Tag Archives: volunteering

question marks

Decisions, decisions … when called to serve, they’re easy

Some decisions seem to be agonizingly difficult. I’ve been trying to find a new shower curtain for about six months with no luck. This is understandable when you consider the serious ramifications of purchasing a new shower curtain. When guests walk in to our bathroom, the shower curtain will be the first thing they see. It will make a statement. But what will it say? It has to be just the right mix of perky, and updated, without being too trendy, feminine, or garish. Choose wisely and it will adorn the shower for years to come. Choose poorly, and I’ve wasted money not only on the shower curtain, but the coordinating paint, towels, and accessories. And, have to start all over!

Other decisions, require little more than a passing glance between my husband and me.

Nine short days ago, we drove our 14 year old daughter to her last cross country meet of the season. We gave two of her teammates a ride. One of them is an exchange student from France. On the way, we listened and were amused as the three girls chattered away about all the junk food we have that she has never tried. Apparently, Totino’s Pizza Rolls and Hot Pockets are an American delicacy not to be missed as are angel food cake and Lucky Charms!

As we waited for the meet to start and the girls warmed up, the exchange student began to tell my daughter and the other girls how lonely and bored she was with her host family. While they’re nice people, they are older and have no kids at home. She asked her teammates if they thought any of their neighbors might be willing to take her.

A little later, our daughter came over and shared what she had said and asked if we could think of any of our neighbors who might be interested and willing. My husband and I looked at each other, and without a word spoken between us looked back at our daughter and said, “She can move in with us.”

We have a 3-bedroom, 1100 square foot home that is inhabited by six people, two dogs, two cats, and five rats (on purpose…we don’t need an exterminator). You would think this decision might have warranted some discussion. Some further research. Someone to talk us out of it.


We immediately recognized a child in need of an amazing experience being immersed in a typical American family. We also immediately recognized an opportunity to serve her, to enrich her life, and at the same time provide each of us with an opportunity to grow and learn—not just about France—but about what it means to take a risk, do something outside your comfort zone, and most importantly, serve another person.

After a week of background checks, interviews, and more cleaning and organizing than you can imagine, we’re thrilled to welcome a new member into our family tonight. The next seven months are sure to be an adventure!

Maybe she can find me a shower curtain while she’s here.

I’m not a Jedi Knight

Yoda, in all his wisdom, stated, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

That may be true if you are a Jedi Knight, but for the rest of us, me specifically, not so much.

In February, I jumped feet first into uncharted territory after attending a board of education meeting. Our school district is in financial crisis. Many cuts are on the table.

I went home that night heartsick about our district and the financial trouble it is in. Some people blame the administration. Some people blame the school board. Some people blame the teachers (who at that time had been working without a contract for approximately two years). Some people blame the Michigan legislators.

I began to think. What if? What if people stopped complaining? What if people stopped placing blame and pointing fingers? What if people came together to make a difference in the lives of kids? What if we raised money to pay for one of the positions being cut?

I emailed the superintendent of the district first thing the next morning. He called me within 10 minutes.

For details and background on the position I was fighting to save, read this.

I proposed starting a fundraising campaign separate from the district to raise the funds. Was it legal? Was it something he’d be willing to let me try?

Let me just say quickly that the reasons I chose to fight for this particular cut are:

  • Safety of my children is paramount
  • This cut represented the lowest annual dollar amount ($29 per family in the district)
  • The position being cut impacts every student, teacher and staff member in the district.

Once I had the blessing of the superintendent, I contacted an acquaintance who I knew to be very passionate about this position and a very involved parent in the district to see what she thought.

She was in.

The next four weeks were a whirl wind. We met with the superintendent, the township supervisor, the local community foundation.

We received so much guidance and support from these people! It was truly remarkable.

On March 1, we attended the school board meeting and announced the launch of BSP CARES: Bedford Students Protected through Combining Area Resources for Educational Safety.

We worked our tails off and had much early success, raising $17,000 by the end of March. The media was very kind to us and covered every fundraiser we had, helping us spread the word. We definitely had the support of the local business community.

