Posts filed under ‘Spoutings’

4 Keys to Avoiding Volunteer Burnout

I was very honored that Mandi at Organizing Your Way asked me write a post in her series this month “More Than Resolutions.”

31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010: Volunteer More

And then I read the topic that she wanted me to post on—“Volunteer More”—and I almost laughed out loud. I probably guffawed. Because I don’t think of myself as a big volunteer. And that’s because I’m not. But I accepted anyway. “Why?” you’re probably wondering.

I suppose if you count how much I volunteered in 2008, and compare that to 2009, then my volunteering efforts increased dramatically—they went from zero to one!

See, I totally dropped off the map from 2007-2009, after the stillbirth of our daughter at 39 weeks gestation. All organized volunteering was completely off the table. We spent the entirety of 2007 & 2008 surviving (and having another baby—a son—born 11 months to the day after his sister).

I spent 2007 and 2008 being the recipient of peoples’ volunteering: meals, cleaning my house, babysitting my kids. I can’t even begin to communicate how thankful I was and am for people volunteering for me. It’s humbling.

In 2009, however, I was given the opportunity to serve and volunteer. Because of my blogging, I was asked to participate in one of Compassion International’s blogger trips to see their work and write about it. So I guess that leads me to my first point about volunteering:

1. Do Something That Interests You

I love kids. I love working with kids (I’m a pediatric speech language pathologist). I love blogging. I love travel. I love the thought of children being released from the grip of poverty. So many of my interests and passions came together on this trip!

If you get asked to volunteer in the kitchen at your kids’ school and you HATE being in the kitchen, maybe you should ask for a different opportunity. Chances are there are other things to do. (There’s always work for a willing volunteer.) If you make your interests known, you’ll probably end up doing something you actually like and will therefore thrive in, instead of dreading.

Of course there are times when you kinda have to die to yourself and just do the thing that needs to be done. I’m not saying we should turn our noses up at things we don’t like or things that aren’t glamorous. There’s always going to be jobs that no one wants to do, and sometimes we should accept those. Sometimes there will even be joy in doing the things we didn’t think we liked doing.

But for any ongoing, long-term volunteer work that you’d be expected to care about…probably something that interests you would be best.

2. Do Something Possible

All of us have to figure out what works for us and our families. The Compassion trip I took was only 5 days long. It fit nicely into our family schedule without disrupting too much. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have gone if it had been a longer trip; it just meant that fewer things had to be juggled around, and that made the trip feel more possible for me and my family.

Also, I already had a blog. And I was pretty sure I could write a decent post for what they were doing. It would’ve been silly of me to accept an offer to do something outside of my skill set, like be the tech support for the trip. That, my friends, would’ve been a disaster, an epic FAIL.

If you’re horrible with numbers, don’t volunteer for an accounting opportunity. That would be really silly, right? But that’s often how we respond when we hear about those gaping volunteer opportunities. We talk ourselves (or let others talk us) into jobs that don’t match up with what we can actually do, just because the need exists.

3. Pace Yourself

If you’re already an exhausted, overwhelmed mother of young children, you probably feel like you have very little margin in your life to be giving much more (because you’re giving all day long). Maybe you only have one hour once a month—that’s honestly what’s possible for you. Be okay with that. Be willing to give more when you’re in a season for giving more.

Perhaps for some of you, this is the year of more time, more margin, more availability. Be on the lookout for what you can do with that time!

If we try to do the impossible in volunteering and overextend ourselves, not only will we overwhelmed and rue the day we ever thought that volunteering was a good idea, but we’ll burn out and be of no use for an even longer period of time. (Because you’ll probably swear off of volunteering all together!)

For me, at the end of 2009, I was finally willing and able to step into a volunteer role again. I wanted to be there. I felt ready to be there. And I did one thing in 2009. And it was an awesome, life-changing one thing.

