Monday, August 31, 2015

Gettin' Weird With Millicent: August Chewy Review

Hello, friends! Your favorite goldendoodle is here with another guest post! I'm sure you have heard my family's big news, right? I'm going to be a big sister! At first, I wasn't exactly thrilled at the idea of this new arrangement. I was under the impression that I was an only child, furever and always. But, I thought of how much I love my cousins Nora and Charlotte, and now I just can't wait to be the best big sister in the whole wide world! To make up for this small betrayal, my mom got me another Chewy product to review, and this one is just grand!

My mom picked me a Blue Buffalo Wild Chew--she knows me so well! I love a good chew, and this did not disappoint. I wasn't sure what to make of it at first--it didn't look like my normal chews, and I thought it was a trap, like maybe my parents were trying to get me to take my Benadryl without me noticing.

Fear not, my friends! It was no trap and I soon realized I had a tasty and delicious treat at hand. I quickly nommed through half of it before mom took it away. Mom is so mean! I'm pretty sure she is in cahoots with that evil cat Cleopatra.

Anyway, mom said I would chew through the whole thing in barely 20 minutes if she left me to it, and that it's not very long lasting for pups who take the art of chewing very seriously, such as myself. All in all, I loved it and I can't wait for more! Mom said she might get me some, as long as I stop crawling under cars, chasing after Cleopatra, but I can't make any promises.

That's all I have for you today, my very best friends in the whole wide world!

Furever yours,


We received the Blue Buffalo product from Chewy to review, but all opinions are mine (and Millie's). --Kate

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Places You Can't Go Back

Recently, we found out that my dad and his brother ended up selling my Grandma's beach house in the Outer Banks. I think we all knew it had to happen, but deep down, I held the smallest hope that we would all chip in, fix it up, and continue making memories there as our families grew.

Honestly, it was a dream to make that happen. The beach house had seen better days, and it would have taken a lot more than some elbow grease and hard work to make it livable. At this point in our lives, I don't think any of us could have taken it in--we're starting families, paying off loans, saving to buy a house--none of us were really in a position to make that happen.

Still, though, I grieve for the loss of our beach house, and it makes me think of the other places you can never go back. We can go back to the Outer Banks--we can even go back to practically the same street as the beach house, because my uncle has a place there now. But we can't go back to the place where we spent all of our summer vacations. The place where I learned to play poker betting double stuf oreos; the place where my brother spit out bazooka joe bubble gum on the roof of the covered porch, and it remained there for years and years; the place where I learned to both fear and love the ocean; the place where I was when I got my first job offer after college; the place where Matt and I discovered we hated kayaking.

There are always places we can't go back. I can't go back to Williamsburg, where my grandparents lived, and where my family and I spent summers and holidays visiting. I no longer feel like a local when I go there--the girl who would roll her eyes at tourists and could show you the best route possible for hitting all the rides at Busch Gardens. I feel like a visitor in a place that seems distantly familiar.

I can't go back to the Blacksburg I knew in college, where my biggest stress was finals week and all my friends were a five minute walk or drive away. The problem with these places is, sometimes, we think we can go back. We return again and again, trying to recreate what we won't admit is lost. I spent at least a year making monthly trips to Blacksburg, convincing myself that I could live in Winchester but still be part of that campus life.

Most of us have gone through at least one major life change kicking and screaming the whole way. I know that I have a tendency to fight change with every breath I take, until I'm exhausted and suddenly realize that it's good for me. Eventually, I will accept this, too, and these memories won't hold as much power over my emotions as they do now.

All Love,

Monday, August 24, 2015

Music Monday, V. 24: OMAM

A few months ago, I published a Music Monday post about Old Friends--those musicians whose work has been in my arsenal for years, and will continue to remain there until eternity. It's the kind of music you can listen to on repeat and never tire of it, the kind of music that makes you feel like you're home, wherever you may be.

Of Monsters and Men (OMAM) is another one of those artists, even though they aren't really "old." They came onto the scene a few years ago, and if you watched our webcast/vlog/thing, then you've already heard my story of how I would frantically try to figure out the info every time the song came on the radio.

OMAM was one of those bands  you hear and it's like you immediately have a connection (is that weird?) I've felt that way about several artists during my lifetime, but considering how much music I listen to, it is kind of few and far between for that to happen. When I hear their music, I feel all the feelings--calm, hopeful, nostalgic, and even a little adventurous. I haven't had the privilege of seeing them live just yet, but it is obviously on my bucket list.

I'm sure you can only imagine my excitement over their latest album. Basically, every time I hear "Crystals" I throw my hands in the air and shout "THIS IS THE BEST!" Don't worry, I'm used to getting weird looks from other drivers, and I promise I only do this at stoplights.

In conclusion, dear readers, please get yourself to iTunes and download ALL the OMAM music and "Beneath the Skin."

