United Babes & Co.

In honor of Labor Day (aka figuring out how to not work for our whole lives), I am taking a slight departure from my usual Positively Proper posts to share a new passion project, a venture with seven of my friends… United Babes & Co.!

We are eight lucky ladies who were brought together by fate (or something like that) thanks to the common thread of the military being a part of our lives. Now, this is not your usual military connection – we are not military spouses (well, one of us is, but we will get there later!), rather we all worked or volunteered for military based organizations and were lucky enough to be in the same place (shout out to D.C.) while we did. Since that time (2013-16), we have scattered across the country, now world (we will get there a little later too!), but no matter where our lives have taken us, we have stayed together as friends. So, who are we?

Jenn Currently based in Philly. She’s basically the OG of the group and a key player for bringing us all together. Jenn grew up in a military family and married her now husband after meeting him through her job with a military based organization.

Beth Currently based in Colorado. Beth (also from a military family) worked at a military based organization and then Jenn joined the org & her team. The two became friends, then roommates – the rest is history!

Brittney (aka Bert) Currently based in Northern Virginia. Bert (another military child!) volunteered for the organization where Jenn and Beth worked, and lucky for us, she volunteered at the Center which Jenn oversaw… the two became fast friends!

#ThemJohnsonSeesters – Marissa (currently based in Italy) and Taylor (currently based in Northern Virginia) Marissa transferred to the D.C. area for work (a military entity) and ended up working in conjunction with Jenn. They briefly met at a work meeting, and then one day, Jenn, Beth, and Marissa were getting their mail and realized they lived in the same building! At the time, Taylor had just moved to DC and was also Marissa’s roommate. It was basically fate… the group became five and with two apartments in one complex, Babe HQ was born.

Alexandra (aka AB) Currently based in Virginia Beach. Shortly after the first round of introductions happened, AB started working for the same organization as Beth and Jenn (she also grew up in a military family). Beth was her tag team partner on all the programs they oversaw and first introduced AB to the group at country concerts, a Babes’ favorite pastime.

Kaylen (aka Kitty) Currently based in Savannah. Kaylen moved to the D.C. area when her relationship with her now husband (who was in the military) began. Lucky for us, she got a job where Taylor worked and the two instantly hit it off over their mutual love of Disney and Harry Potter. Fast forward a few months, Kaylen and #ThemJohnsonSeesters became roommates (expanding Babe HQ).

Kelly (aka Chirp) Currently based in Pennsylvania. Chirp is Bert’s younger sister and basically got roped into being friends with all of us. And you guessed it, she was part of the military family and ended up working at the same place as Marissa!

That’s us!

From a long string of texts to Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat groups, we talk constantly, laugh with (sometimes at) each other, and manage to stay a part of each other’s everyday lives. The biggest thing is, despite the distance, we continuously show up for each other. From every day laughs to dating fails (and some successes!), as well as personal hardships and the realities of “growing up,” we feel pretty blessed to have each other and that is what we are here to share. So, welcome to our girl squad!

Welcome to Positively Proper!

Hey y’all!

Welcome to Positively Proper! I am Alexandra and I am beyond excited to be sharing this adventure in the world of Protocol and Etiquette with you. I first had this idea in 2014 and over the last five years, I have worked on it “here and there” while I focused on other parts of my life. After making another major change this past Fall, I felt the inspiration to start writing and blogging again. So, here I am relaunching Positively Proper on Valentine’s Day because what day is more appropriate to launch a passion project from the heart?!

This journey started while I was working as a Protocol Specialist in the Washington, DC area, a role which taught me A LOT about protocol and etiquette in modern society. Now, I know what some people are thinking… Protocol and Etiquette are stuffy subjects. I am here to show you they are not! Protocol and etiquette can be fun and extremely relatable. What protocol and etiquette are truly about is putting your best foot forward and being confident as you do. Protocol and Etiquette apply in every day life and can truly make a difference at work, at home, with friends, and even during interactions with strangers. They also apply to social events, being a host, personal and professional fashion, and so much more!

