Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Perks of Volunteering

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.      ~ Gandhi

Volunteering has been the best action I’ve taken (for myself) in the last couple of years. When I lived in Washington, I was the volunteer photographer for a small, successful dog rescue team for 2 years. I learned a lot about my craft, about dogs, and about people. I’m not sure another opportunity will come along quite like that one but I will be forever grateful I was asked to do it.

Since we moved to Arizona, I have been a volunteer driver for a local non-profit called Helping Hands. Our main service is driving participants to doctor appointments, grocery shopping, and to the hair salon. The singleness of purpose makes it a well-oiled machine that is being used by elderly people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to get to those places. I enjoy being a driver and have learned a few things in my short time of volunteering with Helping Hands.

I have had to learn to ask each person I’m driving if they need my help getting in and out of my car, putting on the seatbelt, etc. In the past, I tended to be too helpful (yes, there is such a thing as being too helpful) but this gig has me taking a step back and allowing people to keep their dignity. One very nice elderly gentleman quipped that he had “been doing this a very long time” when I suggested he be careful stepping from the curb to get into my car. It was not lost on me and I won’t make that mistake again. 

There have been some really interesting people in my car since I started driving for the double Hs. I’ve driven a WWII veteran, truck driver, legal assistant, court clerk, bartender, and a couple of housewives. Upon sitting in my car, we’ve hit it off within the first mile of the transport. You see, these folks don’t drive anymore and one lady never drove, so when her husband died she was left without a way to get around. Think about that for a minute. If you didn’t drive any longer, and you don’t have family or friends nearby, how would you get out of the house and be with people? I quickly learned that these transports are so much more than a trip to the doctor. This is real human contact that most of us take for granted.

The art of conversation is being a good listener and following up with interesting questions. One really classy lady I drove has had several strokes and it took me a minute to realize that I was asking questions that made it hard for her to respond. So, I reeled it in a bit and asked more recent, open ended type of questions that didn’t require a search of her memory, and didn’t require long answers that might be frustrating to her. My favorite passenger so far was a Mexican woman who comes from a large family. We stopped to grab a burrito after her appointment and one of her nephews was at the restaurant and she introduced me. After that, she told that her brothers and sisters get together every Thursday for coffee at one of the brother’s homes. Every Thursday. Can you imagine? I would love that.

I am driving passengers to appointments for all kinds of things but the most eye opening has been to the dialysis clinic. I have never seen a place where people have a sadder look in their eyes than this clinic. I’m not sure what causes kidney failure besides too many doses of Tylenol but I can tell you every time I go to these doctor appointments with my passengers, I feel grateful (to the point of tears sometimes) that the only ailment I have at the moment is an arthritic knee. I have nothing to complain about.

One of my assignments right now is to take a woman to the grocery store every Friday at 9:00am. I love this one because I usually shop earlier in the week and often forget something. This assignment gets me to the store and I feel like it’s a 2-for-1 trip. I have been buying a 40 lb. bag of salt each Friday for my water softener. I am storing salt so I won’t have to pick it up in the hot summer months. Summers are brutal here and any time we don’t have to exert energy in the heat of the day it’s a win. I also don’t mind stopping for a bite to eat (we always go Dutch) when my passenger asks. The other perks are once a month meetings with the other drivers. Holiday potlucks with all the volunteers. And, just simply the joy knowing that I’ve helped someone get to where they needed to go and provided a friendly conversation to their day. Trust me, if I wasn’t getting something out of volunteering, I wouldn’t being doing it. I’m in it for the warm fuzzies! I am not that selfless after all.

I hope that if you read this far, you’ll think about volunteering in your community. Right now, I am doing an average of 2 rides a week and it takes about 3 hours each time. With winter visitors leaving next month, I think my rides will likely increase to 3 per week. It’s hard to find drivers that live here year round. I am at liberty to say no whenever I am asked to drive but I’ve only had to turn down one ride so far. We definitely need more drivers, especially in the summer.

Do you volunteer? If not, have you thought about volunteering? What keeps you from pursuing it? If you do volunteer, what is your favorite thing about your volunteer gig?  Tell me!

Love, susan

Friday, February 21, 2020

Jobbing: Pros and Cons

It’s me again.

After my last post, a good friend suggested I write about what I miss about jobbing (a term my daughter-in-law uses). Great idea. Along with that, what I don’t miss, in an attempt to move forward in my life.

Let’s get the negatives out of the way, shall we?

What I don’t miss about punching a time clock:
Office drama.
Dark morning drives.
Long periods of sitting.
Being tired all the time.
Not enough time for my dogs.
Having to learn new technology.
Always carefully planning vacation time.
Uncomfortable shoes, or wearing shoes at all.
The freedom to do whatever I want, whenever I want.
The oft feeling that I’d rather be doing something else.
Never having enough time to do chores around the house.
Too tired to read. Too tired to cook a good meal. Too tired to be creative.

