Knocking that Curveball Out of the Park

Sometimes in life (a lot of times actually) we get thrown a curveball.  This trip was supposed to be about me and the personal fulfillment I get from doing volunteer trips.  I hope to take away as much from a local community as I am there to give.  This time, however, might be a little different.  This trip, I have already discovered, is going to be about patience and self control.  I have always thought of myself as a pretty patient person.  It takes a while before I get irritated with people.  I rarely get offended by people because I live under the philosophy of, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.”

Enter Rebecca………..

Rebecca is from California.  She has done several volunteer trips and hiking trips.  She has done several trips with REI (the outdoor clothing company) and “lives for REI clothing.”  She was in a car accident that left her in a coma for a year.  She is from Rodondo beach L.A. area and  started in the film business when she was 12.  In her 20’s she did anything she had to do to get the next big break.  In her 30’s she had the accident.  Her parents decided to sell her place and went through all of her journals.  She now believes that journaling is dangerous and that I (who she just met) shouldn’t do it.  She is one of two children born into a strict Jewish household and she drives a red Honda Accord that she got when she traded in her Element.  She is afraid that her hair is graying too fast and asked for my honest opinion on the matter.  I was nice, not honest.  According to her, Californians think that the Midwest has the nicest people thus offending the four other people with us by adding that the East Coast people are rude and always in a hurry.  She then preceded to offend our team leader, a native Appalachian, by saying that they were all fat and lazy (paraphrasing here). She proclaimed that since I was there by myself as well that we should be roommates and we would take the room at the end of the hall.  She would be on the bottom bunk and I could take the other bed. THIS WAS ALL IN THE FIRST FIVE MINUTES OF MEETING HER!  I did end up with a room of my own.

I like to think of myself as a good friend and listener.  I am not really very talkative especially when I just meet someone.  I like my quiet time and quite honestly, sometimes just being by myself.  I knew right away that I was here to work on my patience.  Although I thought I was a patient person, I need to realize that I have many areas that I need to work on and this week I am putting patience at the top of my list!

People do and say things because of gaps in their own personality.  Maybe she is lonely, maybe she has a new outlook on life since her accident.  Rebecca is very chatty and has no boundaries as to the questions she will ask you.  She has personal space issues but she is here to volunteer.  We are here for the same reason and for that, I owe her my patience and listening ear.

I woke up this morning and opened my blinds to check the weather.  Across the road was this sign tacked to a tree outside my window.  I will look at it every morning before leaving my room!

So for now, I am laying off the fastball and waiting for the curve.


Singing Makes Me Happy

Mother Teresa said, “We can do no great things.  Only small things with great love.”

4:30 a.m. – I am up and getting ready.  I don’t leave for another FIVE hours but others in my household have to be out the door by 5:45.

6:00 a.m. – They are finally out the door and on their way.  I have time to crawl back into be but I opt instead to do laundry and pay bills before I leave.

9:00 a.m. – Packed and loaded and heading out.

My journey begins……………..

It was gray and drizzling in Bloomington when I pulled out.  I was afraid that it would rain all day the entire way.  About midway through Kentucky the clouds cleared, the temperature began to rise and before I knew it, I was singing along to Pearl Jam at the top of my lungs.  I mean every word, every song and hitting every drum beat on the steering wheel.  My kids often yell out me for singing along to the radio.  I know every song, no really, I do.  Or, I at least know a line from every song so that I can sing that line over and over again.  This irritates the other members of my family but I love to sing.  My son once told me that he only knew one person who had a better singing voice than me and he wasn’t talking about Barney.  Nevertheless, my incessant singing tends to irritate them.

Today was perfect.  Windows rolled down, radio blaring and I was singing at the top of my lungs.  My jaws actually ache from my 6 hours of singing.  The difference today, however, was that I finally realized why I like to sing along with the radio.  Singing makes me happy.  It is not just singing along with the radio.  Singing really makes me happy.  It makes me smile.  I love to sing!  I sang along with the radio, as loud as I could, all the way to West Virginia!

I have arrived at the SALS (Southern Appalachia Labor School) which will be my home base for the next week.  I have made up my bunk in the dormitory next to the Community Center (which houses the wireless so that I can post each day) and had dinner with the other volunteers.  We have a very eclectic group from all over the country.  Rebecca hails from California, Brother and sister Gwen and Ned come from New Jersey and Chris Sr. and Chris Jr. are from New York.  I am the only Midwesterner.  We find out tomorrow what we will be doing.  I really have no idea.  The kids are on Spring break this week so it will be pretty quiet around the Community Center.  I know that they have several job sites underway and we will visit those tomorrow.