Fast forward five years and what am I doing now? I work for an international nonprofit on the Special Events and Partnership team. With, what I like to think is, a decent amount of experience “in the industry,” I continue experiencing and learning more through my job and everyday run-ins with protocol and etiquette matters. So, why not share it all?! I will share my experiences with you and I encourage you to share your thoughts and questions with me! I am sure we all encounter similar situations and have some of the same questions as we meet new people, venture to new places, and attend fabulous events! This blogging adventure is all about learning and helping each other shine even brighter!

Cheers y’all!

AB

Mood and Manners

Mood and Manners

I was recently inspired by the quote above. It got me thinking about how our manners should be a thoughtful reflection of our overall character. While we all of course experience our “off days,” we should not let these affect our overall attitude toward others and our manners.

Whether it is a coworker, loved one, or a stranger, do not take out your frustrations on them.

  • If a waiter gets your order wrong or store clerk gets you the wrong item, do not get angry at and embarrass them. Instead, be polite and kindly ask them to re-do your order.
  • Traveling and way-finding in new settings induces stress on many people. When asking for assistance or checking-in with security or travel personnel, ask for things politely and always thank them after. Avoid a demanding tone and short response.
  • Loved Ones can be an easy target for taking out frustrations – If you know you are in a bad mood or have had a rough day, let them know you may not be in the best of moods and ask for their understanding to help you. If you know you need some alone time, simply let them know that.
  • Taking things out on coworkers can be detrimental to your career, professional appearance, and overall office/team moral. If you are having a bad day, keep your composure and breathe before responding to situations. It is better to wait and think than to react inappropriately and have to apologize later.

And always remember – Even when you are having a tough day, smile at others as they pass you and offer a kind greeting. You may not always get a smile or greeting in return, but at least you will know you presented a friendly face to another individual!

Sparkle On!

Alexandra

My Experience as a USO Elf

USO_LOGO_Project Elf_Script-01

This article is not related to protocol or etiquette; however, I found this experience so special, I knew I had to share it.

This Holiday Season, I had the privilege of being the Program Manager, or “Head Elf” as some affectionately referred to me, for USO-Metro’s Project Elf. Project USO Elf supports military children of junior enlisted service members, E-1 to E-5, by pairing them with Corporate and Community Wish List Donors who sponsor the children. These Wish List Donors buy the children gifts from their Wish List for the Holiday Season. This year, I am very proud to say USO-Metro supported over 1,200 military children in the Washington-Baltimore Metropolitan region!

While this program was quite an undertaking, coordinating 1,200+ Wish Lists between 2 distribution locations from hundreds of Wish List Donors proved to be no small feat, it is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. Planning for the program started as “Christmas in July” and gained momentum throughout the Fall. The build-up to the program was amazing!

On October 1st, the “North Pole” began receiving Wish Lists from children. The notes I read honestly made my day several times. One of my personal favorites was for a 6 year old girl, “She is girly and happy go lucky, very artistic, loves play dates and gymnastics! She has asked for: stuffed Hello Kitty doll, silver pageant crown & wand, ribbon baton twirler, Frozen Anna dress, sparkly silver Mary Janes, Melissa and Doug craft projects. She also likes Chick-Fil-A, My Little Ponies, and fun sparkly colors of Zoya (nontoxic) nail polish.” How adorable is that?! That is just one of the over 1,200 Wish Lists I received that reminded me of the pure joy and excitement the Holidays bring to children. Come November, Wish Lists were distributed to Donors and they were set loose to hit the stores while I stayed at the North Pole organizing the program logistics!

As soon as December 1st hit, I spent the first week of the month on “Sleigh Stops” visiting our Corporate Wish List Donors and receiving hundreds of Wish Lists from several companies. The level of excitement I saw in these donors and the giving atmosphere the companies built around my program was incredible. One company even had so many employees want to give to the program, that the employees started buying popular gifts for us to add to other children’s gift bags saying, “the more the merrier!” Once all the Wish Lists were collected, my amazing volunteers set-up and decorated the distribution sites.

