Archive for the ‘VISTA Leader Life’ Category

I Refuse.

Posted: September 27, 2013 in Health, VISTA Leader Life

Well, I’ve been working as a VISTA Leader for about a month now, and I’ve established a solid work routine. 9-5 was killing me, so I’m working 8-4 now (much better…it takes 45 minutes to get home instead of the 80 it was taking if I left at 5!).  I will NEVER enjoy certain aspects of office life, but I refuse to be discouraged. There is opportunity within every hardship, so here’s how I’m pushing through:

1) The Commute: Ugh. What can I say? I hate driving. I always have and always will (well…I love racing down wide highways with my foot pressed on the pedal, but that’s another story…).

When I was little, my mom asked what kind of car I’d like to drive, and my answer was “a bicycle”. I still stand by that response. Any time I can erase my carbon footprint a bit by taking public transit or carpooling, I jump at the chance. The best is when I can forego gas guzzling altogether and instead walk or ride my bike. If I ever settle down somewhere, you better believe it’s going to be in a bike-friendly city with excellent public transit.

So anyway, I refuse to let the commute get me down. I am making the most of the too-long drive by:

    • Listening to jazz tunes I want to learn and singing the chord changes
    • Listening to French music and singing the words
    • Listening to NPR (can’t beat it)
    • Listening to audiobooks! This is my best solution, and time flies by. So far, I have listened to Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers (highly recommend), and just started The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. ***RISSE friends: This is one to add to the list of good refugee books!*** If anyone has any suggestions I should add to my list, let me know. I’m in my car around ten hours a week, so I have lots of time to “read”! 🙂

Office Life2) Office Life: Ugh. I am not meant to be in an office.

When I was little, I visited my dad’s office and thought “Why would people dress up and sit in a box all day?”. Made no sense to me, and still doesn’t. Sitting in an office was my least-favorite part of being a VISTA, and it’s my least-favorite part of being a VISTA Leader. Unfortunately, my current position allows very little wiggle room for getting around this. There is no casual Friday, the whole staff works in the same space (so no walking to other buildings for meetings), and I don’t have a whole college campus to explore and people to visit when I’m sick of sitting at my desk. Huge bummer, but I refuse to be discouraged by office culture. I’ve come up with some strategies for staying active physically and mentally during the day. Here are my solutions:

Office Ergonomics: Scary stuff. Click to learn more!

Office Ergonomics: Scary stuff. Click to learn more!

    • Stand up for health! Research shows that sitting all day is downright bad. As Dr. Genevieve Healy puts it, “We’ve become so sedentary that 30 minutes a day at the gym may not counteract the detrimental effects of 8, 9 or 10 hours of sitting. ”  Isn’t that scary? The information on sites like only reinforces my motivation to GET UP. Instead of sitting, I created a standing desk for myself and now spend most of each day on my feet. Wow, what a difference that makes! I feel so much better about this job ever since making the switch. Try it for yourself!
    • Take a walk! Staring at a computer all day can’t be good, so I started wearing a pedometer and making a point of getting away from my laptop as much as possible. I park as far from the building as possible, fill my water bottle halfway (so I often have to walk to the water cooler to fill it up again), ask questions in person rather than send emails to colleagues a couple feet away, and when nature calls, I use the restroom farthest from my office suite. Sometimes, I walk outside just for the heck of it, and I march in place at the computer if I can pull it off. By the end of the work day I’ve usually racked up around 3,500 steps on my pedometer. That’s less than half of the total I should walk in a day, but much better than I was doing by sitting on my butt!
    • Lunch break! At Saint Rose I loved the lunch hour, mainly because it meant that for a short window of time, the pool would open for lap swimming. Almost every day, I would hurry across campus with my swim bag and jump in the water for half an hour. Multiply that by nine months, times six years…I probably spent over 300 hours in that pool. Swimming was my form of meditation, and I miss it so much. Out of all the places I considered home on the Saint Rose campus, the pool was right at the top with the Sanctuary and the music building. Yes, it was so important that I’m not sure which I value more: the music building or the pool. Oh how I miss it. There is nothing like swimming, but I have at least found another way to stay active on my lunch breaks. Conveniently, the sidewalk all around the perimeter of my office complex takes exactly half an hour to walk. Perfect! It might not be a relaxing dip in the water, but at least I’m staying active.

