Philanthropy Friday: More Than Volunteering

Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer.

Photo Credit: Peter L. McGuire / The Forecaster

Photo Credit: Peter L. McGuire / The Forecaster

“The lady that likes me is here today!”

Biz recognized the car in the parking lot. He was referring to one of the volunteers we had come to know through the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program. We volunteered regularly last school year to help pack bags with food so that kids in our area would have enough nourishment during the weekends.

The woman he was referring to laughed at his jokes and treated him just like any other volunteer, though (at 5 years old) he was often the youngest there.

I had originally started volunteering to fulfill my own desire to help out locally. It was on the suggestion of my then-husband that I signed up. Little did I know that I would start taking my boys with me by necessity when my husband was no longer living with us and that we would find solace in an assembly line with other caring people on those Tuesday evenings.

Last school year we were close enough to walk to the MCHPP’s office to volunteer. This year, we are just far enough away to have to drive.

I pulled in and felt at home. I recognized cars and people. The place was bustling with activity. A local reporter with a camera observed and asked questions as we prepared for our assembly line to fill bags with food for local school kids.

It was like summer vacation never happened. G, who is always a hard worker, didn’t skip a beat. He asked Jamie, our fearless leader, where he wanted him and went to work. I am confident that if Jamie were late and the room were filled with first-time volunteers, G would be able to organize everyone so that we could fill the more than 200 bags in record time. (We did it in less than one hour once.)

Volunteering can feel like a burden sometimes. We have busy lives. Time is precious. But when you find a good fit, where you can work alongside good souls and feel fulfilled from the work you are doing, it’s truly magical. My boys look forward to our volunteering time, and they understand we are doing it to help their peers.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

Read more about the backpack program I volunteer for with my boys: Backpacks bridge the gap: Brunswick-based program eases students’ weekend hunger (via The Forecaster).


 Do you volunteer? What nourishes your soul?

Killing Kindergarten

“I hate kindergarten!”

I heard this bold (and completely unqualified) statement several times leading up to the first day of school for Biz.

“But how do you know you hate kindergarten if you haven’t experienced it yet?”

I knew the answer to this question, of course, because I’m his mom. And he’s just like me. Skeptical of the unknown. Fighting what others want or expect him to do. Yet knowing, in the back of his mind, that everything will be fine.

He was nervous, not knowing what to expect. He just moved into a new place with his mom, brother and dog. Without his dad and his other dog.

We’re just about settled in, but his room still needs organizing.

He’s got a big playground behind his new house with lots of new kids to play with, but it can be overwhelming.

He looks around and sees his friends with both parents together.

We said good-bye to a daycare he’s been at since he was 8 weeks old, where the owner slept over our house on Thanksgiving night to take care of his big brother while I gave birth to him.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in what’s going on with yourself and forget what the kids are going through.

Everything I’ve done in the past six months has been for my boys, yet the start of school reminds me of how fragile they really are.

It was pure torture for Biz to watch his big brother G start fourth grade while he had to wait to start kindergarten.

It was pure torture for me to get him to walk with us down the road to the school and get used to our new commute in the morning. We’d drop G off and then walk over to Biz’s school. A practice run to make sure I could get both to school on time.

I don’t know what Chinese water torture feels like, but I think it’s similar to walking with Biz to school. He dragged his feet behind us and complained the whole way, playing with sticks and acorns he found on the side of the road, as I yelled back to him that we had to keep moving. School had an actual schedule we had to adhere to.

When “family day” finally came, we waited for the bus together.


And we rode the bus together. His dad was there too. It was awkward, but it worked. We spent an hour at the school and then went back home. The next day, he went for a half day. We celebrated with lunch at Johnny Rockets, just me and my strong-willed boy.


Yesterday, he started his first full week of kindergarten. He was excited.

Just like his strong-willed mom. He may not like the process or the expectations, but he knew what he had to do. He walked into kindergarten and killed it. He enjoyed the bus, made a friend, and used the “colonel” at school (where you pee standing up in the boys room).


It wasn’t so bad after all.



Stopping for Fun and Gratitude

I’m writing this post as I sit on my comfy leather couch for the first time since moving into my new place. Sitting hasn’t been on the agenda as of late. I’ve been slowly moving since last Wednesday. We’re not closing on our old house until this Friday, so I have the luxury (or curse?) of time on my side.

We’ve got all the big stuff in our new house though. It’s really just small odds and ends and cleaning up the old house before saying goodbye to it. Bittersweet, I suppose, but I love my new place. It’s a much more manageable size for me and my boys, and we’ve got a playground that’s typically full of kids just steps from our backyard.

In the past few weeks, I’ve packed up my big old house, finalized a divorce, acknowledged what would have been my “firstborn’s” fourteenth birthday and an almost 14 year wedding anniversary, and moved into my new normal.

Who am I kidding? I am still moving into my new normal. And I’m enjoying every moment. Because even when the stress piles on and the to do list seems like it has no end, life is still pretty darn good.


A big New England blogger meetup with Bev from Linkouture, Tamara from Tamara Like Camera, and all our kiddos!

Sometimes you have to just stop and breathe. Or maybe just take off for a few days and meet up with some good bloggy friends and their kids. While I should have been packing, it was worth it to meet up with people whom I had only (with the exception of a quick meeting at BlogHer in Chicago) corresponded with online. And when we met in person, it was if we had known each other for years.

Of course, I couldn’t let summer go by without letting Biz ride on his very first big roller coaster. While I stood mildly terrified on the ground, he just made the height requirement. Had he worn different shoes, it might have been a different story.

It pays to stop for some fun every now and then.

canobielakecoasterDuring the chaos, I was also tagged on Facebook to do a five day gratitude challenge. While I’m not big on those type of challenges, I figured it was a good week to acknowledge my gratitude publicly. Gratitude is good for the soul after all.

Since last week was a blur, I decided to take a look at what I shared:

  1. My two amazing boys, who will always be my #1
  2. My inner strength, which has taken me further than I ever thought possible
  3. Those people in my life who “get it” (and still stick around even when they don’t)
  4. My furry boy, Kailua, who still gets mistaken for a puppy even though he’s 11
  5. Meaningful words and actions
  6. Knowing what happiness means for me
  7. Adventures new and old
  8. A big, comfy king-sized bed
  9. Good wine after a long day of shlepping boxes
  10. The ability to work for myself and follow my dreams
  11. Big opportunities
  12. Secret, non-judgmental Facebook groups with sinister hashtags
  13. Freedom
  14. Good, supportive friends near and far
  15. The amazing view from the high road

I’d say the list is pretty accurate.

While my brain continues to go in all directions, I am starting to settle down. And still stopping for fun every now and then. I’ll be back reading blogs and responding to your wonderful comments. I’ve missed you all this past week.

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