4. Volunteer Under the Radar

You can give of yourself in a million ways every day. Just because you’re not signing up for a regular slot on a schedule with a specific company or organization, doesn’t mean it’s not valuable.

Be your own organization!

  • If you love making meals for new moms, be that person that shows up six weeks after all the other organized meals have stopped coming and bless someone’s socks off!
  • Be the person who secretly drops off flowers for someone who just lost a loved one.
  • Show up randomly for the graveyard shift in the hospital room, giving the parents of a sick child a chance to go shower and sleep in their own home.

When I was in my darkest hours of need, this type of kindness was exactly the kind of volunteering that saved my life.

I think it’s right and good for all of us to have volunteering in our minds at the beginning of 2010. Who knows what that will look like come February or May or September? For some, you will have jumped in with both feet and be volunteering to your heart’s content. For some, you’ll still be looking for just the right thing. To be honest, I don’t have a plan for how I’ll volunteer in 2010. I just know I want to be open and available when opportunities come my way. I’ll say no to some and yes to others.

But I do know that I’m more likely to accept an opportunity if I get a chance to use my interests in a way that feels possible, and at a pace I can handle.

*               *               *

I’d love it if you read about my trip to El Salvador with Compassion. And, more importantly, I’d love it if you sponsored a child. 2010 is your year!

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January 15, 2010 at 4:40 am 8 comments

Reentry Sickness

No matter how much I wanted to, I didn’t wake up in El Salvador today. My week with Compassion International is over, and I’m grieving that.

I got home Friday night around 11pm and woke Orison (our then-4-year-old) and he greeted me very drowsily. In the morning he didn’t even remember it! But when he woke up Saturday morning, he was FIVE! That’s right, I got home just in time for his birthday.

We spent the day pretty quietly together as a family. But Abraham and I were so tired that by about 5pm we both knew we needed to get out of the house or we were going to be miserable until bedtime. In some random moment of insanity, Abraham suggested that we take Orison to ride a few rides at the Mall of America (something he’s only done a couple times and would be totally thrilled by).

So… it was Saturday night at the Mall of America. Not for the faint of heart, my friends. I don’t think we’d ever been there on a Saturday night before. It was so.stinkin’.busy. So full of people with waaaay too much.

As we were talking toward the amusement park area, I told Abraham, “I’m feeling a little sick to my stomach.”

“Literally?” He asks. (All too often I’m actually sick to my stomach, so he has to make sure….)

“No… more heartsick.”

“So, you’re sick to the stomach of your heart?”

“Exactly.”

I mean, the day before I was still seeing tin-roofed, dilapidated shacks that people call homes. The day before I was still in the thick of El Salvador and it’s poverty. And I was still there in my heart and mind. But somehow my body was travelling through the Mall of America.

Walking paradox, no?

I keep thinking about objects in space, and how they have to very carefully calculate how the object will reenter the earth’s atmosphere, or else any number of catastrophic ends will result (blowing up, exploding, catching on fire). Perhaps a trip to the Mall of America wasn’t the best reentry strategy.

I’ve already cried a few times today, my emotions just barely below the surface. I feel okay with that, though. If I were just pushing it all down and refusing to let it touch me, that would be unhealthy. My mentor tells me, “Don’t be afraid of tears. Tears are often a sign that the Holy Spirit’s at work.”

So that, for now, is my reentry strategy. Try to let the tears come as they need to. Remember what I saw. And try to avoid the Mall of America.

My El Salvador Posts

November 16, 2009 at 3:26 pm 37 comments

Do pedicures come with guarantees?

When we were in Santa Barbara, California last week (a place that has recently been added to my mental list of “Favorite Places”), I got my first pedicure.

I know, I’m thirty years old and I’ve never had a pedicure. I honestly had no idea what the big fuss was about. But I’m happy to report that 45 minutes of pampering to my tired old feet was something spectacular that I wish could happen on a frequent and regular basis.

