Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bike Ridin', Possible Foster Doggin' and the end of Google Readin'

It's hard to believe that July 4th is next week!

What happens on the 4th of July....

Winter lasted so long and then we finally had the Memorial Day weekend (and road trip) that announced the official arrival of summer and now it's time to put on the red, white and blue.  

Dear Summer,  

There is no need to rush so fast.    Slow down.   Sip some sangria.   Laze by the pool.


In traveling news, I now have a trip for the fall.  YAY!  Heading to the Caribbean again in November for a little sunshine.     And now on to other things happening this week:

Bike Ridin'

In the mean time, this weekend is the Colorado Bike MS.   3000 cyclists hitting the road to raise a few million for the Colorado-Wyoming chapter.   The highlight of day 1 is seeing the awesomeness that is our team tent in Ft. Collins.    The highlight of day 2 is crossing the finish line and getting a cold drink.    Last year was insanely hot.   I think this year it's only going to be moderately hot.  

Possible Foster Doggin'

I've been dog-less for almost 9 months.   I'm not sure if I'm ready to adopt another dog, but I have gone to the orientation training to foster service dogs on the weekends.   More to come, but it seems like a good opportunity.    

The End of Google Readin'

Google Reader is shutting down July 1.    I've been using it to follow blogs for the past few years, especially catching up while on the train to work in the morning.   I'm going to start by trying out Bloglovin'.   It's been recommended by other bloggers that I follow, so I think that's a good place to start.   

A few quick questions for the comments...
1.  How hot is it where you are?
2.  Have you ever been a dog foster parent?
3.  What site do you use to catch up on your blog reading?
4.  What are you doing for the 4th of July?

Follow on Bloglovin

Monday, June 24, 2013

Two Years Ago in Israel

I'm glad that I keep a travel journal.   It lets me pinpoint exactly when I went somewhere.   And how young  and immature (or older and worldly), I was when I went there.  I can tell that just by my commentary.  

I knew that two years ago in June I went to Israel.  
Then I bust out the journal and I know that I actually arrived in Israel two years ago today.

On day 1 we got to put our toes in the sand 
on the shores of the Mediterranean
These guys were having even more fun

And our hotel was at the Mount of Beatitudes 
with a view of the Sea of Galilee

And I ate these by the plateful...

If you want to learn more about Israel, read one or more of these posts:

Wellshire Pilgrimage to Israel
June 23-24: Denver to Galilee
June 25: In and Around Galilee
June 26: Cana, Nazareth, and the River Jordan
June 27: Galilee to Jericho
June 28: Jericho, Dead Sea and Bethlehem
June 29: Following the Palm Sunday Path
June 29: Ancient Stairs and the Upper Room
June 30: The Wall & The Rock
July 1: Holy Sepulchre and the Return to Palestine

Have you traveled to Israel ?    What did you enjoy most?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

No Body Snark Saturday

Wearing bike shorts immediately humbles you.



Every spring I put these sexy things on to prepare for Bike MS.   And every year there are pictures.  
You're hot.   You're sweaty.  You're sore and just want a beer snow cone.  

Pictures.   After biking.   It's all there.  Out there.   

And then I realize that in spite of the spandex it's pretty damn amazing to ride that far.   

2 days and 150 miles later...

On Thursday, Sally over at Unbrave Girl had a great post: "The No Body-Snark Diet and Full-Length Photo Challenge."   She's hilarious and you should definitely hop over and read a few (like this one about Buzz Ballz...among other things).     To join in the fun, I present a few full-length photos to celebrate being awesomely myself, and being able to things like:


Or, when it gets real wild...

There you have it.    Find a full length photo of yourself and get to sharing.  
Have a body snark free weekend!

Friday, June 14, 2013

How to Volunteer (part 3): Leave the Country

Is volunteering a regular part of your life? Can you think back to the last time you served someone? Are you looking forward to the next time? Are you ready to do it for the first time?

Volunteering has become such a part of the American landscape that most high schools have a community service requirement. Whether you are 12 or 82 you can get involved in your community or the world at large. Looking to find your way?

This is the third post in a series of How to Volunteer.
If you want to read the first post first or the second post second, go right ahead.   If you're feeling crazy and want to start with this one, go right ahead.  

