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Still yet even more "I'm not looking for a job but..."
Old 07-31-2010, 09:00 PM   #1
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Still yet even more "I'm not looking for a job but..."

Over the years I've posted on "not looking for a job"...
... but now it's happened to spouse.

Spouse has been semi-ER since at least 2001 and she fully ER'd from the Navy Reserve two years ago, but she's spent the last few years volunteering for a non-profit. (It's a tiny niche that most people have never heard of, and its mission is not germane to this post.) It operates nationwide but its HQ is on the Mainland. Spouse's impression of the HQ staff is that they're not paid enough to retain the employees they need, let alone the skilled and the decision makers. Their turnover is exceedingly high for everyone except the completely incompetent. HQ is thus very bad at maintaining processes, providing templates for reports, keeping historical records, and at delegating. The front-line troops have a very low opinion of the REMFs but so far spouse has enjoyed completing the mission more than she's been frustrated by HQ.

Spouse was initially recruited specifically to make decisions on Oahu. (The HQ execs have decided that they can't properly do it from the Mainland.) Her duties, a couple hours a week, involve recruiting more local volunteers and working with the non-profit's "beneficiaries". Her specialty is bringing order out of chaos, she has a lot of street cred with the beneficiaries, and she's staying on the island instead of moving frequently. However the minute she began doing what she does so well she started running into HQ disagreements over what needs to be done, what she wants to do, and what HQ "allows" her to do. It's all too typical for spouse to tell HQ that something needs to happen within 48 hours, only for HQ to respond that it won't happen-- or to not respond at all. Admittedly the non-profit's top donor is a major corporation which avoids fraud/waste by only sending out the non-profit's products when HQ provides them with the beneficiary's name/mailing address. Unfortunately HQ's "process" means the beneficiary has to jump through a number of hoops before getting on the mailing list, and that can frequently turn into a time-sensitive crisis. Spouse wants to train her beneficiaries on her own and have a few units of HQ's packages stored in our garage for her to hand out when appropriate, but we are beginning to realize that HQ may never value their volunteers that much.

Spouse is reimbursed for her expenses, but she doesn't want the money. (She doesn't need it, either.) However if she turned down the money then she'd screw up a good deal for the rest of the nation's volunteers. So she takes the money and anonymously donates it back to the non-profit. I don't think they've recognized the correlation between what they reimburse her and what is anonymously donated.

Last month the CEO visited Oahu for a meet & greet. Spouse spent a couple of runaround days one-on-one with the CEO getting her to VIP calls, presenting Oahu's unique needs, and explaining how she really wants to volunteer her time. The CEO finally said "We'd like to make you a full member of the team!" and offered her a 15 hour/week job. Clearly the CEO recognizes talent when she sees it, but she does not recognize the ER mindset. Spouse said she'd accept the job, but only for 10 hours/week. The CEO started to ask about salary but spouse said "I'd rather talk about training me to handle everything else and then giving me the authority to do what needs to be done around here." CEO happily agreed.

Now spouse has been elevated to the status of a paid member of HQ who happens to do her duties on Oahu. She doesn't want/need that money, either, but she doesn't want to screw up a good deal for any other volunteers who might someday also be hired like this. She's planning to put her W-2 salary in her Roth IRA and then anonymously donate that amount from taxable accounts back to the organization.

She's traveling to that Mainland HQ next month to be certified to give the training, and maybe she'll persuade them to give her a few packages for the garage. However she's already regretting that she once again has a job. It's not the organization or its HQ staff-- those issues would exist whether she's an employee or a volunteer. The problem is that she's gone from being a "valued volunteer" to being a valued headcount. She's become a Dilbert.

The corporate philosophy appears to value volunteers more than employees. They have to or they wouldn't have any volunteers. However they appear to be paying their employees to waste their time on "mandatory briefings" and administrivia instead of actually accomplishing the mission, let alone supporting the front-line volunteers.

"Dilbert" started the minute the CEO got back to HQ. Spouse was supposed to be given VPN access to the HQ's network and its legendary database. This required nearly an entire afternoon on the phone with IT support, who has never had to configure the network in this manner and who certainly didn't want to do it with Firefox or Safari instead of IE8. (Hey, he's lucky we still have a Windows computer.) Then there's the issue of HQ doing everything in the latest version of MS Office, which spouse does not have, and using OpenOffice converters to read Office documents. A few hours later when she was finally granted access to the database, she found out that its files are either empty or filled with crap. No written procedures or "how to" manuals, no corporate history, no templates, no e-mail archives. But, hey, she has access!