I will be heading off to work on Monday with a little song on my lips and love in my heart.  We are doing something great this week!

More tomorrow on the community that we will be working in.

I’ll Meet You at the Fork in the Road

“Think of the World you carry within you”

~Rainer Maria Rilke

I saw this quote written on the cover of a journal as I was walking through Target today.  I was at Target to get supplies for my trip to West Virginia to volunteer.  I haven’t been overly excited about this trip.  I like what I am going to do and I know that this community, less than seven hours from my home, needs so much help.  High School drop out rates in more than 39 counties is almost 2% greater than the National average.  I am going there to teach for a week.  I don’t know what to expect other than mountains and mosquitoes!

Ill be at the fork in the mountains

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I wanted to go to Guatemala.  I had filled out the application and had been accepted as an English teacher.  After some thorough research, I backed out of the trip.  Guatemala, so it seems, is not a very safe place to visit.  Our Government tends to blow safety concerns in other countries out of proportion but when the Guatemalan Government listed two pages of safety concerns I decided that perhaps now was not the time for me to visit this area.  I then decided that I would take a solo road trip to Beards Fork, West Virginia.  This trip was my birthday present to myself.

Last year, I decided that instead of always receiving on my birthday I would give instead.  Giving gives me more pleasure and happiness than any gift I could receive on my birthday.  Last year, I decided to have a dinner party in honor of all of my girl friends.  Most assumed I was doing it for my 40th birthday bash.  It was NOT my 40th last year, that was three days ago.  It was instead (in my mind) my graduation party.  A graduation from an old way of thinking and doing things.  It was my way of moving from taking to giving.

So as I was walking through Target, wondering if going to the middle of the mountains with no cell reception to help me hear my kids’ voices was the right idea, I ran across this quote.  It made me think – What if we all could think of this perfect world and just carry that inside of us?  If everyone could just carry a piece – can you imagine?  We can change the world- we just have to “think” we can.

I leave in the morning, just me, my jeep and the open road……..

I am also taking on another cause- if you would like to help the children of Japan please visit my causes site:

Find Your Voice

I haven’t always been the most flexible person.  I am a planner and I like sticking to the plan.  I am responsible and reliable and I take my commitments very seriously.  So, when January 17 came and it was time for me to head out to do some community volunteering in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, you can imagine how upset I was that it was not in the plans for me to be sick – really sick.  Two days later, I found myself in the hospital ER hooked up to an IV and getting a stomach CT.

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After about six hours of tests, it was determined that I was not having an appendicitis and they sent me home with instructions to take it easy for a few more days.  It took about three more days for me to feel like I could function again. By this time, I had missed MLK “a day on” and the volunteering that I had planned to do the following weekend with Habitat for Humanity.  This was not my plan and certainly not the way I wanted to start out the New Year.  Within a few days, I had developed a chest cold that kept me pretty much bedridden for another week.  Frustration was boiling.  January was slipping away and my “plan” of starting off the New Year with giving to different local organizations was slipping away.

I have taken on the position of volunteer coach for my daughter’s basketball team.  They are a challenging group of girls.  Some are passionate and enthusiastic about playing and learning while others act as if they would rather be anywhere other than on a basketball court.  The weather hasn’t helped our team.  The ice and snow have kept us from the gym when we desperately needed to practice.  This has been the only volunteering that I have been able to accomplish since January.

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As the snow and ice continued to fall, my children and I  spent three ice and snow filled days at home.  By the third “snow day”, I was sick again.  This time with the stomach ailment that I had had two weeks prior.  It was decided that I should see my doctor and begin the many tests that will (hopefully) lead them to a diagnosis of whatever it is that is ailing me.  The testing began this week and as of yet, no diagnosis.  I can’t even get in to see one of the doctors until March.  Then today, I wake up and have no voice – none.  I can squeak out a few words but not without straining my throat and sounding like Peter Brady in the infamous “Time to Change” episode of the Brady Bunch.

