Archive for October, 2013

Driven to serve

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

I noticed in last week’s newspaper that Meals on Wheels, a program offered by Petaluma People Services Center, is in need of more drivers. If you’ve been thinking about doing some community service work, I would like to share a little of our experience as MOW drivers in the hope that it might encourage you to consider volunteering; I think being a MOW driver is the perfect volunteer gig.

As you might already know, MOW provides a freshly prepared, nutritious meal to people who aren’t able to shop or prepare their own meals. So there’s no question that MOW performs a valuable and needed service in the community. And we have gotten a lot of gratification from the connection we develop with the people on our route.

Warm feelings are great, but let’s talk practicality; that’s why I think MOW is such a great way to volunteer.

Volunteering for MOW is predictable. We know that every other Saturday, we are going to do MOWs. It always stays on our calendar. That’s why Steve and I have been able to be MOW drivers for more than 15 years. Sure, we’ve had to miss a Saturday here-and-there but otherwise, we plan around it.

Driving MOW is routine. We arrive at Petaluma Valley Hospital at 11:30am and two containers – a cooler for the cold meals and an insulated tote for the hot meals – are ready and waiting for us along with a clipboard that has the delivery route for the day. Craig, the MOW coordinator, has thoughtfully included turn-by-turn directions along with any special instructions for recipients, such as “Knock and go in.” We load the car, deliver the meals, and by 1:30 we’re returning the containers to the hospital and go on with the rest of our day.

Delivering MOW is community service that you can do as a family. That’s why we initially started driving…to introduce our kids to the concept helping others. We would pile everyone in the car, tune into Radio Disney, give the oldest kid the clipboard to navigate and cross off the names as we made the delivery. The senior women loved it when our young daughters accompanied us and handed them their food; the ladies faces brightened like the sun had just come out.

As teenagers, all of our kids drove MOW when they had their provisional driver’s license. Two hours of driving around Petaluma, backing in-and-out of driveways was wonderful driving practice. I still remember when our middle daughter pulled into a parking place in one of the senior apartment complexes and managed to get the tire so tight to the curb that we spent 15 minutes going forward an inch, then reverse an inch, forward an inch, and so on until we could fully back out.

For our kids, other commitments such as school, activities, and jobs eventually took precedence over delivering MOW. But it was after it became just Steve and me driving MOW together that I really began to enjoy it. It’s like a date but without the cost and calories of going out to dinner. For the two hours that it takes us to deliver the meals, we have an opportunity to chat without the distractions of chores, computers, or phone. And at the same time, do something that feels pretty darn good.

If you’re interested in volunteering, contact at (707) 765-8484 and speak to Craig Mason.


Scary movie

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

After watching Sandra Bullock in “Gravity” somersault her way through outer space for 90 minutes, barely hanging on by a spaghetti strand of a tether, I am very glad to have my feet firmly planted on earth.

Generally when it comes to seeing a movie in a theater, I’m of the “I’ll save my money and just wait for it to come out on Netflix,” point of view. But after hearing all the buzz about the impressive 3-D effects in “Gravity,” I figured I had to see it in a theater; our 10 year-old CRT TV wouldn’t do justice to the vastness of the universe and George Clooney’s charming smile.

And there are some movies that are cultural phenomenon – “Avatar” was another one – that you have to see just to be a part of the water cooler conversation.

When we got home from the movie, I dug out the Wall Street Journal article I had seen about what is driving “Gravity’s” success at the box office. As they pointed out, it is a movie that cuts across all demographics – young, old, men, women, sci-fi geeks and indie-movie fans.

Although I wouldn’t take a young child to it – I’m still a little traumatized by the whole lost in space experience – there isn’t anything in the movie that anyone could take offense at – except for maybe the astrophysicist who was quoted as saying that  satellites orbit the earth west to east yet all the satellite debris was shown orbiting east to west. But even he added that the liked the movie a lot.

All the other movies made in 3-D just seem like practice runs for the way the technology was used in “Gravity.” I knew it was really effective when I realized I was ducking when some of the pieces of the spaceship were hurtling toward my face. When the wrench was floating away from Sandra Bullock, I wanted to reach out and give it a little push to make sure she could grab it.

I’m quite sure Sandra should start practicing her acceptance speech for the Oscar’s. I’ve never been a big fan of hers but she did a great job. I was so glad that the writers didn’t choose to make the dialogue full of snappy comebacks but kept her character serious and sounding like the rocket scientist that she portrays.

After watching Sandra’s character survive fire, ice, water, oxygen deprivation, figure out Russian and Chinese space stations, get slammed into more metal than a car in a demolition derby and at the end, rise from the sea looking fabulous in a tank top and bike shorts, I left the moving feeling totally empowered…and a little nauseous from all the weightlessness.

But whatever awaits me on Monday compared to what she went through? Piece of cake.

Yearbook ad nauseam

Monday, October 7th, 2013

I applaud the marketing genius who came up with the idea of selling ads at the back of the yearbook to parents. It’s like the bumper sticker that says “My Student’s an Honor Student at ‘fill in the blank’ School” but so much better in terms of the reflected glory that parents can glean from a yearbook ad.

Instead of just a few impersonal words about the wonderfulness of their son or daughter, yearbook ads give parents (and siblings, and cousins, and grandparents too!) the opportunity to write entire paragraphs gushing with superlatives about their student’s amazing personality accompanied by numerous photos chronicling their achievements in sports, dance, drama and exotic vacations.

Because we did an ad for Jennifer Lynn’s older sister, we felt like she didn’t deserve to miss out on having her moment in the spotlight on page 485 of her yearbook, so she will get an ad too – however hers is downsized (like everything else in our lives) from the half-page that her sister got to a quarter-page.

To prepare for what I was going to say in Jennifer’s ad, I pulled out her yearbook from last year and started reading. Based on what the parents and relatives had to say about their high school senior, I began to think that some of these kids are ready for sainthood – the way the parents describe their children gives the impression that the kids are worthy of worship.

In addition to the ubiquitous “awesome” in the ads, here’s a few of the other things that were written about a graduating student.  Remember as you’re reading these, they are written to describe a teenager and not Mother Teresa, Jesus or Lincoln:

“You amaze me with your brilliance, your compassion and empathy for those in need.”

“There are not enough words to describe how amazing you are, except for one, perfect!”

“You are wise beyond your years. Your future is in good hands – your own.”

Wow, life can only go downhill from here.

I’ll save Jennifer the embarrassment of actually having this appear in her yearbook. But if I were to write an honest message to her, it would be something like this:

Dear Jennifer Lynn,

As the youngest and only child still at home with your AARP parents, you could have made our lives a living hell by being a really obnoxious teenager, but you didn’t. Thank you. You are a pleasure to live with. You even will occasionally go out in public with us even though you might be seen by someone who knows you. You managed to get through high school without any of your sister’s angst and your brother’s rebellion. We’re really grateful that you’re not a spoiled brat and that you didn’t punish us for moving from a spacious house to a somewhat cramped condo in Cotati. Thank you for taking time to explain hash tags and Instagram to me. You have a wonderful sense of humor and an ability to make friends that will probably get you further in life than your college degree. But we know that your hard work will pay off and that you’ll achieve your dream of going to college far, far away from us. We hope that you get a really high paying job and that we live long enough to see you pay off your student loans. We love you!

Mom and Dad

PS You’re going to come back and take care of us, right?