Library Diva's Guide to Volunteering…

{June 21, 2011}   Biking=Freedom

I’ve been away from you quite a bit this month because I had committed to biking every day in June, remember? I had swallowed more bugs than I thought could be good for the human digestive system, but I persevered until…well, let’s just say I was doing really well, by myself, until my love asked me if he could bike along. He biked me what seemed to be over 15 miles of hills and valleys…he pushed, he taunted, he raced, he coasted, he went ahead, he lagged behind (and made comments), and to say the least, he killed my fun of biking. I haven’t been on my bike since that day and wonder when and if I will be on it again…

Now, that doesn’t mean I still don’t like the bike. Just last week, I had a young teen volunteer come in to visit me with his mom. He had done some required community service for us at the library and actually really really liked it. He doesn’t have that great of a home life and I chatted with him and his mom and told him that even though his required service is done, he can still escape to the library. He told me it was pretty far to walk to and he didn’t always have a ride to get there.

“You are young! Just hop on your bike and ride to the library!”

“My bike is all busted up, its bent and I can’t fix it.”

“If I got you a bike, would you get out of the house and away from all the fuss and the video games and ride it to the library?”

“Yeah..but how you gonna git me a bike?”

“I know lots of people, and if I don’t know them, I will find them…you’d be surprised how there are good people out there in the world… Would you ride it for good and not use it for evil? Like having  super powers?”


“OK…I’ll call you later and let you know what I find out…”

Even his mom seemed surprised. After we worked out the conditions of HER community service, I sent them on their way and hit the internet. I had wanted to rent a tandem for me and my love (before he was the fun killer of bike riding) a couple of weeks ago on one of the bike trails through town and had stumbled upon a link to a non-profit that supplied bikes to kids that didn’t have any, couldn’t afford any or were in need.

A simple email sent, 20 minutes later, a simple response sent back… “ABSOLUTELY!” and through conversation, I think I even made a new friend. “Everyone has a story to tell and should have a bike to ride.” She told me. In two days, there will be one more bike rider. We are going to pick it up on Thursday.

He was very very happy…very surprised…but very happy.

People are good.


{May 30, 2011}   Holah Guacamolah!

I was making my famous guacamole for the usual family cook out today and with my herbs in full throttle out in the yard thought I’d do a little caprice salad and salsa as well…

Coming in and out of my kitchen door to snip and snap off chives, parsley, green onions,  basil and oregano my neighbors across the way, through the two houses behind me caught my eye. How they caught my eye I’m not sure, when I’m home, I melt into my own little world. My own little place of seclusion, like my office at work. I’m rather shy and quiet, easily turning it on when I have to in regards to being social, or getting upset, but almost always resorting back to my own quiet little world that surrounds me. Remember it was Mighty Mo that alarmed me of my neighbor’s New Year’s house fire!

I had just snipped off the right amount of chives when I saw this husband and wife neighbor team walk toward their car. She was to be driving and so she unlocked the door with her hand held device. He waited by the front door passenger side. She opened the door behind the driver’s side and placed her purse in the seat and closed the door. He stood there, watching her. Surely, she had unlocked the door for him to get it? It was pushing 90 degrees already today and it wasn’t noon yet. Get in man! Get out of the sun!

She opened the front driver’s side door again and proceeded to get in and sit down, and then he got in on his side…Wait!? HOLD THE PHONE! Could he have waited for her to get in first and sit before he went in????

Now that is true old school…and that is very very nice.

{April 23, 2011}   finding love…

I really really don’t like to be bullied, but I’ll get to that part later….instead, let me start off by telling you that every Wednesday between 10:00 am and 11:00 am, I’m told that I’m loved. I’m hugged, and reminded that I have been seeing Brad for “a long time, now”. It’s been about 5 years now that Brad has been a volunteer with me and about 10 years as a volunteer with the library.

Brad is a busy guy. He volunteers at the Zoo, a riding center for those with disabilities, Meals on Wheels, the Humane Society and I’m sure countless others. He bowls, he does art, he’s an uncle, and he loves to help and he loves to say I love you. He’s a hugger.

