Me, back at the volunteering

I am sitting with my feet up, enjoying the quiet after a looooong day of volunteering at a fundraising barbecue for the local skating club as part of the town’s Canada Day celebrations. 

It was a good day, even though most of it was cool and drizzly. And my feet were cold and wet. As was my nose. 

I was the first person to use one of the Port-a-Potties. Have you ever sat in a fresh Port-a-Potty?


I kept busy from 9 am to 8 pm, helping with the set-up and take-down, and spending the majority of the day prepping burger and hot dog buns with napkins. It was actually rather . . . Zen. A simple job, part of a chain of tasks, and although my back did feel some strain after a while, it was flexible enough that I was able to do it while occasionally sitting down.

Hours of no other demands than opening a bag, wrapping a bun with napkin, and making sure each bun opens cleanly. Handing buns to the runners. And pleasant conversation, to boot. Recognizing friends and former students. 


Once in a while, Bridget (who had come with in absence of a babysitter, as her dad had gone to an event in another town for the morning as part of his Shriner’s stuff) would come back from running around the inflatable bouncy houses to eat or check in with me (I only had to track her down once). By the time Hubby came after his Shriner fun, she was ready for a nap although she left in protest. She was back a few hours later, and eventually helped us with the cleanup as best she could (as she’d helped with set-up).

That was something else that was lovely: the Canada Day celebration was only a few blocks from our house this year. If I hadn’t needed the car to transport supplies, we could have walked it. And as I write this, listening to the fireworks (visible from my back windows), she’s there, with her brother, having walked back down for the fun.


That’s another awesome part of today: Jack taking on more responsibilities. He took his sister to the fireworks, not only because he wanted to see them too, but because he knew I was too tired after the long day to take them. He stepped up. And that was after being at the barbecue all day himself, too — he was there from start to finish along with me, getting going on his 40 hours of required volunteer service (part of the Ontario Secondary School Diploma). He did such a great job handling meal tickets, food, and occasionally money, alongside his peers, and he was complimented on his manner by the both the fundraising and event coordinators. All of the kids who were there did a great job, but hey — proud mama, here. 

So it’s the end of the day, and I can hear the traffic as the fireworks have come to an end. My children will be home shortly. And hubby is starting his new job tomorrow, so he’s already gone to bed for his 4 am start. I shall sleep well tonight, I think.

Reflection (in poetry) on Rehearsing The Comedy of Errors

I spent most of today in a long professional development workshop, learning about our new school board-issued iPads, and for the most part, helping my colleagues who were struggling to set things up or learn how to use features. And then this evening, I got to spend time in rehearsal with adults I know as volunteers and teenagers I know from my classroom — which rather felt more like professional development than the other. I’m not in charge in any way, shape, or form, in this production. I have to memorize my lines and portray my character using the director’s suggestions, decisions, and feedback. I have to work in tandem with the rest of the cast, rather than giving orders (as is my usual role with a production filled by student actors). And I have to practice the skills that might normally be teaching. For years, I have advocated teamwork, laid out how to prepare for a performance, taught projection, advised young people in how to memorize their lines. Now, it seems as though I must put my money where my mouth is — walk the talk — in order to help this performance shine. It is an effective challenge. It’s both intense and great fun. Only six nights of rehearsal remain until the official rise of our metaphorical curtain. This poem is composed of some of my thoughts and reflections while in practice tonight.

Unknown-10edging closer to opening night


preliminary blocking complete


the lines are fragments still


that i stretch to bring into order


with timing and emotion


for the work of the Bard


a handful of days remaining


work and play both demanding effort


dedication to the words


markings by ink, scrawlings of lead


copies of what has come before


through years and decades


actors who are students who are actors


watch the young man memorize while


to also write paragraphs and reports


feedback that he uses to grow


while i struggle to memorize while


grading and exams and reports


what is the beginning for them


the play is the thing


an exercise in hearing and listening


patiently gathering wisdom


the student is the actor is the student


wondering if they see me as i see them


our positions change

On the plus sides of volunteering

I continued breaking my pattern today! I slept in a bit, but then I had a meeting through most of the afternoon, and after getting ahead on some grass cutting (and getting Hubby to help, while the boy sorted and folded some laundry), I went to a fellow volunteer’s house to help cut up 50-50 draw tickets, and I ended up spending the whole evening there. 


I am not used to having adult-time outside of school. Normally, aside from the kids’ activities, once I’m home, I’m home. I’m in for the night. Occasionally this bothers me. I get jealous of my hubby’s involvement in his different volunteer groups, although he’s always been very appreciative of the support I give him for them. He’s told me over and over that without having his back, by being home with the kids, he wouldn’t be able to go out and help others through Victims Services, the Lodge, or Shriners. And I get that, I really do.

But some nights, I crave that grownup time. I adore my children, of course, yet we need breaks from each other. I used to volunteer a lot in high school, but my time declined in university and turned into extracurriculars after I started teaching, so in recent years, the majority of my volunteering has been with young people, relating to the school. 

I spent about eight hours today amongst adults with whom I have other things in common, working on a goal, no kids in the vicinity needing my attention or to have something explained or needing boundaries or with fights requiring mediation. 


I really think that getting involved in community things is essential for good mental health. I can feel the lift in myself, partly from breaking out of my typical weekend rut. Mind you, my house didn’t get any cleaner, and other stuff I have to get at didn’t get done, but at least I’m not feeling gloomy or down. My kids were a bit shocked that I was going out on a school night, but I think it’s good for them, too. 

So, if you are in a rut or need to make friends, I highly recommend taking a chance on volunteering for something, even if it’s just one night a week. Go with a friend if you’re shy. Make this summer your summer of giving back and spreading good energy in your community!