Tag Archives: volunteering


One person is not necessarily missed in a group of up to sixty for Thanksgiving, though I would know, and Nanny would, too. I will miss the big gathering that I’ve attended for 15 of 16 years (the first was when my husband’s employer would not let anyone miss work for Black Friday). Cousins revel in Black Friday sales. I have never gone with them since then. I don’t like shopping, especially for shoes, and hated that day.

My husband does not think I am well enough to take planes and cars and cook with his mother (which I love, but it’s gotten to five days), I’m sending nuts and a gift this year. I can’t even do standing around for ten hours at Nanny’s. I do not wish to carry a foldable cane and lie on a sofa or bed all day. My brain is there but my body is not, yet.

I will miss everyone dearly. As we all get older we marvel at the young ones who’ve grown six inches and want nothing to do with us, and the young adults who are looking towards marriage and family. We also have wise family members who can teach us much about life, love and practical matters.

Awake in the middle of the night, I get up, close the door for my family’s sake and try to keep quiet. Of late I’ve been on Netflix and The Mind of a Chef. Edward Lee, for whom I cheered on Top Chef a few years ago, said in show filmed in 2014 and I paraphrase, that he likes to learn something new and teach something new every week.

This is what wise people do, pass down knowledge that they have gained through success and errors. Another mentor said life was about “goods and betters,” what we could do better the next time around. There are no failures.

My husband and I are at that stage, and I know that I’ve had mentors all my life and have been one to younger children even when I was just a kid. Learn from books, learn ethics and fairness and non-discrimination and you’re on your way. Know that caring for others is a way of life that must be embraced. If one does not care about a life, that’s how sociopaths and serial killers are made.

While I learned through arts and literature, work, volunteerism; my husband learned from math, science and hard work on a farm. He is a wonderful mentor, teacher, and a premier software resource for some of the best companies in the world. I just went back to Edward Lee and changed the text from “who I cheered for” to “for whom I cheered.” That was for mentor Aunt L, the retired English teacher. I can see her reading this and actually stopping her knitting hats and booties for the preemies at the hospital to which I was sent as an infant. Yes, she’s a volunteer and buys all the yarn, too. Cheers! Dee


An Errand For Fools

Is not necessarily a fool’s errand, if it works in your favor. Let’s say a certain industry will not allow one to succeed without a certain stamp on one’s forehead. This hypothetical person could pass a test while sleeping but no….. an expensive week-long ritual must be undertaken and then the test.

Let’s say said individual was committed to designing and building traditional log homes and s/he was forced to spend savings on a course on steel frame construction. It would be a waste of time and money.

I believe in people and lifting them up to be the best that they can be, with commitment to a cause they believe in, to work and colleagues. As a consultant, after an event we’d have a session with all staff. It was not bads and goods, it was Goods and Betters. What can we do better next time?

Can you guess? I was the go-between, the problem-solver that no-one ever noticed.

There is another mechanism like king and castle vs. his “people” where taxes are levied and increased by rule willy-nilly and livestock taken and hunting denied on the king’s land so that his people starve and in the beginning of his end, revolt.

I think there is no question that this consultant would choose to empower and support her people. Goods and betters. I was not an event consultant but had to do it from time to time. No name tags or beverages? I was on it, even without my clients’ knowledge. The items just showed up. It wasn’t our fault, it was the venue’s but in that case communication was the issue as to who would provide what, so there was fault on both sides. Go to Betters!

I led volunteers and would go to the nearest, best store alone after we set up and buy juice and a muffin before we started. They’d ask what we were doing and would show up a half hour later with a ton of free food and water for my fellow volunteers. Lift up, do not drag down. Volunteers are spending an entire day in intense heat and stress. The least I can do is help them out. Thanks to our benefactors, Dee

The Sun is Trying

to come up. The ice-maker clouds are out there, and there is a brief space between those and the rain/snow-making clouds that fill the entire sky a bit higher.

I may not have to lower the shades today at all. It is a beautiful sunrise but don’t think I can catch it on camera.

Last night I did fall asleep on the sofa and my husband covered me with a blanket. I awakened at 4:00 a.m. all stuffed up and sneezing like crazy.

Sneezy fit done I sat up for a bit for this cold then checked on husband and dog and they were both sound asleep and snoring. The batteries in my non-tethered keyboard were dead so I went seeking others in closets and found them and replaced them without awaking anyone.