We strolled into this nail place around 7:30pm in the funky, fun shopping district of Santa Barbara (State Street, for those of you who know it). I was hesitant to spend the money (of course), but Abraham insisted. It wasn’t that it cost all that much, I just have issues with spending money on stuff like that. Anyway…

There were two Asian women working that night. One spoke decent English, but the other one spoke almost none. But she didn’t even need it—she was speaking some unknown foot love language that is kept secret from the population at large. She was the pedicure master.

I had a difficult time picking out what color I wanted, so picked a few finalists and had Abraham pick his favorite from those. He chose a deep burgundy red that I liked a lot. So I went with it.

The pedicure was nothing short of fantastic. There was lots of rubbing, snipping, filing, polishing… my toenails have never shone like that!

I was transfixed by the pretty color and how professional they looked. I never thought of my at-home toenail jobs as unprofessional, but I had now seen a whole new level of potential for my piggies, and I was diggin’ it! Imagine my sadness when I discovered a chip in my polish just two days later!

For all you pedicure veterans, is this normal? Obviously I can’t go back to Santa Barbara (as much as I’d like to) and get it fixed, but do pedicures usually have such a short life? Will nail salons fix it within a certain window of time?

I was definitely thinking it would last a week. Were my expectations totally overblown?

September 23, 2009 at 10:31 pm 48 comments

I’ve Figured Out How All of Us Women Can Get More Done

Please read the following segment in the most cheesy infomercial voice you can muster:

Ever feel like there aren’t enough hours in a day?
Do you struggle to get through your to-do list?
Are all those tasks piling up on you and making you feel perpetually behind?

Well… do we have the answer for YOU!

It’s called “Start Living in a Different Time Zone!” With “Start Living in a Different Time Zone!” there’s no need to move, just adjust yourself to the time zone one or two behind you and—BAM!—instant time! Now you can give yourself the gift you’ve always wanted… more time!

[end cheesy announcer voice]

We got back from our  California trip on Thursday night. Every night since then I’ve been up until at least 1am. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just going to start living on Pacific time.

I mean, it’s not working out as well at the morning end of things, but hey, I’m always tired then so… it’s cool.

Here’s how it works: when I wake up I’m living in Central time (real-time for me). I do all my normal tasks in my actual time zone. Then, after the kids go to bed, I just started telling myself, “Well, it’s only 6pm California-time.” I’m seriously getting so much more done!

Just wanted to impart this amazing discovery to all of you.

We’ll see how it works out tomorrow at work.

September 21, 2009 at 12:08 am 14 comments

Encomium to the Internet

What did people do before the internet?!?!

I know some of the smug answers:

They spent time with their families.

They connected with “real” people.

But seriously, I see the internet as a tool, a common grace. Here’s why I think so, just from my life today:

  • My dear friend Kate calls me at lunchtime to say her flight through Minneapolis is going to now have a longer layover, so can I meet her for dinner at the airport?

    Pre-internet, I would have been calling Northwest Airlines 4-5 times this afternoon and would have spent half my day on hold, just trying to follow her flight’s status. With the internet, it’s done in a matter of minutes, thus leaving me more time with my family!

    Also it took me 2 minutes to map out our route to Potbelly’s 3.9 miles away.

  • I have a wedding shower to go to on Saturday. But the next two days are going to be really busy for me, so I’m not going to have a lot of shopping time.

    What does the internet allow me to do? I go to target.com, browse the registry, pick the gift I want to give, and I can either order it right then or find out if it’s available at my closest store.

    Since I didn’t give myself enough time to ship it, I’ll just run over and get it on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning. Without the internet, it would take me until Saturday morning just to choose a present!

It’s such a time-saver. I know the reverse could be said, that it’s a time-waster, and that’s often true. But when I think about how much time and effort the internet saves me, it makes me want to blog about it!!!

Also, how many of you have already used the internet to find out what the word encomium means? That’s what I did!

