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Want to relax before the next semester? Try forest bathing

By Jenna Moede

Students need to have a way to let off steam after a long hard semester. Summer vacation provides an opportunity for that.

However, before you just sleep in late or relax inside, think about all the ways the outdoors can provide relaxation.

NPR recently released a study about the Japanese tradition of forest bathing. Forest bathing doesn’t literally involve bathing, instead someone who forest bathes focuses on immersing themselves in the forest with no preplanned destination while taking in the sights and smells and involving all their senses.

Why do it? Simple. Studies have shown that forest bathing reduces stress, reduces blood pressure and helps people incorporate physical activity into their lives leading to some other health benefits.

We all understand the stress of juggling the military life with college so reducing stress and relaxing (with the bonus of health benefits) can only help us handle it all.

I like to visit state and national parks as a way of getting outside and relieving stress, and as it turns out, they offer excellent places to forest bathe.

If you want to give forest bathing a try, seek out a park in your area. Don’t worry, if you don’t feel forest bathing calling your name, you can find so many other activities to help you refocus or reduce stress.

First, if you don’t know how to locate a park near you, check out stateparks.com. On this website, you can select a state and then choose your park on a list of state parks, national parks, national forests and national recreation areas among others.

When you select a park, the site offers information about the history, directions, activities and even lodging. Talk about making it easy!

Along with the opportunity to try forest bathing, state parks have a vast variety of other activities to enjoy including hiking, fishing, biking, boating, camping and even special events.

The closest state park to my home, Curt Gowdy State Park, provided a guide-led New Year’s Day hike bright and early in the morning. Needless to say we showed up nice and early to start our new year with some relaxation and head clearing activities plus a few falls into some fresh snow.

They even have a special event in the summer where they give out free fishing poles to kids and teach fishing workshops. The special activities always blow me away so once you pick a state park to visit, take the time to look into their upcoming events.

Some state park systems run discounts for military so make sure to ask when you pay your entrance fee.

If you chose to visit a national park, military members have free admission to the national park system. If you don’t already have a National Park Pass, the military member can ask at any park entrance and will need to show his or her ID card. The passes stay active for a year before you’ll need to ask for a new one.

While I plan to give forest bathing a shot during the last month or so of summer vacation, I encourage you to open the door and visit a state park even if just for the sake of exploring.

Head into the forest and let go of your semesters in the past, enjoy the present moment to reduce stress and think about how to make the next semester smooth and successful. I know I reflect best in the quiet of the woods.

 

Always, always be flexible

By Amy Nielsen

Never in a million years did I think I would be going to graduate school. But here I am, with an acceptance letter in my inbox and the FAFSA application open in the next tab over. Now what? How is this all going to fit in to the already topsy-turvey life we lead?

I recently completed a professional certification with the intent on following on with this master’s program. I specifically went through the certification so that I could do a follow on school through one of their many articulation agreements with institutes of higher learning who have complete online master’s programs to support my professional goals.

However, the state of New York made the decision to disallow online master’s programs for accreditation midway through my certification schooling. The institute I was to follow on to was such a program.

This left me hanging. I had to either find a program with a partial residency program that would accept my certification, continue on with my career plans and sort out a different solution to credentialing, or sit tight and wait for the illustrious state of New York to get its act together. In early June, the institute completed compilation and accreditation for a new partial residency program that meets New York States requirements.

HUZZAH! So when was it going to be open for us to apply? When were the residency dates? What courses of study were accepted into the partial residency program, since not all of the master’s programs met the requirements. Time to sit back and wait again.

I received an email from the institute’s registrar 16 days before the application due date. Nothing like making a fast decision about the next two years and a whole lotta debt to incur in a very short amount of time.

Luckily my husband was home when I opened and read the email and we were able to take a collective family breath and decided I had to go for it now and not defer. It means we will have two adult fulltime students in the house at the same time, but since we homeschool our kids, it means we all sit at the table and school together.

Once we made the decision that I would bite the bullet and apply I realize the logistical nightmare I had just waded into. I had done nothing yet to apply to this school as we had no idea when or if New York would ever accept this program.

Not to mention I needed transcripts and it was the Friday before July 4th. Every office I needed to contact was operating on a different schedule.

