JULY 2006

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I signed up with Volunteer San Diego to serve lunch to seniors at the College Avenue Senior Center.  Had a great time and met some nice seniors and some wonderful volunteers!

Here are Rachel, Deborah and Jack.                                          Another view with Jack, Rachel, Deborah....and me.


Both Rachel and I were novices, since this was our first experience with Volunteer San Diego.  Jack has been helping for a few months at the Senior Center.  He's also involved in the construction of houses in Mexico for the poor and also has spent some time working with the San Diego Food Bank among other things.  Deborah was our team leader and has been working with the senior lunch program for a year or more now.  Great people!!



What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.                                                                                                                                                                             -Albert Pike



I spent the morning at the Therapeutic Equestrian Activity Center for the Handicapped (T.E.A.C.H.)  It's a great little horse ranch where children with special needs receive therapeutic horseback riding lessons.

Today's volunteers

 (from left to right)






This was another group of volunteers from Volunteer San Diego.

Heidi was our team leader.  She's been volunteering at T.E.A.C.H. for 5 years.  When she's not doing this, she works for a Biotech firm.

Both Betty and Rene were helping for the second time.  They are both court reporters.

This was the first experience Carlos has had with VSD.  He's a flooring contractor during the week.

Justin just moved to San Diego recently, but has already put in over 50 hours of volunteering time.  He's spent quite a bit of time tutoring and helping with athletic events.  Justin can be found in a Navy helicopter during the week.

Part of our assignment was cleaning up the corrals. Here's Carlos and Betty hard at work. Rather than work, I decided to "bust a bronk."


Below are pictures of "Trenton" and "Hope"

Trenton is 8 years old and has been riding for 10 months

Hope is 4 years old and has been riding for 4 weeks

Two wonderful kids!

Giddy up!!

Placing the rings

Never giving up!

Just realized Justin's not a real cowboy!

Trick riding.

Following a long day out on the range.


This is Cleo, The person responsible for starting the center a little over 9 years ago.  Cleo spent the day in the middle of the ring coordinating the activities.




"If you do not allow the irritability of others to affect your own pleasant conduct, your pleasant conduct then influences them."

-Wu Wei, I Ching Wisdom



My next adventure was at the Windsor Gardens Convalescent and Rehabilitation Center.  I volunteered to help with their "Casino Night."


Another great group of volunteers from Volunteer San Diego!


Look at the smiling faces!

(from left to right)









Both Rene and Vitaly were first timers to VSD.  Jess (Jessica) and Emi had done some tutoring prior to this evening.  Gina and Tracy were old hands and had been helping at the Windsor for the last two years each.  Marshall was somewhat an expert, in that he travels to a number of casino nights to help out (He'd be a great guy to take to Vegas with you.)  Bob was our leader and has been in charge of "Casino Night" here at Windsor Gardens for the last 11 years!!  Great people.

Vitaly dealing out the cards for black jack.

Tracy looking deep into Vitaly's eyes, to figure out the next card.



Tracy, putting on her best poker face.

Tracy, putting the hex on the next dealer, Marshall.


All ends well, when one of the players draws 21!




I called my daughter to ask what she was doing over the weekend and she mentioned she was going to put up a couple of fans with her mother.  Following the answers to a few questions I put to her, such as "Do you have a 10' ladder?"....  I decided I should probably offer my help. Ended up putting up two fans, worked on a sprinkler head problem, fixed the vacuum and dealt with a dryer malfunction.  Looks like I'm slowly moving out of the plumbing profession into electrical.


Old fan.

No fan.

New fan.

Vacuum repair.




August 2006


Got some great news today.  I just received word that I was accepted for a seasonal position at the "Stanford Sierra Conference Center" in South Lake Tahoe.  I'll be there for 2 1/2 months beginning in September.  Looking forward to just turning off my phone and enjoying the beautiful surroundings!  I was wanting to volunteer with the Forestry Department, but wasn't chosen for either of the assignments I had signed up for....Oh well, I'll still be up in the mountains, and now I'm getting paid.

Next weekend I've signed up to help at three different locations.  Can't get over how impressed I am with the variety of opportunities through Volunteer San Diego!