The Brady Bunch

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So, after the initial shock wore off and I stopped being mad that I just couldn’t seem to get well, I started thinking about my voice.  This is only temporary.  By next week I am sure I will be yaking and yelling as usual.  It made me think about how lucky we are that we live in a place where we can have a voice.  Where, when I have an opinion, I can voice it.  Where, when I disagree with our government, I can voice it.  I can say what I want to say, be what I want to be and do what I want to do.

I recently came across an organization that really touched me.  It was a few weeks before my daughter’s 12th birthday and I came across an article about  It is an organization that raises money to give girls a voice in developing countries.  We take for granted our voice.  They have no voice.  They are sold to men or slavery at the age of 12.  They are uneducated, often abused and exposed to all kinds of health risks.  Twelve years old!  Please take a few moments to watch their video.  I may not be able to do everything as planned and you may not be able to physically hear me today but I do have a voice and it is something I hope to never take for granted.


Panic Attack, Aisle 2

If you have read my previous posts about how I have been trying to cook fresh foods and adapt a clean eating lifestyle, then you will understand how shocked I was when I discovered that everything I believed in was a lie!

Granted, if I would just stick to eating all fresh fruits and vegetables and make everything from scratch this wouldn’t have been an issue but having a busy household with 3 kids, 4 dogs, a cat and a lizard, it is not always practical for me to make EVERYTHING from scratch.  So, you can imagine my shock, when, on Monday morning, I found myself shaking and near full-fledge panic attack,  in the organic section of Kroger, cursing all that was previously thought to be “good for me.”  More importantly, I lost faith in everything that I thought to be a healthier choice for my family.

The reason – FOODUCATE.

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This handy little iPhone app that I was told I might get a kick out of using.  Wrong!  More like a stay on the 5th floor hospital ward!  This thing drove me crazy.  My normal 45 minute Monday morning grocery shopping trip turned into almost 3 hours and a trip to 3 different grocery stores.

This is the video of how it works: WARNING: most annoying song -ever!

You scan the label on your food item and it gives you an equivalent letter grade as to how well your food scores.  Then, you can look up the product details and see just why your favorite food doesn’t score higher than a C- .  They then list healthier food choice alternatives which just proved to annoy me because some of the items that I had been purposely not purchasing would be listed in the “healthier alternative.”

When shopping at Kroger, I always head to the produce first then off to the organic section.  After making my way through the produce and choosing some fruits and vegetables and various berries I headed over to pick up some milk from the organic section.  A firm believer in knowing where my cattle graze and not wanting to drink milk that is laden with hormones, I “thought” that even though I was buying chocolate milk for my kids, it was still a better choice.  Wrong again.  It doesn’t have hormones which is good and it is 1% milk fat which is a healthier choice.  It is also a good source of calcium but what you may not know is that almost ALL flavored milk contains the equivalent of 3 teaspoons of sugar per serving.

Fooducate states that, “according to the USDA, every man woman and child in the US consumes approximately 80 pounds of added sweeteners per year.  That works out to 25 teaspoons of added sweetener per day, or 400 extra calories.”  I guess I could just dump 3 teaspoons of sugar in my kids plain milk each day – same concept, right?  Having a household where only 2 of 5 members will drink plain white milk and my grandmother and father both having developed stage 2 diabetes, this posed a serious problem.  Unfortunately, there are no “healthy” chocolate (or any flavor for that matter) milk alternatives.  My beloved Horizon chocolate milk only scored a “C”.

So, there I was, hearing them announce over the intercom of Kroger, “Panic attack, aisle 2”.  Well, that’s what they were saying in my head anyway.  I couldn’t believe that, because it was organic, I was deceived into believing that I was doing something good for my family.  It then became my God given duty to start scanning everything in the grocery that I normally fed my family just to see what a horrible person I was being.  After 3 hours, 3 different grocery stores and being hauled off, strapped to a gurney, in an ambulance (this last part, once again, just in my head), here is what I found:

Two items that were originally on my list. Greek Gods Yogurt “B”.  Go Lean Crunch “A-“.  Horizon organic butter was listed as a “D”. “One of the worst products in its category”.  A “D”?  I have never gotten a “D” in my life!  Now replaced with the average grade of “C” for Land O Lakes butter.  Not happy with a “C” but since I have recently started making my butter into ghee, this grade was much better for me.  Although I always strive for an “A” average, it was hard to find it on Monday.  Most of my items were “C” or “B” with only two items the entire morning returning the grade of “A”- Go Lean Crunch cereal and Thomas’ 100% whole wheat English Muffins.

