Time to Volunteer

Ricker

Lon Ricker on his Motorcycle

Get on the Motorcycle and Ride

The kids return to school in August. What will you do with extra time? Your full-time job requires concentration. The children go to lessons and practices. Time to volunteer remains an issue.

You retire thinking you may find time to help others. But, you cannot seem to find time anything but your golf game or online interests.

Lon’s Story

Lon Ricker is a friend. I watch him from a distance as his career evolves. He’s not quite a Renaissance man but an “uncaged” spirit who loves family, freedom, and helping others. He worked with my husband. When he was promoted to a management position he hated it. With no dependents or home ownership, he quit.

After I ride around the block with him on his motorcycle I ask, “What are you going to do?” He responds, “Maybe odd jobs. For sure I will ride my bike a lot.” And he did. He looks relaxed, happy, but he tires of painting walls and carpentry. When he returns from his “free range existence,” he volunteers at the SoupMobile, a philanthropy in Dallas where the homeless eat daily. He loves it and they love him, volunteering many hours.

The leadership proposes he become the paid Development Director, which means he builds relationships and raises funds for the organization. He expands the Christmas program where the homeless stay in a fancy hotel overnight for a fabulous holiday experience, requiring many donations and volunteers. Now he’s trying something new.

After serious introspection, Lon starts a consulting agency to assist non-profits with communications and fund development. He has family obligations and is a homeowner, but he‘s a risk-taker and a king of networking. He’ll do well, resulting from his super attitude and experience.*

Limited Expertise

Teaching

Ruth loves facilitating programs.

I share his story to emphasize that we find time to do what we want. Sometimes life truly interferes with volunteer ability but constraints can be excuses.

When I changed careers to write, I considered offering to teach classes at church, but I didn’t feel qualified. I don’t attend Bible studies. I don’t have a background in Biblical history or a knowledge base for interpreting miracles. My religious acumen lacks depth. But the need arises for teaching once a month.

Guess what? When I begin the class, my voice quivers and I cope with butterflies, a little like I am riding behind Lon on his huge bike. My voice becomes more confident as the group becomes attentive. I am enjoying facilitating, rather than calling it teaching.

The last two Sundays the curriculum emphasizes the need to be “Servants.” Humph! I don’t like the curriculum so I find time to customize the suggested message for the group. I use Father Gregory Boyle’s book, titled Tattoos on the Heart during the classIf a Jesuit priest can create programs for the tough gangs on the West Coast, we, too, can make a difference. He’s an excellent role model. The class may not have liked writing a poem or hearing about gangs, but they will remember the topic. The experience encourages me to share the joy in volunteer work.

While researching for the lesson, I discover several women in the church drive a great distance to Gainesville, Texas to participate in the Kairos Prison Ministry. She and her friends help female inmates find answers for a better life. When I talk with Carolyn Jones about the program, I hear passion in her voice.

Volunteer work is important, no matter what you choose. No time? Try hard to MAKE time. You may find a new passion in life, which may feel like riding a Harley-Davidson when you walk in the door to a meeting the first time or two.

With the enormous number of philanthropies, finding a fit for your volunteer effort should be easy. You may find new confidence, new relationships for your career, and more personal rewards than challenges.

Eighteen Worthy Non-Profits

Susan G. Komen Foundation-research and assistance for cancer patients

KERA-public radio and television

Rotary International-many worthy community activities

Lions Club-helping people with eye problems and the need for eyeglasses

Hearts and Hammers-refurbish low-income housing needs

Soupmobile-feed the homeless; ancillary services

Salvation Army-donate your gently used stuff; maybe be a bell ringer at Christmas

Red Cross-help with blood donation

Bed Start-donate beds and other furniture for families sleeping on the floor

Gateway of Grace-build ramps, helping with building projects

Food pantries-amazing grace

Board memberships-new friends and insight

Kiwanis Club-service projects and fundraising for children

Book Clubs-get to know your neighbors

HOA-home owners’ association which helps the communities stay safe, presentable and friendly

Habitat for Humanity-donate furniture, refurbish and resell

 

Behind the Scenes

flamingo

“Whew! The visitors are gone!”

The Birds

While we traveled in Europe in May, a pair of barn swallows built a nest in the eaves of our patio porch. Mama bird already had eggs, which quickly became ugly mouths to feed. My friend Barbara Richardson said, “You’ll be sorry. They are messy.” That…was an understatement.

was an understatement.

I loved watching those homely, tiny creatures become beautiful birds, but I had to move all the furniture away from the eaves. I spent too much time watching with fascination as they became images of their parents while covering the place with excrement. When they learned to fly, we “encouraged” them to leave.