In the end it was painless to apply to graduate school. When I last applied for college, you had to rip the application out of the book, type in the answers or – gasp - handwrite them, and then send it with three sealed letters of recommendation, sealed official high school transcripts, a typed essay, your SAT score reports ,and of course the money order deposit, in one package, in the mail.

Now, online autofill applications are a breeze. That is nothing to say for electronic official transcripts and letter of recommendation portals.

Within seventy-two hours of opening the letter I had a fully submitted application to a master program I wasn’t sure was ever going to be able to happen.

Within thirty-six hours of the application deadline, a week after submitting my application, I had my answer.

I’m going to graduate school for a master’s of science!

Now the real fun begins, because in the week that I was waiting to hear about my application, I met with the owner of a small studio space. I wanted to rent out time in her office to see my clients and hold small classes. She needs someone to use the space in the morning and my schedule preference is in the morning. It is a perfect fit - schedule wise. We hit it off great and have very similar philosophies in practice. I pick up my key next week and can begin seeing clients in the space the following week.

The universe just couldn’t leave well enough alone though.

Last night my darling husband messaged me that the long awaited and much anticipated schedule change at his place of employment is in fact really happening and our whole day, not to mention year, will need to be reworked to accommodate this new rotating schedule. That will begin next week.

Um.

I teach breathing - so breathe.

HUM.

Today I plan to finish writing this blog, fill out the FAFSA federal student loan application, try to understand this weird rotation thingy, then take a very long walk in the woods.

Tomorrow I will pull down the calendar, write out the new work schedule, which is always a moving target, and see where the chips fall.

Regardless, we have two adults in undergraduate or graduate school, two kids in elementary school and a business on the verge or tipping into something real if I can just hang on to the roller coaster.

So watch this space. A lot more is coming down the pike, and I think the breaks are out.  As my dear compass mentor taught me, “Sempre Gumbi” (Always be flexible).

Overcoming Disappointment

By Jenna Moede

Even though I don't consider myself new to the military lifestyle, I still find curve balls hard to deal with. People say "it gets easier," but I have discovered that without a few coping mechanisms to overcome disappointment, it just seems to stay the same.  

I received a quick reminder of this over the spring and summer. My husband left for a retrain and we expected his follow-on orders before he left. We waited and waited, but they didn't come. He left for his retrain and again we waited and waited, and they didn't come.  

Finally we heard, but the news came as quite a surprise to us. He didn't receive orders to PCS. He had to return to the base we have already lived at for over 4.5 years.  

I have talked quite a lot about how to enjoy the base you live no matter where the location, but we really felt excited about experiencing something new. Needless to say, the news shocked and disappointed us.  

Luckily, I had a few tricks up my sleeve for dealing with this kind of disappointment because at the end of the day, even when you count on something, the military can deal you a totally different hand.  

First, I let myself think about my disappointment. I hear it all the time that in situations like this, you just have to let it go and forget it, but I like to think about what specifically disappoints me.  

I wanted to know if I felt sad because we had to stay in the same place, the weather, the location, the lack of new experiences, or whatever other reason because allowing myself to experience the disappointment helps me zero in on a couple of real and raw reasons that I feel let down.  

After I figure out exactly where the disappointment stems from, I make a plan. I take all of the negatives and find something good.  

Like this: we don't have a new location, but at least we know the best restaurants and have great friends that always want to go with us or we have hiked that trail a bajillion times, but at least we will finally have time to do it in the winter!  

I have found it incredibly helpful to spin the disappointment if not into a complete positive, at least into seeing a silver lining. Let me tell you, sometimes I have to really want to see it!  

Next, I take the thoughts that let me down the most, and I find new ways to satisfy those unfulfilled ideas.  

When we found out we would continue living at the current base, I felt the saddest because of, you guessed it, lack of new experiences. So, to overcome that, I had to think outside the box.  

I realized that we could finally do some of the activities that we always talked about that we had found too expensive when we first got married or that would have taken a three day weekend when I couldn't afford the time off.  

New experiences might not exist right at our fingertips but I know that if I look hard enough, I can always find them. Pinterest helps a little too... 

I also surprised myself when thinking about the new activities because I found myself getting really excited. I didn't think our area had anything excite-worthy left but those gems do still exist. 

