November 28, 2012

Tis' the Season for Giving!

Christmas is right around the corner!  I cannot believe it, I feel like Thanksgiving snuck up on me.  Anyway - around this time of year I like to give!  I have a pretty good life and while I don't make millions of dollars I am pretty set with myself - I have a nice apartment, a good car, can do shopping or see a movie if/when I like and I always have food in my cabinets.  Obviously there are MANY people in my community who are not as fortunate and I am so lucky to now work for a company that recognizes that!  PRA and the Delmar community as a whole does a ton of things around the holidays to help and I am trying to participate in every single one of them!  

First up was the Delmar Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning.  For this they ask all the participants to bring canned goods for the Albany food bank.  You may remember that LAST YEAR I gathered donations for SICM so this year I was all for it again.  Using my couponing abilities and massive Thanksgiving sales I was able to put together two reusable grocery bags full (one was a Marshall's bag which are extra big) of non-perishables.  The director of the race said that they are typically able to fill a tractor trailer full of donations which more than stocks the food pantry!

Next up are the monthly shelter dinners and breakfasts at Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless in Albany.  For a while now PRA has been providing monthly shelter dinners and just recently they began serving breakfast at the shelter in Albany.  I of course am all about this idea and immediately signed up to be apart of the next shelter breakfast; if I can I am pretty sure I will volunteer for all of them.

And lastly, I am adopting a 17 year old girl and an 8 year old boy for Christmas!  (Well, me and a few other people.)  They are both currently living in a shelter and their family does not have the means to provide them with 'Christmas' so we are adopting them!  I am super excited for this - we used to adopt families from the 'giving tree' at church every year growing up but we mainly provided basic needs, socks, shoes, under shirts etc ...  And while we will definitely provide the basics you also get a flavor of what the children like (for instance my 17 year old loves the Walking Dead and the 8 year old is into books and board games) so I will be able to pick out some special toys as well as an outfit for two!    

November 27, 2012

Co-piloting Boston to Albany

My trip back from Denver was long - to say the least!  For starters I had a red eye flight that began at 11:30 PM followed by a four hour layover in Boston.  After hanging out in downtown Denver for a couple of hours I headed to the airport in preparation for the all night flight.  The flight was packed and I was unlucky enough to have a middle seat.  Luckily in anticipation of my misery I bought a cushy neck pillow that at least allowed me to sleep on and off for a couple hours.  The flight from Denver to Boston was not that bad; we had free direct TV and the flight was smooth the only down side was that we were flying from 11:30 PM - 5 AM (remember the two hour time change).  We landed in Boston at 5 AM, which of course would have been 3 AM Denver time; I think I ended up sleeping on and off from Iowa to right over Albany, NY (if I could have parachuted down at that point, trust me I would have).  I made my way over to my connecting flight's gate and started my layover, which ended up being nearly 4.5 hour layover.
When I booked this flight I knew the second leg of my journey would be on a small plane, but I had no idea how small!  I have flown on small propeller planes before but never a Cessna.  I was flying Cape Air which is a small airline company based in the Northeast that mainly flys to Cape Code, Hyannis Port and some stops in New York.  After what seemed like forever we finally lined up to board.  I was the first one in line and as we walked to the plane I began to realized just how small the plane actually was - we are talking (maybe) a 10 seater Cessna, my carry ons were placed in the wing and we were arranged by weight.  I was the first one in the plane (aside from the pilot) and as I crawled in and was trying to decide what seat to take the pilot said, 'Hi!  Would you like to be my co-pilot?'; I am pretty sure I responded with, 'Suuuuure, I just don't want to touch anything.'  Classy I know, but I was deliriously tired!  
So I was in the front seat!  The pilot was literally a foot to my left, I had a steering wheel and all the gears in the world right in front of me and I was pretty sure that if I stuck my arm out the window it would have been chopped off my a propeller (I was clearly not going to do that but it just goes to show how small the plane was and how close I was to everything).  Taxiing next to a Jet Blue flight (which happened) our plane look minuscule!  Take off was intense - it was an awesome albeit scary feeling!  Throughout the flight we had great views of Boston and the mountains between New York and Massachusetts.  We didn't have a very high altitude so the entire trip I was able to look out the window and see everything below.  The best part of the trip though was landing in Albany - it was awesome to see the city come into focus, fly low over the towns and then land at the airport.  Here are some pictures of the landing.

That would be my leg - steer wheel literally in my lap!
Looking to my left - there's the pilot!