All Love,

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Blacksburg Favorites

Blacksburg, Virginia is one of my favorite places on Earth. The four years I lived there were some of the best of my life. Although nothing will ever be the same as those days, I still love going back to visit. I love showing Matt around, and I look forward to the day when we can bring our kids to football games, all decked out in maroon and orange baby clothes.

The day he became a full fledged Hokie.
Even if you don't have any Virginia Tech ties, Blacksburg is still a beautiful town to visit. It's tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains, and there are plenty of things to do to fill a weekend. Here are a few of my favorite things to see and do in the heart of Hokie country.

- War Memorial Chapel and Monument
In my opinion, War Memorial is one of the best spots on campus. It's a beautiful tribute to the fallen Hokies who have served our country over the years, and it's positioned to overlook the drillfield, making it a peaceful spot to just sit in silence.

- Downtown eats and drinks
If you're looking for a local place to dine, look no further than downtown Blacksburg. There are places to take your parents (Poor Billy's Seafood), all the way to places that will satisfy your 2am hunger needs (Joe's Diner). A few of my personal favorites include:
  • PK's: Deliciously greasy pizza! On Thursdays, you can play Tijuana Toss and call a coin toss to get your pizza free. 
  • Sharkey's: Not the finest cuisine, but they make a mean grilled cheese served up with a side of tots, perfect during $3 Strong Island happy hour. 
  • Poor Billy's Sushi: Basically, this restaurant turned me into a girl who wanted to vomit at the thought of sushi, to a girl who couldn't get enough of it. 
  • Carol Lee Donuts: A little bit past the downtown area, this tiny little donut shop is worth getting up at early. Just don't put your donut box on top of your car then drive off, or the local wildlife will have a feast. 
R.I.P., giant box of donuts.
- Outdoor adventure galore
Nature enthusiasts LOVE Blacksburg. There's the New River, which offers tubing and, in some sections, white water rafting, and plenty of hikes to be found amongst the Blue Ridge Mountains. Some local (and personal) favorites include:
  • Cascades: This is definitely a hike for all ages, and the serene waterfall awaiting you at the end is worth it. One of the best times to go is actually in the winter--then you'll get a chance to see the water covered in snow and frozen in time. 
  • McAfee's Knob: Not being a naturally athletic person, I never attempted the McAfee's Knob hike. However, I wish that I had, because the views are stunning, and you can always hit up Homeplace Restaurant at the end (which means all you can eat fried chicken, ham, roast beef, biscuits, and mac n cheese). 
Photo courtesy of my college roommate. Thanks Laura!
  • Tubing on the New River: You can't go to Virginia Tech and not go tubing on the New River at least once. Obviously a poor life decision if the river is flush with rainwater and raging along like a beast--but in the hotter months of summer, it's a life saver. 
- Lane Stadium
Attending a football game in Lane Stadium will convert you to a Hokie lover AND a football lover, all at once. The atmosphere is truly magical, and it's something you need to experience yourself. Also, tailgates are everywhere and Hokies are always welcoming. 

Also...giant turkey legs!
This is just a sample, and I know I didn't even begin to touch on the magic that is Blacksburg. Any other fellow Hokies out there have places they would add?

All Love!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Life Lately

Hello, friends! Fear not, this is not another dry post about volunteer administration! I finished up my last assignment yesterday, so we are all over that for the time being.

If you follow me on insta, you likely noticed a very big announcement over the weekend...

Yep, that's right! I will finally be able to put the hashtag #gotknockedup to good use! All joking aside, I can't even begin to describe how excited we are for this new adventure. I can tell you that this is probably the single most terrifying thing I have ever done. The night before I took a pregnancy test, I full on panicked about the reality of a situation. I was about to carry a tiny human being into this world and nothing would ever be the same.

Yes, we had hoped to be expecting our first child by the end of the year. However, we were a bit caught off guard--before my wrist surgery, the doctor ordered a blood test to make sure I wasn't pregnant before undergoing anesthesia. Blood test came back and said "no baby here!" Although slightly disappointed, we moved on--there was always the next month! I had the surgery, took percocet, drank wine (not at the same time as the pain meds, obvi), ate sushi and lunch meat, etc. I did all the things pregnant women aren't supposed to do, because I knew for certain that I wasn't pregnant!

Well, ladies, you can never really be certain until your period shows up. When two weeks had passed and there were still no signs of Aunt Red, I knew my bloodwork had betrayed me.

Despite our surprise, we are so grateful, especially because everything has been going well so far. Most days, everything fulls surreal, and other days, I wallow in my anxiety--what if I didn't get enough folic acid? What if I don't gain enough weight? What if my baby is born four months too early?!?!

