Why Volunteering is Important

 

BPMS150_PacketPickUp
Together at the BP MS150 packet pick up

Community service has been a part of my entire life and I have always felt the importance of it, even when I didn’t know it yet. As a kid, I watched my family spend most of their free time volunteering in various ways, from local politics, to the Lions Club, the fire department, building things for schools, running fundraisers…if it needed to be done and volunteers were required, the Baileys made it happen. In prep school, community service was right there in the school motto, and it was worked into our daily schedule. By the time I reached 18, I found myself instinctively seeking out areas and places to lend my skills whenever I could, and the first thing I would do when I moved, was to get involved (this is a great way to meet people in a new city too!). Today I’m coming off of a three day weekend of helping with a the biggest event I am part of. So this seemed like the perfect time to chat about why we all need to get out there and volunteer more.

Why volunteer?

The obvious answer is that non profit organizations need you. They need manpower and extra hands and to pay for this labor would deplete the funds that they work so hard to raise. The not so obvious is that in volunteering, you are both contributing to and engaging in your community and everyone benefits from a tight community. If every US citizen stepped up to aid where help was needed in their towns and cities, this country would be a very different place. Think about that some more and then get involved!

BPMS150_Steering
Events like this one are FUN and take a huge number of volunteers

Are there benefits of offering your time for free?

Yes! There are plenty of reasons besides the “feel good” and giving back aspects of philanthropy, which are huge, but if that was enough, everyone would already be doing it. If you are career oriented, by getting involved you are having networking opportunities as well as great additions to your resume and LinkedIn profile.  I do not always talk about what I do for a living when I am volunteering, but as there is often down time at events, it comes up. On Friday, I was working with a man who helps small businesses set up systems (i.e. spreadsheets, financial, any thing technological) and we chatted about business in between checking in cyclists. This also means we can also add “learn new things” to the list! As I mentioned above, if you are new to an area, it is a wonderful way to meet new people and put yourself out there. Now we’ll come full circle and remind ourselves the importance of helping those who may need a hand and the karmic aspect of being the hand lender.

What types of volunteering opportunities are out there?

Countless. First think of what you want to be involved in…what you’re passionate about, what areas you want to make sure get help. Then google some of these passions and your city and organizations and local chapters will pop up. Fill out the volunteer form (sometimes it takes awhile to hear back) and go from there. There are so many areas where you can get involved. I enjoy being part of something with arts as well as something more social/heath related and I am an active alumni for my prep school. I typically like to be part of three or so organizations as a regular participant and am currently looking to get involved with a veterans organization as well. Adam has worked with a dog rescue here in Austin and feeds the hungry once a week. Right there is pretty good feel for the spectrum of areas to help in.

Showing off my co-ordinated fanny pack at the BP MS150
Showing off my co-ordinated fanny pack at the BP MS150

What do you do when you volunteer?

This is another countless ways answer. Anything from playing with rescue dogs to making sandwiches to cleaning up a river to helping organize a race to visiting the elderly on and on and on. You can be as little or as hugely involved as you want to be. When you sign up, you let your skills be known and often will both be asked what you would prefer to do and guided towards tasks that seem fitting. For example, Adam is a great people person, he is often the person put in charge of welcoming people to an event or engaging them in something. I on the other hand has served in various boards and had leadership positions in many organizations. Between that and owning a business, I am typically asked if I would help out in  a leadership/organizing capacity as those are the skills that they find the most useful. Side note, when I began working with the National MS Society, I was asked by one of the staff if I would be involved in contacting legislator and being on the political side and I politely declined. I had no interest in that kind of involvement and they were ok with my answer. No one wants to waste your time or have you doing something that you are not comfortable doing or simply don’t want to do! Other examples of things that can be done: For my alma mater, I basically try and stay in touch with other alumni in the area and every year or so, I attempt to get us all in one place for a couple of hours. It’s a very small time commitment on my end, I’m basically emailing a few times a year and showing up for food. For an arts/business group I am in, I am part of their mentor program and have a mentee for 8 weeks at a time whom I skpe with for one hour a week. If you are not a people person, there are also many tasks these days that you can do remotely and on you’re computer. Trust me, your skills, no matter what they are will be appreciated!