Three main things I learned that morning:

1) Don’t be fooled by bloated health claims.  Veggie chips – are neither veggies nor chips for that matter!  No chips are rated over a “C+” There is a reason for that!

2) The ingredient Xanthan Gum – this is an emulsifier that helps ingredients blend more effectively.  Essentially they add this to items such as salad dressings to help them stay blended while sitting on the shelf.  Know what it is?  If not, I would recommend Fooducate and get educated on what you are putting in your body.

3) Perhaps I should see a doctor about those voices in my head 😉


Volunteer spotlight: Next week I will be volunteering on MLK day for “A Day On: not A Day Off”.  If you are interested in all the activities going on in your city most local parks and rec departments have a volunteer network.  If you need ideas on how to spend your MLK Day in Bloomington let me know and I can send some ideas your way.  Until then, here is what you can do for a great Bloomington Organization: Make sure you vote every day!

Volunteer Just 30 Seconds a Day! 

Not enough time to volunteer? Problem solved! Middle Way House (MWH) just qualifed for a chance to win a $250,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project, and now people are needed to vote online, every day until Jan. 31, at (You can also text 104741 to Pepsi (73774). Standard text rates apply.) Learn more…

The Rest is Just Sand

When I woke up this morning and knew that I would be spending a day cooped up inside with the kids, I was less than thrilled.  I had a list a mile long that I wanted to get accomplished today and frustration set in once I realized that I would be mopping up melted snow puddles all day long and drying load after load of wet snow gear.  That is when I got an email forward from a friend and decided that the only thing that was making this a “bad” day was my attitude!   As I searched the internet for pictures to add to my post today I found blog posts and websites that retold this story in various forms.  Some used coffee, some used beer, some used tea but the meaning and the message was always the same.  Here is my version for today – Enjoy!

A Mayonnaise Jar and Two Beers

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A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

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He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

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The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

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The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.  He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’

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The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things—your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else—the small stuff.

‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or golf balls. The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents.  Take your spouse out to dinner. There will always be time for the other things. Take care of the golf balls first—the things that really matter.

Set your priorities….. The rest is just sand.

Farm photo by Jeff Davis


One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked.’ The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.

Whether it be beers, coffee, tea or wine…..or ice cream cones – for me, this year, I need to hit the “reset” button and set my priorities RIGHT NOW – to head outside to build the best snow fort because the Davis kids are going down!

Cousins and best friends sharing time (and ice cream) at their grandparents' house






I have  a lot of ideas rolling around in my head about where I want to volunteer this month.  I think I will keep it all local in January because there are some wonderful opportunities on the horizon for me.  My New Year’s resolution list is 13 items long (and growing) and I intend to accomplish all of them.  Although it is not the same as telling your birthday wish and it not coming true (or so I believe), some are personal and will be kept as such – sorry, no boring resolutions for you to read.  I will say this, I have several unfinished articles that will be submitted this year along with my nonfiction book.  However, I am only giving myself until June to wrap it up or chuck it – so either way, that resolution is as good as done!!

So here I go, full steam ahead, right into 2011!  I have decided to give myself a word of the year – somewhat like the word of the day or the word of the week or the word of the month except I only have to think of a word once every 12 months instead of daily, weekly or monthly.  Somewhat lazy, I know, but this is how I work.   I already had a small encounter late last year but  I know that by doing what I have set out to do this year, I will find what I am looking for.  Thus my word:


Serendipity is defined in the dictionary as:

–noun  1. an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.  2.  good fortune; luck

“Serendipity” is my word for 2011.  Plus, it is a fun word to say.  It might even be my favorite word to say right next to plenipotentiary.  Here is what I have in store for January.

My January volunteer plans include (but may not be limited to):

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January 17: Working with the Boys and Girls Clubs for: A day On – doing activities with at risk and underprivileged kids

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January 17- February 25: Building with Habitat for Humanity for their 40 Days of Peace MLK service project – Anyone have some REALLY warm Carhart gear I can borrow?? I will only be working on the build site once during this time but might have the opportunity to take pictures and document the process of the three houses that are going to be built.

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January-April: Coaching my daughters basketball team  (still undecided about this).  Volunteer coaches are needed in all sports areas to help mentor and teach physical well-being to youth of all ages.

I will be posting pictures and commentary about each event as it takes place.  Here I go 2011 – see if you can keep up with me!