It Made a Difference For That One: 5 thoughts on volunteering

Hi, I’m Meridith and I’m a professional philanthropist.

I always joke about this with friends (especially Brooke, who is also a professional philanthropist) but I’m only somewhat kidding. I volunteer my time… a lot. And it rocks.

If you’ve read Scoot a Doot for any amount of time, you’ve probably figured out that we chicks are big on the doing good things. Do good, feel good! That’s our motto.

Okay, no it’s not. But it’s our secondary motto. (Do those exist? Well, they do now!)

When the PTO needs a secretary… or a vice-president – yeah, I’m holding two positions this year – I’ve got my hand up.

Food drive? Here’s the tuna fish!

Gifts for the holiday giving tree? We’ll take two requests!

When you’re looking to do good, there is never a shortage of opportunities. In fact, it can all be a bit daunting. As a professional philanthropist, I feel it is my duty to share different ways that you too, can volunteer.

Selfie with one of the snuggle pups, Star. ADOPTED

Selfie with one of the shelter snuggle pups, Star. ADOPTED

Front and center on my volunteering stage recently has been my local animal shelter. The want to do this was always present; the reality of me being able to make this happen started in August.

Let’s break it down. I’ll be using the animal shelter as my emphasis but really, this works for many volunteer positions.

1. INTEREST

It’s usually a good idea to make sure you’re fully interested in volunteering for a cause. For example, I wouldn’t volunteer to be a children’s archery instructor because I have bad aim and bad luck.

Many volunteering positions are one and done opportunities, and that’s great if you’re short on time or looking for a quick jolt of feeling good!

An example? Recently the shelter was low on food. As in, so low that they weren’t sure how they were going to feed the animals for the next month. A local news station picked up the story as a human interest piece and then this happened.

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A-maz-ing. Photo credit: Camden County Animal Shelter

Community members far and wide came together to donate cat and dog food, beds, laundry detergent, and other daily shelter needs. It was truly incredible to see!

Some people want to do even MORE. That’s when they come out to volunteer interest meetings. Shelters, hospitals (I was a junior volunteer aka candy striper, once upon a time), PTOs – they all have these meetings to tell you more about the organization and what you can do to make a difference.

2. TIME

Time is something that everyone seems short on these days and I can appreciate that. I do have more time than many as a stay at home parent, which is why I like to fill my time with things that are valuable in meaning.

I love dogs and I would have all of the shelter dogs living in my house if I had the option. However, I do like my husband and he’s told me that we are good with ONE dog for now. Sigh.Ā 

Anyway… runners and walkers, take note because this is for YOU.

The dogs in shelters NEED exercise. They want nothing more than to get out of their kennels and frolic with me. I walk with many but there are some who are all about running! I spend approximately a mile per dog, which adds up for both dogs and mileage! It’s a win all around.

Also, some of those dogs require upper body strength because they are STRONG! Total body work out, heyyyyy.

3. GOODS/MONEY

Oh, you’re not independently wealthy?

Yeah, me either.

Until I hit the lottery or find a suitcase of 100s, I’m not always able to give financially. However, I have plenty of things in my house that are useful.

And I bet YOU do too.

Shelters need old bedding, towels and sheets to make their animals feel comfy cozy in their temporary homes. Recently I went through my linen closet and pulled older things I no longer used and then reorganized my closet. Donation for the shelter AND a clean closet. Look at me, being all domestic! (This happens less often than it should so yes, I’m totally patting myself on the back.)

In the case that you ARE independently wealthy, I hope you’re donating to your favorite causes!

4. ADVOCACY

There is something that speaks to me about being a representative of someone or something that might not otherwise have a voice. The animals at the shelter don’t have Facebook, they don’t have blogs, they don’t get a chance to get out much…

But I do.

As a volunteer, I am able to bring a pup to get pictures taken at an amazing photographer.

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Sweet Lexus on the way to her glamour shots! She is available at Camden County Animal Shelter.