All the gears - right in front of me!

Flying over the mountains!
Flyig over Boston!

Flying over Boston - part II!

The sequence of landing in Albany!

Annnnnd we'r on the ground!
 All in all it was an awesome experience and probably one that I would say I won't be able to have again for quite some time, if ever!   

November 26, 2012

The Mile High City

Last week I went to Denver, Colorado for a week long SOAR training. The training was a 'Train the Trainer' (TTT); a course that I will eventually be teaching but first I needed to become certified and actually take the training, so off to Denver I went! Prior to last week I had had a layover in Denver a couple of years ago but I had never actually been to the city. Once I was back and people asked me 'how was Denver' my response has been 'it was nice from the inside of the hotel'. Which is pretty much true. The entire week was spent in the Loews Hotel in the town of Glendale, Colorado which is about ten miles outside of Denver. We also didn't have cars so unless we wanted to take the hotel shuttle or a taxi we were pretty much stuck. Luckily there were a ton of places to eat within walking distance (more on that later). It was also awesome to be able to look my window and be staring at the Rockies every morning - what a great view!

Snow coming into Denver!
View of the Rockies from the hotel.
The training was great - there were about 30 people in my group and I got to connect with trainers from many of the states I work with including New York, Nebraska and Missouri. We arrived Monday to set up the room and prepare and then the training started Tuesday. It was a uneventful and (relatively) short flight to Denver when compared to the trip back, but that experience will have its own blog post! The first two days were more or less an extension of the Stepping Stones to Recovery training that I attended a couple of weeks ago in New York City; and the last two days were more geared toward training the material. The most nerve racking day was definitely Friday. We were given a section of the curriculum and asked to teach it to the group while being videotaped! But the worst part was that after we completed the 'teach back' we watched the video with the group and critiqued ourselves! Talk about stressful! I of course nailed my teach back but was a nervous wreck none the less! The next TTT will be in Orlando, FL in March and I am looking forward to (hopefully) extending the trip to a mini-vacation!
Working out - I would be remiss if I forgot to mention something about workout in the Mile High City. Before I left a few people warned me that I would not be able to work out as much or for as long as I do at home; I sort of just nodded and said whatever but man were they right! That high altitude is no joke! I was still able to work out every morning but the length of my workouts were seriously decreased and my daily mileage was essentially cut in half. Obviously training in higher altitude can have a positive effect on later performance so I am interested to see how training there will improve (if at all) my upcoming 5K time. Turkey Trot here I come!
So the food. Denver has AWESOME food! Even their chains are delicious! Everything is organic, farm to table and made fresh when you order! Within about a mile radius of the hotel there were a ton of good places to eat; everything from Jimmy John's and Qdoba to restaurants I had never of before like Tokyo Joe's and ModMarket. There was also a Whole Foods and an awesome beer store! My favorite though was definitely the ModMarket, it was basically a Panera-style farm to table eatery; a must have in my book when in Denver! ModMarket also did something interesting - they printed the price of each of your selected items and the calories on the back of your receipt, I thought that was pretty neat!
Awesome noodle bowl!
Amazing pesto and sun dried tomato pizza!
Printing nutritional and price information on the back of the receipt - pretty cool.
On Friday after everything wrapped up I was able to head into downtown Denver for a couple of hours before my red eye flight back to the east coast. I ended up being dropped off at the 16th Street Mall which is essentially a pedestrian mall with popular stores like Forever 21 and H&M but also a lot of novelty stores like I <3 Denver and the Breaking The Mold candle shop. I ended up doing a little shopping, picked out some gifts for some people back home and had an awesome dinner at the Mellow Mushroom! It was too short though and definitely not enough time to explore Denver. I hope to one day go back, especially to do all the outdoorsy things that I missed this go round!

Denver, you have my vote as one rad city! Hopefully one day we'll get to meet again!

The sun coming up over the Rockie Mountains!


November 25, 2012

Honest Abe & MLK

Two weekends ago Adam and I headed down to the New York State Museum to see the Abraham Lincoln's preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and Martin Luther King's speech on the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. The NYS Museum set up a two day exhibit to highlight the documents and man was it popular! The line was out the door and we waited about 45 minutes to see the exhibit. It was a good and historical way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Apparently the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation is owned by and housed in the New York State library (there is a crazy story of how it came to be housed there - originally being sold to fund the war and then traded and later bought by the state) but is rarely displayed. Recently though it was taken on a multi-stop tour through the state of New York. It was really interesting to be able to see Abraham Lincoln's handwriting as well as his edits to the original document; it was also clear that he put a lot of time and effort into the document!
Banner along the way to the exhibit.

Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation
Written by Abraham Lincoln himself!
The Martin Luther King Jr. document was also really interesting! It was a copy of the speech he delivered on the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation proclamation. Just like Abe's the speech (although this time written on a type writer) had many edits and marks and was eventually signed my MLK himself!

MLK's speech!
I know this will sound super corny but there is something about looking at a person's actual speech and corrections that make you seem more connected to them and the events which transpired because of the speeches.  Here are some pictures!

November 4, 2012

Life As Of Late

Hello!  It's been a little while!  Truth be told when I left the ADC I had to give back the laptop which I used to blog and since I am not yet in the market for a new laptop (the iPad fulfills all my computing needs sans updating my iPod shuffle and blogging) my blogging has been on delay.  BUT a lot has been happening!

I started my new job at Policy Research Associates two weeks ago and so far so (very) good!  For the first time in about four years I feel challenged!  My previous positions were case management related and case management was never particularly challenging to me, but now I am working on the system level, working with states and I need to be innovative to figure out the best way to implement the SOAR (SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access & Recovery) model nationwide.  My position is 'Senior Project Associate' and there are five of us!  We split the country up, each of us have 10 states which we are responsible for (even though right now I only have 9 states).  These states are our babies and we are responsible for providing technical assistance, guidance, trainings and in person assistance to the state's team lead and agencies implementing the SOAR model.  My states are - New York, Connecticut, Arkansas, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri.  Hello mid-west (and a few others)!  Something that I'm definitely looking forward to in the upcoming year - all my states will need an in-person visit!  We do a lot of teleconferencing, conference calls and database training to reduce travel costs but often nothing can replace an in person visit and actually engaging the local communities.  New York and Connecticut will be easy to travel to but I am very much looking forward to traveling to Montana, South Dakota and Arkansas!

Aside from my states I am liking the work - I am problem solving, researching states and their local communities and familiarizing myself with training models (I am very much looking forward to facilitating trainings).  I have also already been traveling!  My second day I headed to New York City for a three day training and stayed in an awesome hotel overlooking Time Square!  Last week I would have traveled to Austin, TX for a meeting, however Hurricane Sandy foiled those plans; and a week from Monday I will be heading to Denver, CO for a week to participate in a SOAR Train the Trainer (TTT) forum.  After that it will be off to Morgantown, WV in mid-December to observe a training and then after the first of the year I will work to schedule visits to all of my states.

In other news - leaving the Albany Damien Center appears to be a never ending and very saddening process.  It has been two and a half weeks since my tenure ended and since then I have received no less than five communications from former coworkers to let me know that my former supervisor has been trashing my name both around the center and within the greater FFL community.  Ordinarily I would not pay much attention to such claims but the whole situation is upsetting and not at all surprising.  My supervisor was awful and he is without question driving the center into the ground - but luckily I am not the only one who saw the writing on the wall and before I left I made sure the Board of Director was aware or his unfair treatment of staff and his unethical management of grants.  Unfortunately due to my advocacy and my filing of various grievances it is without a doubt that my supervisor sees my actions as a catalyst to his impending downfall - he therefore obviously feels the need to trash me around town and try to discredit my work, but luckily for me most people in the community have his number, they realize he is full of BS and will not take him seriously.  But nonetheless the whole situation saddens me.

Okay, enough about that - moving on and moving up!  In other news we have been doing a lot of fun fall activities - baking cookies, cooking delicious meals, craving pumpkins, watching football and leaf peeping!  Here is 'life as of late' in pictures!

View of Time Square from my hotel room on my business trip to NYC!
Time Square of the 18th floor of the Millennium Broadway Hotel!
The lonely and cold Hudson, NY Amtrak station - waiting to be picked up.
Delicious and pretty sushi!
Awesome fall meal!  Pesto and parmesan stuffed chicken with bow-tie pasta covered in a pesto cream sauce with asparagus and broccoli!
Cookie creations!  Chocolate peanut butter stuffed cookies!
Pumpkin carving!
Ooooh!  Illuminated!
Fall at Thacher Park!
Thacher Park!
Pretty view!
So that is what has been happening lately!  Really enjoying my new job, traveling and getting ready to travel even more, enjoying fall and gearing up for Thanksgiving and winter!

Remember to VOTE on Tuesday and have a GREAT week!