Bikes for days at the BP MS150
Bikes for days at the BP MS150 pick up in Austin

What if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing?

I have already been involved in a handful organizations here in Austin, serving on boards for a year here and being a chapter leader there. Unfortunately, not all groups were for the long haul. And that’s ok! One group was so new that it dissolved due to low participation and that was sad, but not really anyones fault, it happens. One group I found was not the right fit for the arts I was looking for and I left politely. That was ok too. When I was in high school I was volunteering at a mental health facility and a patient had a bit of a freak out on me. I was young, it was more than I could handle at the time and I didn’t want to go back. That was ok too. Volunteering is as much about you enjoying the time you donate as it for you helping the organization. Remember that there is a lid for every pot, and for every job that gives you the shudders, there are people that would love to help in that way!

How much time do you have to give?

There is such a range of what you can do and you can be involved in as little or as large of a capacity as you choose. Some months there is nothing really going on with any thing I am involved in. This month has been incredibly full month with the two of the organizations I volunteer with. It just happens that a lot is going in this month. For non profits who are raising funds, the end of their fiscal year (June 30th) is approaching, so it’s the final push. It’s also a time of year when many races, walks, runs and rides occur as the weather is pleasant (especially here in Texas). When we get to November and December, everyone understands that its a crazy time of year, so there is very little going on. Last week I had a phone or face to face meeting every day for one of the two groups. Friends kept asking why I was volunteering so much and my answer after a bit of thought was: “I am of a certain age, with a certain income (meaning simply that I can afford to give some of my time) and do not have kids. I should be doing this.” That’s just my story though, you do what you can do!

At the Austin chapter interest meeting for the Academy of Handmade
At the Austin chapter interest meeting for the Academy of Handmade (contact me if you want more info about this one!)

Ready to get involved?

Head immediately to google while I have you all excited. Look up an area that you want to help (veterans, cancer, dog rescue, whatever you are interested in). Choose an organization and see if they have a local chapter in your area. Find the tab for volunteering/getting involved. Email that you want to help. Feel instantly amazing that you are getting involved.

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Top 5 Podcasts for Running

Top 5 Podcasts for running

A few months ago, I was in the middle of the Elizabeth Gilbert podcast series “Magic Lessons” that she created along with the release of her book Bog Magic and obsessed. I would listen to it when I went on the couple of walks I take each week and one night was leaving for a run and considered walking instead so I could keep listening. Then I thought that as I enjoyed listening while walking so much, that I might give a whirl when I went for a run. As it turns out I LOVED running to her podcast. I had been recently bored of the music I was running to and had been having pacing problems with music with beats too slow so I wasn’t adding new music in often enough. Podcasts turned out to be the perfect answer. Which was surprising as I never would have thought that I’d enjoy the spoken word to run to, but it’s amazing. I learn things, am completely entertained and find that I actually run faster the to music. I have a dozen or so podcasts on my phone but these are my top 5 that I find myself constantly going through their archives pre-run.

My Top 5 Podcasts for Running:

1. Freakonomics Radio – I love the books so no surprise that I love the podcast. The economist host picks a subject and gives you two perspectives on it via research and interviews and it’s always fascinating. Examples of some of my favorites: The No Tipping Point; Who Needs Handwriting; Why Do People Keep Having Children; Should Every One Be In A Rock Band; Food + Science = Victory!; Meet The Woman Who Says You Can’t Have It All; Aziz Ansari Needs Another Toothbrush; Is It OK For Restaurants to Racially Profile Their Employees?…and so many more. I love them all!

