Life Lessons I am Learning from a 12 year-old

My life is hectic. Between running must! charities, raising two high school teenagers (which entails keeping up with their crazy schedules), keeping a home organized, investing in my marriage, and investing in friends & family… it’s busy, busy, busy. It’s not often that I slow the pace down enough to be able to enjoy all that is before me. A pace I long for often, but truly don’t put the effort into making it really happen unless I’m on vacation in a remote place where I am forced to “un-plug”

or…  spending the day with my little sister.

I’ve been paired with my little sister, through Big Brothers Big Sisters, for over a year now. I can’t begin to tell you the life lessons she is teaching me every time we are together.  When I am with her I am committed to focusing all my attention on her.  I need to invest in her, because I am her mentor and it’s important that I give her my 100%.

Twice a month I pick my little sister up from school and we hang out. This week was a bonus because she had a minimum school day – which meant more time for fun (and homework too).  We had the whole day planned.  It entailed going through the “golden arches” drive thru – not my favorite, but it was her choice so I obliged on some salty fries, a soda and a burger. We drove out to Chapel Hill for a picnic lunch. It was the perfect day for a picnic – puffy white clouds, sunshine, and a slight breeze. We began the hike to the top of the hill – stopping to admire the views on the way up (an excuse for me to catch my breath – she’s smart… she caught on and giggled). Once at the top we enjoyed our lunch together and talked about the wildflowers in the distance, how green the hills are right now, her grades in school, what she observes on her campus and how kids treat each other, what she thinks she wants to be when she grows up, and all kinds of other things.  She asks me a million questions about life, about what I studied in school, and about what I think about decisions she might make in her future.

She is not a fast eater… so, when we enjoy a meal together it is a time to be still and talk. To breathe deeply. To notice all that is around us. I am so very thankful for this time.  It is a time when I am reminded of how I should live life. Present in the moment, peaceful and un-hurried. It is so good for my soul.

The best part of it all, my little sister has no idea of this gift she gives me each time we are together. It is how she rolls when we are together.  She takes her time with things and has a calm, kind spirit about her, which radiates out and is contagious. Maybe her daily life is hectic too, and we’re good for each other.

We enjoyed the afternoon taking cool pictures of our surroundings, then off for a swim and later played rounds of Uno and Blink – two of her favorite card games.  The time flies by, and I have to take her home. We chat in the car about what we should do the next time – “Rainbow Grilled Cheese Sandwich” making (thank you Pinterest) and a painting project with Emma (my oldest daughter who teaches both of us how to paint).

So thankful for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, but most importantly for the little sister I get to invest in… though often I feel like it’s the other way around – such an amazing gift!

Must! Charities Youth Board Gives Back

On Saturday, February 25th the must! charities youth board took time out of their busy schedules to give back by volunteering at the Food Bank Coalition of SLO County. This group of high school students not only gave up a Saturday, but also got up early to give back. Raising two teenagers myself I can assure you, this is a huge commitment from them, and there was not a single complaint.

Prior to the actual volunteer time, the group was given a personal tour of The Food Bank’s new digs. The best part of the tour was the tour guide herself, Caroline. Not only was Caroline super informative and knowledgeable about the Food Bank, but also her history of volunteering with a food bank in Nebraska while attending college was something each of these students could relate to. You see, half of these students are seniors in high school and will be going off to college next year and all of them have a heart for philanthropy. You could see their eyes light up as they were processing internally what that might look like for them next year.

Caroline did a fantastic job relating to our youth board. Caroline had attended high school on the central coast, and I had to ask her to share how she ended up working for the Food Bank. I’m always curious how people end up where they are, and Caroline’s story did not disappoint. Her story was one of a willingness to volunteer, not wanting to just sit around and do nothing, while looking for a full time job after graduating from college. One thing led to another upon an initial inquiry meeting about volunteering opportunities and she happened to be a perfect candidate for a job opening at The Food Bank. Boom! This lesson alone was so valuable for our youth to hear.

The tour consisted of a walk through the new office space, and every so often a stop to chat about the many programs our food bank offers, the people in our community who are being served (over 46,000).  The obstacles of serving people in need, as well as over a million pounds of food our Food Bank gives out each year. So much information was given and it was all AMAZING to hear about.  Members of our youth board had questions for Caroline, and she addressed each question with detail in a way that made sense for each of them. Trust me, she nailed it including questions referring to government regulations which she delivered eloquently, concise and with ease.

Then it was off to the rather chilly warehouse, where we connected with other community volunteers to give of our time. We had several tasks that were to be done. I was super excited to hear about a new program at the Food Bank for the homeless – this was our first task, to prep mini bags of ready to consume, healthy products for our own homeless population. Our team gathered the items and had an assembly line going and the task was done in an efficient amount of time, all while having fun together.

From there we were given the task of sorting items that had been donated from the community. So many “teachable moments” given to our youth about how sorting for one person looks different than sorting to another. Lots of conversations taking place about how people live differently and probably all sort their kitchen items differently too. The team sorted and re-sorted someone else’s prior effort to sort (is salad dressing and pasta sauce used the same in someone’s house… maybe?) Albeit the crew worked hard and guidance from Caroline was key – as they asked a million questions wanting to be certain they were sorting correctly to her standards. The best part of sorting was when one of our team came across a boxed cake mix. Caroline stopped the crew and educated us on the standards of healthy food choices that our local Food Bank lives by. Cue the applause, because not all Food Banks have the same standards and my hat goes off to ours for their efforts in this area.  In fact, Caroline pointed out a bin labeled with another county’s name on it (I’m not going to rat them out in this blog), but it was filled with a bunch of non-healthy food choices. The best part… our food bank trades with them. They get the junk and we get fresh produce in exchange. That’s a huge WIN in my book.

As our time came to an end, much faster than we anticipated because time flies when you are having fun. We posed for a photo out with the Food Bank’s Cow. Then we went to lunch, because when you are volunteering around food for several hours, you get hungry. We chatted over a meal about everything the team learned that day and we discussed how amazing our local food bank really is and how fortunate our community is to have them operate the way they do. We also talked about how much joy can be found in giving back. It feels good to give. Several members of the youth board asked if we could come back. I assured them they didn’t need me to come back, now that they know what to do they have the tools to make it happen on their own. A smile crept ear to ear as I overheard them chatting about how they should get together once a month and drive down and make it happen. I was stoked to hear them plan their next day of volunteering together at The Food Bank… the seed was planted and I can’t wait to see it grow.

Bottom line. I would highly recommend volunteering at The Food Bank Coalition. You will not only walk away with knowledge about our community and The Food Bank, but you will feel good about giving back. Grab a friend and put in a couple hours there, you won’t regret it. Opportunities to volunteer are always there for anyone 16 years or older, and sometimes family days are available too. Check out more about The Food Bank Coalition at

If you know of a high school student who might be interested in serving on our youth board, direct them to our website at  Applications for 2017-18 school year will be available in April.

Match Story: Little Brother Blye and Big Brother Steve

Big Brother Stephen and Little Brother Blye love to shoot archery together. They like to visit the San Luis Obispo Sportsman’s Association, or SLOSA, to practice their aim while having a good time together.  Want to make a difference?  Consider being a Big Brothers Big Sister – find out more HERE.