Volunteering

This was originally going to be part of my “Manic Monday” post, but as I started writing, I realized it was easily turning into it’s own post! Volunteering is something that helps me get involved in my new communities as I move, so I’m more than happy to write an entire post on it!

The first time I can remember volunteering was when I was maybe nine or ten. I was with my Girl Scout troop and we were helping to pack boxes at the local food bank. I knew the boxes were going to “poor people” but I didn’t think they were in my own town. One of the girls from the troop wound up sneaking a peak at the list of families getting these packages and all of the sudden she blurted out, “C—, why is your family on this list?!” We were all so stunned! I remember being appalled by the one girl’s behavior – she was going out of her way to look at a confidential list, which was bad enough, but then to call a “friend” out in front of everybody?? I couldn’t believe it. I was also shocked that a family from our town, let alone a family I knew, needed help. It made me realize that you can’t always “see” when somebody is in need of help.

Through Girl Scouts and various other programs, I frequently volunteered in my community until I graduated high school. My favorite opportunity from Connecticut was to help out at a summer school/day camp for students with special needs. These students ranged anywhere from having really hard to control ADHD all the way to having severe mental disabilities. Several students didn’t speak at all. When I went to college, it was harder to find ways to volunteer. I was living in a brand new community, so I didn’t know WHERE to look for these opportunities. My contributions at that time were limited to helping out with food drives.

My sorority highly values both service and philanthropy. By this point, service was an old hat, but philanthropy was something completely new to me. I was a broke college kid – I had never donated my (non-existent) money to any cause and I had never run any sort of fundraiser. My pledge class and I collected cans to raise money for a local animal shelter and my senior year, I was Mr. RIT chair! I was still able to help out my hometown as well – one of my pledge sisters was from my hometown and shortly before Christmas one year, we held an event at the house to make Christmas cards which we then distributed to nursing home residents at my grandma’s nursing home.

Mr. RIT 2009

When I started at the University of Delaware, I quickly found ways to volunteer. I hosted a “Day of Service” project my first year which gave me one of my favorite UD memories – we ran out of bread for the “PB&J Jam”, so I ran out to buy more. When I returned, it was POURING so I asked some RAs to meet me at the door. The RAs and residents participating in the program actually made a line stretching from my car into the building and passed everything down fireman brigade style. I WISH I had a picture of it. Back then, “Day of Service” was only complex-wide, but it soon became a campus event and now various alumni groups hold their own service events the same day that UD is hosting Day of Service. This year I met up with some alum from Reading to volunteer at an animal shelter.

My favorite organization that I got involved with at UD was the Andrew McDonough B+ (Be Positive) Foundation. I had heard Andrew’s story years and years prior when I was still going to RIT. My then-boyfriend was from Wilmington and had siblings that had attended school with Andrew. The B+ Foundation’s goal is to raise money for children’s cancer research and to assist families with expenses they are unable to cover. I got to personally meet Joe McDonough twice during my time at UD – the first time he came to speak to my staff as we were racing money for UDance and the second time I invited him to come to speak at Widener University during my internship. My favorite part about working with B+ is that they emphasize that every little bit helps. At Widener, Joe McDonough told the story of how just $400 was able to get a little girl a portable oxygen container so she could fly home and spend her final days at her own house with her family members and dog.  I really hope I get to work with B+ again.

Since moving to Reading, I’ve continued to volunteer in my community and in other parts of the country. I joined Junior League a few months after moving here and have been able to help with several organizations that serve the children of Reading. I’m planning on doing a separate post on Junior League later this week! I was also asked by my students to be a trip advisor for Alternative Spring Break. I said yes without even knowing where I was going to be going or what I was going to be doing. I wound up going to Joplin, Missouri to help with two organizations and in just a few days, I’ll be heading back!! I’m super excited and Joplin is DEFINITELY getting its own post! 

If you have any favorite volunteer stories, be sure to leave them in the comments!

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A Haunting in Pennsylvania

I read the Wikipedia article for “The Haunting in Connecticut” after I typed the title. That was probably a poor idea.

My apartment is haunted. I’m sure everybody says that their place of living is haunted at one point or another. You misplace something or hear a strange noise and BAM! Haunted! I think I’ve even made jokes about my apartment being haunted before. Just as recently as last week, I referred to the strange noise that the fridge makes as “the aliens in the kitchen” (okay, so not ghosts, but still paranormal).

