Sunday, June 15, 2008

SALT LAKE CITY!!

Well, I am here. Two weeks of training and two weeks of camp down, only 5 left! I can't believe it's already been a month. Time flies when you're working at a camp for people with disabilities and making major life decisions at the same time. Wow oh wow.

So, the camp. It's pretty hectic, exhausting, surprising...every emotion you can think of. The first week we had adults with cognitive impairments, the second week teens with mental disabilities, and this next week is kids with mental. We were told in the beginning we wouldn't be allowed to do "personal care" (diaper changing, etc) but it turns out that there simply are not enough staff for us not to, so I've done my fair share of all of that. Surprisingly, it doesn't bother me like I anticipated it would. When it comes down to it, I am helping these individuals during a fun-filled week at a summer camp--something they wouldn't be able to do without this special place. While there are a lot of behavior and emotional problems, the campers are so much fun and I feel like I am actually making a difference in their lives. I usually don't get to bed until after 9:30 and am up and ready at 7:15 in the morning. I typically don't get a break during the day and if I do, it's about 15 minutes long. However, the weeks go by SO FAST and my time in AmeriCorps is quickly winding down.

Speaking of that... a major decision was made a couple of weeks ago. I decided to MOVE to SALT LAKE after AmeriCorps! I'll be living with two of my teammates, Maggie and Alicia, and we're just going to spend a year here and see how we like it.

This decision was made as I decided to let go of the past and to move toward a better life for myself. Instead of trying to make something work with an individual I know in my heart is not the right person for me, I am embarking on a life of complete "singledom"---EXCITING! It's about time. I believe that the last 2 and a half years spent on/off with him were important, but it is definitely time for me to move on. I am far more excited about starting a new life of my own than faking a relationship merely for convenience. I am not that kind of person and I finally realized it a couple of weeks ago. It feels so good to be moving on in the direction of life that I've wanted for so long.

Salt Lake seems like it has a lot to offer. I know there are many misconceptions about the area being full of Mormans and that's all it has going here. However, I've found that there is a large population of people who are not necessarily Morman and simply love the outdoors, which is what attracted me to the area in the first place. It is absolutely gorgeous here, with mountains surrounding the city. I know that regardless of what I end up doing here (hopefully working for the state) I will be happy to just take a walk outside and breath the fresh air.

So, that's the big news and I am pretty happy and excited about it. Work is hard but rewarding (exactly what I thought it would be but with way more surprises!) and I am ready to begin a new life when AmeriCorps is over.

Unfortunately, there have been no time for pictures........but I swear I will put some up by the end of this! I hope that everyone out there is living peacefully and you are all following your dreams. :)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

2 months left

We made it Salt Lake City and we're all settled in at Camp Kostopulos. It's beautiful here with the mountains in the distance (snow capped) and greenery everywhere. The city is incredibly clean, people seem pretty nice... things are good. Two weeks of training begin tomorrow. The first week will be policies/procedures, etc. with the second focusing on dealing with the horses and doing the ropes course. After the two weeks are up, we have seven weeks with campers, in which we'll be working 7:30am to 9:00pm. Wowza. Better get my sleep while I can!

I finally have some time to post pictures from the last SPIKE, so here you all go!

Rolling a "biscuit" on the first day of work


We usually took a nap on the porch of the lodge during lunch


Nicole and I split a lot of wood that day...


William and me with a huge piece of wood we had to lift into and out of the truck


Nicole helped too. It was probably close to 300lbs.


View of camp...mostly of the fun trees we were surrounded by every day!


A night out dancing in Big Bear


Lastly, me doing the high ropes at the YMCA camp in Big Bear


It was about 40 ft up, I think.


I thought I was going to puke.


There you go! Nicole needs her computer back so I'll try to put some more pictures up at a later date. Hope all is well in your respective worlds! :)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Very Quickly

Hi all...

Well, most of you know already, but I am currently living at a YMCA camp outside of Angelus Oaks, CA (population 108) in the San Bernardino Mountains. Needless to say, I don't have internet and my phone doesn't even work there! So, I haven't had the opportunity to update. I am currently in Big Bear, CA (about 40 minutes from where we live) and borrowing a computer in a coffee shop to quickly quickly update.