Lastly, I remind myself that everything and anything can change. At the end of the day, what happens in our lives depends on the needs of the military at any given moment.  

While sometimes I find it really hard to avoid feeling upset when the sticks don't fall my way, I have to remind myself that anything can change. 

I can only control my attitude a lot of times, and I find that approaching any situation with optimism can really help to overcome anything that may not line up perfectly with my perfect ideas.  

I know that other events and situations will disappoint me in the future, but just as much as I feel disappointed, I feel excited even more often because the good situations really do overwhelmingly outweigh all the others. 

Cookie Flavors – Corporate Giving on a Micro-Scale

By Amy Nielsen

I am beat. I spent all day yesterday cooking up nine and a half dozen cookies to sell at a bake sale today. I held the bake sale at our local community, monthly fundraiser Flea Market. The bake sale is part of a summer campaign for a large national not-for-profit started by a guy I think is really cool.

I have been searching for ways my business could support a few specific niche organizations that give back to my local, national, and global communities. I believe in putting your money where your mouth is and supporting organizations doing the work you get paid to do for those who can’t afford you. If that means volunteering as the Veterinarian on the Neuter Scooter if you are a Vet, or participating in the weekly Poker Runs wearing your business golf shirt, or planning a day a month to pick up trash in town with other area professionals. It means participating in Rotary or going to the Shrine Rodeo. It means participating in the charity work your business participates in.

The point is there are lots of ways in which to give back using your professional status. Yes, you. You have professional status if you operate a business no matter how small. Take pride in being able to give back even just a little bit, even if it is just you, your time, and your business name.

Earlier this year I started holding an information booth about topics in my field at the local Flea Market. This particular Flea Market is hosted by several town somebodies to support each-other’s community giving organizations. The first month our booth fees and 50 percent of the fifty-fifty raffle went to help buy the Firehouse equipment and this month the funds went to our new animal shelter. The vendors who participate are a mix of the textures of our rolling hills and back country crags. All and sundry stuff can be found from toothpaste to tires to our town lawyer selling her husband’s Harley at her yard sale.

Recently I received an email from a national, professional, not-for-profit organization I have belonged to since I went to culinary school. It detailed the summer fundraising campaign. The campaign is a national bake sale to raise funds to help feed hungry kids.

BINGO! I teach health and wellness education with a focus on kids. This was a perfect match and I knew exactly where to hold the bake sale; at the monthly community Junk in the Trunk.

Today was a very successful day. While we didn’t sell out of cookies, we did make a right smart penny to remit. Many would consider our total paltry, not even breaking three figures, but for our community that is a bang up haul. I made as much in cookie money as the fifty-fifty raffle donated to the animal shelter.

Seeing as we have a few bags of cookies left, I promptly sent out a Facebook missive to my Tribe about extra cookies. Within ten minutes, all but four bags are spoken for by far flung friends with promises of donations including shipping via the donation link I posted. GEESH but I love technology.

Charitable giving is easy these days. It is as simple as googling your profession. Someone somewhere has started a 501(c)3 for underwater basket weavers and you too can join to help your fellow artisans spread awareness. Paypal, gofundme.com, and so many others are out there to make simple to create a campaign, target an audience, and collect funds.

Specifically because it is so easy to produce a slick professional looking campaign, it is also equally important to look carefully into the charitable organization you are putting your hard earned dollars, your limited time, and your professional reputation behind. There are many tools to be able to check out a purported not-for-profit, the first being ask to see a copy of their charitable organization paperwork. If they can’t produce it or they are too small to have it, perhaps think about a larger organization for the first community project you do.

Some of the organizations I support are only loosely tied to my profession and others are directly supportive. The breadth of those organizations helps to define my business’ place in the larger professional sphere. It is some of what helps set me apart from my peers. Who and what a business supports what tell you about the soul of a business rather than the practice of the business.

So as you are building your business start thinking about what you want to support and why. Do you want to support the organization on a professional level because it ties well with your mission or perhaps it is better to support from a personal level? I feel it is important to participate professionally inasmuch as possible on a local, reginal, national, and global scale. We are all on this one marble together and it behooves us to act as such by participating.

