A Mutual Admiration Society

Back in the summer of 2002, I moved from Southern California to Raleigh, North Carolina. After getting settled into my new home, I decided I needed a job or something. I got back into volunteering. I tried a number of things: helping with blood drives for the Red Cross, working with Habitat for Humanity, and others. And then, yahoo!  I noticed an article in the newspaper about the USO needing volunteers to help in their Center at the Raleigh-Durham airport. Well, help is what I’m all about! Heck, I owned bakeries. I can serve people food. I managed a coffee house.  I can definitely make coffee. I got on this right away.

I got assigned to the every other Friday evening, 7 to 11 p.m. shift. I worked with a great guy who had been in the Navy. Mike introduced me to YouTube. When it was a slow night, we’d laugh at things people posted. What kinds of “official” duties did we manage?  We’d make sure anyone wanting entry into our Center had some sort of military ID and we’d have them sign in. We’d offer them food and snacks. We’d give them general Center information: computer passwords, calling cards if they needed to make calls, personal care items they might need, etc. It was a small Center and had about 100 volunteers, many of whom were there doing something all the time.  USO.2

A few years later, I became an employee — Administrative Assistant. This was before, or in the early stages, of everything being computerized. I created tons of spreadsheets to make my job easier. And then — someone from the new Center at the Charlotte airport created a computer program for volunteers to sign up for shifts or cancel their shift, and log in their hours.  Revolutionary!  I loved my job! And then … I moved to South Carolina. I mourned my time at the USO. This was back in 2008.

Fast forward to 2016 and I’m back!  Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore. When the airport completed renovations on Terminal 2, the USO moved into space there.  Much larger and more modern. There are now 300+ volunteers divided into categories: Center volunteers, Ambassadors (they wander the terminal looking for military who might not be aware there is a USO available to them), and Out of Center volunteers (this is what I get to do). I can’t work in the Center until someone currently holding a shift decides to give it up.

Yesterday I worked Guard 2 Beach, a bike ride from the National Guard Joint Force Headquarters here in Raleigh, to Carolina Beach, NC. It’s a 3 day bike ride. We handed out water, energy bars, etc. They thanked us. We in turn thanked them. A mutual admiration society. All branches of the military were represented among the riders, along with some civilians. 0520160948c

That’s me. A civilian. I’m not related to anyone who has ever been in the military. And sometimes I feel like an outsider. When I worked in the Center years ago, it never seemed to come up.  But, when I’m working these events the conversation always seems to get around to their connection. A son or daughter serving. A husband. A wife. A brother or sister. Growing up a military brat. Retired from the military. When I was asked yesterday by one of the men, who I had in the military, I responded, “No one, I just volunteer because …” I found I couldn’t articulate an answer.  He answered for me, “Because it was the right thing to do.” It made me feel accepted. ‘nuf said.

Is Camino de Santiago in my future?

About 30 years ago, I read or heard of Shirley MacClaine’s decision to embark on a spiritual walk — Camino de Santiago in Spain. I’ve been interested in giving it a shot ever since. The spiritual aspect is less important to me than the experience part. There are several routes to take — some more strenuous than others. The distance is anywhere from 400 – 500 miles. Many people do about 10-15 miles a day. You don’t have to walk the entire length at any one time. You can do as much as you want. In 2014, there were 200,000 people who set out on this journey. The Camino de Santiago is a series of routes stretching across Europe and coming together in Santiago. These walks were first taken in the 9th century. I have no idea where on the map these walks start. I need to check Google maps or Google Earth, which is what Jim just did.  “Yo, look at those mountains!” (The Pyrenees.) I’m guessing we won’t be doing that part. Which actual route we would take would need to be researched and decided on — mainly which is flattest! I’m thinking the  Camino Frances — Sarria to Santiago, the most popular. This would be of moderate grade and we’d get the Compostela because we would complete 100 km.

 

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Cathedral Santiago de Compostela  courtesy: hdwallpapers.cat

 

What brought it to the forefront of my mind after all these years/decades, really?  Well, on Saturday when I was working the golf tournament as a USO Volunteer, another volunteer (not USO) shared the Coke trailer with me. She mentioned she and her husband had done the walk twice. The last time, two years ago. She was just a few years younger than me and didn’t look to be in any better shape than me, so I got really excited. I wish I had exchanged phone numbers with her because I have more questions.