Saturday was Brad’s birthday and on Wednesday, when he came in to volunteer, he invited me to his birthday get together on Friday. I was scrambling as usual to get out of the office at 5:30 and make my way over to his group living condo by 6:30.  I was grabbing the phone number of his caretakers and shutting down when one of my co-workers rudely stomped into my office area telling me we were closing. She was so borderline bully/intimidator that I had to call her out on it. She was exact. We close precisely at 5:30. She was “in charge”. Are you kidding me? I was well aware that the library may be closing, but my work day wasn’t even close to ending. Take a chill pill.

I called up my girlfriend and asked her if she wanted to go to a special birthday party with me. Always interested in one of my crazy adventures, she couldn’t say no. She was so glad she went. The condo was amazing… 3,000 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, kitchen, common areas and enough storage space for every game and craft imaginable.

When children have disabilities and grow up into adults. Where do they go? What kind of independence do they have? What kind of independence do their parents have? Brad, lives with two housemates and with 24-hour a day staff. I asked where the staff sleep? Brad’s mom looked at me and replied…They don’t. Brad and his two housemates have 24 hour care, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

My girlfriend and I chatted with the other guests, I told them how Brad and I had met, what we do at the library, what opportunities we have at the library for them and others, ate Glutten, Dairy, Egg and Sugar Free Cake (…don’t ask) and really enjoyed our time there.

We drove out of the neighborhood, which was just like every other suburban neighborhood that you may drive by and marveled at the care, independence and family atmosphere that was just shared. We did have to pit stop for a juicy burger and fries…the cake just didn’t hit the spot like you would have thought…

I’ve been invited many many times before, and I don’t know why it took me 5 years to go to Brad’s parties and get togethers. I guess I didn’t know what to expect, I had prejudged the environment as sterile and institutional, cold and drab….downright scarey. Instead, I got homey and comfy and relaxed. One of Brad’s housemates is in a motorized wheel chair and the walls, although reinforced with steel still have dings and holes in the drywall where Brad’s mom had said Elaine had “creatively decided to decorate” the walls on her own with her chair.

Maybe I should have asked my co worker to go with me and learn a lesson in temperance, flexibility and kindness and being thankful for what we have, no matter what our needs. I was cranky when I left my office for the mood I was put in by her, but I wasn’t cranky when I left work where I represented the library at Brad’s house. I also got an “I Love You” and a hug from the whole “Brad Family”. I felt the love. I shared the love.

Maybe my co-worker’s not told that she’s “loved” every week like I am and that’s why she’s cranky. That’s such a shame…

{December 13, 2010}   mind your manners…

I had timed out my break perfectly. I ran my errands, hit the bank and post office and was going to run in to a Subway to do my  lunch at my desk and finish up a project.  I whipped my truck into a parking spot, grabbed my cash money and hopped out only to see ahead of me an elderly man and woman skootching their way out of their car and begin shuffling their way to the door. If I kicked it into high gear, I could hurdle the parking block and hit the door long before they even stepped onto the sidewalk.

The wind was blowing and she stopped to adjust her hat and scarf. He grabbed her by the arm and together they clung to each other as not to fall. I could be inside, ordering, and still on schedule, but I couldn’t do it. I hustled over to them and asked if they needed any help, opened the door for them and allowed them to go in before me. They looked shocked but were thankful.

Once in I actually had a split second where I thought I could get ahead of them and place my order, get my fixin’s and get the heck out…they looked at me and I smiled and felt my arm extend and the words “Please, go ahead” come out of my mouth.

It was almost an out-of-body experience, my brain was thinking almost the total opposite of what my actions were.  I was glad though. I took a breath and thought “Oh well…~ let’s roll with it.”

All those lessons of youth. Respect and assist your elders. One day I’m going to be an elder and I hope that someone will come to my aid and assist me, or at least remember their manners, whether its running in to a deli or somewhere else.

No one should be in that much of a hurry that they forget their manners.

{November 24, 2010}   Giving Thanks…

I saw one of our most loyal and dependable volunteers today, it was about  a month ago that Marie’s husband passed away. He was 92 years old. She may be in her 90’s as well.

On the day before Thanksgiving,  I always think of the people who have lost someone, who are struggling or who are just lost and wonder how they will spend their day. There always seems to be the people who are scrambling to have that perfect Martha Stewart dinner, others decide to have their families work at a soup kitchen, while others just do what they always have done  not fussing or striving for anything out of the ordinary.

I asked Marie how she plans to spend tomorrow and she said like she always has, at the Country Buffet. Her husband didn’t like all that traditional fuss and where can you take a group of people who can get what they want but the local buffet restaurant.