I'll be making lunches for homebound HIV/AIDS victims, working with my "feline" friends at "Friends of Cats," followed by helping people with developmental and physical disabilities go bowling....stay tuned, and please no smart remarks about my bowling prowess:) 




I was just thinking (yep, I know, unusual for me) about the application I had to fill out for the job in Lake Tahoe.  One of the questions was very thought provoking.  It asked what my favorite word was.  Hmm...I came up with the usual words, "helpful, kind, caring, etc"...well actually, I never really came up with the word "etc."  

After some time, I came up with the word "acceptance."  What a great word!!  I have since tried to imagine the type of world it would be, if everyone accepted one another.  I'm hard pressed to come up with any negative situations we might encounter if that were the case.

This got me to thinking recently about my least favorite word, which happens to be "negativity."  We all know people who are constantly complaining about things.  No matter how minute, they make a point of grumbling and letting you know about it.  I feel sorry for them, never seeming to be happy, what a sad way to live...always under a dark cloud.  It can be a chore being around them and keeping from being depressed yourself.

I think I'll stop here.  Since it's a pet peeve of mine, I could go on and on forever, but then it would sound like I was complaining:)




I spent an hour today at "Special Delivery," helping bag food for homebound victims of AIDS.

This is Jack and Nancy working in the back, helping to prepare the food for bagging...and, yes, that's the same Jack you saw feeding seniors a month ago. More volunteers working in the back.  Their shift was 1/2 hour earlier than ours. Here are Josh and Kristi filling the bags (82) that I set out (yes, I don't just snap pictures at these functions.


Kristi and Monique getting stuff ready for Josh and I to place in the bags. Here's Jack, Kristi and Josh.  Kristi is the leader and has been doing this for 6 years! Diana, who is an administrator, representing the interests of Special Delivery, and Monique who has been volunteering for a year.  Monique helps lead when Kristi is unavailable.


This is Ruth, the owner of "The Huddle" restaurant next door.  I didn't want to bother her, she looked pretty busy.  Ruth founded "Special Delivery" in 1991 when she realized many of her loyal customers were unable to come to the restaurant due to being ill with AIDS.  Ruth then decided she'd find a way to have food delivered directly to their homes.  Sounds like a great lady!!

The food we bagged was then delivered by another group of volunteers in the afternoon.

On a side note, I noticed that both Henry's and Trader Joe's donated quite a bit of bread products....good for them!





I ended up at "Friends of Cats" today.  One of my favorite places to visit!  Here are the great volunteers...

Back row (left to right)...Anna, Tim, Tara, Charlie, and Stone.  Front row.....Chole and Jane.

Charlie is president of the Board of Directors for Friends of Cats, as well as one of three leaders for Volunteer San Diego.  He's been volunteering here for the last five years.  Charlie also mentioned that they had taken in "31" cats from the devastation of hurricane Katrina.

This is Barbara, the shelter manager.  She makes sure everything continues to run smoothly.  Very dedicated to the well being of the homeless cats...although, once you visit, you'll realize these cats are very well cared for and not really considered homeless anymore.


Checking things out.

One half mustache.

Full mustache!!


In a basket.

In a nest?

On the washing machine!

Three at once!


Who's enjoying it more?  Volunteers or the cats?


Proof that I was holding a few "kitties" myself.


Yeah...whata you want?

28 lbs. of muscle

yeah, in your dreams!

It takes two to rub this one's belly!

This is "Tubby," 28 lbs of cat!!  They picked him up in San Clemente a month ago.  Someone had left him outside of a vet's office in a tub, thus the name Tubby.  He stays in the office under the desk, with an occasional waddle around when something interesting is going on.  He's sort of become the office mascot....needless to say they have him on a low fat diet!

If you ever have a chance, stop in and visit with the cats.  You don't have to be a member of Volunteer San Diego...you can stop in just about any time they are open...you might want to call first to check on the hours.  It's a rewarding experience!




I was at the beach Sunday when I received a call form my former wife asking if I could help her fix a cart for her classroom.  The first day of classes was the very next day.

Here I am fixing that cart. Riding my skateboard in the hall.  Sticking it to "the man."  Wait a minute...I used to be "the man!"