I hear you out there; but I don’t have time to donate time to anyone else but my burgeoning business. I can’t make my cash flow let alone give any of it to anyone else.  I am too small a fish to join a global pond. No, you are not. Every big fish started out as a small fish. So seek out who and what you want to support and join those organizations.

I sincerely believe that grace, gratitude and abundance beget grace, gratitude and abundance. By which I mean, if one is sincerely grateful and abundantly give of that which they have to give, that grace and abundance will return in due time. Using ones business clout to support others gives a business depth and deeper purpose and in the end I feel makes them more successful because they are more connected to the pulse of the local, regional and global field.

Anyone want some cookies?

Ways to find meaningful volunteer work in your community

By Jenna Moede

I hope that my blog last week fired everyone up to engage in your campus and volunteer your time and skills, but I know that a lot of you attend classes online so you might wonder how you can volunteer to your benefit.

Great question!

You might find it harder to volunteer for a purpose, but you can do it! You might have to create some of your own opportunities or work a little harder to find them, but you can and you should do exactly that.

If you take classes online, you still have to consider yourself as a part of a college community so check with your university for opportunities before you do anything else.

If you can find contact information for a volunteer center, you should start there. If you can't, you can call student services and they may direct you to someone who can help. Either way, each university and college handles volunteering differently so try it out.

Next, I recommend branching out to your local community for career specific opportunities.

You may not have the chance to meet influential community members or prominent businessmen by volunteering on campus, but you can still put your name out and set yourself up to have success by strategically choosing community events to involve yourself in.

If you feel unsure where to find these awesome activities, try one or all of the following sites. I did some research and determined that these three sites helped the most in filtering through volunteering choices and gave me the ability to tailor the activities to my particular skill set.

I liked www.volunteermatch.org as a jumping off point because I could add my location and interests to turn up a vast list of current volunteer activities in my area.

Discovering that this site also offered remote opportunities also surprised me. I had never thought about volunteering for a company located somewhere else even though I do a lot of work remotely.

Since I have a one-year-old, and might not always have my husband around to watch my son so I can tackle a physical location volunteer activity, it opened a new door of possibilities I hadn't even considered.

This site generated very broad results, but it seemed like a good way to start building a network.

I also enjoyed using www.createthegood.org, and I can't even tell you how excited I feel about this one. I have already sent in a few applications and resumes because of it.

 

 

This site had some of the best search functions and had all of the functions the first one had too. I easily found many opportunities directly related to my field where I can gain exposure and experience.

I found searching by time frame a unique feature I could use on this site. I liked that I could opt for anytime, a week, a month etc. This is super helpful when you consider your time commitment.

It also listed volunteer opportunities that seemed more like internships which can help build a quality reputation that can lead to high payouts in the end.

Finally, I recommend checking out www.unitedway.org especially for those interested in long term commitments.

Beyond just location and category, I could search by skills like disaster relief, management and construction and activity type like fund raising, tutoring and administrative work.

I love this function because I can find exactly what fits me. For example, I have no sales skills. At all. I don't think I could even sell air conditions in a Wisconsin July so I definitely don't want to inadvertently sign up for a fundraiser and do absolutely no good. In my case, this function can save me from wasting time and ensure that I'll use my skills to do my best for the company. A win for them and for me.

Speaking of the organizations, this website does not require you to create a login. Clicking on a volunteer opportunity will direct you through that link to the direct website.

Using the resources at our disposal and a little bit of creativity, even those of us who attend college online can engage with the volunteer community.

Online classes don't exclude you from finding useful opportunities that may help you while you help someone else. Utilize your university and the mentioned websites to find volunteer opportunities that help you network, gain practical experience, and propel your career.

 

Bloom where you are planted

By Amy Nielsen

HOLY WOW that was fun!

Yesterday in the beautiful, fresh, rain-washed, summer sun, I taught my first public class.

I organized it through our County Beautification volunteer organization. They typically host classes about gardening but were looking for a way to branch out to healthy living too. My class was about eating rainbows daily through colorful foods.

I started this journey in May when I graduated from school. I operate a health and wellness education business. My job is to help people support their bodies’ daily function to the best of their abilities for their current medical and health needs. I teach classes and hold seminars.

I say this all in present tense, like I have a full roster of classes I am currently teaching, even though I just said I taught my first class yesterday. However, I have been teaching for a very long time. I have taught lots of other subjects in my lifetime, not to mention that I teach homeschool classes weekly.