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Photo credit: Valerie Bruder Photography

As a volunteer, I am able to take a dog to a local park in hopes of having them meet people who are looking to add a new member to the family.

Shawna at the park! ADOPTED!

Shawna at the park! ADOPTED!

As a volunteer, I am able to sign up for events such as parades and mall visits to get the pooches out of their kennels and visible in the community.

It’s good stuff. And when you’ve got a big mouth and a willing audience, you cannot be stopped!

5. MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Listen, when it comes down to it, a big reason that people volunteer is that it makes them feel good.

I love animals, I love spending time with them, and I want to help them in any capacity that I can. Since I don’t live on a ranch and since I’m not independently wealthy, volunteering at the shelter is the absolute best thing I can do to love on the dogs there (and cats – I’ve ventured into the cat room too, I’m still learning the ropes there).

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Kiwi – Available at Camden County Animal Shelter (edit to add: ADOPTED!)

I have many four-legged friends and yes, I’ll admit that I miss them when I enter the kennel area only to find a new little face looking up at me.

But that’s also the best day, because it means that they’ve found their forever home.

And that new pup will need a friend to love on them, to walk them, and to give them treats. I’ll be there, leash in hand.

What are your favorite ways to give back to the community? Is there a volunteer opportunity that’s on your bucket list? What’s stopping you?

A Day in the Life: Mer

DitL

Wake up to the sound of birds chirping. Open one eye to peek at the clock and see if it’s worth going back to sleep or if I should just lie in bed. Alarm set for 5:10am. It’s 4:56am.

Damnitsomuch.

Lay around for a couple of minutes. Contemplate the use of lie versus lay and realize that it’s probably going to be wrong in this post so I might as well just get up.

Skulk around the house in hopes of not waking my family as I prepare for the gym. Skulking/preparing takes approximately 10 minutes. The pooch shifts in her bed as I’m sitting on the kitchen floor, putting on my shoes, and I freeze. She settles down. I grab my gym essentials (towel, water, wallet, phone, keys) and creep out the door.

It’s always interesting to see what song is on the radio; perhaps it will be an indication of the tone of the day? Maybe it will be Born to Run? Perhaps a little Radiohead?

No.

Well... okay then.

Well… okay then.

Head into the gym, chat with my trainer’s wife for a couple of minutes before she heads out on her rainy run. I decide to stick to the treadmill as I like to stay close by in case my trainer swings in early (not usually the case but it’s happened on occasion). Sometimes I run sprints on the nearby side street but since it’s gross, I stay inside.

But look, I took a picture of the one of the weight while the gym was absolutely empty. Because I promise you that if I took my phone into the gym or even took a picture in the gym when my trainer or anyone else was around, I would have to answer at least twenty questions.

And possibly get ridiculed for taking pictures of inanimate objects.

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The “light” weights.

My Thursday partner shows up a little before 6am and does a quick warmup before we start a set of FitDeck cards and a five minute treadmill run, until our trainer shows. Once he arrives, we move into his plan for us for the hour while talking about the news, society, my dad, my Dude, and a variety of other topics. Well, mostly he talks and I grunt out responses in between deadlifts, cleans, push presses, etc. It works out well.

At 7:10am I arrive home and fall back into the Mom Role and the family routine.

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There was a hot second of consideration toward straightening my hair. Maybe it was a half second.

Breakfast is the next order of business because I’m more than hungry at this point. Pooks heads out the door for the school bus after our usual “See you later, alligator/After a while, crocodile” routine.

Dude and I chat for a few minutes while I eat my eggs and toast before I realize that I need to deal with my arch nemesis… Laundry.

Said in the way that Seinfeld says NEWMAN.

Said in the way that Seinfeld says NEWMAN.

Throw that load in and immediately get sidetracked when I also realize that I need to start our dinner in the crock pot. Ten minutes later, I’m fighting with the can opener and glance over to see Gemma trying to eat the rest of my eggs.

Yeah, welcome to mornings in my house. Set Gemma up with the eggs (in her bowl rather than on my plate) and turn back to the task at hand of opening cans. Which shouldn’t be incredibly difficult, except when your can opener is a piece of poop.