Leave the Country

If you tell someone that you want to do volunteer work abroad there are a variety of different responses you might get
Option A:  That's awesome.  Can I go?
Option B:  Why are you going to another country to volunteer?   There are plenty of people here that need help.
Option C:  Why are you going there?  Is it safe?   I heard about ___________ in _________on the news.

Hopefully you'll get support and encouragement Option A style.   But you want to be prepared to react to someone who isn't as excited about your international adventure in service.    
Personal example:  Before I went to Thailand I heard option C at work: "I heard about the riots at the airport in Thailand."   That was true.    But I had a riot-free adventure while I was there.

How to respond to Option B?   Be honest about your reasons that you want to go abroad (culture, language, adventure, faith, etc).   If you're thinking about this kind of trip, you probably already volunteer locally. 
International volunteer opportunities fall into two categories:  It Finds You and You Find It.

It Finds You

I've gone on international volunteer trips to Costa Rica, Mexico (x3), Guatemala, and Thailand.   Thailand was the only trip that I searched for and planned from start to finish.   The five other trips happened through church and friends.   Your networks are the easiest way for this experience to happen organically.   
Usually the destination and project has already been determined by someone else.   A good friend is going to Cambodia later this year on a volunteer trip.    A year and a half ago if you would have asked her if she had any interest in visiting Asia she would have said no.   Then she heard a guest speaker and did her research.    Now she's bouncing off the walls in excitement.  

The trips that found me - and who I traveled with:
Costa Rica - a spring break mission trip in college - we taught VBS at a variety of small churches
Mexico 1 & 2 - my church in Indianapolis had a partnership with a church in Playa del Carmen - more VBS....can I say that I love juegos (games)?
I love games.  Anytime.  Anywhere.
Mexico 3 - a friend worked for a water non-profit, Healing Waters International, and we went to learn about their organization and did volunteer projects while learning about the local area and culture
Guatemala - a youth mission trip with Habitat for Humanity's Global Village...and a one day project with Healing Waters

You Find It

If a trip hasn't sought you out (yet), you can start looking for opportunities that fit where you want to go, what you want to do, and how much you want to spend (international volunteering is not free - more on that below).

First - ask friends or family who have done international volunteer work.   Where did they go?  Who did they work with?  Did they like it?   If you don't have a personal connection, start with a simple search for "international volunteer" and see what comes up.   Identify an international non-profit or relief organization and check to see if they have volunteer or educational trips.   You should thoroughly research any organization you decide to volunteer with, possibly check references of people who have traveled with that organization and consider the following:
  • What will you be doing?
  • Do you need to speak the local language?
  • What in-country support is provided?
  • How many hours per day will you be working?
  • Are you working in partnership with locals or working alone (or just with your group)?
  • Will you have a chance to explore local attractions, festivals or learn about the culture?  (one of my best memories on Mexico #3 was dancing at "Marimba Park" along with the local community out to enjoy the band)
Bring on the marimbas!

A cause that you already support is a good jumping off point.   A friend who sponsors a Compassion child was able to travel with them to the Phillipines a few years ago. 

In 2008 I decided I wanted to take a month off to volunteer and after doing some research and reading through other volunteer's blogs, I decided on Cross Cultural Solutions.    What I liked was that they offered housing, meals, cultural activities, language lessons and established work sites.  Every volunteer program is different.   Some offer a lot of support (you might even say "hand holding") and others are more self guided and require you to take the lead.  

International Volunteering is not Free

Let's just put that out there.   Deciding to do international volunteer work is not free.   Or cheap. 
  • You usually have to fly there
  • You have to pay for lodging, meals and transportation
  • You often pay a program fee or make a charitable donation
  • You want to do fun things while you're there (this includes eating a lot of ice cream)
I recently researched a 5 day trip that I would like to take with an organization that I believe in.   Let me say that I could take a 7 day Caribbean cruise (including airfare from Denver) for about half the cost.

The type of organizations that you go to help are on a budget.   Volunteers help gets the work done as well as promoting international understanding and community.   The relationships you build are as important as the project you are doing.    The majority of work should done by local volunteers so that the community is commited (Habitat is a great example).  