So why was this class such a big deal to me? Because it was the first one that someone else, a stranger-now-friend, approached me to teach. I was planning to offer to teach for this organization, but not until the fall or even next summer, after I had a chance to volunteer with them for a while to get a better idea of what they really do. Then, I opened my big mouth.

I was sitting in the volunteer orientation meeting listening to Jane, the volunteer coordinator, talk about the future dreams of this organization and I couldn’t help myself. I raised my hand and said, “I just finished my certificate in exactly that. How can I help?” Little did I know she was looking for classes to fill the summer calendar.

Jane and I met the following week at our local park to discuss where the class would be held, what the general overall topics would be and about how long it would last.

I went home and pulled out a short outline I had been doodling with for a few weeks and went to work fleshing it out. Within the hour I had a solid concept, enough to send as a proposal. I added a copy of my very rough CV and a short introductory biography that I had written as a homework assignment for school and sent it off.

Things went a bit haywire from there. We live in a very seasonal area and it is now the shoulder of summer. Everything and everyone goes into overdrive for the next 12 weeks. Jane and I never met face to face again for this project. I will be forever thankful for my smartphone and the ability to multi-task.

We planned this event in a series of machine gun style, email-text-a-phone-a-thons in the drive time between meetings, playdates, concerts, and school. I will be forever thankful to the officer at SPAC who didn’t make me hang up in the middle of the budget discussion while directing me to parking for the Dead and Co concert.

It took me a bit longer to get a real feel for exactly how I was going to move from topic to topic and how I was going to incorporate some of the wide ranging subjects we wanted to touch on. While driving around from all of my other projects I kept working on the language I would use. I tried on several styles of presentation from straight out lecture to fun, groovy, hippie herbalist. I settled on something in between with portions pretty clinical with a few silly sparklers tossed in.

I don’t write a script for my classes. I work from an outline written on my handouts.

Oh yeah, handouts. I am a handout freak. I love to give out credited information, by that I mean I collect interesting information from lots of different places and make sure in my notes to credit back to the original source. I like to let people follow their own rabbit holes when they get home.

So handouts became my next project. I started collecting infographics, articles, images, and links for each of the topics I wanted to cover. I ended up with quite the file and culled it down to a dull roar of nine pages, including my added notes to the final version.

I finished the handout packet about a week before I was to teach but I still didn’t feel like I had the right language. It still felt clunky when I ran through teaching it in my head. I hadn’t found the key to tie it all together yet. I knew it was there, I just had to wait for it to come.

This is the really hard part. Waiting for the final key to come. In some classes I have taught, that key doesn’t come until the right participant enters the classroom. I was really hoping it wasn’t going to be the case with this class. It’s a bit scary when that happens.

I was in luck though. I woke up at 2:30 in the morning the dawn of the day of my class, in the dark of the new moon, a time of great beginnings, out of a sound sleep dream to write out exactly what I was saying in my dream. It was the key come to me in the time of prime newness.

I finished writing my notes, got down on my knees, and thanked the Universe for such beautiful words to share.

With that beginning, I feel like I have been slingshot out of my past life and into a new existence. My class was over full, extremely well received by a wide swath of population from my immediate community, and welcomed by both experienced and novice participants.

All were very supportive of this endeavor and I have several emails in my inbox asking for more information on all of my class offerings. I am so thankful that I opened my big mouth and that the county gardeners decided to help me bloom where I am planted.

When Dreams Crash and Burn

By Amy Nielsen

 

It’s been a year. A solid full year since I went cray cray. When I took off flying after a dream, rising to the sun like a rocket. That sun burned me hard and crispy, and I’m still reeling and learning from it daily.

Last summer I went on a girls weekend trip with my then bestie. I was going out to hang out with her, check out our favorite band, hike, and maybe even relax a bit.

I arrived early in the morning on Friday, planned to spend the weekend and return home on Monday. We had planned to go to two different events culminating with a glorious hike to a beautiful peak.

Everything went wonky that Saturday. I met an individual working a career that was and is still my biggest dream. Working on the road, doing what he loved, connecting with all manner of people, teaching and selling his products. He was a charmer for sure with an infectious smile and a vulnerability that made me melt.

