Can You Be Of Service?

huddleCLRWhenever people mention the word VOLUNTEER, very few show up to help out. I think most people think that volunteering for something might take up too much of their time. They view their time as being too valuable. As though they require monetary compensation for everything they do. Other people feel as though they do not have ENOUGH time to be of service. And that is what keeps them from showing up.

Either way, these people are WRONG. Volunteering does not have to take up ALL of your free time. As a matter of fact,in a lot of cases it is the smallest of things that has the largest impact on people.I know first hand how this can happen.

In 2007 I had major surgery for my breast cancer. I came out after 10 hours of surgery. A someone who was used to working out a lot, the year long recovery time seemed like an eternity. At the time  we had a golden retriever. Her name was Dutchess. She was probably the best dog I have ever had. As part of my come back after surgery, Dutchess and I started walking. I live not too far from the beach. And there is a walkway, that is two miles long.

Neither one of us was in great shape when we began walking together. I was just getting my strength back and Dutchess needed to lose a few pounds. We both got winded the first few times we walked within the first fifteen minutes. But we kept on going. It was not that long before we were walking a mile four to five days a week. It was during these walks that a curious thing .began happening.

One day we were walking along when to my right there was a woman in a wheelchair. She had positioned herself underneath the shade of a tree. As we went to pass by, Dutchess walked straight over to her. As she approached the woman in the chair, I had my heart in my throat. I was afraid she was going to try and jump into the woman’s lap.

But what happened next took my breath away and made my eyes fill with tears. Dutchess walked over to this woman and gently placed her head in the woman’s lap so she could be petted. All the while her tail was wagging as though she had found her  favorite toy. Over the next few years we met plenty of people along our walks who were disabled. I did not notice them myself. Dutchess had a radar for them. And every time we stopped  for her to give them some of her time they were endlessly grateful.

One little girl who had downs syndrome would not let us leave until her grandmother took a picture of her with Dutchess… the little girl was holding the leash in the picture…

I lost my beloved Dutchess two years ago to old age. But I have learned that anyone can volunteer. Even when you do not think you have anything to offer. One kind word or a few minutes to listen to someone who is all alone. These are the gifts that money cannot buy!!

Find a way to share your gift today!!

What Childhood Is Made Of…

bronze-children-statues are long summer days filled with laughter and playing.That is for children who are healthy and living in a family structure that is loving and supportive. But summer can be long and torturous for those who are the victims of child abuse. If you are saying to yourself “I do not know any child who is being abused” you may not be able to recognize some obvious signs.

Children who are abused are usually afraid to speak up.They have been warned that something FAR worse will happen to them if they say anything to anyone. They remain silent also from a sense of shame. These feelings are drilled into their head from those who are abusing them. They have been told over and over again that they are stupid or unworthy of what everyone else is getting.

I knew of a child whose mother would hit her the majority of the time she was growing up. The mother never laid a finger on her older brother. One day the mother told the little girl that she knew exactly when to stop hitting her as to avoid causing any bruising. No one would ever suspect that the mother was abusing her. There were no outward signs and the mother had a prominent position in the town.

This plan would have worked indefinitely for the mother except for one thing. As the daughter grew up she developed an eating disorder. At one of her annual checkups the doctor told the mother that the child’s condition warranted contacting the authorities. The girl was close to being emaciated. She stood five feet four inches  tall and weighed a mere ninety eight pounds.

For the first time the mother was the one in the spotlight.Suddenly the little girls world changed dramatically for the better. Her mother went out of her way to make sure the child was eating every meal every day. That was something that had never happened before. It took that little girl a long time to get to a weight that was in normal range.

She was one of the lucky ones. Most of the time children remain silently imprisoned in a world created by the adults who surround them! The only way to create change is to BE the change!!

New Beginnings…

its-amazing-how-someone-can-break-your-heart-but-you-still-love-them-with-all-the-little-piecesAre what life is made up of. It is also made up of endings as well. The truth be told one usually evolves into another whether we want it or not. Some of these new beginnings are laced with emotions dangling around someone or something that we had to leave behind. Maybe we are holding onto some emotions regardless of how the relationship ended . You see it is difficult to turn off our feelings even though our interaction may have ceased.