What I Miss About Work:
The joy of working with the public.
The automaticity of a schedule.
Being a member of a team.
Learning new things.
A sense of purpose.
Helping people.
Feeling useful.
Being a mentor.
Work friends.

I started writing this post on Monday, and here I am Thursday afternoon Friday morn cleaning up the draft. Busy week. Nothing out of the ordinary but I’ve had something on my calendar every single day. I am volunteering as a driver for a great local non-profit. I still have to shop for groceries. Cooking, cleaning, picking up dog poop. Laundry. Phone calls. Dentist appointment. Pay bills. Dinner with friends. All the things I squeezed in while working. And, the days still fly by.

Turns out I still can miss those things I loved about working but the truth is that I have enough on my plate right now. Emotionally, it is a matter of shifting gears, slowing my roll, and letting the chatter in my head dissipate. Last night at dinner, my cousin’s husband said he wakes up sometimes in a panic with all the new arrests he’s made and how he’s going to manage completing all the probable cause statements. He’s been a retired sheriff for 13 years! I think I’ll take that as a lesson. 

There are many things to look forward to. I have a new grand baby in another state who I will be seeing on frequent visits there. We’re planning a trip to Oregon this summer, hoping to stay just long enough not to wear out our welcome. There are books to read, posts to write, pictures to take, and people who need rides to the doctor office several times a week. Not to mention all the series on Netflix and Hulu that I’ve been wanting to see. I want to get back to making my own greeting cards, writing, and I’ve always wanted to try my hand at drawing. There are YouTubes that will show me how. 

This is not to say I won’t ever go back to work, but I need to put that idea on hold so I can be less tired, finish tasks, walk around my property when my legs get restless, go barefoot all day, choose to only drive in the daylight, take time to learn something new, and enjoy my life minus the time clock.

UP NEXT: my adventures in volunteering!

Love, susan

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Postcard from the Edge

Hey ho!

I haven’t written in a while so this post may be a weak attempt at something useful. You be the judge.

February has been a good month so far. I had a visitor from Washington for about 10 days. She is a fellow photographer and adventure seeker. We got a couple of photo walks in while she was here. I enjoyed her company and really upped my cooking game. I’ve been a bit of a slacker in that department, so I know the hubs feels like he is benefitting from my surge in culinary interest.

One of the great things about having my friend here is that she has been retired for about 5 years now. She knows how to kick back and take it a day at a time. I definitely am still in training for this new stage in my life. Imagine my delight when she said she takes a nap every day. Permission granted! We started our days with a (mostly) healthy breakfast, maybe a little field trip somewhere, nice lunch, nap, good dinner. One thing about being my house guest is that you have to come up with some ideas for meals or you’re gonna get beans and rice. Not even joking.

Lately, I’ve been doing an unofficial count of the number of times a close neighbor runs his beautiful blue Harley back and forth on our street. I think it might be a new bike to him. I can only imagine his wife saying something like, “oh, gosh, I’m out of butter, can you...” and before she finishes her sentence he is on his way to the store. Any stupid excuse to make those pipes vrooom vrooom. My dog, Remi, hears him fire it up and she’s to the fence to let him know she’d chase him if she could.

In other non-edgy news, I’ve discovered my dogs love love LOVE laying around outside but only if I am out here laying around, too. I love this and wish I could be paid for this service. Reminds me of scenes from a movie filmed in the hollers of West Virginia, or wherever hollers are ... of the old coon dogs laying around on the porch. I feel it’s my duty to make sure my babies are living their best lives, thus, I have a favorite chair I’ve been holding down a lot. It’s a little embarrassing when my cousin and her hubs come to visit next door and see me in the exact same spot every single time. They don’t judge.

It’s not easy but my days of feeling crazy are getting fewer and far between. I found a super great book at the library I’ve been reading and I’ve been making very good use of the iPad I was gifted at Christmas for watching movies and some Netflix series. Sometimes I even make the bed.

But most of all, I’m working really hard at taking a step back and recognizing that making 3 square meals a day, making sure the hubs takes his pills, doing a little bit of volunteer work, and keeping my dogs alive is of value. Honestly, I have been working since I was 14 years old and “jobbing” (as my daughter-in-law aptly puts it) is what my life has been. God knows I’ve seen enough memes on FB about how nobody wants their last day on earth to be a work day.

Just today, I was talking to a woman my age while watching the local parade near where we live. In nonchalant conversation she told me her husband died of a massive heart attack while at work 4 months ago. Yesterday being Valentine’s Day, she teared up as she said it was a hard day. Ugh. I’m pretty sure the Universe puts people in my path to cause me to stop my damn whining about how hard this retirement thing is. That poor man .... died at work. Son of a bitch. That’s just not right.

I’m going to hang on to that one for awhile. I’ll pet my dogs, finish that book, watch another movie and raise my coffee cup to that guy who died at work. And, I’ll stop saying that retirement is hard. Well, I will try.

You Made My Day, Dude!

A couple weeks ago while I was driving back to Portland after spending the night on the Oregon coast, we came up on some road construction ...