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Project USO Elf Distribution Site #1 with over 800 Wish Lists ready for service member pick-up!


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Project USO Elf Distribution Site #2 with more than 400 Wish Lists ready for service member pick-up!

When distribution night arrived, I was instilled with an overwhelming sense of calm. That day, I knew all the hard work and long hours I put in were about to pay off – big time! Seeing the smiles and hearing the words of appreciation from service members who received gifts for their children was the only “Thank You” I needed. Realizing we (I would be remiss if I did not thank my amazing USO-Metro teammate and our HUGE volunteer corps. Without the volunteer hours put in by these dedicated, patriotic individuals, my job would not have been possible) had really made a difference in the lives of others was incredible.

This year, the Christmas spirit has not quite “taken hold” of me in my personal life. However, today I realized when over 1,200 military children wake-up tomorrow morning their Christmas wishes will come true thanks to so many generous citizens who wanted to give back and say “thank you” to our service members. Personally, the opportunity to play Santa for these military children has been a privilege and truly an honor. This year, Christmas took on a new meaning for me. I hope to continue to pay it forward to those so deserving of this special program.

“Merry Christmas to all and to all, a Good Night!”

Project USO Elf “Lead Elf”

To learn more about Project USO Elf, please watch Elizabeth Prann’s Fox News coverage of Project USO ElfFor additional photos from Project USO Elf, please visit the USO-Metro Facebook album.

 

The Characteristics of a Great Volunteer

Photo Credit: Carmel Valley 5K

Photo Credit: Carmel Valley 5K

As a Program Specialist for a nonprofit organization, I rely heavily on my volunteers to ensure my programs run smoothly and to help me engage with our public. From preparation activities to program day, volunteers make my programs possible! So, what makes a great volunteer? Here are my thoughts on the characteristics of a volunteer you want on your team!

  1. Passion
    • Volunteer for a cause you are passionate about! Volunteers who truly relate to the cause they are supporting, will enjoy engaging with the individuals benefiting from your program and be enthusiastic about what they can contribute to the cause/program.
  2. Up for Anything
    • A “no job is too small” attitude is a must! From taking out the trash to helping with set-up and break-down of an event, a volunteer who is willing to help out wherever support is needed is essential. Not all jobs are “glamorous,” but they do support the greater cause and that is what is important to keep in mind as a volunteer.
  3. Initiative
    • This goes hand-in-hand with “up for anything.” Be a volunteer who is proactive and willing to jump-in when you see something that needs to be done – just be sure to follow the procedures laid out by the Program Manager.
  4. Knowledgeable
    • Educate yourself about the mission of the organization and the goals of the program so you can speak to about them intelligently when asked by a participant, sponsor, or even a friend considering volunteering!
  5. Sensitivity
    • Depending on the organization’s and/or the program’s mission, sensitivity to an individual’s personal information and reason(s) for participating in a program can be very important. Ensure you safeguard people’s privacy when volunteering with sensitive causes.
  6. Enthusiasm
    • Having an upbeat and positive attitude while volunteering is a necessity! No matter what task you are asked to handle, complete it with a smile 🙂

Now get out there and volunteer in your community for a cause you are passionate about!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

How to Be a Good Roommate

As part of Week 2 of The DC Ladies Blogtober, today’s writing prompt is your “Favorite Back to School Memory.” My mind immediately went to picking out my first day of school outfit, prepping my Lilly Pulitzer agenda, organizing all my school supplies, and anxiously reading through my syllabi. Those are certainly a few of my favorite back to school activities, but my ultimate favorite back to school memory was moving back in with my roommates after the summer break! Today, I am sharing my tips on how to be a good roommate.