It is okay to start a new beginning carrying old emotions. You may be thinking that cannot be right!! But if you think about this for a  moment, you will realize that no matter what we do in life we carry with us some old emotions. Most of us remember our very first romantic relationship. Some of us will smile at the thought of it. While others will shake their heads in disbelief, wondering how they ever dated that person in the first place. Whichever situation you find yourself in, these emotions form the basis of all of your future relationships.  This is how we have learned what kind of person we are attracted to.

All of this is true with one very important exception, OUR CHILDREN.  They seem to be our Achilles Heel despite  the relationship we have with them.The entire time they are growing up, we as parents strive to make as many opportunities available to them as possible. Some of our children will jump on top of these situations while others will balk. But when they are grown and it is time for them to enter into their own lives, a new beginning unlike any other occurs.

Suddenly the house is quiet and lifeless. All those days of scampering footsteps are long past. Alone with our own thoughts, is not as appealing as it seemed when everyone was around. But within that silence there can be solace. Comfort that is in knowing that our children are now adults. They will be capable of making good decisions for themselves. Because of what WE have taught them. And if they slip and fall a little, that is okay too. It is all a part of becoming an adult. They do NOT need to hold your hand. That time has passed!

Your new beginning is right in front of you coupled with a successful past.Take all of those positives with you and use them to your advantage in your new pursuits. Whatever they may be!!

For The Graduates…

for the graduates of 2015 I have a message. It is probably one you have heard many times before. I am fairly certain that every commencement speech sounds an awful lot alike. In fact you could block your ears and be able to tell what they are going to say.All of us adults drone on and on about what to do after graduation. We emphasize how lucky you all are as well as how there is an abundance of opportunity ahead for you.

While you are thinking to yourself “OH great here we go again.” Think about this. How many of the people you started high school with did NOT make it to this day. Maybe they are sitting around secretly thinking they have outsmarted YOU. But they are only fooling themselves. They are also dooming themselves to a life filled with upward battles. And in some cases wars.

We all know that we can make life whatever we want it to be, however there is an expiration date on some dreams. I still have never seen a major league baseball,football or basketball player begin their career at the age of thirty or forty. Have you? For careers that involve extreme physical agility the window of time is short.

That is why many of us adults are pleading with you to try and bring your dreams to life NOW while you are young. There will be plenty of time to get an office job where you work in a cubicle using a computer for eight hours a day. If you have a talent regardless of what they may be … NOW is the time to go ahead and audition for that part in the Broadway play or try out for that major league team on open call day.Because when you get older you will not have any regrets over not HAVING tried. You may not make it. I am not going to fill you with a lot of false promises.

But what you will know is how FAR you can go. Until you try everything else is just a guess!

Life Before Cell Phones…

girls-on-their-phoneIs extremely hard to imagine even for me. The other day I was trying to remember when I actually got my first cell phone. It took me a while to recall. But I did. My daughter was about eighteen months old (she will be 22 in august). The phone was the size of a man’s shoe. And out of all the mothers I knew, I was the only one who had such an item. The thing was so bulky I used to just leave it in the minivan. Back then they did not have car chargers for it. If the battery ran out you had to wait until you go home to juice it up.

The other mother’s used to look at me oddly when I did have it in my diaper bag. It could not fit into my purse!One time I had taken my daughter into the Boston aquarium. When we returned to my minivan, we discovered that the battery was dead. I had mistakenly left the lights on.There I was in the heavy drizzle of a June day, with a dead battery, an exhausted child and a cell phone that needed charging. Luckily there was a payphone nearby. You must be thinking “Good God lady this sounds like the dark ages”. I managed to call AAA and they came to charge my battery enough so I could get home.