Before we get into the good stuff, a bit of necessary back story. About five months after my roommate Lilly moved in, one of my neighbors complained that she barked a lot. This surprised me because Lilly’s rather quiet, considering what she’s mixed with. My mom actually thought that something might be wrong with her because she didn’t bark for the first three weeks I had her. She’s since become a bit more vocal and barks at normal dog things, like when the doorbell rings on a TV show, but I was certain that she did not spend all day barking. I was told that I needed to do something about it, so I wound up buying the Dog Monitor app. My iPad sits in the kitchen watching the door and I can check in on her via my iPhone. I’ve had the app for a few months now, so I’ve gotten pretty good about recognizing certain sounds and knowing where they are coming from. (Oh and in case you were wondering, the dog doesn’t spend all day barking.)

Lilly in her cage during the day. This is what the Dog Monitor app shows me.

Recently, I had an incident where somebody entered the apartment without my knowledge. I was at work and heard someone knocking on the door, followed by someone keying in and yelling, “Hello?” It was just a man from the alarm company, but it scared Lilly and she became not the biggest fan of cage time after that incident. However, I would have never known that it had happened had it not been for my trusty Dog Monitor.

This is Lilly doing her best impersonation of Dobby the House Elf.

Last week, something even more disturbing happened. I was at work when all of the sudden I started hearing this music. It wasn’t a song or tune that I recognized. My co-worker Melissa described it best – she said it sounded like a music box. It was also rather loud. My first thought was that some link I had clicked had music on auto-play. I checked my browser real quick, but nothing there. Then I noticed that my phone was lit up. I picked it up and sure enough the music was coming from my phone through the Dog Monitor app. (I know it sounds absolutely crazy and I’m glad that Liz and Melissa heard it as well otherwise I’d probably have myself committed.) The music lasted about a minute. I’ve tried to come up with some rational explanation for it, but I can’t. It was too long to be someone’s cell phone and the monitor wouldn’t have picked up on it unless it was in the apartment. I don’t know how it could have been an electronic in my apartment – the TV would have needed to turn itself on and then off. I tried to put it out of my mind and carry on with my day.

When I got home from work, I decided to straighten my hair. When I sat down at my dressing table, I noticed that there was a crack in the glass on my jewelry box. I sit at that table every day to do my hair and makeup and had not noticed the crack that morning. I remembered that I had taken a picture of my table a few days prior, so I checked the picture. No crack. I looked around the jewelry box. Nothing had fallen on it, at least nothing that was still out of place. I remembered the strange music from earlier in the day and called my friends. And then, instead of straightening my hair at my apartment, I shoved my stuff into a bag and got ready at a friend’s house. I did not want to be in that apartment!

They say bad things come in threes and the third is what made me finally call security. Before my shower last night, I went to put my earrings into my jewelry box. Yes, the one with the broken glass. When I opened the box, I saw that all of the contents had shifted as if someone had picked it up and tilted it. I normally don’t go into this box, so contents should have been organized instead of laying in a heap. The only logical explanation that I could think of was that someone entered my apartment while I was at work…and seriously at this point I prefer the idea of a burglar to a ghost!

So then I had to send the weirdest email of my life…how exactly do you tell someone that your apartment was either broken into (but nothing was taken) or a supernatural being has taken up residence without coming off as crazy?? Luckily security thought it was just as weird as I did and they sent someone over to make sure that my door wasn’t busted or anything. But seriously how crazy is that?! Melissa invited me to sleep over her apartment, but I decided to be brave lazy and stay in my own bed. Lilly’s at my parents’ for the week, so I was a bit nervous that I wouldn’t have her to protect me, but I survived the night! Too bad “having a totally freaky experience” wasn’t on The List…could have crossed one more off!

Snow Day!

We’ve had two snow days and a delayed opening this week! The last time I missed this much school because of snow, it was 2001!

RIT was notorious for NEVER CLOSING. My freshman year, the first day of fall quarter was Labor Day and the last day of the quarter was Veteran’s Day. You know, days that my high-school-self was used to having off. After awhile, I accepted never having holidays off. But you know what I really missed? Snow days. There was something special about a snow day. A snow day was always such a nice, unexpected surprise.

