Monthly Archives: November 2006

Gah.

The only thing interesting that happened today is that I spent the whole afternoon wrestling with an on-again, off-again pressure headache from the incoming weather system, and spent most of the day teetering on the verge of losing my voice completely, although as of now I still have something that could charitably be called a soft croak with which I can make most of my immediate needs known (if you’re standing no more than a few feet away, that is, so you can actually hear what it is I’m saying).

To top it off, due to a certain lunar-based biological clock, dinner consisted of some crappy tomato soup, low-rent nachos, wasabi rice cracker snacks, a bowl of Corn Pops and a bottle of hard cider. (I have no idea how I live through these mood and diet fluctuations – my best guess involves protective hormonal screens that filter out poisons. But it’s just a guess.)

I’ve got an early board meeting tomorrow morning (whee!), and a long night of tummy rumbles. So consider yourself blogged. I’m going to bed.

Update: Migraine Sufferers ‘Like Human Barometers.’ Well, duh…

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Spring in the mountains…wait…huh?

Morning was productive, just enough stuff going on to keep me from getting bored without feeling busy. I like those days.

Hubby picked me up today for lunch and we shared our respective brown-bags at the Homework Club before heading off to a nearby riverside park for a nice long walk during the warm, slightly sunny afternoon of what I swear was a totally temporally confused early spring day. It had that warm, wet new-grass smell and feel of spring rather than the crisp, cool dry-smelling snap of fall, yanno? Weird. But good.

We had a nice walk, enjoyed each other’s company in that contented, easy old-married-couple way and actually saw a few small bits of local wildlife. Namely, an industrious fuzzy little bee working a few small, scattered dandelions – see, spring! – like a bartender working the last of the nights big spenders for their final tips before the ugly-lights go up, and the tail end of some black snake working its way notably sluggishly down a hole. In fact, had it not been for the hubster’s sharp eye, I probably would have stepped on it. Not that I would have been in much danger, as it was most likely a black snake, and in any case it was way to far gone into torpor to put up much of a fight. But I would have felt bad.

The afternoon almost went weird on me, as my Americorps partner didn’t show by opening time and our supervisor said she’d missed her first assignment being out sick. For a while, I thought I was going to have to wrangle the whole club single-handedly. But she pulled up half an hour later, apparently having gotten tied up at one of our affiliated programs choosing from a pile of donated gifts for our kids. And still sick, too. But she soldiered on anyway (brave girl) and between us both (I’m still getting over my own cold and have been on the verge of losing my voice for the last few days) we managed to make it though more or less intact.

We are getting some push back on the new rules, mostly entailing snack. The early kids, having gotten used to being fed the minute they hit the door, dislike having to wait now until everyone gets here an hour later. And, as part of a city-school-wide program, we’re getting the goods for serving at least a few healthy snacks a week (today was yogurt and fruit), the concept of which (as we all know) is like kryptonite to children. Got a few complaints about the distinctly un-crap-like quality of the offering and had a bit of a hassle over the whole “bring your own” option that we had generously allowed them to participate in (arguments over sharing snacks between sibs, wanting to mix-and-match both brought snack and our snacks, etc). So no more “bring from home” snacks this week (ie, tomorrow) and we’ll try it one more time, but if they can’t manage to do it without arguments and problems, that’ll be the end of that experiment and it’ll be back to “my way or the highway” food service, LOL!

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Echo…echo…echo…

It was pretty empty in the homework club today. In fact, we didn’t get anyone until about 3:30, and in the end only had two kids until 4:30. The culprit is Extended Day classes, which are extra after-school academics for kids who are struggling, to ensure they have the best chance of passing. Several of our students have Extended Day at least once a week and probably twice. So Tues and Thurs are going to be…quiet…for the next few months.

Ah well, as long as they’re learning.

And in addition to there being precious little to report about on the service front today, my shoulder is acting up, requiring me to minimize my blogeration. Ergo, adios. Manana!

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If it ain’t documented, it didn’t happen.

And if it isn’t documented in triplicate, at least one person will be suspicious that it didn’t happen anyway.

Today was a nice, calm quiet return to work after a long weekend (with a great, nearly 70 degree walk to boot), so rather than blather on about the utter normality of my day, I thought I’d take on a subject that anyone thinking about going Americorps will need to consider.

