Jun 28, 2009

Hunting & Nesting

We're getting really excited to buy our house. Friday night we had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory and chatted all about our new house. We've not started actually going and looking at houses yet but each day it becomes a little more real that we're going to buy something this year. And with every paycheck we feel more secure in our decision. It's so exciting!

Our friend Kandi recommended a real estate agency to me this weekend and I've been playing on their Web site all afternoon. It's a very user friendly site and I'm finding tons of houses that I love. This particular agency, Zip Realty, offers a cash back rebate when you purchase through them. I have to say, I'm pretty into that idea.

In addition to looking at actual houses, I am looking at all the new house things we want. Mom reminds me that its OK and probably smart not to do it all at once. And I know that. But we've not decided what we're going to do first so I'm just looking at it all. Paint colors, living room sets, bedroom sets, guest bedroom bedding, refrigerators, rugs, EVERYTHING. Mom just told me that we can have the daybed from my room at their house which means suddenly we have guest room furniture. Woohoo! The guestroom will double as my office so I get to decorate however I want. It will definitely be a warm color but whether its orange, red or pink is TBD. I had been thinking bright tangerine walls but it might be hard to find bedding and furniture to compliment that well. Perhaps a girly pink and do the whole shabby chic thing. I dunno...what do you think?

We're both really excited for the new house and I know our biggest challenge is going to be keeping our excitement in check. We have to remember that not every decoration or piece of furniture needs to happen at once.

And for your viewing pleasure, here's the outside of one of the houses we've looked at online.

Jun 25, 2009

Buy In?

Last week I went to a board primer to help me be a better YNPN board member. During this primer the idea of mandatory board donations came up. This isn't uncommon at all, in fact it's very common. You might even go as far as to call it a best practice. For some nonprofits it might mean just that a board member is required to donate something but for a lot of boards, there's a minimum donation and it's often pretty high (at least by my standards).

I recently heard of a local nonprofit with a $5K minimum donation. On the one hand this means they can count on at least X every year depending on their number of board members. This particular group has more than 50 board members so off the bat, they start with $250K in board donations each year. Hefty sum. You know that's great for their fund development people and makes program planning a bit less stressful.

But if you have 50 board members, are they all active? No way. For many its probably a social status marker, a resume item to show their commitment to the community. But if you make a $5K contribution, attend quarterly board meetings and one gala, is that really enough to give you the prestigious status of board member? Isn't that really being a glorified donor (not to shortchange donors in anyway, they are the lifeblood of many nonprofits and greatly appreciated)? Can't we praise and thank these individuals for being donors?

I guess this is where the crux of the discussion comes for me. While I appreciate the security of board donations, especially significant ones, I'm not sure that I want board members who just give. On the same token, I don't want to turn away a passionate, educated, motivated potential board member because their pockets aren't deep enough. For all the leadership a good board member is supposed to provide their nonprofit, I think we should be placing a higher premium on service.

At GSCTX we have an amazing board chair, Linda. I love Linda. She's great. She is a professional volunteer, in fact, she retired from being an elementary school principal in order to be our professional volunteer board chair. She's amazing. I honestly don't know if we have a minimum board donation but I'm inclined to guess that either we don't or it's low as I've never heard of it. So regardless of if Linda gives huge sums to the council, I'm really pleased she goes to bat for us every day in her community and at the office. She attends (and therefore pays to attend) many if not all of our fundraisers and is an excellent representation of the cool, confident woman we hope all Girl Scouts aspire to be. And best of all, she is truly passionate about empowering girls to be successful women.

In short, my two cents is I want board members who are ready to work and are interested in the cause. If they can make hefty donations to the organization, all the better. If they cannot, I hope and expect they will go into the community to aggresively raise funds. But above all, I want passion, involvement and dedication.

What do you think? Can you get board members who both donate heavily and work hard? Which is the ideal? Is reality different than the ideal? Will some boards always be purchased resume builders? What's the bigger business need for a nonprofit? Do the connections, prestige and funds that come with a wildly successful businessman (woman) equal or exceed the hours of a passionate board member lobbying in the community? Really, which is better for a nonprofit? Maybe I'm being idealistic; maybe big names with large donations are the most beneficial and that's why the trend exists. What do you think?

PS I'd like to note that this opinion is subject to change as I climb the nonprofit ladder and develop a better understanding of funding and politics. Of course, it might also not change but either way, that is to remain seen in years to come.

Jun 23, 2009

Are you going to work?

That's the question my pastor asked me today. As in..

Pastor: I meant to ask, will you work once your married? (dead serious)
Me: (looking to Ross for a clue) Yes.
Pastor: Where?
Me:...Same place I work now (very confused...is my employment supposed to change. crap is that like changing my name but nobody told me?)
Pastor:...which would be...
Me: Oh, Girl Scouts; communications.