This gives me a chance to mention what a special group of people teachers are.  One of the toughest jobs around and rarely are teachers given credit for all that they do.  If I ever win the lottery, I've got a list of teachers that will be able to retire!




Later in the day, I headed over to the Brunswick Lanes in Chula Vista to assist children, teens and adults with developmental and physical disabilities, bowl.  Must have been at least 20 bowlers!  Lot's of high fives and smiles...didn't matter if it was for a gutter ball....everyone was happy!  Great group to be around.

Here's Olivia.  She's quite the bowler.  Even though she was the youngest member there, she got a number of strikes!  I think she may have outscored her mom!

Can you believe bowling from a wheelchair!  Well "Yoly" can do just that.  She got a bunch of strikes too!  I think she beat my all time best score!

Here's Yoly with her grandmother Crucita and her mom Yolanda.  What a great smile!! Here's Yoly getting ready to roll another strike!


As always, a couple of great volunteers!  Adam and Yoni.  They've done this before, so they were able to help the "old man" out.



Ended up the month in Minnesota, where I came across Adam, who was working at the Gun Flint Lodge.

Adam is planning on hiking the 2,175 mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail, in order to solicit donations for children with speech deficiencies such as stuttering.  Adam mentioned he had overcome stuttering as a youth, and wanted to do something in order to "give back" and help others.  He figures the trip from Maine to Georgia will take a little over 4 months.  What a great thing to do!!  Good luck Adam!!

If you ever get a chance.....check out Minnesota!

Two Harbors Lighthouse.

Split Rock Lighthouse.

I could live here!



I'll be heading up to the Stanford Sierra Conference Center on Labor day.  It's located next to South Lake Tahoe, on Fallen Leaf Lake.  I won't be doing much volunteering the next 2 1/2 months, but the money I make up there should help me to continue this adventure.




"The real issue in life is not how many blessings we have, but what we do with our blessings.  Some people have many blessings and hoard them.  Some have few and give everything away."

                                                                                                            -Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers



September 2006


Well, the place is more isolated than I had anticipated....it's great!!  No TV!  No cell phones!  I'm in isolation heaven.

Here's my staff picture...happy as a lark!

The food is phenomenal.  We eat the same things the guests do.  Today I had salmon with banana curry sauce for lunch and with my dinner I had a Tai soup of vegetables, coconut milk and tofu.  There were a variety of desserts which included éclairs along with chocolate covered strawberries and chocolate covered pineapple (although I've made a promise to myself not to eat any sweets while I'm up here.).  I've never seen so many exotic dishes and its buffet...all you can eat!  If this weren't enough, it's all the milk you can drink!!  I'm in heaven.  It's like a paid vacation!


View from my cabin.

The lake.

The boat dock.


Hey, I found another volunteer!!

This is David, one of the staff up here.  After graduating from Virginia Tech, he joined AmeriCorps.  He was pulled off his first service project at the Sacramento Boy's and Girls Club in order to work for the Red Cross in San Diego, during the fires a few years ago.  David then was doing projects in Washington State, Arizona and Utah, before heading to Thailand where he taught English for 3 months....strictly volunteer.  He had to actually pay for his flight and his housing!  Quite a guy!!


It was my day off today, so I drove around Lake Tahoe.  It was a windy day, but I got some great pictures!


I had nearly made it around the lake when I passed a car sitting just off of the road.  It looked as though they had a flat tire, so I turned around and went back to check on them.  Sure enough, they had run over a rock and the tire on their car blew out.
This is Arlene and Garry.  They were on their way to Lake Tahoe, from Sacramento, where they had been invited to a time share presentation....One thing we had in common, was that we all liked to take advantage of free trips. Here I am following then into town for a replacement tire.  They were very appreciative and I was happy to have assisted!  I would hope that someone would do the same for my parents.


I was talking to Erin, here at the center, and she paraphrased a quote by Mother Teresa which I thought was great, so I looked it up on the internet.

"Spread love everywhere, let no one ever come to you without leaving happier."

                                                                                                                                        -Mother Teresa

I was surprised to find a myriad of wonderful quotes by Mother Teresa.  If you get a chance, you can view them on the internet.