Namely, that you need to be really good about keeping records and that if you aren’t, very bad things can happen. And there are a lot of records to keep, all of which have to be kept accurately, ongoingly and in a timely manner.

Note that the following is what goes on in the program I’m serving in. Every program has it’s own way of doing things and its own assortment of vital records based on its grant requirements, so your mileage may vary. But for the most part, it’s a fair sampling of what sort of paperwork any given Americorps member will have to keep up with.

For one thing, there are timesheets. And not just any old timesheet, but a time sheet for morning, a time sheet for afternoon and a spreadsheet to enter the results of all those timesheets at the end of the month, including a required daily detailed summary of what you did and how it relates to your grant. Categorized by “direct service,” “training,” “approved fundraising” or “other.” Every single day.

Let me just say that lazy so and so’s who wait a week or more to fill in timesheets often spend a few hours calling colleagues going, “Dude, did we get out at 6 that night, or 5:30? And which night did we do the volunteer record update – was that Wed or Thurs?” Suffice it to say, that gets old quickly. So you have to be able to discipline yourself to keep ship-shape records on a daily or near-daily basis. Or keep a blog, which you can then later use as a pointy stick to poke at your memory until it hands over the goods.

Then those timesheets (both the “rough draft” and the computer version, printed upon completion) have to signed by the supervisor and yourself, then sealed in an envelope which is then signed over the flap by the supervisor so that when you hand it in to the program director or other bookkeeper, they know that you didn’t change your hours after the supervisor signed off on them (yeah, it happens – there are asshats everywhere).

This happens monthly. The whole totaled timesheet tango, that is, not (hopefully) the asshats.

Of course, you have to get both your relevant supervisor and the director to sign off on any time off – a week ahead for a day off and a month ahead for a week off. Unless it’s a sick day, in which case you have to call in by such-and-such a time (usually very early in the am) and then get a retroactive time-off sheet filled out as soon as you get back to work. That can mean tracking down as many as 4 signatures if you have 2 daily assignments and miss them both. And this applies even for mandatory missed days like trainings and such – even if everyone knows you’ll be gone, because – say it with me – if it ain’t documented it didn’t happen!

Then there are sign-in sheets for meetings. And cc’d emails for damn near every communication. And permission and review to send out a simple letter requesting volunteers or even just sending out information – the whole thing will need to be vetted to make sure all the p’s and q’s are minded, slapped into the appropriate letterhead with everyone’s logo comparatively sized to give just the right amount of prominence, and the recipient approved and double-checked against current askees to make sure we’re not double asking anyone or that we’re not asking someone with whom we have an antagonistic or overloaded relationship…and so on.

It’s enough to make a solopreneur-type like me remember why I started my own business and quit working in “the real world.”

And that’s just the normal, day-to-day stuff. On a less frequent, but still regular basis, I and/or my colleagues have to turn in (often to more than one place and in more than one configuration): spreadsheets of volunteers who’ve served in my program, their contact info and their hours worked; records of the students we’ve served, their vital stats and their grades; lists of needed materials (with a 2-week lead time to allow for check clearance); menu lists for the upcoming month’s snacks; and other random, assorted stuff such as great stories of what we’ve experienced in our work (for the grant reviewers), program updates and so forth.

And no matter how much it is, you have to stay on top of it. There are no exceptions and no excuses. Federal grant money is not by any stretch of the imagination something you can get slack with, even in the slightest. In fact, if our timesheets, for example, aren’t filed by a certain date after the end of the month (and, by extension, turned in by us sometime earlier), our director can go to jail. If fund moneys are spent incorrectly (even by accident with the best of intentions), she can go to jail. If our hours are mis-entered, miscategorized or mis-added, she can go to jail. And so on.

No shit. Federal grants often have inches of pages of instructions alone, and enough fine print to keep a whole cigar bar of lawyers arguing for months. You think filing taxes is bad – try staying compliant with equally obtuse and convoluted forms, language, instructions and requirements every single day or risk very similar penalties. And that’s just for the Federal grants. Since Americorps members serve with non-profits (only slightly less fine-print bound than the running of your average small country), they have to manage and satisfy all those rules, regulations and grant requirements at the same time. This is the job of the Americorps program directors and their bosses. *shudder*

I sooooo do not ever want any of their jobs. Ever, you hear me?