I couldn’t help myself. I was in a state of mind where my grasp on rational thought was tenuous at best. Coupled with the freedom of the support of my best friend, I took flight. I returned home and immediately started planning our takeover of his business.

Do you know the story of Icarus and Dedalus? It’s a Greek myth that goes like this: Dedalus was a famous inventor for King Minos in ancient Greece. Dedalus made the king angry and he and his son Icarus were banished from the island. In order to leave, Dedalus built wings made of feathers attached to a frame with wax.

As he and Icarus took off for their new homeland, Dedalus warned his son that he shouldn’t fly too close to the sea or the feathers would get wet, and if he flew too high the wax would melt in the heat of the sun. Stay in the middle and we’ll make it to the shore of our new homeland, he cautioned.

Icarus, being a young lad, got over enthusiastic in his flying and flew too high. The sun melted the wax and he fell from the sky, dying in the sea. In his grief, Dedalus flew on to Sicily, where he built a temple for Apollo, protector of the young, in dedication to his lost son.

I soared. I was like Icarus. I had new wings, new freedom, the ability to be exactly what I had held deep inside my soul for so very long.

I refused to heed the warnings of my friend. Go easy and let’s see where this might go, she said. Let’s not rush into a project we are not quite ready to support, she cautioned. Maybe we can do a few projects with him this summer and over the winter we can build this into a proper plan, she postulated. We don’t really know this guy, she implored.

But I was off. I had a dream to catch. I was a screaming eagle ready to make my swoop and catch the fish. I felt like I could to loop-di-loos with my new wings. This was what I had wanted to do for my whole life. I felt like the universe was leading me higher to the promised land of the perfect career for me. It was everything I ever wanted.

Except that it wasn’t mine. It was his. And I, we, were nowhere near ready to take it over in that short time frame.

I tried so hard to cram my life into that dream. I convinced my family to support me. I pushed hard to make them fit into this scenario they were not even remotely interested in. I did everything to make it happen and nearly destroyed my family in the process. I did, in fact, destroy my friendship in the end.

I spent money we didn’t have and that we can never repay to my mother. I made trips when I couldn’t find proper child care – leaving that mess up to my beloved husband to figure out. I even got a tattoo without thinking of the ramifications of the design.

After two months of beating my wings as hard as I could I had melted the wax and dropped like a stone to the sea. I drowned in the despair of not reaching the sun, of losing my dream. I wallowed in my anguish and threw it all out onto those closest to me.

So where am I now, a year on from this bout of insanity?

In pain. Emotionally and psychologically. I miss my best friend desperately. I still dissolve into tears when I think about the opportunity that I crushed in my desperation to reach my dream. I shudder at the wake of my reputation in that community.

I know that if it ever comes to pass that the universe gives me another chance - another chance at my dream, another chance at my friendship, another chance to soar - I will hopefully not be so scared as to fear the journey again. I hope that I am able to take flight, with new wings made of grace and abundance rather than prayers and shear willpower.

Until then I will continue to miss my best friend desperately and wish her well in all of her endeavors. I hope the business I went after is thriving. I learn new things every day that help me put myself in a place that might shoot me into orbit again This time under my own power, to a new, bigger, more suited dream; to build a temple to my lost Icarus.

Volunteer on Campus and Expand Your Resume

By Jenna Moede

Okay so this volunteering business, I've talked a lot about it, and I've even admitted that I didn't volunteer as much as I could have in college. But, we should still talk about it.

While my shot at volunteering as an undergraduate has long passed, you might still have time. For those just starting your undergraduate studies or those in the middle of your time in college, tune in for just a sec.

First, let's just address the question on everybody's mind. Why commit time to volunteering, particularly on campus, instead of working and making a little money?

I understand this question completely because I did spend my time working and taking classes, however, I spent my time off completely wasting my time instead of using my time wisely.

One year I even overslept on purpose to avoid helping out with a homecoming float. I missed out on not only a really fun time, but also the opportunity to meet some important and influential people of the local community.

Big mistake. Huge! One of the girls in my hall earned an internship out of it so I let myself down completely on that one.

So let's dig into the nitty gritty of campus volunteering and specifically campus volunteering because oftentimes people forget that opportunity exists and head straight for bigger community activities (even though I highly encourage community volunteering as well).

