Saturday, December 28, 2013

Indoor Track Etiquette

The Olympic Oval, built for the 2002 Winter Games, has a 442 meter track that runs on the outside of the speed skating track.  I've been running there for the past few weeks – mostly to get out of the bad air.  Our little bowl here in the Rockies has this nasty tendency toward temperature inversions which trap polluted air here in the valley.  So far we've already had several days of “unhealthy” air – which means it’s bad enough just to breathe it normally.  Think of the gunk going into the lungs of runners trying to get enough of the oxygen molecules floating among the particulates to keep the muscles moving.  Ugh.

The Oval is about a 20 minute drive from my house.  I guess it’s kind of selfish to add to the bad air just so I don’t have to run in it.  I try not to think about that.  Running on the track is pleasant.  The air is always cool – thanks to the skating rink the track encircles.  Just before they closed the track for the US Speed Skating Trials, I was able to watch several USA speed skaters at practice.  They’re a lot faster than I am – just in case you were wondering.

Running on a track feels a little different than running on the roads or running on trails, but not so different that I feel I need to alter my technique in any way.   What I found I did need to learn was track etiquette.  I learned this the hard way – last Tuesday I was nearly knocked over by a much faster runner as we were both aiming for a break in the spectators at the same time.  Technically, the spectators shouldn't have been on the track, so there’s no etiquette rule for dodging people who wanted a closer view of the speed skaters.  Here, courtesy of Runners World, are the rules of the track.  The full article can be found at

1.  On most tracks, run counterclockwise.  If, like at the Olympic Oval, there are specific directions, follow them.  At the oval we run clockwise on Monday, Wednesday and Friday before noon; all other days/times we run counterclockwise.
2.  Run in the two outermost lanes – leaving the inner lanes for faster runners and runners doing speed work.
3.  Pass other runners on the right.  (It’s always a good idea to look before changing lanes)
4.  If you use an iPod, keep one ear free so you are aware of your surroundings and other runners attempting to pass you.

And of course, yield to the Zamboni.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Volunteering in Retirement

Many retirees look forward to a time when their time will permit more volunteer work.  If you’re looking at volunteering in retirement, let me tell you that it can be a most rewarding use of your time.  My last post featured one of my favorite projects of an organization I volunteer for, Soroptimist International.  Whether you've been a volunteer all your life or whether this is your first look at volunteering now that you’re retired, here are a few tips that I've learned along the way.

Find Your Passion
I've been passionate about issues involving women and girls for most of my adult life.  I’m passionate about issues such as education – particularly in science and technology, domestic violence prevention, and human trafficking.   Soroptimist, with a mission of improving the lives of women and girls in local communities and throughout the world, is the right match for me.  I've been a member of Soroptimist International for about 15 years now, so yes, I volunteered with them before I retired. 

I also chose the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program after I retired because helping people with their taxes and providing financial education is my husband’s passion.  It’s been great working alongside him as he shares his gift, and I’m finding that I help a lot of single moms through this program.

What’s your passion?  Animals?  Children?  Literacy?  Fitness?  Chances are good that there’s an organization waiting for you.  And if not, what’s stopping you from starting your own?

Set Limits
Determine within your own mind how much time you want to spend volunteering – and stick to it.  Once people learn of your desire to volunteer, you may be asked to do more than you are prepared for.  It’s OK to say “no” to activities that you’re really not passionate about, or that you just don’t want to do.

Honor Your Schedule
Determine not only how much time you want to spend volunteering, but when you want to spend that time.  Don’t allow your organization to infringe on time you’d rather spend elsewhere.  And believe me, they will try.  “You’re retired – can you do xxx?  None of us can get off work.”  If you really want to do xxx, by all means go for it, but don’t let them guilt you into doing something you don’t want to do because you’re the one that doesn't go to a paying job.