Anyway, that’s just a brief and highlighted overview of the sort of thing you’ll have to either keep up with or be aware of if you join Americorps. So, if you’re one of those folks who can’t keep track of your own birthday, fail classes because you lose your homework and forget when the finals are being held or can’t set something down without accepting that you may never see it again, you might want to think twice about joining Americorps. And if you do join, be prepared to put systems, checks and other organizational skills into place to ensure that everything that needs to get documented does get documented.

Or else…

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Fun…Tuesday? Sure, why not?

Today was the last day before Thanksgiving break (ergo no homework), so we planned our “Fun Friday” event for today. We had a movie (Monster House! I’ve been dying to see it, so I was all stoked), popcorn and similar snacks, juice and games. It was the perfect day for our Supervisor to be visiting – no fussing, no behavior issues and no stress. Plus, we even got a volunteer on the books (WOOHOOO! Go me!), since one of our students asked his “Big Brother” (from BBBS) to stop by and hang out, which he did (and which I encouraged him to do again, anytime. 😀 )

So, let’s add the tally for the day: 1 fun day + 0 homework + 1 cool movie I hadn’t seen yet + 1 stress-free supervisor visit + 1 surprise volunteer credit = a super-tastic amaz-aliscious send off for the holiday break. To top it off, hubs and I were both worn out enough to just spontaneously call a “pizza night,” so my tummy’s full of Papa John’s Spinach Alfredo pizza with mushrooms added. And a rare, but lovingly devoured Butterfinger. Yummers!

See you next Monday! Enjoy your turkey or whatevs. I am soooo out of here.

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New start with new rules

Laid down the new rules on the homework club as per Friday’s Project MARCH meeting. Basically, the new rules mean no snack choice (you get what we fix, or you can bring your own); snack is served at 4, after everyone arrives, rather than being an hour+ long, multi-stage serving chaos; behavior and decorum are to be more in line with behavior expected at school and you get one warning before being sent home, period; homework goes upstairs and eating/play goes downstairs, to avoid distractions; and games are locked up and checked out to a person who is then responsible for its intact return to the games closet.

Despite my initial misgivings, it went well. Of course, many of them didn’t actually have homework since Tues is the last day before Thanksgiving break, but enough did to give it a trial run and survey says…we have a winnah! They did really well, even accounting for going through an adjustment period. We did send one girl home, but her behavior would have been egregious even under the old permissive system, so I’m not counting that as a strike against the new order.

In any case, I’m looking forward to my break. I need a vacation. It’s been a long few months and I’m having almost no success getting volunteers through the door, so I’m beginning to stress out about that. I need a few days to simply recharge and recommit. Bring on the carbs!

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Still life of Americorps member, as seen through a haze of pain

We had a Red Cross Emergency Shelter set-up training today. At least, I think we did. I, personally, woke up with the makings of a migraine which very quickly self-assembled into a full on skull-crushing, stomach churning hell of pain and nausea. So for most of our meeting I was basically a painful puddle of warm DNA and very little more. Thankfully, a weighty workbook/manual came with the training (sans binder, which just means I’ll have to provide my own to add it to the library o’ doom), so hopefully if I ever find myself needing the info I can look it up.

After the main meeting, those of us in Project March had our own meeting, which basically boiled down into the finding that neither Sarah nor I are particularly good role models in the “maintaining order and discipline” area of things, which surprises me not at all, given the issues I’m having which are elaborated in yesterdays screed.

So we have to work a bit harder at maintaining order. And the whole negotiating snack choices has been resolved by a decision to simply not offer choices. You get what we fix, a la dinner at home. Not my first choice, but it will eliminate this issue and right now every bit of excess static we can tune out is that much more peace we have to work with, so I’m going along. We also have to round up the student info so we can turn it in before Thanksgiving break. Which is something I definitely have a handle on, given my nearly obsessive penchant for all things spreadsheety.

And that’s the totality of my Friday, work-wise. After work was basically a round of spending down hubby’s paycheck on frivolous items like dinner and groceries and cat food. Yanno, the usual wastage. C’est la vie.

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