If you plan ahead, there are opportunities to fundraise.   If you're working through a US non-profit, friends, family and complete strangers can often make tax deductible donations towards your trip.   You can learn more from the organization you're working with.   Have a bake sale, work a side job, ask for your birthday presents to go towards your volunteer adventure - there are a lot of options if you're willing to do the work.   Whenever I've traveled with church groups, fundraisers are a part of the program and help defray the costs.

Think about it.   Research it.   Then ask yourself...     
Should I do it? 

You won't be sorry.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Three Museums for Under $10 in Albuquerque

I can't say that we planned to hit any museums on our New Mexico road trip, but it happened.   As we were waiting to take our ghost tour, we saw a sign about the Rattlesnake Museum.     We didn't know that was even an option.  

But how can you not?   I don't know if there is another such museum in all the world.   And it's small.   You've spent $5 on coffee or ice cream, so why not spend it to learn about snakes that are unique to North and South America?

Actual rattlesnake in all its rattle-y glory
Prior to hitting the Rattlesnake Museum, we spent a cool air-conditioned hour at the Balloon Museum for a big $4.    Since we weren't there during the Balloon Festival, it was an opportunity to learn about the history of hot air ballooning and about the festival itself (I think I read that it is the biggest international sports festival in the world...or something like that).   

Just when we thought that we were done we discovered while waiting in line to take the tram up Sandia Peak that they house the New Mexico Ski Museum.  And it's free!  It's also really small, so you probably wouldn't seek it out unless you were planning to take the tram.    And there is a chair for photo ops.  Who wouldn't want a photo?

The chair!
 There you go.   Some quick, easy, affordable museums that won't tax your attention span while still allowing you to learn something.    You'll still have money for ice cream.  Or margaritas. 


Who cares about snakes?   I took a picture of THIS sign

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Changing Face of Youth Mission Trips


Building Houses in Guatemala - 2010
It's Sunday morning.   I'm drinking my coffee.  
And checking the progress of the 2013 youth mission trip via Twitter.    
Live updates as the mission team heads to Chicago by (slow-moving) train.
(the time machine travels back 20+ years....)
It makes me think back to my first youth mission trip from Wisconsin to Ontario, Canada.    I was in 6th grade.    We drove via carpool.   At each rest stop you had to switch cars so that you would meet new people.   Each car had a CB radio to keep in touch.  Mom knew I was having a good time because I sent her a postcard.      
Some things don't change.   Kids are excited to go away from home.  They stay up late at night.  Everyone gets dirty and doesn't care.  Uno is back in style.   Girls take a break from wearing makeup.
Some things do change.   Technology is the big one.   Kids are asked to leave their cell phones at home.   The goal is to be 100% in the moment with the people you are serving. 
The important thing?  Kids taking time off in the summer to serve others. 
Did you go on a mission trip as a kid?   Or as an adult?   What was your best experience serving others?     

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sandia Peak at Sunset

On our New Mexico road trip we got a lot of recommendations on things to see and do and eat.   All three of us had been to NM before, so we enjoyed trying new places and activities.   One of the volunteers at Tamaya Horse Rehab had recommended taking the Sandia Peak Tram to watch the sunset.  We got on the tram somewhere between 7 and 7:30pm and got to enjoy the sunset in full glory from the top.   
Random piece of trivia:  Sandia means watermelon in Spanish.   The sun washes the peak this beautiful watermelon red color.    I learned this fun fact on day 1 and was able to bust it out more than once to impress people the rest of the weekend.  
Two useful things to know about the tram:
  • You are going up to the top of the mountain.  10,378 feet to be exact.  A place where people ski in the winter.   It is about 30 degrees cooler than the hot desert climate at the base.  At the base it's hot.  You're wearing your summer play clothes.   You might even be sweating and turning the same watermelon red color as the mountain.    You think: there is no way that I will be cold at the top of Sandia Peak.  Think again.  Considering wearing pants.   Definitely bring sleeves.  When the sun goes down (like it does every night), the temp drops dramatically.    You will be a sad traveler in your shorts, tank top and flip flops when this happens. 
  • The tram comes every 15-20 minutes.    We went up on the Sunday night of a holiday weekend.   They told us before we ever went up that it was an hour to hour and a half wait to come down.    Plan to do something at the top.   Take a picnic.  Read a book.  Soak in the beauty.  Go for a hike.   Pose for silly prom-style family pictures.   Grab a cocktail at High Finance.    It may be a waste of your $20 (per person) to wait to go up, take 3 sunset photos and then wait to go down, all while doing the "I'm freezing cold dance" in your summer clothes. 
Where is your favorite place to watch the sunset?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

How to Volunteer (part 2): Get Out of Town

Is volunteering a regular part of your life? Can you think back to the last time you served someone? Are you looking forward to the next time? Are you ready to do it for the first time?