Jim and I are taking a trip to China in August and as he was looking at the questions required on the visa, I was telling him about wanting to do this walk. When he asked where on our trip to-do list I wanted to place it, I replied, “At the top.”

He paused a good pause and said, “Before Paris and Istanbul?” You betcha. I’ve been to Paris a number of times, and even though it’s my favorite city, I always prefer new experiences. I’ve not been to Istanbul, but Jim has. It was actually at the top of the list, but got bumped by this walk. It can wait a little while longer, I think. Maybe by the time we go next year, Turkey and Syria will have gotten their acts together.  Dream on, Irene.

Too Many Distractions or is it ADD?

I know, I know.  I’ve been MIA. I’m thinking goals don’t work for me.  I set a goal of posting once a week or once a month, or whatever. I can’t remember what my goal was. Obviously, it hasn’t been working for me. I kicked that goal to the sidelines. I guess it’s just that I’ve been distracted. Too many activities. And we won’t discuss the days spent just sitting on my butt playing games on my electronics. No — we won’t discuss that. You all know about that. You wake up and play a few games while you drink your coffee and next thing you know six hours have gone by. What the heck?  Where has the morning gone?  And I haven’t had my breakfast! Do I eat breakfast or just go right to lunch?  I do that too often anymore.

Since moving back to Raleigh, for the most part, I’ve been filling my calendar with volunteering. And since my grandchildren go to year-round schools, I help with them while they are tracked out, which happens about every ten weeks. They are just finishing up three weeks of being out of school. Tomorrow will be a rude awakening when they have to get up early again. Well, not for my grandson.  He still gets up early. But my granddaughter — that’s another story.  Her days have been beginning at noon. Tomorrow, six a.m. is gonna be real early.

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One of the volunteer jobs I’ve taken on is tending the rose gardens at the North Carolina Museum of Art, here in Raleigh. My grandson, Shane, enjoys working with plants so I’ve taken him with me on a few occasions to help clip stems and pull “the oaks”, which is the seedlings of oak trees that have taken root.  He seems to like pulling “the oaks” best. The roses hurt. We say, “ow” a lot. Pulling the oaks doesn’t hurt. The don’t bite back. You’ll notice his gloves.  They don’t make gloves small enough for a six-year-old. These were the smallest to be found.  He was pretty jazzed about them and the plants we bought for his house.  You need to take a bucket full of money any time you shop with kids, no matter what kind of store you go into.

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Most times, I go by myself.  I get more accomplished. His attention only lasts for about 45 minutes. Actually, my attention really only lasts for 45 minutes, but I don’t want to be called a wimp, so I tough it out. Act like a grown up. And let’s face it, those rose bushes are mean. Stop paying attention just for a minute and they stick you with those nasty thorns. Why did God make such pretty flowers and then add those thorns, I wonder?

I went this morning and as I was driving home, I had to keep pulling thorns from my arms and legs that had decided to embed themselves in me.  I was so scratched up, I didn’t even feel them stick me. Of course, I had those bloody spots I had to keep wiping. I chose to work today in a pretty bed of yellow roses.  They smelled so good, I decided to stick around. And they in turn, stuck me.

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There are 800 bushes planted around the museum, so the work is never-ending. We need more volunteers. Anyone live in the Raleigh area?

Wish my mom were alive and living here.  She’d have those roses trimmed in a second. My Mom would get a kick out of me gardening. When I was a kid growing up, we had to work in her gardens everyday before we could go play. I hated it. I would bargain to do other things, like dust, but it never worked. And here I am, voluntarily gardening. Go figure. Must have rubbed off.

Actually, it wouldn’t hurt if I did some dusting and vacuuming in my house. What a switcheroo I’ve done.  I’ve gone from bargaining to dust to get out of gardening, now I garden to get out of dusting. Whoa! Scary. I’ve become my Mom.

So tomorrow?  I will be selling beer and Cokes at the Rex Open Golf Tournament. The USO is a recipient of the money made on selling these refreshments. The last time I worked a golf tournament, I sold Mulligan’s. I had no idea what they were until one of the golfers told me they were do-overs. Do-overs are good things.  We should have more opportunities for them. I think selling beer will be more fun. I’m guessing I can’t drink any, though. Dang.  I’d really have a good time. And I’d be such a hoot!