Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What time are they walking the cows down the street?

It has been a while since my last post, so I apologize.  There hasn't been much news in the way of taxes.  We just recently surpassed the 1000 mark for number of returns prepared.  Overall though, business has slowed down a lot.  We only have between five and ten appointments in each location per day, so you can imagine the amount of down time we have.  Since I last posted, I have read three books, and I am starting another one tomorrow.  It often feels like we are wasting our time because so few people walk in for appointments right now, but I know helping one person is just as important as though we had helped twenty.  Next year there is discussion of cutting back sites and co-sponsoring with another non-prof here in Wichita Falls, so that the team has the option of working there on slow days.
Last weekend was a long weekend for us, and we slammed it full of stuff to do.  Friday was our first day off, but we participated in an ISP all day with Habitat for Humanity.  As a team we were able to finish some small roofing jobs, hang siding on the final side of the house, and paint the rest of the house twice. We really got a lot accomplished, and everyone really enjoyed being outside for the day.  The weather has been great here, 70s and mostly sunny, but with a slight breeze.  It reminds me of the beach.
Friday night we were invited to the Mavericks' Cook for the Veterans of Iwo Jima.  The Mavericks is a local group that has a couple cooks a year, but they are famous for their ribs.  So of course, everyone went and enjoyed ribs, slaw, corn on the cob, and baked beans.  We were all stuffed afterward.
Saturday was a day on at work, so we worked at the mall most of the day.  Sunday was our second day off, but we had our Day of Service so we worked in the afternoon.  We partnered with a trail/green space group in town called Streams and Valleys and participated in their work-day with their normal trail volunteers and a few people from the community.  We were able to help with an addition to the trail, the removal of dead trees, and putting up fencing to keep people from dumping garbage in one of the green spaces.  We got a lot accomplished in a few hours in the afternoon and learned a lot for next round when we will all be doing similar work.
Monday was President's Day so we took a trip to the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  There we were able to tour the Dallas Cowboys Stadium, which is probably why Texas has the saying "Everything is bigger in Texas."  It was massive.  We also visited the historic Fort Worth Stockyards.  We were able to walk around the area and souvenir shop, while taking in the historic buildings.  Emma and I visited the Cowboy Hall of Fame where we saw memorabilia from different rodeo world champions and a collection of stagecoaches, carts, and various forms of wagon transportation.  We also hung around to see the cattle drive that takes place everyday, twice a day.  It was a little anticlimactic with such a small herd, but still cool to see the long horns walking down the middle of town.

Last week we found out where we will be next round and who we will be with.  I am going to be with my current team leader, one guy from my team, and my friends Steve and Clair in Hodgen, Oklahoma.  From what I ca tell, the town is extremely small, but the camping sounds great.  We are staying in a camp ground developed by the CCC.  Our campsite is right on the lake, and we have access to a picnic table area, hot showers, and heated bathrooms.  Everything sounds pretty good, but I will know more about it next week.  One plus is we are 2.5 hours from Oklahoma City and pretty close to Tulsa.  Hopefully, I will be able to see Chris, Tate, and Ar at some point since they are relatively close.  Here's hoping.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Missing My Friends....Real Hard

Last week, we didn't go back to work until Thursday afternoon.  After two and a half long days in the house, I couldn't wait to get out and do some taxes.  Because we missed work during the week, we filed taxes at the mall on Friday and Saturday, then took Sunday off, so we did not do any ISP last week.  It was a nice break from the all day ISPs we have been doing.  This week has been busier, with cancellations from last weeks bad weather rescheduling and walking in, however, it still was not a full week.  We had another snow day on Wednesday.  Luckily this weather only lasted for the day and we have been able to go back to work.  As far as work goes, there isn't anything too exciting to tell.  So far, we have gotten people over 1 million dollars in refunds and sold quite a few savings bonds.  It is rewarding to see the reactions of the people who don't expect to get very much of a refund at all and they end up with over a thousand dollar refund.

Socially, I am missing my Converse friends, Chris, and all my other friends in my unit REAL HARD.  We have three weeks left, and I don't know if I am going to make it.  It is difficult not to compare my teammates with my friends and have most of my teammates come up short.  I have been frequently reminding myself what a great experience this is and that I will be prepared for any work place situation after our living arrangements in AmeriCorps.  Luckily, I am going to a wedding with Chris in two more weeks, so it will be a welcomed break for a weekend.  I am not looking forward to more snow, but a small sacrifice to spend time with him and away from AmeriLife for a little while. 