But RIT was in Western New York. On average, the city gets over 90 inches of snow each winter. Plus the area around campus was pretty flat, so it was much easier to drive around than my neighborhood in Connecticut. I quickly got used to walking to school in all sorts of weather. I also became a pro at layering! Pro tip? Wear sweatpants OVER your jeans/leggings/normal pants so that if you want to take a layer off, it’s the outer one.

Bye Pam, don’t get lost in a blizzard!

One Martin Luther King Day, I woke up to my roommate Tiffany crouched next to the side of my bed. “School’s closed!” she said. “No it’s not,” I said as I rolled away from her. She explained that there was an ice storm and Monroe County made us close down. I still didn’t believe her, but I reached for my laptop, checked my email, and sure enough, RIT was closed. The next thing I checked was Facebook, which of course was filled with…wait I’m not even sure statuses were a thing. But you know what I mean! I remembered that I set an away message about my day off, to which my non-RIT friends replied, “Of course you have today off, it’s Martin Luther King Day.” Sigh.

 

Found this bad boy on Facebook. Oh the glory days!

Since it was technically an ICE day and not a SNOW day, we didn’t get to do any of the fun things like go sledding, have snowball fights, or build inappropriate snow sculptures. I remember being able to enjoy the day with my roommates. The other thing I remember about that day was meeting our weird neighbors. They set the fire alarm off, so our whole row had to wait outside in the ice storm. Lovely. Luckily one of us was parked nearby, so we waited inside a car.

This is probably the only reason I have pictures of our ice day.

During the rest of my time at RIT, I remember there being a few times that afternoon/evening classes were cancelled, but no whole day events. I’ve been enjoying these past few days, but I’m hoping the weather stops being so crazy in time for recruitment and my upcoming trip to Rochester!

How I Spent My Christmas Vacation

This time last month, I was eagerly counting down the days until I had a whole, glorious, twelve days off from work. I decided that I was going to take an ACTUAL break during the holidays…but didn’t tell anybody. Oops. Sorry for going off the radar! To be fair, I was supposed to be back “on” the radar three days ago, but as of typing this post, I have not had a healthy day in 2014 (more on that later). I was hoping that MAYBE I’d be able to accomplish #15 (go a day without internet), but the closest I got to that was that I brought my laptop to Connecticut but didn’t once turn it on. Baby steps.

The Good

You may have noticed that #54 on my list was to get my parents a big Christmas gift and that for the longest time it’s had (December 2013) next to it. Well, I actually bought the gift months ago, but obviously couldn’t write about until after Christmas. So what was their big gift? A new TV!! The last time my parents bought a TV, I don’t think flat screens even existed. They had been mentioning getting a new TV for quite some time, but something else always seemed to come up. Unfortunately there was no easy way to smuggle the giant box into the house, so my parents received their present two days early.

My parents BIG Christmas present!

My parents BIG Christmas present!

I got to hang out with my older cousins for a bit on Christmas Eve. I’m smack dab in the middle of my family – there are thirteen years between me and my next oldest cousin and thirteen years between me and the cousin younger than me. Clearly there’s not much in common when we’ve got this thirteen year spread, but now that we’re getting older, it’s easier to bridge that gap.

Anytime I go back to Connecticut, I try to see all of my home friends. I did a decent job – one night at Biscotti’s, one night out to dinner with Lexie (great food, crappy service), and WHERE THE HELL WAS RENO?! Earlier in the holiday season, I texted my usual group of girls and suggested something new – doing a group gift exchange instead of individual gifts. We wound up doing a bottle exchange – one bottle of wine, one bottle of nail polish. We were talking about other types of gift exchanges and I think next year we are going to do a “My Favorite Things” exchange!

Gift Exchange 2013

Gift Exchange 2013

The one home friend that I got to see more than anyone else was Elissa. I was glad to have time to catch up with her and we celebrated another New Year’s Eve with one another. It was tame by twenty-something standards, but it reminded us of our “glory days” of middle school…including the winter break that Elissa slept over my house for four or five nights in a row!

We let Lilly hang out with us too.

We let Lilly hang out with us too.

The Better

On Christmas Eve, I went to take the dog out only to find out that it was snowing! That’s two years in a row with a nice Christmas dusting!

The view from the top of my driveway.

The view from the top of my driveway.