I'm a worrier at heart, and that has only been magnified by pregnancy hormones. Luckily, I have this guy--who is equally as terrified, but never lets it show, and always finds the tissues when I break down into tears over another pregnancy tragedy I've read about on the internet.

And so, friends, that is pretty much what has been consuming our life lately! I was pretty exhausted during the first trimester, so I really only had time for work, blog posts about volunteer management, and gang's all here. It's really tough for me to balance this blog when I am also taking a grad school class, but I will do my best--this is also a really special time for us, and I want to document as much as I can.

All Love,

Monday, August 10, 2015

Evaluating Volunteers

Program evaluation is an essential process, particularly for non-profits. Since volunteers are important to the success of most non-profits, then volunteers must be included in the evaluation process as well. Such evaluations can help you ensure that your programs are successful and meeting the needs of your community. In addition, gathering feedback on your programs and volunteers can help secure additional funding. For example, tracking volunteer time can show how non-profits contribute financially to their community.

In addition to tracking volunteer time, volunteers should also be evaluated on their performance. Not only will this help you make sure your programs remain up to quality, but feedback for a volunteer's performance is also a great way to keep them motivated. Remember that your volunteers act mainly as employees, but without pay--therefore, you should ensure that their evaluation process is consistent, just as you would for a paid staff person. This also means that the feedback process should be two-way--allowing time for the volunteer to offer their own feedback will help them feel like an appreciated member of the team. There are many ways to accomplish this, and they can be formal or informal. Examples include monthly focus group meetings, questionnaires, and interviews. 

What does this mean for your organization? The first thing to consider is if you even have an evaluation system in place for volunteers. If not, then it's time to put a system in place. If your organization mainly utilizes short term volunteers for specific events, then a brief meeting at the conclusion may work best, followed by an electronic survey for volunteers to offer additional feedback. If you rely on long term volunteers, then scheduling regular, individual meetings with the volunteer may be the best way for evaluating their progress. For example, I currently don't have anything setup to evaluate my volunteers. Since my volunteers are always resistant to change, I plan to start with an informal process, such as offering general feedback at our bi-monthly meetings, and leaving time for the volunteers to offer feedback as well. As my volunteers become accustomed to this process, I will seek their input on developing a more formal process. I want to be able to offer them individualized feedback, but I also value their time and would want to find a way to do it that would fit everyone's busy schedules.

Teen Counselor volunteers supervise campers at a pool party. Teen Counselors usually receive immediate feedback on their performance during the week of camp. Additional feedback is offered before or after camp at mandatory training sessions.
Volunteers are important to most, if not all, non-profit organizations. Thus, a good amount of time and energy should be devote to ensuring their performance is in line with the organization's mission, and is helpful for the volunteers themselves.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Managing Risk

There is risk in everything we do--from driving our cars to investing our money, we accept that something could always go wrong. When I took up rollerblading a few months ago, I knew there was a chance I could fall and hurt myself. I took the necessary precautions. I bought a helmet, knee pads, and wrist guards, and practiced on a flat surface before moving on to uncertain terrain. Nonetheless, I still managed to flip myself backwards and break my wrist. I knew I had nobody but myself to blame--not the rollerblades or wrist guard company, or even the public park where I was skating.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone. Often, when accidents or mishaps occur, people look for someone to blame, and "turn to the courts" to resolve their problems. This is why it's incredibly important for organizations, especially non-profits, to be prepared with risk management policies. These policies not only protect the organization, but also the volunteers serving the organization. This is critical because the roles of volunteers are often "inherently risky."As a 4-H Agent, I understand the importance of risk management because the populations we serve are all under the age of 18.

I find that the best way to approach risk management is to be prepared. For instance, training your volunteers can help ensure that they are prepared to deal with emergency situations. Each year, I hold a kickoff training for my club leaders. We always do a risk management refresher, and this past year I handed out specific scenarios that actually happened, and had them discuss the best way to prevent and/or handle those situations. This is also helpful because it's always important to consider, "what went wrong?" and plan so that it doesn't happen again in the future--"a non-profit that learns from its experiences is in the strongest possible position to reduce the chance of recurrence." For example, at our summer 4-H Camp, we used to allow the teen counselors some social time in their lobbies after lights out. Unfortunately, we had an incident where a camper was bullied at night while the counselor was out of the room. This caused us to change our policy and train the counselors to remain in their rooms at night.

Although the canoeing class may seem like a risky activity, less problems occur because of proper safety rules and procedures. Nighttime in the cabins are actually riskier, because there's a lot going on while campers get ready for bed, and counselors don't always have their eyes on them. 
Developing risk management policies and procedures takes a lot of planning and thought, and these are just a few steps to the process. At times, as you consider the implications of your planned programs, it can be tempting to avoid the risk all together. However, keep in mind that there is a certain amount of risk involved in life in general, and "what you gain by accepting risk is as great as what you lose by avoiding it."

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