My husband bought a pressure washer and lots of soap. The patio is clean, and the furniture returned for use. Thanks go to Lon Ricker, another friend, for helping install plastic picks on the ledges to prevent another story about barn swallows.

An Update on Andrea and Chirag

I talked with Andrea Heaberg a few days ago. She “starred” in the first issue of Roving Ruth’s monthly newsletter in August 2016. Andrea has ALS, sometimes called “Lou Gerig’s Disease,” a dreadful diagnosis. Her attitude inspires all who surround her as she lives each day to its fullest despite her disability. She and her husband moved to a smaller, one story home in the same neighborhood. Any relocation is stressful, but add downsizing, selling extra furniture and treasures from their travels creates angst. She said friends helped them pack and they are taking their time to arrange the house for comfort and convenience.

Andrea and I discussed the insurance crisis. She’s somewhat encouraged that a new drug to help ALS patients will be released in August. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved any ALS drug for forty-five years. The new drug comes from Europe. She mentioned 700 distributors want to become vendors. Decisions on distribution are the tip of the ice berg. Will Medicare cover the hefty expense? Who will qualify for the drug? Who will be able to afford it?

I sent a note to Chirag Gupta, also mentioned in the first issue to discover his latest news. Here’s his response:“In the past year (July 2016 – July 2017), I have made some great progress at NoD Coworking: I hired my first full-time employee and my company was also featured in D Magazine. On a personal level, I have lost 25 pounds and have completed shifted my focus towards fitness. We’re even making our next entrepreneurship event all about fitness: Startup Weekend: Fitness.”

Previous articles are located by clicking on People and Places.

If you have not yet subscribed to Roving Ruth, here’s the link.

 

Ambiance to Ambivalence

New Orleans

New Orleans Architecture

New Orleans is a gorgeous city, but….

New Orleans beckons me to this day, but with doubts. As a Francophile, visiting New Orleans appears on my bucket list with a line through it. Two years ago, I begged the husband to fly to New Orleans. The man is not fond of flying anywhere, much less to a drivable location from Dallas. We drove across the state when we visited Lafayette a few years ago: borrring! I don’t see how people stay awake on Highway 49 before heading east on Highway 10 to New Orleans. The expense for the trip is about the same if you fly and stay fewer days than if you would drive with extra nights in a hotel.

A friend suggests a hotel in New Orleans. She and her sister stayed at a medium-priced hotel between several of the venues we want to visit. I make the flight and hotel reservations. I barely notice the term “suites” and “non-suites” but there was a price differential. I reserve the less expensive room. The location on the map looks perfect since I prefer not to be in the midst of noisy crowds in the French Quarter.

Flight is fine. Trip from airport to hotel is fine. We drag our bags along a dark hotel corridor at the hotel to enter a room which costs more than $150 per night. The price is reasonable for New Orleans. We enter a drab, musty, gray room, which is all wrong. The bedspread has a tear in it. It looks dirty. The room smells worse than a wet dog. I call the reservation desk. “I’m sorry, Ma’am, but that’s shur nuff what ya paid far. We can move ya t’a suite in the otha tawar as that’s where the nisa rooms are, but y’all needa pay a little bit more.” Although I’ve lived in the south for over thirty years, I had to listen carefully to understand her lovely, Louisiana accent. Fine. Let’s move.

hotel bath remodel

No Soap Dish and Bathroom Problems

I fail to check out the bathroom, but the suite looks comfortable and clean. We drop our bags and head to dinner, tired but happy with the upgrade. After dinner, I discover the bathroom remodel apparently stopped weeks ago. The window sills are covered with icky, gray-green mold. The shower stall has no lip on it. The water would flood the bathroom floor. Again, I contact the front desk but this time I discover that’s the last room available. Someone would clean the bathroom in the morning.

We discuss our plight and decide we can handle anything after having reared teenagers and stayed in stranger places. We would use the shower gently to “make do,” as we do not want to search for another place to stay.

Cafe du Monde

Cafe du Monde in Jackson Square

Most everyone who visits New Orleans starts the day with beignets at the famous Café du Monde. Maybe not everyone, but it is high on my priority list.  The melodious, fun-loving quartet plays jazz on the corner outside the roofed patio for travelers as we munch the beignets (fried dough with confectioners’ sugar, sometimes filled with fruit). The sun shines on the world.

We find the visitors’ center and buy tickets and board the “Hop on, Hop off” bus, a boon for travelers who do not want to drive in the city. After studying the map, we “hop off” the bus for the short walk to the World War II Museum to buy the tickets for the hour-long, in-depth documentary “Beyond the Boundaries.”

C47?