2. Stuff You Should Know – A very close second and the one I’ve been listening to the most recently because I can not help myself. Two guys delve into random subjects and geek out. I adore them and find myself laughing at their banter and tangents while running all the time. Examples of some of my favorites: Nostalgia is not the most toxic impulse; How Makeup Works; Some Really Interesting Cases of Mass Hysteria; How Dark Money Works; How Freak Shows Worked; (Approximately) 10 Things That Vanished Mysteriously; The Duality of Caffeine; The Satanic Panic of the 1980’s; How Lizzie Borden Worked; Great Wall of China;How Dementia Works.

3. Gastro Pod – Oddly I really enjoy listening to people talk about food while I run. I think that is bizarre AF, but whatever works. The hosts research a topic and then bring in guest speakers to pepper their findings. Examples of some of my favorites: The Bitter Truth; The End of The Calorie; The Maple Boom; Grand Theft Food; Caffeine: The World’s Most Popular Drug.

4. America’s Test Kitchen Radio – This one is new to my feed, but I am so excited about the topics that I can’t wait to dive in deep. The subjects are typically behind the scenes with famous chefs from Emeril and Rachel Ray to Aaron Franklin and pop subjects like eating paleo and cutting sugar. I suspect I’ll enjoy it immensely!

5. The Tim Ferris Show – I don’t listen to this one as much as his tend to be really long (1.5 – 2 hours) or really short (17 min) and I prefer and try and fit one podcast into one run. But I was recommended on this one and have liked what I’ve heard a great deal more then many I have tried so far, so it made my top 5.

Notable mentions: Inquiring Minds, Stuff To Blow Your Mind, Stuff Mom Never Told You, This American Life, 99% Invisible and Stuff You Missed in History Class.

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The skinny dress

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Last fall, I was not feeling or looking my best and decided to make a change. Although I ate really healthy (including eating all of my daily fruits and veggies) and exercised, it no longer was enough to maintain and my weight had crept up. At the same time, my good friend Luke was changing careers to make his love fitness a full time job. I worked with him for a month from September to October and I learned that I could push myself much harder without dying and that as I have been aging, that I needed to add more cardio. Besides fitness, we were chatting about food one day and he thought I should check out macros and learn about the importance of tracking them if you work out hard, I was intrigued. After our month together, I was motivated, excited and on the right path. Then some health issue came up and I turned to candy to deal with the stress of it. In mid December, after a visit to the dr and finally figuring out the problem (Adenomyosis) and working towards a temporary treatment and planning an eventual cure, I realized how much I had been stress eating (mostly jelly belly jelly beans). I had ballooned up fast in the short span of a month, could hardly fit into my clothes and felt miserable.

First things first, I, as you may know, stopped eating sugar immediatly after the dr’s office visit. All sugar, no cheat days, none in my coffee, zero, zip, nada. I started dropping the extra weight I had put on in the last month really fast from that alone but then decided to get back to my fighting weight. To the weight I had been for most of my adult life, and what almost all of you know me at, so nothing drastic, however it still felt overwhelming. But I dug my heels in and got to work. I upped my workouts applying what I learned from Luke. I alternated longer run days with days where I would do a warm up run and then a video, each week both of these runs became longer and faster. On my two days off a week, I still walked at least 3-4 miles. I bought a fitbit Zip that I keep it in my bra and I started tracking calories and macros to see where the issues were. (Turns out I love tracking food, its like a daily puzzle I have to solve and works really, really well for me.) I had been against scales for a few years and relied solely on how clothes fit, but I knew that I’d need more than that to do this, so I immediatly went out and bought both a food scale and body scale. I was on a mission to not let my uterus (which during an ultrasound was discovered to be 4 times the normal size) with its enlarged size and bloating tendencies dictate how I looked and felt. I would not let my stupid uterus have any more control.

I set a weight goal, but really my goals were the dresses hanging in my closet. (I mean really, what women doesn’t keep clothing for this purpose in her closet?) There were a few specific dresses that each represented a bench mark I wanted to get back to. Over the last few months, as my clothes began fitting normally again and I found myself able to comfortable fit back in most pieces, there were three dresses in particular that were standing out as the ones I was striving for. I have been trying them on along the way to see where I am, and had been frustrated at what seemed like so little progress with them. This morning though, I was feeling good. Last night, Adam told me that any pro athlete would be proud of the training I’ve been doing, and that felt really good to hear! So I was still riding on that when I woke up today and decided to weigh myself (I only do this randomly every few days or sometimes even every week or so), and discovered that I have officially lost 30 lbs since December! Exciting, but you know, just a number.