The work we are doing is strenuous, to say the least. Apparently, in the past 5 years, this area has seen a tremendous drought, which allowed the bark beetle to gain control and kill many of the trees. Thus, fire has become a serious threat. We are performing fuel reduction, in which we help the De'Benneville Pines camp (a Unitarian Universalist camp) to get rid of "fuel". Basically, we are removing large, dead, trees from the area---by hand, usually. I've been lifting "biscuits", or rounds of wood that weight up to 300lbs (with help!) and removing lots of brush. We get to use a pole saw, which is a small chainsaw at the end of a 7 foot pole to take down the ladder fuels, which are branches less than 6 feet off the ground. It's pretty crazy and pretty fun!

We are all exhausted when we get home from work, so it is helpful we have nothing better to do than to read or watch movies (VHS) by our fireplace in our cabin. I am very much enjoying the scenery and the clear blue skies that we have every day. While this has been the most physically grueling project, it is turning out to be my favorite so far.

That said, we have a week and a half left and we are headed up to Salt Lake to start work at Camp Kostapolus. I'm not quite sure if I'm ready for the upcoming project, mostly because it is our last. It will be sad to see this experience end, and the time is going by ever so quickly.

Well, that's all I really have to report, just wanted to post a little update. Sorry, no pictures... I don't really have the time to upload any onto a computer. I hope everyone is doing well. I miss you and love you!!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I know, I know

It is once again amazing to think that we are a little over a week away from moving on from our Phase 2 project. The time has flown by.

In numbers terms, our project has been deemed a "success" because we installed shutters on 24 homes, surpassing the goal of 20 given to us by INTACT. Unfortunately, they ran out of panels and tracks for us to install or else that number would be higher. The past week and a half have been dedicated, not to installing hurricane shutters, but to several seemingly ridiculous jobs that have our team wondering what kind of help we are really giving the community.

Our first crazy job was painting the home of a woman who is, to say the least, a packrat. In order to get to the back wall of her home, we had to clear away several years' accumulation of junk (expired food, newspapers, books, etc). She would not let us throw much of it away. The stench was quite overbearing at times. It was a sad situation, to see a woman in that state. However, by the time we were done we had little sympathy for the woman because she kept asking us to do things that were not at all related to painting and she was not the nicest of women. It was a frustrating experience because were not doing hurricane mitigation at all and we did not feel that the woman was very appreciative.

From there, we did a little drywall in a Habitat for Humanity home (fun!) and then moved to a library to DUST and a logistics center (wharehouse) to SWEEP. My team was quite disheartened by all of this, obviously. When we are down here to do a specific job and then get pawned off on various organizations to do their dirty work, a team begins to feel a little used.

Luckily, we had a little talk with our sponsor and things turned around. We are not supposed to be doing anymore of the mindless duties. The past two days have been spent on more drywall and it has been a great learning experience. I even learned how to tape and mud walls today... a skill I learned one time in high school but now feel much more proficient at.

As this project comes to a close, I have a lot of mixed feelings. The location is unbeatable--weekends in the sun, on the beach, by the pool. When we were doing hurricane shutters, the days went by quickly and we had a lot of fun and felt a sense of accomplishment. I knew I was helping families for the next hurricane that comes along. SO, when there is real work, it's great. INTACT just needs to find a way to keep its AmeriCorps teams busy with installing shutters and everything is good to go! I just wish we had been able to do more.

----------------------------------------------------

As for the future, I have found out both my 3rd and 4th SPIKES. This is because our schedule is flip-flopped from everyone else--our 3rd spike is only 4 weeks long and our 4th is 8-9. We will have no break inbetween them to debrief... after my upcoming spring break, it's going to be a long haul to the end.