Volunteering has become such a part of the American landscape that most high schools have a community service requirement. Whether you are 12 or 82 you can get involved in your community or the world at large. Looking to find your way?

This is the second post in a series of How to Volunteer
If you want to read the first post first, I'm not going to stop you.   I'm also not going to enforce any rules or tell people that you didn't go in order.    This could be your small rebellion for the day. 
Get Out of Town 
Where were you on 9/11?    Do you remember taking (or wanting to take) action to help?   I was off work that day and while running errands in Reno, stopped by the blood donation center.   They had a line out the door and could not take any more donors.     They told me that the need for blood would continue and could I come back in a week or two?
Think back a few weeks to the first tornado that hit Moore, OK (there has been another tornado in OK since then...and probably more to come).  Almost immediately you could make a financial donation.   But what about a donation of time and service?  One organization that I follow on Facebook, Mercy Chefs, deployed their mobile kitchen within 24 hours.   And they were looking for volunteers from Oklahoma and neighboring states who could assist. 
When disasters strike in the US, people want to help right away.   Even if they don't know what to do or where to go.   If you already have ties to a service organization (ie, you're already a trained volunteer with Red Cross), you may have the inside scoop on helping on the ground right away.    Often, if you are not close by, the easiest way you can help is by making a financial donation.   For some people, that fits the need to help.   Others are looking for a way to donate their time and skills.   So how can you get out of town to volunteer?
Relief / Services organizations say they don't need any more volunteers right now.   Now what? 
Don't think that your gift of time, talent or energy isn't needed if you can't get in on the "action" when a situation first occurs.     In many cases volunteer help is needed for weeks, months, and even years after the incident. 
After any national disaster, the rebuilding takes time.  Volunteers are needed long after the news coverage ends.    Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.    In 2008, I went with a group from my church to New Orleans and volunteered with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.    The need was still great.   People would stop us in the Home Depot parking lot to ask how they could get assistance from volunteers.   That was two and half years after the hurricane.   
One of the houses we worked on in 2008 - New Orleans
In 2012 Team Effort had youth work/mission camps in Joplin, MO all summer to help with tornado recovery and rebuilding from the tornado in 2011.   It wouldn't surprise me if next year they have camps in Oklahoma to help with the same.   (read about our mission experience in Joplin here).
How to Find Opportunities
Often it's easier to volunteer in a group with like-minded individuals - especially if you are wanting to travel to volunteer.  Many hands make light work as the proverb goes.   This could be with your church, a civic organization, or a school group.   Look to see what connections you may already have in the location you'd like to go.    Does your company have a store/branch/office there?  Does your community or social group have a chapter there?   Do you have a sister church there?  
These contacts are on the ground and can better assist you to find out what help is needed and where.   You might be thinking about running a clothing drive.   Your friend/colleague who lives there might tell you that gift cards to grocery stores and gas stations are what is needed.
Relief and Service organizations may have information posted on their websites as well.   Red Cross has a detailed page on all the ways to volunteer.   
Plan Ahead 
Take the time to research the location, the people you want to serve, and what the needs are.   Often, volunteers need to bring supplies or donations, as well as raising funds for travel.    The bigger the group, the more time you'll probably need.   How will you get there?   Where will you stay?  How will you get around?   What do you need to bring?  Do you need skilled labor or just willing hands?  The time you spend in planning is worth it.   
Start a Family Tradition
A friend once told me that she and her family try to find a way to volunteer in some capacity, even if it's just for an hour or two, every time they go on vacation.  It's a chance to meet people they wouldn't normally meet on vacation and a chance to reinforce the value of service with their children.    Maybe it's playing with animals at the shelter.   Participating in a park cleanup.   Serving food at a soup kitchen.    She said that sometimes finding a task was easy...and sometimes it required a lot of creativity.    
Volunteers are Needed.  Consistently. 
You don't have to wait for a disaster to get outside your comfort zone to serve in another city or state. Food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, children's programs, and home building/repair take place daily in cities all over the country.   You just need to say, "How can I help?"
Have you ever volunteered in another city or state?  
Where did you go?  What did you do?  How did you get involved? 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Albuquerque Ghost Tour

A full moon ghost tour deserves to be shot in dramatic black and white!