One of my responsibilities at the conference center, is to periodically pick up guests in Tahoe and drive them back to the center in a van.  The center is in a pretty desolate area, which requires that you drive a few miles on a single lane, two way road.  In order to pass by oncoming cars, one or both vehicles may need to pull to the side of the road.  Needles to say, you need to drive slowly.  Luckily, I've found most people who drive it, to be very courteous.

Following one of my runs back from town, I was told by the secretary that a local resident had called the office complimenting me on my driving.  I guess she had been following behind me for awhile and was impressed to see one of the conference vans driving slowly and taking the time to constantly pull aside.  As impressed as she was with my driving, I was even more impressed that she had taken the time to call and let both my supervisors and me know!

She sounded like a kindred spirit, so I sought her out to thank her.

This is Ruth.  She and her husband John, own the store at the marina nearby.  They both are former employees of the Stanford Sierra Conference Center.  As expected, she was just as nice in person as I expected.  Her thoughtful gesture was much appreciated!

Earlier on my website, I had mentioned taking time to acknowledge people.  Just a few days prior to this incident, I had met an energetic young gal working at the Kmart in town.  On the way out of the store, I asked to speak to the manager, and made sure she was aware of the salesperson's great attitude.  I guess it's true, "What goes around, comes around."




Volunteer Alert!!  Volunteer Alert!!

Yep, found another one!  This is Cynthia.  

She joined AmeriaCorps right out of high school.  She worked for 10 months in Denver on the Bridge Project, an alternative school program for inner city school kids.  Cynthia was then pulled off that project by the American Red Cross, to help as a case worker for the Trade Center victims.  This was followed by a 2 month stint as an intern for Global Health Action in Atlanta.  Here she worked with representatives from around the world, dealing with sanitation problems in developing countries.  Cynthia's most recent project was working with the Hilltop organization in Louisiana, "mudding" homes (stripping the inside and bleaching the wood.)

Down the road, Cynthia hopes do do anthropology work, or get a degree and teach English in a foreign country! Top that!


October 2006


Well, I've said it before, the food here is fabulous!  In recognition of their outstanding work (feeding up to 200 people is no simple task!) I've included a few pictures of the kitchen staff....

Dave is the brains behind the operation!  He's the one who keeps the kitchen running like clockwork.

Speaking of clockwork, Kurt is from Switzerland.  He's the pastry chef and the one responsible for any weight gains here!


Check out my man Adam...

After attending Evergreen College in Olympia Washington, he joined the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, doing trail maintenance and environmental preservation.  Adam then went to Africa (Adenta, Ghana) and volunteered with "Peace and Love Orphanage." While there he worked with children whose parents had AIDS.  Adam paid for his flight and all of his expenses while he was there!


I watched two great DVD's this week.

The first was "Paper Clips," a documentary about Whitwell Middle School, in Whitwell TN.

In 1998, the students set out on a project which came about by their principal's desire to help educate them to the diversity of the world we live in.

The students began by learning about the Holocaust.  They completed a number of assignments and visited with actual Holocaust survivors.  As a culmination to the project, and in order to honor every soul lost, the students took on the task of collecting one paper clip for each individual exterminated by the Nazis.

Their memorial, an actual railcar used in the transportation of victims, stands today filled with 11 million paper clips....a very moving documentary!

The other movie was titled "The Power of One."

This movie dealt with the problems of apartheid in South Africa, and one mans mission to make a difference....also very moving, and a forewarning here concerning the violence.

I highly recommend each movie.  I guess I would be remiss if I didn't also mention my favorite movie "Princess Bride," at this time....In case you're looking for something on the lighter side:)   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQ_cFDqp-ro



And still another AmeriCorps volunteer...

After graduating from Purchase College in NY, Jamie joined AmeriCorps.  Her first assignment was in Leakey Texas at the "Big Springs Youth Ranch."  The ranch is a facility for kids who are emotionally scarred and neglected.  She was there 5 weeks living in a tent and helping out.  It was then on to Jackson Hole and the "Broken Arrow Ranch" where she worked as a camp counselor for inner city kids from Washington, DC.  Next was "Bradford Woods" in Indiana.  Here she worked 5 weeks with disabled kids.  "Camp Hantesa," Iowa was her next stop where she helped install a 5' deep, frost free water line for the camp.  She was on her way to Columbine Elementary when she was called up by the Red Cross to man phones at a call center in Falls Church, Virginia following the storms.  She eventually made it back to Columbine where she was a teachers aide before and after school....Whew!!