I found this line of questioning to be baffling. Was I going to work? Would it make any sense at all to quit working just because I was married? TODAY?! In the 21st century? Now if the question had been "will you work once you have kids" then yeah that's a more reasonable question. But I was just floored by this idea that because I transition from a Ms. to a Mrs. that I might quit working.

Rest assured Girl Scouts, I'm not going anywhere. I will keep working and taking full advantage of my many vacation days. I'll be working once I'm Mrs. Black, once I'm Mommy and maybe even for a couple years once I'm Grandmommy. This gal is a working girl!

(And my honey, he's a working man. And Lexi, well she's just cute.)

Jun 21, 2009

Happy Dad's Day

I'm not in Houston with my old man but from my couch here in Austin let me tell you why Dad is A-OK by me.
  • He got me hooked on baseball hardcore when I was a kid. The other day I told Ross I used to not throw like a girl so much and he asked why I never played softball. The reason I never played softball is Dad let me play baseball with him and Kevin. When he told me I should start practicing with a softball so I could play I was peeved. Why did I have to use some special ball while Kevin got to use a baseball?! Besides, the softball was too big and I couldn't catch it well, my little hand wouldn't go around it. Even in elementary school, I had a wild feminist streak. Long story short I never played softball but Dad let me keep playing baseball with him and Kevin and started a long tradition of baseball fanaticism. In fact, I'm watching the Red Sox right now...
  • I got Friday surprises. Every Friday when I was a kid Dad brought home Friday surprises for me and Kevin. Most weeks it was something small like a bouncey ball or a candy bar. But two Fridays go down in the Friday hall of fame. 1) When he brought home a fort to build in our backyard and 2) When he brought home Boopie, the Lowe family mutt.
  • He paid me for my grades. I think this kinda irked Mom because she felt (and maybe rightfully) that we were expected to do well in school and didn't need pay. But I say you are expected to do well at your job too and you still get paid for that. Either way Dad told us that school was our job and if we did well, we'd make a little money. And did the man ever have a system. We got our report cards and sat down with him to figure out our pay. $2 for an A, $1 for a B, nada for a C, owed him for a D and no money at all if you got an F. AND then half of that money went into our college savings and the other half was our play money. Lessons learned from this genius act on Dad's part include 1) work hard and it pays off, literally, 2) you are expected to go to college and we're saving for it now and 3) you have responsibilities just like Mom and Dad, even if you are a kiddo.
  • Dad let me steal his Beatles 1 CD for years. I'm not even sure if he knows he let me steal it but I did and he never complained. I rocked out to Yellow Submarine and Eight Days a Week all through high school. I wish I knew where that CD was now...
  • And then he picked "All You Need Is Love" by the Beatles for our father-daughter dance at the wedding this year. Now tell me that's not perfect. I dare you. And speaking of father-daughter dances, my Dad always took me to the Girl Scout father-daughter dance. I wish I hadn't grown out of those so early.
  • Dad went back to school and got his degree. I can't even tell you how proud I was of him when he went back to school in 2001. It had been a few years...decades since he had gone to class but he decided it was time to go back. And he did it, with honors nonetheless.
  • We played hookey on Christmas Eve to go to a Texans game. It was totally unfair that he and I weren't at home to help Mom get ready for the big family Christmas dinner but it was a ton of fun to play hookey and run off to the Texans game with Dad and Uncle Bob.
  • He's always made sure a hurricane didn't sweep me up. I might have thought he was crazy sometimes but the fact remains, a number of tropical storms and hurricanes have hit little Seabrook and every member of my family remained dry and not swept away.
  • Finally, Dad and Mom set a pretty good example for me as to what a functioning marriage and family should look like. I find that the longer Ross and I live together and work out kinks, the more I appreciate it this. Dad's always treated Mom well and that's a great example for both Kevin and me as to how a successful romantic relationship goes. However my parents aren't perfect, thank goodness, and it makes me know its OK that Ross and I aren't perfect either. It's OK if we disagree every once in a while so long as we're both committed to figuring it out. People have quirks and we have to embrace them. I'm glad Dad and Mom are good eggs and that was the example I learned from. I think Ross appreciates it too (because ultimately it means I'm not too crazy and that has to be good for him).
Happy Dad's Day!

Jun 15, 2009

ROWE, ROT, Puppies, etc

new 006.jpg
Originally uploaded by cheryl_lynn425.
Ready for the laundry list? Here it goes.

