?

No test--on paper, on a computer, or otherwise--can tell you who you are or how to be. Imagine if we lived our lives based on what we were told by our astrological signs. I'd be imaginative and "extremely gifted artistically". I'm a pretty straightforward, literal thinker and not exactly the artist of the family (my older sister was the Star Child of her ceramics class in high school-literally).

So obviously, some of these "personality types" don't really tell us much about ourselves. But I think StrengthsFinder is a bit different. It tells me what I'm good at. What I enjoy--even if I didn't really realize that I like those things. Like projects with clear start and end dates. Why I love deadlines! Obviously I love finite projects with steps, not things that are all nebulous and hazy (another reason why I'm not a Pisces...). Duh. Just didn't really notice it until after I took the StrengthsFinder test. Definitely things to keep in mind, and things to work on.

Oh--one more way that I'm clearly not a Pisces? Pisces would apparently be very uncomfortable with running a company or holding any kind of leadership position. Obviously they haven't heard about my plans for world domination (World HQ will be, of course, Pittsburgh).