For the 3rd SPIKE, we will be in Angelus Oaks, CA (southern CA but in the mountains) working a fuel reduction project. We'll be living at a YMCA camp and working at another camp...removing everything in a 50ft. radius around every building! Woohoo! It's going to be intense for the body and probably exhausting, and I am very excited! We'll be in the middle of nowhere--the nearest main town is Big Bear and it's 35 miles away. Hopefully there will be lots of hiking opportunities and all around quiet reflection time. :)

The 2nd SPIKE will be a little different. We are headed up to just outside of Salt Lake City, UT to "Camp K," a summer camp for people with disabilities. Campers (adults and children) will stay for 1 week at a time and have...FUN! There is horseback riding, canoeing, swimming, sports, arts and crafts... lots of things to do. Gold 4's role will be as assistant counselors. Not quite sure what that entails just yet but it should be interesting. I am anticipating a lot of mental exhaustion and a lot of joy. I have a feeling that this will be the most rewarding project of the year.

So, that's it! The rest of my AmeriCorps stint is planned out and I am ready to take it on. It will be hard to say goodbye to the luxurious accomodations here in Ft. Pierce, that's for sure. However, bigger and better things are coming my way. :)

PLUS, I am fortunate enough to be able to fly up to Seattle and then up to Bellingham to visit my dearest friend, Ashley, for my weeklong spring break before my 3rd SPIKE. I am so very excited to see her and the state of Washington--it's been too long!

Here are a few pictures I stole from Alicia...

A look at us right after we got to the house... soon to be us when we leave!


Libby messing around with the tape measure


We met the County Commissioner at an ISP (independent service project) and he invited us to use his box seats tickets to the Mets/Braves game...




Putting up shutters!


The joys of sorting out which panels go with what window...


At another ISP where we cleared a trail and then got to lay on a beautiful beach the rest of the day!


Visions of what is to come in Angelus Oaks??


I hope that everyone is smiling and enjoying life! Miss and love you all!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

florida!

FLORIDA!!!!!



As always, it's been awhile. We have had some time to get settled here in Ft. Pierce, Florida, and it's great! Today's high was about 86*...our pool is swimmable... and the ocean is beautiful!!I have gotten a pretty amazing tan in the 2 weeks we've been here. We live in an interesting neighborhood, I believe the income level is pretty low, but so far no one has given us any trouble and the people are pretty friendly.

Our work consists of putting up "hurrice shutters" for those who cannot afford to do it themselves. They are installed to prevent "missiles," or flying objects during a hurricane from breaking through glass and doors. By preventing this, the home is much better protected during a storm. If an opening is breached, the home stands a much higher chance of wind coming in and taking the roof off. SO, we are helping!Installation is really not that difficult, once you get the hang of how to do it, and the days go by pretty quickly. Sometimes we have to drive a 1/2 hour to work and back, other days we are working almost in our backyard. INTACT (Inspired Network to Achieve Community Together) is run by very friendly people who have made us feel very welcome! (I feel like an advertisement here, but what I say is true!) Jim, our lead guy, is quite the character--he was a Marine for 20 years and then worked in insurance before coming to work for INTACT. He really likes to explain things thoroughly and is quite concerned about our safety. It's kind of a big switch from our last boss!

Things with the team are going pretty well. I think we've gotten past the honeymoon stage and little annoyances have cropped up here and there. However, we still get along and work together splendidly, so I continue to be very thankful for the people I am surrounded by.

Some bad news--my computer has completely crapped out, so from here on out, I am using the shared laptop that the team has. Bummer!!! That's one of the reasons I haven't been able to update lately, as I usually feel like I shouldn't be on this computer for too long. However, today people are taking naps before dinner so I have a little time. :)

Okay, picture time!

Our bedroom! My bed, that I share with Emily, is on the right.


Our crazy bathroom...sunken tub... YELLOW


The swimming pool. Until a couple of days ago, we didn't have a pole for the skimmer, so Libby took it upon herself to swim around and skim the leaves off herself. It was a funny sight.


Alicia and I...working on one of the biggest windows yet...


How it looks with the panels on the window (we take them off when we are done)... and that's Miranda smiling for the camera


With Joe and Elena...always a good time


That's a hammer drill I'm wielding


Jim, our fearless and long winded leader


Emily and me on a night out at Archies...a beach/biker bar/restaurant we discovered across from our favorite beach spot


We worked at Frontier Florida Days last weekend as an Independent Service Project and I got to show kids what they would have played with if they were alive 100 years ago. Oh the joys...