Inside the World II Museum

Both my husband and I love World War II history and stories. The high point of the trip is the museum. Its reputation as a historical gem proves true. We stand in line for the movie, huddled with a group of friendly tourists awaiting an excellent documentary in 4-D technology with commentary by Tom Hanks. Original footage and realistic sound effects astound the crowd. The lunch with a zillion other people in the large, museum café, is tasty and reasonably priced. Two more hours of walking through the displays add the joy of learning while traveling.

When we leave the museum, we shiver, as the weather changed from sunny to dreary. My husband decides he needs a nap. By the time, we reach the hotel, he is not feeling well, but later, we wander to a nearby, excellent restaurant for dinner. I do a happy dance that I packed my lined jacket as I had not expected the bitter cold and rain in early March. The excellent fish dinner at a nearby Cajun restaurant revives us.

Unfortunately, the husband’s recuperation did not last. In the morning, he declines to see more of the town. Disappointment reigns for fifteen minutes before I head out on my own. Maybe he will feel better later. I know where to look for antiques. Research before leaving Dallas helps me decide to shop. I board the “Hop on, Hop off” bus, near the hotel, making sure I take the correct route on the breezy, crisp day.

Magazine Street

Cornstalk Fence Hotel on Magazine Street

Magazine Street travels through the Garden District. I feel guilty to have fun while the husband wallows in misery at the hotel.

I meander through the stores: gifts, hardware, clothing-funky and fancy. Magazine Street holds fascinating shops and astounding homes, bed and breakfasts with ornate architecture. I buy lunch at a thriving bar, sitting alone on a stool. The bartender ignores me after serving a splendid po’boy and iced tea.

It is time to locate the last stop on the “Hop on, Hop off” bus to circle to the hotel. The tour guide regales stories about many parades in New Orleans as the tourist industry schedules regular festivals. New Orleans people love to party and entertain. Charles Street has a trolley and wonderful venues to visit. My head bounces back and forth looking at the historic buildings from the bus.

Ted, the husband, feels better. The day before we depart is excellent for photos. Again, we board the bus and ride around town with two excellent guides: one for the north end of the city with a change of guides for the southern half. We eat a quick, flavor-filled lunch in the French Quarter with no time to visit specific sites.

colorful street dancer

Is it a clown? A dancer?

Before we leave, I want to see Bourbon Street. We visit a high-end antique store on our traipse to Bourbon Street. I am not tempted with their high prices. A clown and dancers perform in the street. We hustle to Bourbon Street where the open doors let the stale smells of alcohol and cigarettes waft through the air. As we walk, I see an old, squat, heavy-set woman with no shirt walking along the street. Not a pretty sight. I almost cried to think of her lack of dignity. Was she drunk, on drugs, or what? Did she need food? Did someone take her shirt? No one pays attention to her. I’ll never know her story.

Perhaps I should return to New Orleans. I try to accept surprises when they occur. I took advantage of the chance to see the shops on Magazine Street and enjoyed the time alone, but I don’t know if I’ll ever beg to see the town again. Too much went wrong to want to return. I’ll buy my beignets elsewhere.

Addendum: I contacted the hotel manager upon returning home. After I sent photos of the nasty conditions in the room, I received a discount.

 

 

 

 

10 Reasons to Read Gift of the Suitcase

 When I graduated from college I received a large, gray suitcase and a round trip ticket to work in France the summer before I started teaching. Within a few days I lose my suitcase, followed closely with the loss of my summer job. The trip changed my life forever. Travel to France taught me more than how to speak French.

You meet a co-worker, Christine. I introduce you to the baggage handler in Calais and the railroad clerk in Nice. You hear from the doctor who attended medical school in Switzerland in 1947 to help us understand how quickly we forget atrocities. My family makes a brief appearance. The return trip to Central France takes you through scenic beauty and inspirational situations.

Unexpected events, such as divorce, illness, and deaths change our lives. Flexibility, faith, and friends help us through hard times. As we travel through life we find new, meaningful ways to cope.

The book allows you to:

  1. Forget your chores for a few hours
  2. Travel to faraway places
  3. Recognize yourself in similar predicaments
  4. Laugh at mistakes
  5. Cheer when good news arrives
  6. Discover the joy in acceptance
  7. Spend less than a plane ticket
  8. Ponder your progress
  9. Consider letting go of your baggage
  10. Update your plans for your next trip

Let me know how the book impacts you. You can buy the paperback directly from me or from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IBooks. Click “Buy Now” for immediate attention.

You can purchase it through my website or Amazon and several other sources. The e-book is available for your Nook or Kindle and other distribution sources.

After you finish Gift of the Suitcase you may want to write a quick review on Amazon. You do not have to purchase the book from Amazon to write a review. May you enjoy the journey.