  1. Be Courteous
    • If you are going to invite people over or have guests stay overnight/for the weekend, be sure to ask your roommate and let him/her know of your plans.
    • Keep the noise level down – If your roommate is studying, working from home/after hours, or sleeping, do not make a ruckus.
      • If you are watching a TV show or movie, close your door or keep the volume low if you are in the common area.
      • If you are listening to music, use headphones.
      • If you are in the kitchen, avoid rearranging the pots and pans while cooking.
    • Unless asked by your roommate to go get something, do not go into your roommate’s room or personal things.
    • On a safety note: If you do not plan to come home one evening, are going out town, or will be coming in very late, let your roommate know. It is always good to have someone know where you are, but you also do not want to scare your roommate by not showing up or coming in extremely late.
  2. Keep Your Place Neat and Tidy
    • This is especially true for the common areas and if you share a bathroom!
    • Common Area/Living Room:
      • If you use blankets, pillows, etc. or rearrange the furniture for an evening, be sure to put things back as they were once you are done.
      • Use coasters! It helps to prevent drink stains on coffee and end tables.
      • Share your magazines/books! If you are not going to keep them, put them on the coffee table for your roommates and guests to look at.
      • If you have people over, clean up. If you spill or break something, clean up. No one likes to clean up someone else’s mess.
    • If you share a bathroom:
      • Do not leave things laying all over the countertop.
      • Do not hog all the space on the shower caddy/shelving.
      • Clip your nails over the trashcan.
      • Swifter/Vacuum the floor (especially if you are a girl with long hair… shedding happens).
      • Wash out the sink after you brush your teeth. No one likes dried toothpaste globs!
      • Clean the mirror.
      • Empty the trash (especially if it’s “that” time ladies).
  3. The Kitchen
    • Do not eat food that is not your’s unless your roommate has said you can have some.
      • With that said, if you are making dinner or snacks, ask your roommate to join you for meals! Share your recipes!
    • Clean up your dirty dishes and cookware. Do not leave things sitting on the counter or in the sink for prolonged periods of time.
    • If you use a dishrack instead of a dishwasher, be sure to put your things away when they are dry. A cluttered dishrack does not help your cleaning process.
    • Clean the countertops and appliances after you use them.
    • If you need to borrow a utensil or appliance that is not your’s, be sure to ask first.
  4. Share the Chores
    • Make a list of regular chores (taking out the trash, vacuuming, unloading the dishwahser, cleaning the bathroom, etc.) and alternate responsibilities.
    • For common items (toilet paper, trash bags, etc.) and cleaning supplies, alternate who buys it each month (or however often).
  5. Decorating
    • Before moving in, be sure to discuss who is bringing what. Unless you plan on living together for a very long time, I would avoid splitting the cost for new things. When you move out, it can get complicated as to “who owns what,” especially if it is large pieces of furniture.
    • Do not hang anything in the common area without talking to your roommate first.
    • Before you rearrange the furniture, ask your roommate if he/she has any ideas for a new arrangement.
    • Be culturally sensitive, especially when it comes to the holidays. If you celebrate different holidays, decorate for all of them!

Overall, be courteous and remember you are sharing your living space. Do not do anything you would not want done to you or your things. Whether you are in college or post-grad, I hope these tips help you to live succesfully and comfortably with a roommate.

Enjoy your roommate and have fun together!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

One Piece of Advice for My Younger Self

This week, I am taking a bit of writer’s liberty and going an indirect route to get to my usual subject (etiquette and protocol), much like the one I took to find this career path. As part of The DC Ladies Blogtober, I am accepting today’s challenge and sharing “One Piece of Advice I Would Give My Younger Self.” What is that piece of advice you ask? It is pretty simple, “You do not need to pick a career right away or have a master plan. It is good to leave your options open and explore many of your interests.”