For me it’s all about family and spending time with them. I remember my job when I was little was to spread the cream cheese on the celery and dash the paprika on it. I think it was just my job to stay out-of-the-way but I was a master at it. If you are cooking at home, Martha Stewart or not, make sure you have lots of volunteers engaged in the day with lots of simple tasks. The more you get people involved, the more they will make a memory of it.

However you choose to spend your holiday, remember there is always something to be thankful for even if it’s just a memory.

It’s that time of year where we put the tubs out in the lobby and ask for donations to help supply the food banks. Schools are doing it, businesses are doing it and we do it through the end of the year. My office collects all year-long. People are hungry all year-long and it’s not uncommon for some of the volunteers I work with to grab a can of soup or beans from the tub outside my office .

Not that beggars can be choosers, but I always tell the teen groups I work with to donate canned food that they like to eat. Ravioli, Mac and Cheese, Spaghetti-O’s. Why is it that when people donate canned items, they always give the items that they don’t want in their cupboard or that’s been in their cupboard since the cold war? I’m actually surprised at some of the food that’s in my box. Canned applesauce? Creamed Split Pea Soup? 10 cans of Cream of Celery?

I’m not sure what people are expecting out of the people who are forced to turn to food banks. Are they thinking they’ll be so grateful that they’ll puncture that can of lima beans with a dull knife and just start gulping it with half gloves and grubby fingernails?

More and more people of all types are going to food banks to help supplement their meals. Lots of food banks now are voucher free and lots of these food banks are helping our neighbors, patrons and community members be able to stretch their income to pay for essentials like housing and transportation to work.It’s a tough world out there.

When you donate to the banks, remember who they are helping to feed: Children, Elderly, Growing Babies and Teens. Think high nutritional donations. Peanut Butter, Canned Tuna, good soups loaded with veggies and meat. Cream of Chicken is a good donation choice, but remember that those item types mostly complement real chicken in casseroles and dinners.

I know it’s the thought that counts, but let’s make sure we are thinking it through. Donate what you like to eat, you’ll feel  more connected and better about it in the end! You will…believe me 🙂

{November 26, 2009}   Even a Volunteer Manager Volunteers

What better day than Thanksgiving then to share a story about volunteering! Great Volunteer Managers area Great because they are volunteers themselves. They are out there making a difference on their own, feeling the pulse of the people, finding their interests and sharing their time and resources.

I remember a few years back, I decided that during the Thanksgiving holiday, I’d make pumpkin pies. I’m not talking one or two, I’m talking Henry Ford Assembly line of pies~ enough to rival Sarah Lee herself! I baked pies for me,  the domestic violence shelter, the homeless shelter, a couple churches serving Thanksgiving dinner, and some mini pies for the Nursing home where my uncle would be living as his Alzheimer’s had become more and more difficult for my Aunt to have him at home.

After hours of preparation and baking, the pies were done, and they looked beautiful! I delivered them to their destinations and the last place I went to was my Aunt and Uncle’s house so I could sit and visit and bask in my baking glory. My uncle was in his leather chair and I sat with him for a bit while my Aunt cut the pie onto her china dishes. She served me and she sat and took one bite and SPIT IT OUT!

“What’s wrong???” I blurted out, startling my uncle from his snooze…          “It’s just a little bland..that’s all”, she quickly grabbed the china plates and went in to the kitchen, cinnamon, ginger, cloves…all came tumbling out of her cabinet. She scooped out the entire pie into a bowl, mixed in the spices and returned the mixture to the crust with a little spoonful to taste…             “Ahhh! There we go…Perfect!”. As if nothing happened we finished our pie and our visit and I went home.

When I came into my kitchen, pushed back by the mixing bowls was a mixing bowl full of the spices! I had left it out of ALL the pies! That moment, I realized ALL the people who were eating my pies!!! My BLAND, TASTELESS PIES! I was mortified….and then the Thank You Cards started rolling in over the next week…

“Thank You for taking the time to make us such a delicious dessert.”

“Just like my Gramma used to make”

“It was so thoughtful for you to think of us during the tough time we are going through…”

Kindness must be a spice of its own and even in abundance, you can never have too much. It’s the efforts that we give and the memories of helping others that we cherish.

et cetera
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