Since I was all too eager to go off the radar this break, I spent a good portion of it curled up on the couch in front of my parents’ new TV streaming Netflix from my Wii. I think my mom was pretty bummed when I took the Wii back to Reading with me, but my dad is looking into getting a Roku or some other sort of streaming device so my mom can watch Netflix on the TV.

The Bad

Unfortunately break wasn’t all sunshine and roses. It started on a pretty sour note – my car failed its inspection (and the inspection itself took nearly two hours longer than it was supposed to). Now I get to research tires and brakes and all those other fun things.

Spending time with my older cousins came with a price – a MAJOR hangover. It’s true what they say – you really can’t keep track of how much you drink when your drink keeps getting topped off.

My student loan payments were due at the end of my little vacation. That was expected, but the change in my minimum payment was not!! It was my hope to fully pay off one of my student loans in the near future, but with the minimum payment change, it’s not possible. This just solidifies that I need to find a financial advisor (#118!).

The BLECHHH

I mentioned earlier that I haven’t had a healthy day since we switched calendars. 2014 started fine. Since Elissa and I had the tamest NYE celebration this side of high school, there was no pesky hangover to worry about. One per vacation is enough, thank you. But by that afternoon, I wasn’t feeling so hot…I was at a party with TONS of food and I wanted NONE of it. Anybody that knows me can confirm that’s not normal. I shrugged it off and went to sleep early, only to wake up at 11:30 feeling incredibly sick. I’ll spare the nasty details, but let’s just say I did not leave the bathroom until 7:30 the next morning. The next (same?) day, I couldn’t get off the couch for anything. All I wanted to do was sleep, but all I could do was lightly doze. Luckily, the day after that was MUCH better. I could get up and move around, but it left me exhausted, so after I drove back to Reading, I crashed HARD. I woke up at 9:30 to find my apartment freezing. Broken heater. Great. I woke up at 12:15 to let the facilities worker in that graciously brought me a space heater. Woke up later in the night because my neck was itchy. Removed a necklace and went back to sleep. Woke up at 7:30 itchy all over and discovered I had some terrible rash. Benadryl is taking care of that, but I still have no energy. I’ve been trying to unpack, but I keep having to sit down and rest. I cannot wait to get better!!

Oh and BLECH that it’s 2014…I was just writing something down and wrote 2012. I’m not one year behind like a normal person…I’m TWO years behind. To quote Blink 182 – “Well I guess this is growing up.”

I hope you all had a wonderful 2013!! I'm looking ahead to a fantastic 2014 - once this plague is behind me!

I hope you all had a wonderful 2013!! I’m looking ahead to a fantastic 2014 – once this plague is behind me!

115. Throw away thirty things.

Earlier this month, I wrote about the cleaning spree that I went on during Thanksgiving Break. I had BAGS AND BAGS of clothes to donate but it was NOTHING compared to how much stuff I threw out.

Some stuff on its way out of my room.

Some stuff on its way out of my room.

While I was visiting my parents, I decided to tackle the closet in my room. Even though I don’t live there anymore, my closet and dresser are completely full with clothes (and other crap) from when I was in high school and college. Somewhere in the back of my head, I thought it was nice because if I forgot to pack something to wear, I had clothes to wear at home. Except. I didn’t. Most of the stuff in there was free t-shirts and pajama pants – I couldn’t make an outfit out of that! I realized that it was useless to keep all that stuff around…all it was doing was making my room look messy. I couldn’t put things away on longer trips home because there was nowhere to put them.

I didn’t throw out EVERYTHING that was in my room. I had to spend some time organizing the stuff that I was keeping – mostly craft supplies and some special shirts (including four RIT Springfest shirts). Some of the stuff that did go? Old electronics, a broken (fake) Coach purse, and a bunch of empty alcohol bottles that were hidden away in the closet. Classy.

I’ve been pretty determined to clean since Thanksgiving, but my apartment is much more overwhelming than my old room and my parents’ house. I know that I haven’t used the stuff in that closet for ages and ages. It was much easier to throw those things out. I also don’t have as much time (or energy) in my own apartment. After a long day at work, I just want to watch 50 episodes of “Say Yes to the Dress) do nothing. I did manage to make some progress in my craft corner – I cleared off the desktop and the middle drawer! It doesn’t sound like much, but it already looks a ton better.