As we drove down the long, lonely highway that is I-25, we made a stop at the New Mexico visitor center in Raton.    A brochure that caught our eye was for a ghost tour in Albuquerque.   Even better - they had late night tours when there was a full moon.   How convenient for us.  
This is how we like to learn our history.
In the dark.   By lantern light.  
Old Town gets pretty quiet when the sun goes down.   Even more so by 10pm.   We met our guide, Meredith,  right off the plaza.    There were two other groups that departed at the same time.  We never saw them again.   Scarlet, Elizabeth, the Hatchet Lady and the Lady in Black: these were the stories we heard.  Houses of ill-repute (or negotiated affection), saloons, churches, cemeteries, and things hidden in plain sight all were part of the experience.  
This was my first ghost tour.
If the opportunity to go on one again in another city, I'm in.
I have to say, I'm now a fan.  
If you're visiting Albuquerque, say yes to Ghost Tours of Old Town
 Have you ever been on a ghost tour or haunted history tour?   Which cities are a must? 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

How to Volunteer (part 1): Find Your Cause and Work Backward

Is volunteering a regular part of your life?   Can you think back to the last time you served someone?   Are you looking forward to the next time?   Are you ready to do it for the first time?

Volunteering has become such a part of the American landscape that most high schools have a community service requirement.    Whether you are 12 or 82 you can get involved in your community or the world at large.   Looking to find your way?   

This is the first post in a series of How to Volunteer

Find a Cause and Work Backward

Start by asking yourself this question:  What am I passionate about?
Cancer research and funding?   Helping children learn to read?   Finding forever homes for rescue dogs?  Feeding the homeless?   Job Coaching?  Building/repairing houses?  Children or youth at your place of worship? 

Every cause under the sun has a non-profit.   And every non-profit needs volunteers to get things done so that their operating budget can go towards their goal.   I recently went to a volunteer orientation for a service dog program in Denver.     They told us how thankful they were to have a volunteer came in every week to file.   Yes, that's right.  File.   Non-profits need people to file, answer phones, stuff envelopes, raise money and advocate for the cause at community events.   They also need people to volunteer for their big fundraising or community events.

Step 1: Find a Cause

Step 2: Do Your Research
Talk to someone who works or volunteers at the organization.   Facebook stalk the organization to see what they have going on.   Read through their website.   Many non-profits have a link on their home page that will say either volunteer or get involved.

Step 3: Do It
You need to make the call, send the email, or sign up for the event.   Until you take this step, it's just a nice idea "well, I thought about helping with ______."  If you're nervous about doing something alone, recruit a friend or family member to do it with you.   Remember, you picked this organization, cause, or event because you believe in what they are doing and you want to be a part of it.  And the other volunteers?   They believe the same thing.  Nothing scary about it.    

Ready to Go?
Need a starting off point?  The links below are for events that may be happening in your city this summer or fall.    Most big fundraising walks, runs and rides need a lot of volunteers.   The first year that I volunteered for the Colorado Bike MS, I was taking bikes off school buses and putting them in the bike corral.   How do you handle 3000 cyclists and their bikes?   Volunteers. 

What does a Bike Corral look like?
Now you know

Use these links to find an event in your area and consider signing up to volunteer.

Susan G Komen - Race for the Cure
Leukemia and Lymphoma Society - Light the Night
American Cancer Society - Relay for Life
American Diabetes Association - Step Out for Diabetes
National MS Society - Walk MS or Bike MS
March of Dimes - March for Babies
Alzheimer's Association - Walk to End Alzheimers

Where do you volunteer?


Related Posts with Thumbnails