As a high school senior applying to college, I remember thinking, I need to decide what I wanted to be “when I grow up” and pick the perfect major to fit that career. So, I picked a career that interested me, I knew would be stable over the long term, and a school with a great program for that major. After a year of being “iffy” on my desire for that particular career and finding my supporting classes/electives from a different major fascinating, I had a revelation. On the third day of sophomore year, I woke up, walked to my advisor’s office, dropped all my original classes to completely change my schedule, returned all my books, and walked out of my adivising appointment as a new Human Development and Family Studies major. This decision often prompted people to ask, “What in the world is that and what are you going to do with it?” to which I replied, “It is a field in the social sciences that combines psychology, sociology, and human development to examine familial, couple, and interpersonal relationships. I am not sure which career I want to pursue, but I love the classes and know there are a lot of wonderful careers in this field.” That experience and being in classes I truly found interesting taught me the truth in the statement, “When you enjoy what you are doing, everything will fall into place.”

However, that was not the only big change I decided to make in the life I thought I had so well planned for myself. For some time, I realized I was not fully enjoying myself or happy at the university I was attending. Now I was faced with the decision of transferring or staying where I was. After racking my brain on how I could graduate early or study abroad and take a year-long, off-site internship so I did not have to be at school, I realized this is not what college is about. So, I started the college application process all over again, looking for schools with the major I had now fallen in love with and would not change for the world. Lucky for me, I found a wonderful program at the University of Maryland in the Family Science Department and even luckier for me, I got accepted!

Transferring schools and staying a Family Science major (with a Human Development minor!) were a couple of the best decisions of my life! I ended up in one of the best academic communities I could have dreamed of for myself and was presented with unmatched opportunities. I made great friends, joined the Honor Society for my major, and was presented with the opportunity to take various leadership roles. I hit the jackpot with an amazing staff and faculty who I still stay in touch with and who have given me several opportunities to volunteer in the academic setting as an alumna. One of my biggest accomplishments was helping to start a new internship initiative with Military Families. Without all of those things, I would not be where I am today.

Where am I post-grad? After two amazing internships working with Wounded Warriors and their families, I was offered a job upon graduation as an Event Coordinator for Wounded Warriors and their families. This was the job of a lifetime and I will forever be grateful to the Wounded Warriors and families who welcomed me into their lives, allowing me to give back to those who have given so much for our country. From my experience working in the hospital setting with Wounded Warriors and learning so much about medical care, I decided I wanted to give the medical field a try. For six months, I went back to school and worked as a Medical Assistant. Although I realized medicine was not for me, it was a worthwhile journey to explore an interest and also how I met some of my closest friends. Through my journey in medicine, I realized my passion still laid in protocol and event coordination with a focus on being connected to social service organizations. I took a job as a Protocol Specialist in Government and Military Affairs and six months later I started blogging!

It has been one crazy ride, but what I can tell you is it was all worth it. I have learned firsthand that your twenties are meant for exploration and it is OK to not have a master plan yet. This is something I often remind myself of when I start to question if I am “doing the right thing.”

Now, how does this indirect route of a career path lead to any type of etiquette advice for the day? To conclude this journey, I leave you with a few etiquette tips on success amidst transition.

  1. Keep as many connections alive as possible. Do not burn bridges.
    • When you keep positive relationships with those in the past, they are more likely to want to help you for and in your future.
    • Thank those who have helped you to be successful in the place you are leaving.
    • Always leave a place/location, job, or career/educational field after giving it the best possible effort you can and being humble.
    • Be honest about your aspirations, but do not discredit or bad-mouth the opportunity you are leaving. If you are polite and honest, people will admire you for pursuing something new.
    • Help people from your previous location, major, or job whenever possible.
  2. Introduce Yourself, Do Not Be Shy!
  3. “Good Manners and Kindness are Always in Fashion.”
    • Being polished and polite will take you far. Do not underestimate the power of a kind gesture, a smile, and being polite to everyone you meet. Remember:
      • “‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’ are still magic words.”
      • “Good manners are not something to be put on and off like a coat.”
      • “I have never seen elegance go out of style.”

No matter what endeavor you are on, always put your best foot forward and you will be sure to succeed by leaving a positive impression. As I said in the beginning, you do not need to pick a career right away or have a master plan for your whole life. It is good to leave your options open and explore your interests. As Steve Jobs so brilliantly said:

Steve Jobs Quote

 

Sparkle On,

Alexandra