Some helpful/inspirational sites during this cleaning spree? I Heart Organizing – this blog makes me want to go raid an Ikea. SO MUCH INSPIRATION!! Unf*** Your Habitat – while the other blog was inspiration, this blog was motivation. There are lots of little reminders and “Weekend Challenges”. They also have an app which I haven’t bought yet, but maybe it will be a post-Christmas present to myself. Oh, and last but not least – Netflix for marathons of hoarding shows.

Lilly Billy

On the first day of my last year of college, I wrote a small to do list. What was on it? “Write resume, get job, get apartment, get dog.” Those were my goals for the next year. I eventually did all of those things, although it might have taken me longer than a year.

This was the day I adopted Lilly.

This was the day I adopted Lilly.

My dog Lilly is turning three this month. She’s a dachshund mix and we’re pretty sure “mix” includes beagle and jack russell. She’s the absolute perfect size for apartment living and it makes me so happy to come home to her after a long day of work.

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Of course, Lilly herself isn’t perfect…but I will tell anybody who listens that she is! Lilly came from a shelter and was abused in the past so she’s not the best when she meets new people. Eventually she calms down if I hold her, but if she smells cigarette smoke, all bets are off. Honestly, I’m still learning new things about her every day. She’s scared of the weirdest things…including trash cans.

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Lilly also has Diabetes Insipidus. It’s not your run-of-the-mill Stacey-from-the-Baby-Sitters-Club diabetes. Lilly’s body doesn’t make the hormone/enzyme that processes water so she’ll drink and drink and drink and pee and pee and pee. Luckily they make a synthetic version that I give her twice a day that helps with it, but you can definitely tell when it starts to wear off! I have to be careful when I schedule things – if I don’t give her her medicine, she’ll drink all of the water from her cage bowl and pee in her cage. I’m always worried about if she’s getting dehydrated or if she’s uncomfortable.

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Even if Lilly didn’t have some rare disorder, having a dog is hard work! I keep hoping that one day Lilly will suddenly grasp the concept of the toilet, but she has not. Snowing? Gotta take the dog out. Pouring? Gotta take the dog out. There was just a mugging down the block? Still gotta take the dog out. Dogs can also cost quite a bit of money – just like a person she needs food and medicine and bedding. You should definitely take all of these things into consideration before you decide to get a dog! Remember – different breeds require different things!

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I absolutely love my little weirdo – coming home from work has gotten 10x better now that I have Lilly to greet me! Happy (early) 3rd Birthday Baby Girl!

12. Find My Bucket List from 2001

When I started this blog, I remembered that back in 2001, I had used an extra binder to make some sort of bucket list/scrapbook-type thing. After I got back from Florida, I went to my parents’ house and looked for it. It wasn’t too hard to find…even after all my moves, it was still in my bedroom. I really wanted to see what was on my list back then and what (if anything) I had accomplished since then.

There's 13 year old me in the middle!!

There’s 13 year old me in the middle!!

Reading the list itself is rather amusing…it provides a little peak into the mind of thirteen-year-old-me. Graduating from both high school and college were really important to me. So was being a cheerleader and going to prom. Some of the things on the list seem really dated. I listed that I wanted to go on MTV TRL Studios. Does that show even exist anymore?! I also wrote that I wanted to make my own mix tapes or CDs and that I wanted to own a laptop some day. Owning a laptop was considered a big deal in 2001! I don’t even think my school had it’s laptop cart yet.

The one thing I always remembered from that list is that I wanted to keep a journal for five years straight. Well little me, I did you one better. I kept a journal for twelve years and I’m still going! In the beginning, I wrote mostly about things that happened during the day, but as I got older, I wrote more about how I felt about things. Every so often I go back and read it (it’s all online – heck yes!) and I am constantly amazed at how smart I sounded when I was younger. I don’t remember feeling that smart! And how on earth is my own advice still applicable five or eight years later?!

From my list of 50 things, I’ve accomplished 38. I’d say that’s pretty good considering that I nearly forgot about this list. Some of the things I HAVEN’T done include visiting all 50 states (only 21), meeting the President, and riding a horse. Oh, I also never got to go on TRL. Shucks.

Clearly my biggest regret.

I plan on adding some of these things to my list of things I’ve done…I definitely want to tell you all about the time I “met” Rachel Maddow. It’s a good one.