Which mine is.

Little and I decide that we need to remedy this and head to CVS for a new can opener.

"Can I carry the new can opener?" Sure buddy.

“Can I carry the new can opener?” Sure buddy.

After Little and the cashier mutually express their admiration for each other, we head back home.

You had ONE job...

You had ONE job…

I defy you, can opener! And I’m able to finish my task of getting dinner into the crock pot.

All is right with the world once more.

All is right with the world once more.

9:30am – Little requests his favorite snack and drink and I head to the computer to do some work for Scoot a Doot. Instagram a couple of throwback pictures. Chat with Vic via email. Chat with Jess via text. Hear from my book club buddies about new books. Email with Jess and Cam about Disneyland half and talk about what we’re going to wear (priorities).

Prep lunch for Little and prep Gemma for a visit to the park once Little heads off to school. Our district’s Pre-K is a half day program so he’s picked up by the bus at 10:45am. Next year he’ll be in full day Kindergarten.

Soon enough, the bus takes Little off to school. Gemma and I hop in the car to go to the park.

"Momma! I want to play with everyone!"

“Momma! I want to play with everyone!”

The rescue we got her from (Bella Reed Pit Bull Rescue) is filming a video for pit bull advocacy/awareness. I wish I could say that she was the best behaved dog there but… well… she was a little wound and really excited to see everyone. Regardless, she had a blast and I was happy to help.

Oh, now you show up!

Oh, now you show up!

The ride home is filled with me singing and Gemma sighing at my singing. What, only you’re allowed to act a fool, Gemma? I don’t think so.

Geez Momma, you're SO embarrassing.

Geez Momma, you’re SO embarrassing.

Dude and I meet at h0me for lunch, as we do most days. It’s nice because we’re able to have conversations that aren’t interrupted by our kids. Heck, we even get to talk about our kids without their big ol’ ears around. And sometimes, we have conversations that don’t have to do with the kids at all!

After lunch there’s an hour of free time for errands. Today’s include a visit to the farm and getting my eyebrows waxed. I’ll spare you a picture of the brow waxing because no one needs to see that.

This is New Jersey.

This is New Jersey.

berries612Little rolls in at 2:20 and he’s excited to show me his memory book. Pooks rolls in at 3 and the first thing he does is check out the memory book, too.

"We both wanted to be astronauts in Pre-K!"

“We both wanted to be astronauts in Pre-K!”

Moments like these are when my heart swells in my chest, and I hide the fact that I want to smush their little faces together in a group hug. I hang back, I listen, and I’m so grateful that they are such good brothers to one another.

With the end of school coming up (next week), I get to work on the thank yous for our teachers and bus drivers as the boys entertain each other.

teachers

Watch a little SYTYCD and then snuggle up with Pooks so he can read me stories that he’s written during the school year. After he’s finished, he asks if I can find “Happy” sheet music on the computer so he can start practicing it on the piano. I happily oblige. Thank you, Pinterest.

As he disappears, Little shows up, nose scrunched.

“Momma, what are you making that smells so yummy?”
“Oh, that’s Chicken Taco Chili.” (nonchalantly in hopes that maybe he’ll try)
“Ew, I’m not eating that.”

*cue sad trombone*
(I’m not surprised at all… he’s my pickier than picky eater.)

All this technology and yet we have no smell-o-vision.

All this technology and yet we have no smell-o-vision.

As we wait for Dude to get home from work, I fold laundry and Gemma “helps”. Her helping includes stealing socks and standing on the folded clothes while sniffing my hair.

I hear the boys downstairs. Remember that warm fuzzy feeling I described earlier about how loving they are with each other? Well, the tone now is decidedly less loving. The older one being crazy and the little one saying “Ow, ow, ow!” Hmph.

6:15pm – Dinner is served and to Pooks’ credit he tries the chili and even compliments me. Little has pancakes. Everyone is happy.