That’s how I like life. I’m retired these days and I do my best to assure that my husband, dog and our families are OK. Let them sleep (dog has already gone out and been fed early) and feed my love hopefully an early lunch of fajitas with marinated chicken and veal chorizo with flour tortillas, homemade salsa and guacamole and some cheese, lime juice and perhaps sour cream.

That is a life I like. I asked for a volunteer role at a charity and was denied yesterday because they no longer do pet adoptions. Yes, I’ve worked for shelter pets for years and have adopted four in 25 years. Two cats, two dogs. Our only pet, a dog will be 12 this month and we needed to have her hips taken out at 6 and 9 months of age due to the most severe hip dysplasia her surgeon had ever seen. She was only 25 lbs. so there were no hip replacements back then for a dog of her size. She grew her own hips from cartilage. She hasn’t run for a few years but bet she can beat a Golden Retriever around a tree and get the ball first and drop it at my feet.

As for the charity I said I would not be on site and my specialities are writing, development, volunteer development and special events. Instead of reading my note they sent me one about adoption events at the shelter where we adopted Zoe 12 years ago. We live 1,500 miles away from there. Helpful? No. Thanks a bunch, big donors. Dee


There may be a volunteer center or group in your city that allows people, perhaps with the family, to volunteer for a few hours on a weekend. Consider it time to bond with your family or reach out to others.

I ran such programs years ago and created 14 projects per month (most leaders had 2-3) for the organization. I created Animal Projects and we “turned out” rescued Greyhounds on Sundays, socialized abandoned cats on Saturdays, helped with animals in domestic violence situations, and I helped spay/neuter over 2,000 feral cats.

Training and supervising volunteers and keeping the project alive were my goals. One of the gods of pet-dom is the SFSPCA and they even taped my training in a video with Snowflake the Wonder Cat (a bean bag cat so the volunteers knew how much muscle control an anesthetized cat has).

Plant trees. Clean up a park. Read books to kids at the local library. Show what you know about math and science at a local school. Teach an adult how to read. Build a home for a needy family. It’ll make you feel better about you.

It’s not just about writing a check. It’s getting your hands dirty and feeling you and your family have accomplished something at the end of the day. Start out, then become a volunteer leader and multiply your results. You’ll still be on the job but have a willing and eager team as well. Try it. Dee


You go, Aretha. My favorite scene in Animal House included you in a starring role.

Of late many professionals have lamented not the dumbing-down of their work per se, but how they are treated at work, which is not with respect, not as professionals. I’m not talking 20-somethings wet behind the ears from college but seasoned people. Perhaps it is the litigiousness of our society that demands that employees be looked down upon. It is not a good sign.

Yesterday my dog and I were walking north on the sidewalk of a southbound street, where a young lady was killed a few weeks ago in traffic. Yes, I got my crosswalk next door but now cars speed up through it with this old lady and old dog halfway across.

There were 20 six year-olds with four chaperones coming toward us and I knew it was death to cross the street without a crosswalk or light so I improvised. First I must say that Zoe is nearly ten, has no hips, is clean (needs to be combed again) and has a very sweet disposition. A two year-old could reach into her bowl and take her food and she’d just look up and say “Mommy, can I have more?”

I had her sit and do a “high five” which makes her look like Lassie. She is a long-haired golden Australian Shepherd mix. The last thing we both wanted to do was to scare even one child.

They all laughed. Then I told her to sit and four times as we moved down the line a child said “High Five!” and she placed her right paw gently in their hand. They were delighted and we got them back on their way.

I thought Zoe had done so well, and always try to get her to do new things because she needs education, training and enjoying strangers and their dogs. I’ve also been a volunteer manager for over 20 years and have worked with thousands of animals.

So I tried to get us into a hospice therapy dog program and it was looking good, until I learned that the only diet she will eat and has thrived on since a pup is a raw food diet which is prohibited. Solely due to that, she is precluded from participating in the program.

At her advanced age I will not do what the dog food manufacturers want me to do: feed her dry food with corn and meat by-products as the main food groups. I was a professional, looked at the rules, filled out the application and all of a sudden this raw food ban tells me I’m an idiot.

My time is too valuable to not have it respected by someone with a volunteer opportunity. This is our gift. If you don’t want it, go elsewhere. Dee

The Right Thing

Dad is retired now, no, not really. He has a ballet company and restaurant in his 80’s. It is my fear that he won’t slow down, only stop. Dad, I want to see you before you say Stop.