But over time it became clear that we lacked the financial support of parents and teachers-the two most important groups if this effort was going to succeed.

In the end, we raised over $38,000 against a goal of $80,000 and the position was cut December 6.

I guess Yoda would call that a “Do not.” I call it a “try.”

I learned a lot about people in our community, politics, my family and mostly myself.

  • Our community is filled with generous people! Generous with their time, their talent, their wisdom and their money.
  • People can take the well-meaning efforts of two moms and turn them into a political issue.
  • My family has a limit in how much of my time they are willing to allow me to give to others. (It’s a very high limit, but there is a limit.)
  • And myself—
    • I jump in quicker than I should sometimes.
    • I allow my priorities to get upended sometimes, putting other things ahead of my family.
    • I’m not bad on camera.
    • I place a lot of importance on my hair.
    • I can make a difference.

And I hope I am teaching my children:

  • Stand up for what you believe in.
  • Get involved.
  • Don’t be afraid to try.

So, no, I’m not a Jedi Knight. I’m a mom. A wife.  A community member. And so much more!

And, I’ll keep on trying!

Talk to me! Have you ever taken on a huge project that you were very passionate about only to fall short of your original goal? How did it feel?

Yes! Yes! I’ll help! I mean, sure, I’ll drop by if I have time…

Warning: photos in this post may not be for the faint of heart. Pun intended.

One of my favorite things to do is to volunteer at my kids’ school. If parents are invited, I’m there!

I love being able to observe them in their school setting–learning, interacting with their friends and teachers. It’s just so much fun!

And they love having me come in. That hour, once a week, quietly reinforces to them that I am there, I care, I’m interested. (Sure there are other ways to reinforce that, so if you are not a parent that volunteers at school, don’t think I’m ragging on you, because I’m not.)

As they get older, the teachers start weaning us off of our children. By third or fourth grade, the kids start planning their own parties, we do things for the teacher, rather than work with the kids. By fifth grade, there really are no classroom volunteers. And by sixth grade, forget it! They don’t even have parties anymore. Instead the kids start taking on leadership roles in the school–at Halloween, for example, they host a carnival for the rest of the grades.

I remember walking down to visit my oldest (a sixth grader) at the end of the day on Halloween party day. He wasn’t there. He was in gym class. His stuff was all packed up for the day. I walked in, probably looking very lost, and spoke to the teacher for a moment. Then walked to his desk where his costume, backpack and coat were all gathered and waiting for him. I said (lamely, I’m sure), “I’ll just take his costume with me so he doesn’t have to deal with it on the bus.”

I recognized myself for what I really was in that moment: a parent desperately wanting to feel like her baby still needed her.

It’s good the teachers start weaning us in third grade. It takes a long time!

A few weeks ago, sixth grade parents were invited to come in and help during science class!


You need me?


I’ll be there!

What? What did you say we’d be doing? Dissecting. Cow. Hearts?

Um. Yeah. Great. You can count on me.

Today was the day! It was actually supposed to be on Valentine Party Day. Get it? Hearts…Valentine’s Day…but it was delayed due to snow days.

And so I went. It wasn’t as gross as I thought it would be. I think my son would say the opposite.

crop for blog 2

crop for blog 3

crop for blogIn fact, he had this to say–“It was disgusting, but a lot of fun! My favorite part was when we cut open the heart along the septum in the middle.

I also liked messing around cutting open different parts to see what’s inside. My least favorite part was pumping air through the artery. It was gross.

I was surprised at how much blood there was.

I’m not sure if I would ever want to do it again.”

He may not be sure if he’ll ever do it again, but I am! I have three more kids to get through the sixth grade, and by golly, if they need me, I’ll be there!

Lessons I Learned While Coaching Robotics

My son and his partner watch their robot maneuver the field.

My son and his partner watch their robot maneuver the field.

I just wrapped up my second season as coach of our school’s FIRST Lego League Robotics team. I won’t go into details here about what this program is. If you’re interested, look here. I’ll just say it’s a phenomenal program that teaches children 9-14 about science, technology, engineering, public speaking, teamwork, research skills and more.

That’s not what this post is about. This post is about what it and the kids taught me. Continue reading