Gemma has a photo shoot scheduled with the same photographer who took her Adopt Me rescue pictures. But first, to make our lives more interesting, she’s found a bunny nest in our yard.

Yeah. No pictures of that either. Rethinking sharing my eyebrow waxing picture.

Dude and Gem are off to the photographer. Chat on Facebook about youth literature. I gently rouse Little, who’s fallen asleep on the couch, and get him into his pjs.

Instead I'll share my non-rabbit eating children.

My non-rabbit eating children.

Watch a little tv and read Little two books before bed. He’s ready to go to sleep a couple of minutes before 8pm.

Pooks hangs out on the couch with me and we watch Spongebob and talk about everything and nothing. Soon he leaves me for the shower, a book, and bed.

post

I write the majority of this post (and figure I should document it for the sake of… I don’t even know).

And that is the majority of my Thursday, June 12th, 2014. I was saying earlier via email that I don’t think I realized how boring I was until this post, but I would like to amend that statement.

I don’t think I realized how lucky I am. I’ve got a good life.

As Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Indeed.

Up With the Moon

I’m an early riser.

This wasn’t always the case; back to my 20s and pre-kids I was a champ at sleeping well past 10am. Naps were my best friend. And I’d balk at waking up before 8am. Or 7am. Let alone 6am. However, as the years have gone on, I find myself waking just after 5am. And even more astounding to my 20 year old self, it’s usually to exercise! Even on Saturdays.

Of course the winter months have had me wanting to hibernate inside my house, sticking to mainly treadmill running and going to the gym (which is less than a mile from the abode). The first nice weekend that rolled around was this past one; it also just happened to coincide with my pal Brandi’s running clinic AND my scheduled running date with Sarah.

Meant to be!

Just to add a little spice to the already spicy salsa, I decided it would be a great time to introduce my pup, Gemma, to running.

Just in case you’re not keeping track here, let me reiterate: First run outside in a couple of months. With Sarah, who is making her triumphant return to running after having her second bouncing baby boy. And with a dog, who isn’t used to running on leash for more than a couple of minutes, let alone a couple of miles.

What could go wrong?

If you answered everything, you would be correct. But going into it, we all expected it to be a learning process. Everyone has to start (or start again) somewhere, right?

At exactly 7:30am, Brandi started off the clinic with stretching exercises, getting us warmed up for a short long run around the 3.68 loop.

Brandi and Sarah on the track, stretching the legs.

Brandi and Sarah on the track, stretching the legs.

Sarah was happy that Gemma the wonder pup was there because, first off, PUPPY. And secondly, it definitely takes the pressure off when you have a dog who isn’t used to running. We decided we would do intervals, while chatting and working on Gemma’s running manners.

What do running manners for a dog include?

  1. Stay on the left side of your person (don’t trip me)
  2. No seriously, stay to the left side (don’t trip the others)
  3. Don’t pull, you silly dog. It’s so much more fun when you stay right next to your person!

I’m sure you’re sensing a common theme here and at this point, that’s mostly what we were working on. The first mile or so was rough but then she started to get it! We need to get used to cars passing us (it’s a bit unnerving as a person, let alone a pup) and we definitely tired her out.

We slowly made our way around the loop, getting passed by Brandi and the other clinic attendees along the way with shouts of encouragement. Toward the end of the loop, Gemma was d-o-n-e, done, but with promises of the car and the banana we’d share once we got there, we all finished strong.

clinic2

Following the run, we met up with Brandi once again to stretch it out and chat about our experiences. While it was Gemma’s first time doing the loop, it definitely won’t be her last. (Although it’s supposed to snow later on this week again. Have mercy!) She slept good and hard on the ride home, snores and all. That’s the downside of waking early… you’re ready for bed before most.

If you’re new to running with a pup, Aimee, over at Running with Sam wrote a great post with tips for running with your dog and it’s one that I have read more than once.

Who is your BRF (Best Running Friend)? Next weekend I’m running a 5k with my Dude – hoping to help him PR.

Ever run with a pup? Got any tips for me on teaching Gemma her running manners?