If you need a fantastic reason to volunteer on campus, think about the potential to attach a good reputation for service and work ethic to your name.

Volunteering on campus can really help you establish yourself within the school. Word of mouth can benefit you if you do a great job on every task you volunteer for.

Not only can it benefit you individually, but you can also advertise for any campus clubs or groups you participate in. Good exposure, whether personal or for a group, can never hurt.

You also have a greater opportunity to meet people from your campus that you otherwise might not run into when you volunteer on campus which can lead to great networking opportunities.

Moving along, you might just land yourself an internship, job or at the very least, improve your resume. I have a college friend that started her own charity group on campus after gaining inspiration from volunteering for a college food drive.

She ended up with one of the most influential professors as the faculty advisor and made connections with so many people that she could have her pick of jobs when she graduated.

It might not happen that way for you or me, but it doesn't hurt to tip the scales in our favor right!?

Lastly, volunteering on campus can shape your marketable skills. If you opt to complete volunteer activities that cater to your chosen career field, you might just learn something that will excite employers.

You don't have anything to lose! The benefits outweigh those couple of hours of sleep by far.

Since by now I really, really, really hope I've sold you on campus volunteering, let's talk about how to find those opportunities.

I did a little research and talked with my former campus employer to find out just what opportunities exist and how to find them.

First, keep your ear to the ground. Sometimes professors will name a volunteer opportunity in class or in an email. These can help you out since oftentimes your professors have a leg in the door on the career you hope to enter. Take advantage of them instead of slipping down in your chair and wishing that part of the lecture was optional.

Also, if you have a job on campus, check their fliers and information and talk with the staff. Typically so much mail comes through the door that if you have an opportunity to look, you might find out about some good chances to help your campus, other students and by extension, your community.

Not to beat a dead horse on this one, but check your email. I feel like I should actually have a chorus singing that by now.

Anyway, usually campuses have a volunteer center and staff that will send out these great little emails with monthly volunteer opportunities both on campus and off.

They even include a signup sheet or contact number. If you don't like calling, they usually have an email or website too. They seriously can't make it any easier. Too often, still, those spots go empty and they don't have enough willing participants.

Check out bulletin boards as you walk passed them too. If you have time to see Janie looking for a roommate, you have time to see what other information people have posted which usually includes these great service opportunities.

Lastly, check your schools website. If you miss the fliers, bulletin boards, mail, and emails, you can do a little of the work yourself and go directly to the source. Each school handles it differently, but typically you won't have any trouble locating the contact information for the volunteer center or finding a list of current activities.

No matter how you sniff out the activities, don't overlook the volunteer opportunities that exist right on campus.

You have so many chances to meet life changing people that you might not even realize. Take advantage of those opportunities while giving a little bit of yourself and your time back to your college.

Renting your home? Screen your tenant applications with USAA

By Salute to Spouses Staff

PCS season is here. Are you renting your beloved home?

Worried about who is moving in? Will they pay the rent? Can you trust them not to cause major damage?

USAA has a page for members that can make this tumultuous time a little less exhausting.

Hidden away in the bank's online advice center is an entire page on owning a rental property. There, military homeowners can find solid advice on determining how much insurance to carry on their rental property, how much to charge for rent and advice on maintaining your property and expanding into more holdings.

Perhaps one of the most important services they offer homeowners is help screening potential rental clients.

https://www.usaa.com/inet/wc/tenant_screening_main

At this site, USAA members can sign up to purchase background checks on any potential renters. The checks, completed through TransUnion, are done in minutes and give homeowners a national criminal background check, tenant risk score, leasing and deposit recommendation for each applicant, a full credit report for the applicant and will search nationally to see if they have been evicted.

The fee is only per background check.

And, you can set up your account and set it so that the applicant has to pay the fee. All personal information, such as social security numbers, are sent directly to TransUnion so you can assure potential clients that you will not have your hands on their confidential information.

Can a background check guarantee that a new renter won't walk out without paying or trash your house? No.

But it can definitely weed out the chronic offenders who have left a paper trail of unpaid rent and evictions behind them as they move from place to place.