So I went for the ultimate test, I had shied away from trying on the dreaded dresses for a few weeks as that last time when I tried on the dress from the day we eloped, there was a lot of extra over hang on top, (upper body muffin top, if you will), I couldn’t zip up a dress I wore when I came to visit Austin 5 years ago and I wasn’t even ready to go near THE DRESS…the smallest and least forgiving of any dress I have ever worn that is raw silk, cut on the bias and tight on the hips and makes me terrified to even consider trying. But today, 2 days shy of a vacation in the Bahamas and 2 weeks before the birthday goal date I was aiming for, I was feeling good. I yelled for Adam to grab the wedding dress from the closet (this took two tries by the way, how do men not pay attention to what you wear??). I think he was more nervous than I was as he didn’t want to see me so disappointed again. It zipped with no problem. There was not a peek of upper muffin top, it may have been a little roomy. We both looked at each with a kind of awe. Then Adam got bored and wandered off. But I immediately grabbed the second, and it zipped right up too! So feeling brazen, I want for the last dress…and OMG, it fit!! There was cheering, maybe some weird version of twerking and lots and lots of jumping for joy! All the dancing lady emojis!!!

I’m feeling pretty awesome about how once again hard work and determination accomplished my goals. To be really honest, I’m also kind of nervous about traveling for 8 days and not being able to keep such a tight grasp on what I’m eating, but I do understand the need to live a little, its just really soon to feel like I could actually undo the hard work so fast. Remember the beginning of this post? I can gain weight really, really fast! But at least now I know how to reverse it. As far as long term goes, I really like using the tracking app, especially for macros. I’ve started to notice that if I get a headache or feel sluggish, it’s almost always because I haven’t had enough fat that day. I will most likely keep tracking so I can maintain without fearing that I’ll keep loosing (I have gone board in the past and become too skinny, that and I want to fit in the clothes in my closet!). I also love my current workouts, so I’m sure if I need to dial it back or eat more, but that will have to be figured out. Right now, I’m just really happy that I was able to give up sugar (which will absolutely remain banned from my life, I have no control with moderation in that area) and show my uterus who the boss really is.

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The Blahs

This is what being in the blahs feels like.
This is what being in the blahs feels like.

I wrote this post in my head 60 million times before I actually sat down to write it. Mostly because when you are experiencing the blahs, you don’t really want to do anything. Or care. Whatever. But I was listening to my favorite periscope yesterday when the lovely Sabina started chatting about how she and a few of her entrepreneur friends were chatting about how they just were not feeling it these past few weeks. And after talking about this she pointed out how we as a group of “work all the time” individuals need to give ourselves permission to feel this way. Now I understand that the blahs can be different things to different people. They can be just general melancholy, exhaustion following the holiday season for especially product based businesses, they can be a touch of S.A.D. and they can be depression. So note that if you are feeling that your blahs are more of a serious depression, then by all means seek professional help. Otherwise, I too give you permission to wallow in them.

For me, the blahs are an annual experience that begin right around the new year. I detest all of the New Year, New Start! crap and it typically sets me off. This year they lingered a bit longer, which was made further usual as almost every single day in January I have dragged my butt outside to exercise. That’s the double whammy, two punch cure usually…sunshine AND exercise…all the endorphins! And still, they stayed. I had lunch earlier this week with two amazing ladies (the Jessica’s) who are B2B powerhouses. I have been lunching with Jessica #1 for quite some time (we met through LinkedIn, how cool is that?? I swear I need to do a post on making IRL friends with online acquaintances) and this week she thought Jessica #2 and I should also meet. So Jessica #2 and I were getting to know each other and our respective businesses and I was explaining how I had a bad case of the blahs. That the blahs were so bad this year that I had hardly been getting anything done, not because I didn’t have time, but because I kept just sitting at my desk being sucked into the vortex of nothingness. Anyway, we chatted about this a bit more and I left feeling a bit lifted. The blahs are still hovering about but the next day I got done half the tasks I have been avoiding and that’s awesome.