We found out our options for projects two nights ago, so I have been scheming like crazy with Steve, Pat, and Claire to get on the same teams for next round.  Seems like the most logical thing considering all of the projects except are trail building except 1 and camping except 2.  I would sleep on the dirt, no tent, no blanket to be able to be with some of my other friends next round.  I ranked my projects, and my top two choices are for camping and back country hiking and camping in Texas.  A lot of people were saying they wanted to be in a different state, but I figured Texas is huge and I won't even be able to tell I'm in the same state I was for this round.  We should know by the middle of next week where we will be going, so I will keep you all posted.

Sorry this is so brief, just nothing new really going on and not much to say.  Maybe on Valentine's Day I will make a tribute to my friends and our tradition of a Black Out and let y'all know what I got for this Hallmark Holiday.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Texas Snow Day

Today is a SNOW DAY here in Wichita Falls. That’s right, a snow day in Texas.  I thought that was the last thing I would have to deal with while we were here and everyone back in South Carolina was missing school and work for a week or so.  Our supervisor Lana was even surprised by the sudden change in weather last night when it started sleeting, but none of us thought it would actually snow.  I saw it when I got up at 7 this morning to see if we were going to need to go to work, and to my pleasant surprise the ground was covered.  We have all been laying around watching shows on our computers, reading, napping, and some even went to the park to play in the snow.

This past Saturday was our first full day of tax filing open to the public.  It was a long week, working Tuesday to Friday; everyone felt like we had not had any time off and Monday was such a long time ago.  Saturday didn’t help.  We were given tickets to the Pancake Festival for Saturday morning, so the team got up at 6:30am so we would have plenty of time to enjoy the delicious breakfast before work.  We arrived at the site at 8:15 and were there until 6:30pm.  It was a long day.  We filed over 120 taxes, surpassing the number of the first day last year.

On Sunday we went and volunteered with Faith Mission, the local shelter in town.  The Mission is a shelter for men, women, and children.  It also provides housing and programs for recovering addicts.  They serve 3 meals a day with the stipulation that those who eat first attend the chapel services.  It was a good experience for our team to see how the homeless population lives in this community.  In Wichita Falls and the surrounding communities in the county there are nearly 3,000 homeless individuals.  I found the experience to be humbling and inspirational.  We helped fold clothes in the clothing room with two women, both working the program, which had been sober for 70 days.  It is good to see the program working for so many individuals and for them to have such a strong friendship and support group with each other.  Also, serving lunch to the individuals and having them be so grateful to us when we were only able to give them half of a peanut butter sandwich and some cookies was almost enough to bring me to tears.  Sure some people complained, but wouldn’t you if all you were going to have to eat that day was two tiny pieces of bread with a thin layer of peanut butter on them?  Some members of my team didn’t get it and thought they should be grateful for whatever they get.  Should they be grateful for people’s leftovers because they can’t afford to feed themselves?  It’s sad to think that so many people in this country have that exact same perspective.  No wonder so many people are hungry and struggling to get by, because if people see they even have a little or the ability to scrounge for something, then what more do they need?  They should be grateful for that dollar they were given.  I tried to have a conversation with my teammate, but he/she claimed to see what I was saying, but was still surprised by their ingratitude.  Obviously, he/she did not see what I was saying.

This week we are opening the tax sites in Wichita Falls and the rural areas.  We will be taking appointments and walk-ins to file their income taxes all day the majority of the days we have left here.  Some situations have already presented themselves that have been difficult to handle; people owing large sums of money, people asking us to file their taxes in such a way that they get a larger return but is not completely accurate to their household, etc. I am sure we will see a lot more of that before this round is over.  We are hoping to get a few more Texan things in before we leave in five weeks though.  Lana invited us on a day trip to Fort Worth Texas so we can see a cattle drive, visit the cowboy hall of fame, and maybe go to a rodeo.  Because Fort Worth is out of our range, we had to ask permission from our unit leader, so we are waiting to hear back from her before we make any final plans.  They are also trying to plan a Ranch Day for us with one of the board members of the United Way.  She wants to have us out for a BBQ and to ride horses, but we are waiting to hear back from her as well.  I hope both of these things work out.  We are all in desperate need of getting out of the house.