ghoulsis: (Default)
And so it begins. )

Project!!

Dec. 23rd, 2004 09:50 am
ghoulsis: (Default)
Since school heated up and I got pregnant, I've been pretty slack about my volunteer work. There either hasn't been time, or I've been too tired/sick to do much of anything. And even when I'm not, I look around my own nest and just want to cry because everything is such a damn mess. How can I help anyone else when I can't even get my own house in order?

Well, things are improving. I made a concerted effort yesterday to do something about the avalanche of clutter downstairs, and managed to get the nursery and about half of the downstairs reasonably neat, if not tidy. Once I vacuum I think it'll actually be presentable enough for the in-laws. I've given up on the office. Our bedroom needs to be straightened up, and the bathrooms need a touch-up, but no major cleaning. Today I plan to do some work on the kitchen, mostly to clear space so I can make fudge and bake cookies, but it really needs a down-and-dirty scrubbing. Perhaps I'll work on that tomorrow. But it at least is feeling slightly more manageable now that I'm not spending every waking moment obsessing about my thesis or my defense, and having the in-laws coming to visit the day after Christmas is a great incentive to get off my ass and get some of this crap done.

So now that things are shaping up at home, I want to get back into volunteer work. Many of my traditional outlets (like disaster relief) are largely unavailable to me at the moment because of my, ahem, condition. It's hard to do mass care when no one will let you lift anything heavier than a stapler. I can't donate blood, again because of the baby. I am now sufficiently large that teaching CPR classes is probably out of the question, and again I can't be sure of my stamina over the course of a 4-8 hour class.

So here's what I think I'm going to do: I think I'm going to start knitting and crocheting afghan sections for the Warm Up America foundation. (More info here: http://www.warmupamerica.com/home.html) The sections are only 7" x 9" each, which I could whip out in no time. It would also allow me to use up some of those odd half-used skeins of yarn that I have lying around the house in various drawers and boxes which were leftovers from other projects. (For some reason I just LOVE taking something "useless" and making it into something.)

The nice thing is, I could do it on my own time, whenever I feel up to it and have the energy (unlike disaster relief, which happens whenever something burns down/floods/gets blown over/etc, generally at the most inconvenient times). I plan to ask around at some local craft stores to see if there are any WUA groups locally that join sections; if not, I could always do my own and then donate them to a local battered women's shelter. (I suspect that's where I'll send my work, in honor of what GhoulChick does for a living. I don't have any contacts at our local shelter, but since Zip works in the media he might be able to find out who I can call through the sheriff's PIO or something.)

I was figuring I was going to drive myself batty these last few weeks waiting for Natto to be born, so I might as well put the time to good use. I'm just glad I've found something I can do, in spite of my limitations, that has the potential to really help someone else AND get this craftiness out of my system at the same time. I'd call that a win-win.
ghoulsis: (bender)
One of the alumni volunteers in my fraternity is complaining (publicly, on a listserv) that a lot of undergrads don't attend the national conventions because of cost. And he thinks it's just silly.

As comparison, he talks about how much money it's costing him to attend a professional conference, and since our convention is so much more reasonable, there's no reason (in his opinion) that anyone should be unable to go. (I find myself wondering how much of his conference cost will be subsidized by his company. But I digress.)

He claims to remember what it was like to be a broke college student. I suspect otherwise.

Best case scenario, if I were an undergraduate going to convention, would be an outlay of around $300. Let's play pretend for a minute. Here's how it breaks down:

The conference itself is about $130 for registration plus the banquets. Hotel is $70 per night. Ok, so far it doesn't sound too awful, especially since you can (theoretically) shoehorn 4 people into that hotel room for the same $70. But five nights in that hotel = $350, split four ways (best case scenario) is still close to $90 per person. (And that's assuming the $70 quote includes hospitality taxes, etc., which we all know drive up the cost considerably.)

Here's the real problem, though: the convention is in Denver. To fly round-trip from here to Denver at that time of year (between Christmas and New Year's) would run between $450 and $500. Ouch. What if I drive? Assuming I can carpool and/or have a reliable car, it's just over 1500 miles of driving each way. If it were physically possible to drive nonstop (four passengers in 8-hour shifts), we could theoretically do that in 24 hours. My car gets about 25 mpg, which translates to approximately 60 gallons of gas each way... times the current gas rate here (which is cheaper than most places at $1.65/gallon) ends up being about a hundred bucks in gas each way. So, $50 per person for gas, but it'll end up being more than that, since gas is more expensive in other states. This is assuming we don't stop to sleep overnight anyplace, which would add an unspecified charge for hotel rooms (since, unlike the convention, most hotels DO charge more for extra people staying in the room). And this is all assuming that my parents would consent to me driving 3/4 of the way across the country with three other college students. (Did I mention this is in the winter? So we're driving across the mountains in the winter. Won't Mom be thrilled?)

So even if I do best-case scenario -- four people in a room, four people carpooling instead of driving alone or flying... I'm still looking at a personal outlay of something like $300. I don't know about you guys, but when I was an undergraduate, I rarely had $300 sitting around collecting dust. That was a LOT of money to me then. (It still is now.)

I'll admit, even though that's not AS huge sum of money to me now... it's still a lot. $300 is still $300, but my perception of it has changed as I've gotten older. I think it's partly because I deal in much larger numbers now -- $500 for car insurance here, $250 for car payment there, $875 for the mortgage... so a one-time outlay of $300 doesn't seem like THAT much to me. But it wasn't so long ago that I can remember sleeping in my car in a Wal-Mart parking lot because the $40 extravagance of staying in a hotel overnight on a long car trip was unthinkable. I simply didn't have it. Very often I turned down opportunities to attend conferences in other cities because I didn't have transportation, or couldn't afford the $30 or $40 registration fee. And forget lodging! The one conference I attended as an undergrad, I was able to attend because there were no housing fees -- I slept on a brother's dorm room floor.

Our alumni volunteers seem to just assume that the students aren't going to convention because they're lazy or have other things to do. Not so -- at least, not for all of them. $300 seems like a lot more when you're making $6.25 an hour at your work-study job, which is helping put you through school. I would have loved to go to the national convention when I was an undergrad... but it was either do that, or pay the rent. And I opted to pay the rent. Back then, $300 would have broken the bank. It's too bad that our alumni can't seem to remember that time in their lives.

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