Ahhhhh, how you feel every time the blah is lifted (even if it still hovers in your head waiting to come back).
Ahhhhh, how you feel every time the blahs are lifted (even if it still hovers in your head waiting to come back).

What is the point of all of this blah blah blah (hehehe)? Basically it is to tell you that you are not alone. There are always other people out there who are feeling what you’re feeling (like Sabina and her friends) and there are also people out there who may not be feeling it, but would love to talk to you about it (like the Jessica’s). This is especially important to understand if you are a solo-preneur, to make sure to get out there and talk to people! You don’t have to hide your feelings and pretend everything is perfect all the time…instagram is not real and no man is an island.

*excuse the fuzzy photos, I felt these images illustrated my point perfectly and didn’t want to recreate them in daylight, as that would take too much effort for my blahs to handle right now. Also, that amazing over sized eye mask that keeps out ALL light and is organic silk can be found on Etsy here.

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30 Minute Black Bean Soup

BlackBeanSoup

I love soup in the winter, especially big batches of it that I can easily reheat for lunch. The past month we have had a black bean soup in heavy rotation that I completely forgot I used to make all the time. I had perfected the recipe years ago and was delighted that it really was as quick and easy to make as I remembered. It tasted better then my memory allowed though and that is why I have made it so often. It really does take about 30 minutes, and is soooo tasty!

Black Bean Soup
Serves 4

1 t kosher salt
1/2 t fresh ground black pepper
1/4 t ground cumin
2 bay leaves
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar
1 T garlic
1 c red onion, chopped
1 1/2 c red pepper, chopped
3 15 oz cans black beans, undrained
1 3/4 c chicken broth, low sodium

Bag of shredded Mexican cheese

In medium sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Sauté onion, red pepper and garlic until soft, approx 7 minutes.
Add 2 cans beans, broth, vinegar, salt, black pepper, cumin and bay leaves. Cover and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove bay leaves.
Use stick blender and blend in the pot keeping a few lumps. If you don’t have a stick blender, transfer very carefully into a blender or food processor and pulse.
Add 3rd can of beans and blend/pulse for a second, keeping most beans whole.

Sprinkle cheese on top and serve!

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SSB: Single Sexy Behavior

Big shocker: candy is often procured during these late night SSB episodes
Big shocker: candy is often procured during these late night SSB occurrences

Remember that episode of Sex and The City where Carrie talked about Single Sexy Behavior, that totally weird thing you do when you’re single (or alone at home)? Carrie ate saltines in stack, with grape jelly. Standing in her kitchen, reading Vogue. Miranda watched infomercials with luxe moisturizer mittens on her hands. Charlotte inspected her pores in a lit magnifying mirror and Samantha had some sort of actual sexy going on. Well I have developed a weird SSB in the past few years. It does involve leaving the house, but usually in my jammies. It happens at about 10pm, only on nights when Adam is working and mostly in the winter, I think because it gets dark so early. I for some reason feel an intense need to go to target. I hardly ever buy anything on the missions. I just feel really calmed strolling the aisles in the mostly quiet store, looking at things. I’ll pick up maybe a pair of fun knee socks or festive boxers for Adam, typically I spend under $30 on these excursions, but I feel so nice after. No idea why. What’s you single sexy behavior?

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Power Pose

Wonder_Woman

Want an instant boost of confidence and power (like before an interview or public speaking)? Stand a super hero in the above pose for 5 minutes. There’s science behind this that you can read about here. But really, when I’m getting ready to write pitches, I do my best Wonder Woman impersonation…on really important days I wear the costume.