I even managed to play with some toys myself!


And that's about it! We are having a lot of fun...and learning a lot, as well. If anyone feels like visiting, Ft. Pierce has beautiful beaches!!!

I miss everyone a lot and hope you are all doing well in your respective lives. Leave me comments if you have any questions about what we are doing... it's a little hard to explain!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Moving on, moving on

Again! It's been awhile! However, this time I have pictures! And the first one's of our van, our lovely 15-passenger. Oh, how we love thee...

Anyhow, we are all packing and getting ready to roll our 15passenger van out of Biloxi on Friday morning. It sure has been a wonderful SPIKE--I think we've all learned a ton about ourselves and each other, not to mention a few construction skills.

Today we dedicated the house on Strangi! The house we began our work here at. All that digging, roofing, window casing, painting... we finally made it into a home. Maggie and I got to give the key to Flora and Willie, the homeowners. They've been married for 34 years and had lived in their home for 32 until the storm hit. Willie has an elevator (powered by water!) to ride up in because he can't climb the stairs with his walker. Those two have truly been a joy to work for. Willie was always out on the porch of their FEMA "cottage" checking things out and Flora helped us clean up scraps several times. It felt amazing to be able to welcome them into their new home for the first time... words certainly cannot express...

Something I wrote while I was at Golden Gate State Park in San Francisco early on in CTI-- "Breathe this in and savor the taste of experience. Don't lose what you feel right now." --I remembered that today and had to remind myself to store away how I was feeling...so if I'm having one of those negative days that inevitably come around, I can remember how great it feels to know in my soul that I have done something good. Good in the purest form of the word.

Anyhow, we are on to Jackson, MS for a quick transition period and then we'll be in Ft. Pierce, FL to start work on February 11th! I feel like a snowbird...each time it starts to get chilly somewhere, I just move on south. I love it!

First of all...Calypso at Christmas...... oh so cute.


The team at a Seawolve's Hockey game, pre-xmas...it's the team's first year back on the ice since the storm! They won!


After we got back from xmas break, we went to a small artsy town called Bay St. Louis. This is Emily, myself, and Libby grabbing a beer in the local bar.


And another, with Joe as well. Aren't we classy? Ha...not exactly.


This is me ripping wood for the window casings that became the bane of my existence for 2 weeks and 2 days. I hope I never see them again, although I would say that I am an expert. Man oh man.


Bart, one of our site sponsors, took us to the air force base to see the hurricane hunter airplanes and this is me sitting in the pilot's seat! The hurricane hunters actually fly through hurricanes! For more information, go to hurricanehunters.com


Lastly...a before and after shot of Strangi. Our pride and joy. Hooooray!!!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

this just in

Well! It's been ages.

In summary:
*Christmas was a lot of fun, once I finally made it to Kansas. It was great to be around family!
*Getting back to Biloxi was easy...and wonderful! It was so fun to see everyone again, I'd definitely missed my team!
*We arrived to the church to find a bajillion volunteers here. It's craaaazy! There is a lot being done on the houses, which is great...but we are all feeling a little crowded.
*The past week I have been working on Window casings. This is an awful, horrendous, despicable job. Basically, we pre-fabricate the window sills and trim and then fit them around the windows that are already installed. It's such an intricate process...and we have messed up (meaning the casings do not fit) SO many times. This is the first downer of the project...and we are struggling to get through it.

HOWEVER--we got some great news today!

Our next project, beginning in early February, will be in Ft. Pierce, Florida. It's a small waterfront community that's about an hour north of West Palm Beach, 2 hours from Disney World. The best news is that we will be living as a team (by ourselves) in a 4 bedroom house, 3 bathrooms, and a POOL. We don't know if the pool is actually operable...but we are willing to fix it if it isn't. We'll be working on "mitigation" which is basically making homes less vulnerable to hurricanes. More info on that will come, hopefully. :) Yayyyyy! I am so excited!

So, life is moving along quickly. Things are pretty good. The houses that we started when we got here are probably going to be finished by the time we leave, so that is awesome...and we are still all getting along, etc. Thank goodness.

And we're headed to FLORIDA!!!