Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Nitty Gritty

I've been at my job now for a few weeks. I've gotten to spend a lot of time researching and adjusting to the courthouse atmosphere. I've found that I have different work circumstances than many other VISTAs, for which I am grateful. I have my own office. Apparently most other VISTAs are lucky to have their own desk. I am right next to my supervisor so I get to meet with her almost every day about whatever questions I might have. In a bigger organization, some VISTAs have to plan out when they are going to sit down and have a meeting with their supervisors. For me, the entire team is just my supervisor and I. That means I am able to absorb as much as I can from her, straight from the source if you will.

Diana, my supervisor, is wonderful. Apart from working her darndest to help victims, she's always allowed my to ask whatever questions I have without feeling silly. To top it off, she helped me settle into my apartment. She found a friend of her's that was willing to let me borrow a bed for a year. My alternative was an air mattress. Needless to say, the real bed was much appreciated. In addition to the bed, she had an extra microwave that I am able to use for the year. Being able to borrow these more expensive household items meant I could buy other things that might have had to be put on the back burner for a while. Case and point: a vacuum cleaner. Not absolutely necessary, but it sure is nice to have a clean floor. Especially in the aftermath of a crafting spree.

Diana also introduced me to many people around town and the courthouse. Everyone has been very friendly and welcoming. What I find hilarious is that everyone I meet here, without fail, gives me a bless-your-little-heart face when they hear I'm from Florida.

The local paper in Deer Lodge has been really good about covering a lot of the activities and information from the Victim Assistance office. Since I've been here, they wrote an article about the fact that there was a new VISTA, and on about the volunteer interest meeting we had. Their support is definitely a great way for us to encourage community awareness and involvement. One of my responsibilities is to write a column every month. Here's my first one!

If you're reading this Melissa, recognize that picture? : ) I still owe you for being fabulous.

It's a very rewarding job but very challenging at the same time. People come in and out of Diana's office all day long. She told me that last year alone she had 94 new clients. That 94 more people who have somehow been abused, mistreated, or misused, usually by someone that "loves" them. I went to a conference hosted by the Montana Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence this past week. Organizations from all over the state who work with victims were in attendance. I guess I never realized just how much it happens. I knew that people were hurt by others but knowing a state with less than a million people has such a demand for these services seems a bit overwhelming. From what I understand, domestic violence is often worse in rural settings, but obviously can and does happen to people from all over with varied backgrounds and ethnicities. I intend to add a tab to the top of this blog to add resources on the subject as I come across them.

This is why I am here. Not because I know anything about domestic violence, or violence of any kind for that matter. But because I know blessings. I want to help to be a blessing to someone who might just need a smile. Who needs to know someone cares about them and is working to make their life better. One of my jobs is to try to enlist volunteers from the community to help with community awareness projects. That has been an uphill climb so far and I still have a long way to go but I think I understand it better now at least. Before, I thought community awareness was about opening eyes the the fact that others are hurting. Now I see that it's also about letting those who are hurting know that they are not alone, and someone just might be able to help them. I would ask each of you who read this to say a little prayer when you think about it for those who are suffering, for those who are trapped, and for those who fear they will be found after they leave.  I know I can't fix the world, especially not in a year. But I've seen prayer and hard work accomplish an awful lot.

Through it all one thing is certain to me, God does not forsake His children.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Home, Sweet, Temporary Home

After Pre-Service Orientation, I made my way down to Deer Lodge which was about an hour away from Helena. Ethel did not enjoy going up the mountain. The speed limit is 70 and she did not want to pass 50. I can't blame her though. I don't know how fast I would be moving 6,300 miles above sea level. I've noticed the altitude has definitely effected me in different ways. I get tired quickly, or run out of breath way easier than I'm accustomed to. At first I thought to myself, "Poop. Four days in the car and I lose all of this muscle mass..." I was pretty happy to find out that altitude does that to just about everyone.

Now for the good stuff: the new apartment. It's very Mary Tyler Moore. It was described to me as a one bedroom but it's really more of a modified studio. There is one major room that is divided by a wall and a set of French doors. Then I have a kitchen, where the bottom shelf (physical piece of wood, not the items on the shelf) is eye level. I bought a step ladder so I can get to my food. The bathroom has this antique claw foot tub with curtains that go all the way around it. Keeping the tub from leaking has been an interesting challenge so far. I think I've finally figured out how to make a little curtain forcefield... The closet it the best part, in my opinion. It's massive. It's almost the same size as my kitchen, no joke. The hardwood floor is super creaky. So much so that I've taken masking tape and marked the loudest areas so I can try to avoid them, especially at night. I don't mind the creaks though. My imagination likes to make up stories about all the people who must have walked over those boards before me. It's not perfect, but it's home. I have a little craft nook in the corner, which is clearly all I need to survive.

Mom sent my sewing machine up! Now I can have curtains and other such linens. I'm thinking the curtains will be helpful in blocking out the morning cold. Yes. You read correctly. It's already cold in the mornings here. Usually it stays somewhere in the high 40's/50's until about 10 or so in the morning. In August. Guess when the first frost is supposed to come? Go ahead, guess... THE END OF THIS MONTH.

Just to reiterate: The end of August = normal time for the first frost

If you can't tell, I was a little flabbergasted to say the least when someone told me this. They don't have winter clothes out yet at the cute thrift store in town so I haven't gotten a coat.  I have a cute little pea coat my trendy Gram gave me for Christmas a little while back. I was told that would last me until November. At least by then cold weather clothes will be out so I can be prepared for the rest of the winter. I'm pretty sure my eyes bugged out of my head a bit when my supervisor said the peacoat would last until November, considering that it doesn't start becoming consistently chilly in Florida until November. The really good thing about the different area though is how long the sun is out. It doesn't get dark until well after 10pm. I've been told the long days reverse themselves drastically in the winter. I choose not to worry about that until I have to.

My every need is definitely in God's hands and I want for nothing. The small AmeriCorps stipend seems to stretch to whatever I need so far. The support I've received from friends and family back in Florida has definitely made it easier to adjust. I have the cards that have been sent on a cupboard in my kitchen so I can look at them whenever I need a smile.

It's not going to be an easy year, but I know it will be a blessed year.

PS. I promise to put up pictures as soon as I've taken care of the pile of boxes in the corner of my apartment... Recycling is hard here y'all!