March 25, 2009 at 1:16 pm 22 comments

Thanks God, for watching over a klutz like me.

Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I’m a klutz. I’m not well-known for my nimbleness in comportment. That doesn’t mean I’m not coordinated, though. I’m kind of a mixed bag.

It’s not uncommon (as in every other day or so) for me to spill something really annoying—sugar, a huge pitcher of water or juice, etc. But at the same time I’m pretty coordinated for sports. Weird, huh?

Perfect example of my predicament: I find myself regularly thanking God out loud while I’m preparing supper as he protects me from myself. Probably once a week I slice into one of my fingers, only to be stopped short at the last millisecond by those ever-helpful fingernails he gave me. “Thank you Jesus for fingernails!”

Yesterday I was able to marvel anew over one of the other body parts I take for granted all the time. I was walking out of a building, not paying attention (of course), and all of a sudden there was a major jolt in my gait. I had unknowingly negotiated a step.

BAM! I felt my spine absorb the shock. I swear I felt that reserve adrenaline in my body come up to the front lines.

And instead of collapsing into a crippled pile of bones and muscles, I just kept walking! As I walked the next few steps I thanked God for the intricacy of my spine—all those vertabrae and muscles and disks working together to cushion my klutziness. And the reflexes… even the klutziest among us has them! Incredible.

I don’t know about you, but instances like that remind me of how near God is to me all the time. Even when I’m not thinking about him, walking along cluelessly, he’s gracious to walk beside me and intervene for me—a protector, a guardian.

And more than that, all the time I’m not thinking about it, Jesus is making intercession for me with his Father, pleading that the wicked and clueless and rebellious be reconciled to God through the blood he shed on the cross. All the time saying, “Yeah, I know she doesn’t deserve it. But I love her—klutziness, cluelessness, rebelliousness, and all.”

February 3, 2009 at 9:48 am 14 comments

Toy Silencers

Toys that make noise drive me insane. I’m assuming I’m not alone in this. I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to avoid all toys that make noise—I’m not even going to try. I’ve accepted it and I’m moving on, though we keep them to a minimum.

One of my favorite toys that Orison ever had was a toy phone that I got him for Christmas 2005. I remember it so well because the music and noises were quiet! Imagine that, toy manufacturers making toys that parents can stand to be around!

I’ve tried to locate this particular phone so that you all could know which one is awesome, but they must not make it any more. It was a little light-up, musical phone by Chicco. Here’s photographic proof:

orison-with-phone o-13-months

For his birthday a couple months ago, my parents just sent Orison these really cool cars that go super fast when you shake them. The boy loves them! The mom loathes them. Perhaps that’s too strong of a word, but they do drive me nuts. They have to be the loudest toys I’ve ever been around. What were my parents thinking?! Don’t they remember what it’s like to have young children???

But I was at a kids’ birthday party awhile back and overheard one of the dads talking about putting tape over the speakers to make the toy quieter. I immediately barged into the conversation and pleaded, “WHAT?!?! What do you do?!?!”

packingtape“You just put some packing tape over the speaker if you want to make it softer.”

I’m struck dumb with the sheer genius of this idea.

Then another mother in the conversation said, “Well, I tried that with one of Zoe’s toys, and it didn’t do enough, so I stuck sticky tack into the holes.”

I’m thinking, “People, you are changing my life.”

Here’s something to consider: I remember when we were helping with a preschool Sunday School class a few years ago. They shared that one way to get kids’ attention was to lower your voice to a whisper, and then everyone quiets down to be able to hear. They attend better to that change in volume, rather than raising your voice above the sea of 4-year-old voices. And it worked!

Is it possible that the same could be true for toys? Rather than trying to be the loudest toy in the room, could it engage a child better if it were softer?

Anyway, I’m off to arm myself with packing tape and sticky tack, to see if I can thwart toy manufacturers’ attempts to give my children conductive hearing loss.

January 26, 2009 at 4:10 pm 34 comments

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