Tag Archives: Volunteering

The Gift of Time

Freedom from obligations and schedules!

When I first retired from teaching, time was my friend. I had no schedule. I did what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. I was in heaven. At least for a while.

I caught up with housework, purging shelves and closets and making repeated trips to the thrift stores to drop off donations before I changed my mind.

I went on a retreat and began hosting a faith sharing group in my home, in addition to continuing to attend the group I had gone to for the previous eight years.  Four years later, I still belong to both groups.

I took community ed classes and community college classes on drawing, writing, and tai chi. I read and read and read books for fun, as opposed to books to improve my teaching skills. I could devour two books a week.

I enjoyed time with my mother-in-law two days a week. I still do.

By the time that first year was over, though, I was looking for something else to fill my time, something useful. I searched various volunteer sites and could find nothing that appealed to me.

Then, within a period of a few weeks, two opportunities fell into my lap. I felt they were meant to be.

I got a job teaching college classes at a local university. I taught what is known as “methods” math classes to students studying to become elementary teachers. I looked at this as an opportunity to give back to the profession that had meant so much to me. Since I only taught in the fall, I had a nice break in between. I was still teaching one of those classes this past fall.

I also found a volunteer opportunity that suited me perfectly. I began tutoring adult English language learners in conversational English. There was no planning or preparation involved. I just showed up and enjoyed myself as I listened to the stories of people who were still learning the English language. I love this weekly opportunity.

Somewhere during that time, I felt the urge to listen to the stories of families of children with autism with the thought that I might write a book. That became a three-year project from organizing interviews to book publication, followed by book signings this past fall.

 Three years ago, I joined the local writer’s guild and publishers’ association, both of which meet monthly. I attend both regularly.

I meet monthly with a group of retired friends for lunch and “game day.” None of us play bridge but there are many other fun games that we enjoy as we catch up on each other’s lives.

Two years ago, I took a class on Mahjong and loved it. Unfortunately, I could only find groups that played on days that I had other obligations. Maybe that’s because I have obligations five or six days a week!?!

A little over a year ago, I picked up a crochet hook and began making amigurami, small crocheted animals, for my soon to be born granddaughter.

Some of my Amigurami

How did my retirement get busier than my work years?

When did I stop having time to just sit down and read a book? I’m lucky to read four books a year now. When did my house get so cluttered again? When did I stop feeling retired? When did I stop walking or keeping myself physically moving?

Some days I have three activities a day. On a good day, I have only one.

Over the last few months, I have taken a new look at my life and at what brings me joy.

After five years teaching college classes, I decided to retire from teaching again. Grades are posted. The semester is over and I’m moving on.

I started making little crocheted gnomes – which my daughters claimed.

I created a plan to finish some other “little old lady” crochet items for Christmas gifts for my young great nieces and nephews and for my granddaughter’s first birthday. It’s been therapeutic. I have loved knitting and crocheting since I learned as a child.

More Amigurami

I made time for this labor of love by taking off from my volunteer job for a few weeks. Attendance is usually lighter for the holidays so I didn’t feel too guilty.

For the first time ever, I have done most of my Christmas shopping online. Other than that, I have cut back drastically on time on the computer.

My husband and I are both experiencing some new and bothersome aches and pains, so we are simplifying our Christmas decorations this year. For this year, at least, we have gone to a tabletop tree because we can’t seem to manhandle the big one.

My New Tree

Our fifteen guests at Christmas will just have to accept the smaller tree.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to watch my grandbaby for two weeks because of what I think is a major pulled muscle in my side.

I decided to put on hold anything that has to do with my book, like signings and promotion, until after the first of the year.

I feel like my choices in life have being given back to me, like a weight has been taken off my shoulders.  Time is my friend once again. It’s a gift I have given myself, a gift of three weeks.

When I was working, I took an occasional vacation. I’ve never been a big traveler but, for me, just taking time for myself is my escape.

Since I have retired, I really haven’t taken a break from my self-created responsibilities. I think we all need a break at times. We all need to find time to retreat from our daily tasks, whether we are retired or working a regular job.

I hope that when my three-week hiatus is over, I will be a little kinder to myself.

How do you carve out pieces of time for yourself? Or do you?

Guess what? I heard about a mahjong group that meets on Monday afternoons. That time’s free since I quit my teaching gig! It begins on December 30.

Uh! Oh!

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Who Wants an Old Coat?

As I pulled out my Eddie Bauer down coat this morning, I also grabbed my old down coat from the closet. It’s a warm, black knee length coat with a cozy knit turtle neck collar that almost reaches my ears. It served me through a number of years of cold yard duty when I was teaching. In all honesty, it’s probably warmer than my Eddie coat.

I looked at that coat to decide what to do with it. The knit cuffs and collar are slightly pilled but nothing a fabric shaver couldn’t fix. I would still be wearing it except for one small thing. One of the big, shiny silver snaps on the front of the coat went AWOL last year, prompting me to purchase my new coat.

What does one do with a really cozy coat with a quarter inch hole right at the abdomen? 

I live in a world where I can buy myself a new down coat when a snap on my old coat goes missing.

Not everyone lives in a world where they can buy a coat at all.

Last year, I was fortunate enough to occasionally volunteer at a local food pantry in the city. I met so many wonderful people. Their lives are not as easy as mine. The volunteer experience impacted the way I think about physical things.

I don’t know how other food pantries work, but I learned a little about this one. Previously I thought that food pantries only handed out food. That was definitely not the case here.

The pantry was staffed by volunteers and was open two days each week. The two nuns that coordinated it had visited the homes of many of the families on their client list and knew their needs. Some of the clients were homeless.

The sisters also knew pantry inventory and could estimate how many clients would show up on a given day since each family was allowed one visit per month.

People could get help with utility bills by taking a short class teaching them ways to save on utilities. Clients were required to stop by a table and look at a list of jobs that were available in the area.

One day a month there were local podiatry students who helped people with foot issues. Hotels periodically furnished perfectly good used sheets. Volunteers donated hand knit hats and afghans. There were sometimes donations of new children’s shoes.

The list of what individuals and organization donated to this food pantry is surprising.

There were limits as to how many items people could take and the limits were based on various factors including need and item availability.

For example, once when new shoes were available, parents could pick one pair of shoes for every two children they had. Sadly, many families needed shoes for two, three, or four children but the sisters knew that they had to share what was donated among many families.

One of my favorite things about the pantry is that one of the nuns set up a little cooking station outside where she prepared sample dishes using food items that were in good supply. For example, she made zucchini fritters for people to taste during gardening season and passed out recipes. Families waited all year for deer meat to become available at the pantry because sister had taught them how to prepare it.

On the days I volunteered, I always worked in the area where people shopped for clothing and household items. The nuns would do a quick check of inventory and tell us how many women’s, men’s, and children’s clothing items were available to any client that day. The same was true with used shoes and household items. People shopped with the help of volunteers who then bagged the items for them. They were treated like they were in a store but no payment was required.

What was in high demand in the little household store?  Plastic food containers, pots and pans, holiday decorations. A woman might take ten minutes to decide whether she would rather have a food storage container or a frying pan. Which did she need more?  I won’t lie and tell you that those of us who volunteered sometimes broke the rule and let that woman have two items on one item days. Some of these items that would never sell at some second hand stores near my house are treasures to the people at this food pantry.

This time of year, used coats are in demand.

Big demand.

Sorry if there are three children in your family who need new coats, you only get one today.

Should I put my old coat in the landfill? Hmm. I think some people would be thrilled to get a really warm coat with a missing snap! Maybe I’ll drop it by the food pantry myself and work a while.