Today I read about ROWE or Results-Only Work Environment. They do it out at the San Gorgonio Girl Scout Council under the leadership of youngest Girl Scout CEO ever, Jessica Lawrence. In a nutshell, Jessica told her staff that she knows just because they are in the office at their desk doesn't mean they are being productive and just because they are at home/Starbucks/where ever doesn't mean they can't be productive. So work when you want, where you want so long as you get the job done. And so they adopted ROWE, making them the first non-profit in the country to do such. I think its pretty cool though I will admit for a type A-er like me, I'm not sure if I could go quite that far. But I like seeing someone do it and prove that it works because hopefully even if many CEOs won't go to that extreme, some ROWE-ish tendencies can be adopted across the board. A friend's ex had an office policy that you be in 10a-3p every day and otherwise work from home, early in the morning, late at night, whatever. But you were there 10a-3p and were available for some face time should anyone need it. Even that sounds pretty reasonable and flexible to me. And that was a government job! Fortunately my department at GSCTX embraces flexibility. It's pretty awesome that Lexi is a legit reason to work from home now and then. Rock on Jessica Lawrence and ROWE.

ROT is the Republic of Texas rally which made Ross one very busy bartender this past week. Love those bikers.

Puppies is really just the one and only Lexi the amazing pointer pup. And here she is with her graduation cap falling off her cute little head. Ain't she sweet?

Etc is...

  • Hiring Nichole to be the day-of wedding coordinator which essentially means she makes sure we all walk down the right aisle and that the right people are waiting at the alter. And that Mom gets to enjoy the ceremony. Woohoo!
  • Going to DQ tonight because I was totally sucked in by the Chocolate Brownie Batter Blizzard commercial I saw yesterday.
  • Still feeling confident in our ability to buy a house this year and having two top of the list favs picked out.
  • Having my bridal shower in a little less than a month and being very excited for it. Ross and I added home things like a grill and lawnmower to our wedding registry in prep for the new house.
  • Taking the pup on a walk in prep of DQ...

Jun 11, 2009

My New Gig

Today I officially started my new job as GSCTX's Online Community Specialist. I'm in charge of EVERYTHING Web related, including gsctx.org and any participation we have in blogs, on Facebook, with Twitter, etc. I'm really excited because after two years as the PR Specialist, I was getting into a bit of a rut. I need an outlet for creativity and given that we don't have a social media plan, I get to be as creative as I want in creating one. I like the change, challenge and opportunity presented by this new gig. Woohoo!

So now I'm organizing my RSS feeds, updating Facebook, getting active on Twitter, etc. All for work. Sweet.

Jun 9, 2009

The Great Wedding Rush

First, Lexi graduated puppy school last Wednesday! Woohoo! The picture has nothing to do with anything else I want to write about but its a really cute pic and I haven't shared it yet. So consider it shared now. K, moving on from Lexi (gasp!).

Now that we've decided to buy a house this year, we're trying to get the wedding all planned by the end of next month. Ambitious feat but very necessary.

Tonight we met with our potential DJ. He seems like a really good guy. He's super mellow which is very different than most the personalities I work with regularly. I guess for that reason he struck me a bit as uninterested at first but Ross pointed out that not everyone is a retired cheerleader and student council member. AND given that said DJ just called me to give me one more small detail that he forgot (and that saves me money) I feel like he's probably just mellow, not uninterested. And maybe on a wedding day, it will be good to have a pivotal player who isn't high strung. Goodness knows Mom, me, Nancy and probably even Ross will be running on enough adrenaline to power the US Army. I think that little follow up phone call may have just scored him a gig.

Other wedding things are going well. We had our first session of premarital counseling last week and have another next Tuesday. Our minister (Reverend technically I guess...is it the same thing?) is a nice guy who 'fessed up to not being overly religious in his 20s. It made me feel less guilty about my very sparse church attendance. The homework is pretty interesting too. We have to read three chapters in a book and being the overachiever I am, I've done it. They actually made me giggle a little at times and at other times I all but said out loud "OH YES THAT'S US." Talk about hitting the nail on the head! The chapters talked a lot about the habits of men that drive women crazy and vice versa. But also the value of being different and complementing each other. It's nice to be reminded that even if a habit drives me crazy, it probably provides balance to my life.

Other than that, all we do is talk about the house we're going to buy. We've found two cute ones (online searching) in South Round Rock that we really like. One is my fav, one is his but we both like both. Currently we are in charge of reminding each other not to get too excited because we're not quite ready to move. We would need either house to stay on the market a few more months before we could make an offer. But the good news is this all means there are houses in our price range in the part of town we want to be in. Woohoo!

Jun 5, 2009

Thank You Pres. Obama

On Monday Ross and I figured out something that a lot of people already knew - that $8K first time homebuyer's stimulus is a CREDIT not a deduction.

By Tuesday night we decided we should buy a house. Now we are up to our ears in new lease terms, tax credits (woohoo!), savings plans, MCC, mortgage lenders and rush-wedding-planning. I won't bore you with the details, mostly because its already making my head spin, but I think with a little help of Pres. Obama and Uncle Sam, we can buy a house this year. So here's our new goal: homeownership November 2009.