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Pro Tip: Fro-yo

I jokingly posted on a photo I took of my Shack Burger on Instagram a few weeks ago “Pro-Tip: ask for xtra pickles on the side” and I realized I was onto something. As I not only love food, I have personally been in the food industry AND many, many of my friends are in restaurant management or chefs. This all means that I not only know my way around a restaurant, but talk about food All. The. Time. As we have already established, on Wednesdays we talk about food. So now, on some Wednesdays, I will share Pro Tips with you.

This week it’s all about the Fro Yo! I am a big fan of the soft serve yogurt places as you get to add candy and as much of it as you want with no judgement. Its the only time I get to eat candy these days and I look forward to this treat every other week or so. A month or so ago, Adam and I were chatting with the young man who seems to always be working when we go to the place down the street and he changed my life forever with one word: layering. As in layer your toppings. So simple and obvious and yet not something I would have ever thought to do! I was so excited that I made a really quick video…and I immediately changed the lives of my IG and Vine followers. Mind blowing.

p.s. if you cannot view the view, you may watch it on Instagram.

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Stay-cation

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The past 10 days have been jam packed with activities. We had two waves of house guests as well as logging in a good amount of hours with friends. Due to the schedules that Adam and I both keep these days, it was a bit outside of our norm and made it feel as though we were the ones on vacation! This also explains my absence from blogging for the past week…when I did get into the studio it was pretty quick and focused on getting orders out the door. I spent more time doing laundry (so many sheets, blankets and towels!) than I did in the studio last week, ha! I oddly took very few photos though all of the fun, and the majority of the photos that I snapped were with my sister Gillian when she was here as I very rarely see her. Regardless, I decided to collect all of my favorite moments right here as one of the best parts about blogging is that you are keeping a record of your life, and I love looking back at past events. So here is our July, 2015 impromptu Stay-cation

Barton Springs
At Barton Springs Pool
At Barton Springs Pool
Sister antics at dinner
Sister antics at dinner
One of many, many wonderful meals out on the town
One of many, many wonderful meals out on the town
Aggressive sister love in 2011 (top) and 2015 (bottom)
Aggressive sister love in 2011 (top) and 2015 (bottom)

We ate all the things, saw all the places, listened to live music, went dancing, ate more of the things, went new phone shopping (4 of us have new phones now, yay!), played board games and ate some more things. In the wake of all of this merriment, I’m a bit exhausted, bloated from eating all the things, and some how haven’t had time to wash my hair in three days, but I had such a fun time!

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Top 5 Snacks that are sort of guilt free.

 

peanut butter pretzles

Are you a snacker? I find that eating every four hours works best for me so I usually eat three meals and a snack each day. I have never been much of a snack food eater, so I don’t stock the pantry  with things like chips and crackers but that doesn’t mean I avoid all snacks. The above photo is of my ultimate weakness, peanut butter filled pretzels. These are the HEB brand and are available both in the chip aisle and in the bulk foods aisle. I prefer to buy them in the bulk aisle so I only buy a handful as I have no self control. They never last more than one day, no matter how big the bag! Regardless if they’re pretzels or a bit healthier, my favorite go snack foods are easy to grab and usually a combo of salty and sweet. I will often have my snack within half an hour of a run or workout so I like snacks that fuel me as much as possible. These are my go to top five, sometimes I add in new ones but I usually come back to these:

1. Apples and peanut butter (or almond or sun butter). My lifelong favorite snack and Fuji apples are my go to apples.

2. Hummus and raw veggies. I usually go with cut up cucumbers, carrots, peppers and grape tomatoes. Sometimes instead of the hummus, I’ll have a few olives.

3. Cold soup. A new addition to the list but I buy both in single servings and big bottles. There is a gazpacho that has a little oil in it and I feel fueled enough to run 3.5 miles after a cup of it.

4. Apricot rolls and almonds. Have you seen these rolled fruit thingies? I get them in the bulk food section and these are made from apricots, apples and a bit of coconut. A few of these and about 12 almonds is perfect.

5. Yogurt. I love yogurt even though it does not love me back. I finally found an organic lactose free one that I love though and now can eat it without getting sick…hooray!

What are your go to snacks?

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