During the time it took to make the phone call and wait for AAA to show up I remember my daughter and I sang the Barney song. Now for those of you who are unaware who Barney is I will give you a brief 411. Barney is or was a LARGE purple Dinasaur who had his own show on PBS at eight o’clock every morning. He would open and close the show with the “song”. I will spare you the lyrics!  After we had exhausted that song, we moved on to a few other of our favorite tunes.

When the AAA truck showed up my daughter asked me what was going on. I explained to her that the man was going to try to start our battery. She was fascinated as the guy opened the hood of the minivan. in fact she made me get out of the van so we could watch this man do his work. She kept asking me every step of the way what was going on.The guy himself had a smile on his face from answering her questions.

By the time my daughter was eight it had become fashionable for people to have movies in their vehicles to entertain their kids. And most of the kids had those small flip phones that no one would be caught dead with now! I miss those days of having conversations with her.  She has her cellphone in her right back pocket at all times. And help us all if she gets a text in the middle of a conversation.

That phone has become her master! She is powerless without it! A couple of years ago, I made a very unpopular rule in my house. There are absolutely no cell phones allowed at the dinner table. You would have thought I had said we were all moving to Albania. But I have stuck to my rule. We all have learned here that we can still have actual conversations outside of text messages. And I believe our relationships  are more grounded as a result of that!

Technology is here to stay that is for sure. But we need to learn to make it work FOR us instead of WORKING us! While we have our heads stuck in the screen of a cell phone, the world is moving forward. There are people doing business, getting jobs  and making a  name for themselves while we are stuck in Candy Crush!!

Instead of worrying about getting to the next level of a game, why not try getting to the next level of YOUR life! It can and will happen once YOU decide to control the things that surround you!

Fiddle Playing Frogs…

friendly frogsAre strewn within the Botanical garden in Amarillo. I can only read about them being there. But those of you who live in the area could probably have your picture taken with them if you went to visit the Botanical Garden. They look fairly friendly from the pictures I have seen. If you have never seen these fiddle playing reptiles, I  invite you to do so.  Yes they are part of the reptilian family! A nice little factoid I picked up in my research!

Being aware of the attractions in your area is extremely important. i know this first hand. I grew up in Salem Massachussetts  where the  House Of Seven Gables is set in a back lot of  a back street. As kids growing up, the house seemed dark and gloomy. It is after all a large black house that is dimly lit in the evenings. Most of my friends and I knew little of the house. Some of us knew that Nathaniel Hawthorne had written a book about the home. And he lived there for quite some time.

I became very aware of the importance of the House and some of the other attractions when my relatives from New Jersey would come to visit us every summer. There we were in the middle of the hottest day of the summer walking through a house without air conditioning. I do not believe they have heat either.  What an education I got from each of these visits.

Unlike my friends I got an up close look at what the living conditions were like for the early settlers in this part of the country. Every room is kept exactly to period standards. There are still the heating pots that were placed underneath the beds to keep people warm overnight. The original cook ware is in the kitchen, placed strategically in the hearth where everything was made over an open fire. The most fascinating tool was the toaster. It is a long piece of metal that holds one piece of bread at the end. The person would hold it over the fire until it was toasted.

I remember, it was about the fifth year in a row we went into the house for a visit. That was the year I could recite verbatim every word our guide was saying. As taxing as these visits were becoming, I was the envy of my friends. Most of whom had never entered the house and did not appreciate its significance.  To this day, I know of many people who have never entered any of the attractions in Salem and wish they had done so.

There is no time like the present to begin to DISCOVER what is around you!  One of these days I am going to have my picture taken ( if permissible) with one of those fiddle playing frogs!

Making New Friends…

friendsAAYC Is  easier than ever now that we all can connect through social media. That is how I met Matt Hite from AAYC last week. I had written a blog on WordPress and he left a comment. I was intrigued by this organization. When I asked him how I could help out, he asked me to write a few blogs.

I am glad to be of service to the AAYC! My name is Jacqui Senn and I live 20 minutes north of Boston,Massachussetts. I am a single mother of two children, a motivational blogger and speaker. I thank Matt for the invitation to write and hope all of you reading will find some inspiration in my posts.

Jacqui Senn