So…those are just a few of the ways I’m combatting the not-fun parts of my job. This position is a lot different than my VISTA experience and I’m trying very hard not to compare them too much. This is important work and it’s teaching me a very different set of skills than I developed with RISSE and Saint Rose, and that’s a good thing. Also…slightly off-topic but I would like to give a huge shout-out to the wonderful team running the Saint Rose RISSE program this year. I am so proud of them every time I get an update; it makes me feel so good knowing the program is thriving and in such good hands. Keep up the great work girls, I’m rooting for you!
That’s all for now, thanks for reading! 🙂

Living the VISTA Leader Life

Posted: September 11, 2013 in VISTA Leader Life

Jamming on spoons and foot percussion at the Fiddle and Folk Festival

Hello world!

How’s life? Mine’s pretty great. I’ve been busy with a ton of things, like:

-Checking out jazz jam sessions at Fat Cat and Smalls (two clubs in Manhattan). Smalls is amazing, and they have a vibraphone in the club. Hooray!

-Replying to craigslist ads to find musicians on Long Island. My best bet so far is some guys who get together each month to play standards. They live close to where I am, so I’m going to jam with them next week. Wish me luck…

-Kicking my butt at the gym with Aly and Lauren (Aly and I are doing a 5:30 AM spin class twice a week. Are we a little crazy? Maybe, but it’s worth it!)

-Cleaning, running garage sales, getting rid of stuff.

-Practicing, practicing, practicing (working on stride vibes this month…more on that at a later date)

Brother Sun

Brother Sun

-Going to fun events like the Fiddle & Folk Festival at Benner’s Farm, which featured musical acts including Brother Sun, an amazing trio I first heard at the 2012 Old Songs Festival.  If you haven’t heard their stuff, click the link on their name to go to their website and check out their music. Another highlight from the festival was (of course) getting to play my spoons at the jam arena. I jumped right in on the old-time and bluegrass tunes the guys were playing, and they all loved my sound and let me take lots of solos. Who knew this a simple instrument would become such an integral part of my musical identity!

And in other news…

At work, I’ve been adjusting to VISTA Leader life. I do not like relying on my car to commute (oh how I miss walking twenty minutes to work), nor do I enjoy sitting on my butt staring at a computer all day, but I’ve come up with a winning strategy to stay physically and mentally active (blog entry on that to come…). Aside from that, the work itself has been interesting. To get a feel for what the LTRG (Long Term Recovery Group) is doing, I traveled to Long Beach to interview an 89-year-old man whose house was wrecked in the storm. Speaking with him and seeing the damage on his property was eye-opening; even now, he’s living at a neighbor’s house because his place has not been fully rebuilt. I didn’t realize how many people are still caught in the throes of Sandy’s aftermath, but now I understand why my VISTA Leader position exists, and why HWCLI is hiring so many VISTAs. There’s a lot of work to be done!

With that said, we’re in the process of interviewing potential VISTA candidates right now, who will certainly play a crucial role in the recovery process. I’ve spent the majority of the last two weeks reading resumes, making cold calls, and setting up interviews with applicants. It’s been such a pleasure being involved in this and having an integral role in the hiring process. I’m happy to say I’ve gotten to interview some strong candidates over the past couple weeks (and some not-so-strong…), and I look forward to mentoring my team when they come on board in November.

Dallas, TX

Dallas, TX

Welcome to Texas

This week, I get a break from office life to attend VISTA Leader Training in Dallas, TX. 98 new VISTA Leaders are here from across the country, and somehow I am the only one with my own hotel room (shh, don’t tell!). This is only the first night, but already three or four people have remarked  “You’re from New York? You’re too nice to be from New York!”. My, how our reputation precedes us…

The training has been alright so far. My shuttle driver from the airport to the hotel was from Cameroon, so we were both delighted to have an opportunity to speak French together. Speaking with him made me really miss all the refugees and immigrants I interacted with in Albany. I can’t say I miss Albany itself too much, but man oh man do I miss working with refugees. I met a VISTA Leader today who is serving with the International Rescue Committee, and the pang of jealousy I felt was almost too much. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy hurricane relief work and can pour myself into this, but refugee advocacy will always hold a special place in my heart…

Alright, enough blogging. I’ve got a full week ahead of me, so I better get some rest. Tomorrow I learn to use my five strengths (Learner, Strategic, Maximizer, Input, Achiever), based on a test we took today, to be an effective leader. Professional development ahead!