Full Circle

By Amy Nielsen

My business is based on the premise that wellness is really three systems of care: body, mind, and spirit. I work in a holistic practice that honors the intersection of western and indigenous philosophies. A large part of indigenous teachings involve plants. So I began a formal study of herbology.

I am a middle class, white girl from the ‘burbs. When I started this journey a few years ago, I could barely tell you what a dandelion was, let alone that you could eat it. If you told me it was one of the most useful plants we have in our basic herbal tool kit, I would have told you they are bitter, the sap gives my uncle hives, and the seed heads are fun; but the word useful might be pushing it. Somedays, even now, I feel very much like a fish out of water in large gatherings of my peers. They all seem to have grown up with this knowledge in their cells.

Herbs are becoming so prevalent in our day to day lives that I need to understand how they play a role in becoming us and how they interact with each other and everything else if I am going to serve the best interest of my clients.

I am not training to become a clinical herbalist. I know so many amazing clinical herbalists that I would rather support them than learn the whole shabang myself. But because so many people are turning to herbs, I need to be able to have a good working knowledge of the basics if for no other reason than so that my clients have a safe sounding board for their ideas.

I recently returned from an internationally attended herbal conference, held at a small liberal arts college on a stunning campus filled with beautiful botanical specimens. The organizers are all bigwigs on the international scene - founding members of large conservation organizations, principle formulators of well-known corporations, teachers from renowned schools.

However, it was an intimate conference of only about 500 participants. The schedule was jam packed with heavy duty science content classes, up to the minute, personal accounts of boots on the ground conservation efforts, and deeply moving community ceremony.

The herbal community is an interesting group of people. All are deeply passionate about, driven by, and focused on the plants. What path that takes can vary as wildly as an urban vertical hydroponic farmer, a licensed Appalachian forager, a naturopathic doctor working with cancer patients, a native elder recently back from Standing Rock, a shamanic healer from South America, and people like me. These, by the way, were my lunch companions yesterday. We talked about bad 80’s movies.

I found myself swimming with a somewhat regular group of other attendees following a similar tract through the classes. I made sure to get the contact information for those whose comments and questions I found pertinent to my interests and research lines.

As we rambled from class to class, two questions kept coming up for me as I watched the community of my elders, peers, and friends;

First, what do I have in common with these amazing souls? Learn to follow the leads of those compassionate joyful spirits as best you can.

And second, who let me in the club? Someone really didn’t check my creds well enough.

In one hardcore class, which I found particularly fascinating, I also felt like I should be looking to see when they were going to tell me I wasn’t allowed because I wasn’t advanced enough. It was my own little demon on my shoulder, no one in the class made me feel that way. I just couldn’t believe that lil’ ole me was given the opportunity to have an hour long, peer-to-peer conversation with some of my idol teachers about something I have been studying as an amateur for the last three years.

But that is the point of attending this type of event. My going to this was somewhat akin to a sophomore walking into a graduate level seminar, but I think I stood my ground and held my own well enough. Basically I was too scared stiff most of the time to open my mouth. I learned much more and I had less chance of stuffing my foot in there up to the knee.

The point is that I stretched myself. I took a leap, a somewhat flying leap, but I took it. That I actually landed on the other edge with only a little bit of pinwheel arms is only somewhat surprising. I knew this conference would be a stretch for my current knowledge base and level of community involvement for this leg of my practice stool.

I needed to push myself to step up to be what I say I want to be These experiences help me hone exactly what my practice looks like now and will look like in the future. But I also know that if I had attended last year I would have been totally overwhelmed.

So, while my going to this conference was driven partly by the content of the classes, it was almost more driven by the need to measure myself against the gold standards. To see where I feel comfortable sitting in the circle.

I know that I have a lot of work to do and a lot of knowledge to pursue, but I also know that where I am is a good place to begin working this for real. I have a solid platform of basics to work from. I have a working knowledge of the middle levels of this practice. I can begin to understand how the actions of those who are way out on the end of the spectrum might play a part. I know who to ask for specific systems now and I know the basic triage for them to have a solid foundation to build on.

Now it’s time to finish the final lessons and send them out so I can hold my head up high next time I see these teachers and we can all laugh about my other sophomoric mistake - sending the same cover letter to two different entities, then have them realize it while speaking to me over reishi and chocolate pudding.

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