Today I ran into the couple who hired him 35 years ago to run a non-profit organization and introduced myself as his daughter. We are neighbors, all these years later. Quel surprise! Board and The Help on the same block with great views.

We see each other on the path from time to time with our dogs and say hello, maybe 7-8 times over 18 months, most in winter garb, yes I walked on water last year talking to ice fishermen. Notice I didn’t say ice fisher-women. They’re home with another alternative for supper.

I asked them for coffee and left a note with my information. I thought that the right thing to do. I do believe in fate, however, and intuition. I can usually read things more than a mile down the road but this ball is in their court.

Sadly, in my heart I feel that people in Milwaukee, even young ones, don’t want new friends. They marry, get a house near their parents, go to the same church and close everyone out. They also try to run pedestrians off the streets at designated crosswalks, especially the one I spent six months trying to create. They blow their horns for nothing.

I hope for the right thing, that between us we can help this city. It has become difficult even to volunteer. We’ve met for a reason. Fate intervenes. Let’s roll the dice and see what happens…….. Dee

ps Wait, I don’t even have dice, or cards for that matter. Fate.



Whether you hear it from Johnny Cash or Bob Dylan, we all have to serve someone. Whether it be the Lord or our families, we all have to do it.

The people who don’t do it are on the bottom or the top, neither think they’re responsible for anything or anyone. It is those of us in the middle who have to make up for everyone else’s failings.

We serve our companies, our bosses, our mortgage banks or landlords, electric and gas companies and more.

If we’re good we serve our spouses and children and help them thrive. We go to those games or attend spelling bees, just to make our kids happy and let them know we care.

Some of us go so far as to do regular volunteer work. Thank goodness for volunteers! I’m a volunteer trainer (a volunteer, volunteer trainer) who has done much good over the years but not lately and that hurts my heart and soul.

I’ve worked for non-profits in the bad neighborhoods and on birthdays the staffs all got together. The menfolk brought in fresh fried catfish, oysters, fries et al but the white girl never knew the secret location of this catfish stand. She never quite made “sistah.”

But I served and did what I needed to do in the community. Now my husband talks about “servant leadership” and of course we’re both in the same boat and our oars are rowing together but in different venues which is good ten years into a marriage.

I don’t recommend required government service (not a draft) at age 18. From what I’ve seen of AmeriCorps it does not make good use of the “volunteers” or of the organization used to care for them.

Instead, I’d start young. Scouts, especially when they’re out from under this cloud, sports, FFA for rural kids. If your parents won’t let you work summers after you’re 14, start now and get volunteering under your belt for college resumes and make it something you’ll love and stick with for life.

Giving back is one thing some people do instinctively. The top and bottom do not necessarily do so. OK, save Gates/Buffett major world change doings. Right now the only thing I can give is my time and perhaps a few dollars to a charitable organization of my choice.

At age 12, I got a cheap guitar (nylon strings) and started a band. We played in public at our school, three songs. CSNY’s Teach Your Children was in the mix.

So, let’s teach our children, walk that 500 miles, and serve someone. Years ago I was brought to a seer who said I was a teacher. Things are going bad in Washington with the sequester and we’re all going to get together or go separately. Serve someone. Dee

Rudeness, Volume 2

Moving to a new town is always stressful. In the first volume I stated that people here honk their horns more than I’ve even heard in Manhattan at rush hour in the rain, and that state law says to stop at crosswalks for pedestrians but when one does, they’re yelled at by the pedestrian as in “what are YOU looking at???”

After finally finding a worthy organization that will accept perfectly good books, clothing and furnishings (others were mostly rude too as in “we don’t take that” or “get a truck”) I decided to look into volunteer opportunities.

A couple of months ago I connected with the right person at the local volunteer center and we had a great meeting and I left feeling buoyed by the thought that this town may actually need and respect volunteers.

I found one organization that has opportunities to be on the board of trustees and sent an email asking for more information. Yesterday I received an email from someone without saying the organization’s identity, demanding to know where I got her name and how I knew of volunteer opportunities. Also that by my phone number I “don’t appear to be local.” Explain even though I don’t even identify the organization I work for.

This organization has a request for information on volunteering by a new, highly skilled newcomer and this is the welcome? Welcome to our city! We’d LOVE to provide you some information on our organization so that you can volunteer your highly prized (and priced) skills for free!

I wrote back that there is no need for open hostility to newcomers or to explain the origin of the phone number I’ve had for the past ten years and that I’ll simply take my talents elsewhere.