Honor Your Commitments
If you’re doing something you’re passionate about, this one is easy.  But I’ll say it anyway – if you commit to a project, participate.  If you commit to an event, be there.  If you commit to getting something done, do it.  If you can’t do something you committed to, let them know as soon as possible so they can replace you.  Volunteer organizations depend on their volunteers to accomplish their objectives; the volunteers that follow through are the ones that reap the benefits of volunteering.

Enjoy giving back!  You’ll find you gain far more than you give.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Single Moms Breakfast with Santa

For Salt Lake Soroptimists, the holiday season officially starts on the day we host the Single Moms’ Breakfast with Santa.  This year, our seventh, was no different.  On Saturday, December 7, SI SLC members and many other community volunteers turned West High School into a holiday wonderland for 160 single mothers and their 319 children. 

The Single Mom’s Breakfast with Santa is intended as a reward to single mothers who are doing something to improve their lives and the lives of their children.  We encourage these mothers to build holiday traditions with their children, as these traditions, more than the gifts; will be what the children will remember in years to come. 

Participants are invited to attend through our partner organizations which include the young parents programs at two alternative high schools, two drug rehab programs, and organizations which serve the working poor and refugees.

Breakfast was donated by CafĂ© Madrid.  Volunteers escorted the single mothers and their children to a linen-covered table where they were served their breakfast. 

After breakfast it was off to visit Santa and to get what for many of the mothers was the only photo they would have of their children this year.  Then the fun really began.  The children were escorted to the wrapping area by volunteer elves that helped them select and wrap gifts for their mothers.  The mothers were escorted to “Santa’s Secret Workshop,” where warm clothing purchased specifically for their children awaited, along with a huge selection of toys.  The mothers selected toys for their children, and volunteers helped them carry their packages out to their cars and out of the sight of their excited children.  Families were reunited, with children beaming with pride at the wrapped gifts they carried, and mothers breathing a sigh of relief that the financial stress of Christmas was over.  

We are proud of these single moms who are working so diligently and setting such a great example to their children.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Google, Wikipedia, and the Art of Writing

I usually research before I write.  Why?  Well, let’s just say I’m smart enough to know when I’m not smart enough to write about something with just the ideas floating around in my head.  Someday I may be an expert on something – but today is not that day.  Tomorrow’s not looking so good, either.

When I started my writing for fun and not very much profit 28 years ago, I was advised that every writer should have the following books on their bookshelves.  I dutifully bought them.

1.  A good dictionary.  I have Merriam-Webster, copyright 1974.
2.  Roget’s Thesaurus.  My copy is copyright 1980.
3.  Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, by John Bartlett, original copyright date 1882.  My copy is copyright 1980.

Fast forward 28 years and you’ll find these books collecting dust on a bookshelf in my husband’s office – I don’t even use them enough to justify moving them to my office.

Today, there are several online dictionaries – with the benefit of containing words that no one had even thought to have heard of in the 1980s.  Online dictionaries contain new words such as internet, webcast, cell phone and laptop, not to mention supermom and superglue.   And they contain old words with new meanings such as mouse, virus, blackberry and tablet.

Today, most word processing software has a built-in thesaurus.  So if I’m writing along and can’t think of the word I want, I just put in a similar word that I know I don’t want, and click on “Synonyms.”  Presto!  The software gives me a choice of half a dozen words that I could use in its place. 

And while I still refer to Bartlett’s from time to time – particularly if I’m looking for something Shakespearean – I  have to go to another source to find more recent quotes. 

My favorite other source, of course, is the World Wide Web.  Search engines can do marvelous things.  Some of these, such as Goodsearch, even contribute to charity for each search.  Seriously.  You sign up, choose your charity, and Goodsearch donates a penny a search.  Doesn't sound like much, but it all adds up.

With the ease of use and wealth of information comes a price, however.  As a user of the internet, I have to consider that not all sources are created equally, and that misinformation is as easy to find as true information.   Caveat emptor.