Interesting info about our "Fire Chief" at Fallen Leaf Lake...

In 1996, Chris read an article about the floods in China.  Afterwards, Chris felt the need to assist victims of such tragedies, so he quit his position as Fire Chief and joined "Doctors Without Borders." in the fall of '97.  After a year in the NYC offices, he was off to South Sudan.  This was followed by a stint in Eastern Uganda in the Moroto District.  Chris then joined Safe Horizon, an organization which assists victims of crime, (survivors of homicide, rape victims, tortured immigrants, elder abuse, etc.)  His agency was the main group responsible for the counseling and funding for survivors of the Set. 11th terrorist attacks.  Chris has since returned as Fire Chief at Fallen Leaf, but continues to spend his months off helping Doctors Without Borders.  In 2002 he was in Liberia and most recently he returned from Darfur, Sudan.


Parting of soup is not a miracle, It's a magic trick.

A single mom who's working two jobs and still finds time to take her kid to soccer practice, that's a miracle.

                                                                                                                -God (speaking to Bruce), "Bruce Almighty"



I heard an interesting interview on public radio this week.  They were interviewing David Brewer III, the new superintendent of the Los Angeles City School District.  David made reference to a book he had read, "Halftime," by Bob Buford.  In the book, Bob Buford states that in the first half of your life you should focus on "learning," which is followed by "earning."  In the second half of your life you should "serve."  Sounds like a good philosophy to me....hopefully that's what I'm accomplishing now.


November  2006


Who doesn't enjoy being "hugged?"  Here's a great little video I came upon....just click on the picture.

Neat idea, and there's a website "freehugscampaign.org" if you're interested in more information.....really easy way to bring a little joy to someone's day.



Let me introduce Charlie, Antja, Megan and Morgan.  All staff members at Stanford Sierra, as well as "volunteer" fire fighters for the Fallen Leaf Fire Dept.  Antja is the Assistant Camp Director, Megan is the Conference Staff Director and they are both EMT's.  You may also recognize Charlie and Morgan from my photos of the fabulous kitchen staff.  They all wear pagers and or walkie talkies since they are on call 24/7.  Being volunteers also requires that they attend training sessions one evening each week.  Good to have them around!


Here's Erin, another Stanford Sierra staff member.  Erin spent 8 months in Europe on a student visa, working, traveling and "volunteering!"  Some of her volunteering stints included a week in Madrid, Spain with an organization called "Pueblo Ingles."  Here Erin tutored English to Spanish executives.  No Spanish was allowed the entire week.  Next Erin found herself in Portugal, volunteering at a small 100 year old village, Termas da Azenha.  Erin discovered this village through "wwoof.com" (Willing Workers on Organic Farms.)  For a month she worked on a variety of projects, from making concrete to gardening and painting.  During Erin's last month of travel, she volunteered time at her friend's, brother's Bed and Breakfast in Nendaz, Switzerland.  While there, she made beds, cleaned toilets and washed dishes....sounds familiar (exactly what we've been doing the last 2 1/2 months.)


One of the conference attendees wrote the following quote on the board during one of the sessions they were attending...."The best minute you spend is the one you invest in someone else."


This is Chris, my surrogate son....he kept whining about being on the web page...so here goes:)




Here are a few pictures from my last few months at Fallen Leaf Lake...

What a great adventure!!

Remember my staff picture earlier....happy as a lark.....the quiet serenity of an isolated lake.  Well, I stayed happy to the "bitter" end:)


I've decided to take a little time off, maybe do some wandering...I've actually been wanting to travel up the Pacific coastline and check out lighthouses.  Then maybe on to volunteer with the Forestry Department or if things work out heading down to Louisiana to help out.....we'll see.

Until then, here are a couple of videos which I found very moving....enjoy:)


If you love dogs, and who doesn't, you'll love this first one.


If you don't tear up on this one also, there's something wrong with you.






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