Unfortunately I’ve already met with another person at that organization who was very kind and has given me plenty of information to read through (I’m working on it). If the boss is accusatory of newcomers, sadly I’ll have to pass.

This is a very insular town. One person explained to me that people are rude because they were born here, live here and will die here. Their immediate and extended family and high school buddies are all they need. Newcomers are not welcome. Well, that’s what we’re finding out so we’re welcoming all newcomers in our building. We have pot lucks and now I’m providing dinner for all new people on our floor.

Here’s a box of spaghetti and my homemade Bolognese sauce. Here’s a stew I made last night and some noodles to cook with it. I know you’re tired from moving all day and emptying boxes. Welcome, neighbor! If you don’t have pots or pans yet I’ll lend you some. Pay it forward.

We’re used to meeting professionals from all over the world and for us it is a joy to meet new people and learn about their lives, where they’re from, and share family recipes. When an entire town mourns its former glory yet still turns a cold shoulder to new neighbors, one wonders if it is worth living here at all.

Well, we live here. But volunteering is another story. I’m not going to sell my skills for no pay. They should be asking me for my help but they don’t want me and don’t care, so I won’t volunteer. That’s that. Not so cheery, Dee

There is Love

Even though  we don’t have kids, it’s always great to see another generation come forth, get married and have children for us to spoil.

Family members are getting married this year and we wish them the utmost joy and happiness, as well as the certainty that they are a match and will help each other through life.

I’m still going off CD’s in my car, which my husband loads.  He has installed a state-of-the-art system in his car that involved taking out the entire trunk, back seat and console and placing it in our living room for a week!

When I do my five minute drives each day right now I’m stuck on Peter, Paul and Mary and sing harmony with them until I get to my errand.  When There Is Love comes on I kind of tear up and wonder what kind of tenth anniversary I can plan.

This is music for the ages.  I ended up with Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Joan Baez and others like Dave Mason who have been my muses over the years.  Of course I love the Big Band era as well, but the 60’s protest songs will endure in terms of music and lyrics.

While no-one would call me religous because I’ve no attachment to any organized faith I do know there is love in the world, and loss, and hunger and crime.  People get together to help one another, or they do not.  I have tried to help local disasters, showing up with needed items and a check and doing long-term volunteering.

And there is love, that tries to keep us all together.  The economy is tough and most of us have had to cut back for the past few years but if you volunteer somewhere, even for a day to plant trees or whatever, you’ll make a difference and feel better for it.

There is love.  Cheers from Dee

Houdini, aka Garfunkel

Yes, I’m a smart gal, but today I was outwitted by a cat. For the past few months I’ve taken on some cats from a local shelter that are housed at our nearest pet store. Animal Control was taking care of Wednesdays but had a reorganization so I immediately volunteered. Aside from signing a waiver stating that if I was stampeded by a herd of moose while walking over there, the non-profit organization does not know or care that I exist.

The staff at Petco, led by the lovely Ladena, has treated me well and let me do my job without complaint. Until today. I have three cats and six areas to clean and also socialize the adoptable cats. The bottom two are the hardest because I have to get up and down from the floor a number of times to change litter, water, food, and clean the premises. All went well with the first two. Then Garfunkel was crying and staying in the adjoining “room” while I knelt down to change litter and sweep. He came over to see me and placed one foot outside the enclosure whereupon I put my hand on his chest to nudge him back in.

All of a sudden he bolted so fast it was all a blur. He went into the store and under the shelving, where there’s about a 6″ gap to the floor. My arms were not long enough to get him from either side. I felt horrible for letting him escape and only hoped he didn’t get out to the parking lot where he could get run over or become feral. It took four of us to get him and as I locked him back in his enclosure, found he had injured an employee. Also that he’d escaped this weekend and it took nearly two days to find him and put him back (that’s probably why he knew where to go!).

There is a round hole between enclosures with a screw mechanism so you can keep the cat on one side while you tidy up the other. I use it all the time but he lulled me into thinking he was a shy one, instead he was a crafty one with escape his primary goal. If I’d known about his Houdini-like tendencies I’d have been much more careful. Lessons learned. All are safe, poor Jared was injured and I don’t know whether it was tooth or claw, he wouldn’t accept any bandaging. This was my worst experience all year with this volunteer gig and hope it goes better in the future. Thanks to the staff for helping correct my error, as my being there is supposed to make their jobs easier, not more difficult. Cheers, Dee