Next she was "assigned" an HQ e-mail address, which of course is already part of HQ's e-mail groups. This was intended to be a good idea, just like adding her to the network, but it took her a few days to realize that HQ staff had stopped sending to her volunteer's personal e-mail address that she's been using with them for the last few years. I guess instead of reading her Gmail she was expected to log into the HQ VPN and read her "corporate" address with Outlook? So it took her another few days to get HQ staff to go back to her Gmail e-mail address. There's some residual HQ whining that she won't be able to read the group e-mails about 401(k)s and performance reviews and the menu for the HQ picnic. I predict that every new HQ employee will default to her network e-mail address instead of her "real" e-mail address. But if she has enough authority to do her job without them then she might not need to read their e-mail anyway.

Two days later HQ's inch-thick envelope arrived in the snail mail. Oboy, it contained her job application and her HR package! (HR has been outsourced to another company who shall also be nameless.) The first sheet she pulled out of the package was the signature page to acknowledge the company's sexual harassment policy, something that apparently volunteers weren't eligible to know. She had a good time filling out the package's cover page, but it turned into drudgery when it got to the W-4, the state tax HW-4, and the DHS I-9. (Ironically she's now being paid to endure 10 hours/week of this drudgery.) She filled out the parts she cared about and decided that HR could live without the rest. A couple hours later, hoping to drag HR into the 21st century, she scanned in her forms and e-mailed them. The (outsourced) HR clerk has not been amused at actually having to print & file her own copies instead of getting signed originals. HR is extremely skeptical of our claims that neither spouse nor I have cell phones or work phone numbers. Spouse was also required to scan in her driver's license and her military ID to "prove" her employability, which apparently was never required when she was a mere valued volunteer.

Spouse does not tolerate fools gladly, and she blew a small gasket when HR "required" her to submit a file copy of her resume with work/school history. (What if they review her resume and decide she's no longer qualified for the job?!?) "I don't have a resume, I'm retired" was also met with disbelief. Eventually the HR clerk was referred to the CEO to decide what's legally necessary and what's just "HR policy".

Another HQ staffer helpfully informed spouse how to dial in for the weekly (two-hour-plus) conference call. Volunteers would never put up with this, but valued employees are expected to be alert for any pearls of wisdom that HQ staff may mention as they recount their weekly efforts to a spellbound audience. Spouse told HQ that our AT&T calling card doesn't support conference calls. And, no, she doesn't have a cell phone with free nationwide calls, do they have a problem with that? Thank you.

Thank goodness that spouse is below the threshold for medical benefits and 401(k)s. I've never read an employee manual before, but I was not impressed by this one.

I feel sorry for HQ. They expect to be training spouse, but when she arrives in HQ I bet that more training flows from her to them. I wonder if the CEO is trying to tell her HQ staff something about supporting the front-line troops. I wonder if they're going to send her a network-access-ready laptop with all the right software, and a cell phone programmed to dial into the weekly conference call. Our tax-free donations at work, folks.

Spouse still doesn't know how much she's being paid. Whatever it is, it's not worth it.
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Old 07-31-2010, 09:51 PM   #2
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I read Phillip Greenspun's essays on the realities of ER and how #$%*%ed up the management of all charities are. Believing that the man knew what he was talking about, I have kept my relationship with such organizations mostly limited to me sending them some money. However, I will remember this story in case I should, at some future time, lose my mind and decide that I want to volunteer to any degree beyond the occasional grunt work / delivery driver.

This reminds me that I really need to get off my can and write those letters to several of the charities I support letting them know that spending all that money on cute little ways to try and get me to send them more money is just a huge waste. I have a budget for such things, and if you make me think you're stupidly wasting my money I may have to cross you off the list.

So, when does the missus tell the CEO the details of how upgefu$ked her staff is? Should we start a pool?

BTW, it appears that Greenspun is getting grumpier on the subject of charities and waste. His most recent missive here: http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/philg/2...ations-end-up/
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Old 07-31-2010, 10:02 PM   #3
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A great way to check out charities is looking at them on Guidestar. You can pull up their tax returns which, IMHO, is a wonderful way to cut through the bull and see what's really going on. They may gloss things over with the donors, volunteers and supporters. With the IRS, however, generally not so much.
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Old 07-31-2010, 10:43 PM   #4
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Oh...I just had to laugh and shake my head reading your post Nords. Bless her heart, she's just trying to do the right thing...now it's pilin' up on her.

Megacorp tried to get me to come back to work a few times. The last time it was a two month gig that paid very well. My old boss told me all about it and said I would report to one of his managers. Sounded pretty good...until....

"Be sure to have your resume updated with references. Once this is completed, you have to sign up with ABC temp agency; they will interview you and set you up in their system. Then you need to take a drug test and possibly a physical. Once that is completed, you'll have to be interviewed by my manager and we will notify you if/when you can start."

Uhhhh...no thanks.
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Old 08-01-2010, 12:51 AM   #5
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Sorry to hear about the hoops she has to jump through....

But the I-9 is federal and is required for all employees... or else you pay a fine... heck, I had never filled one out myself as I had been employed (or bought) by the same company for 23 years before they decided to kick me out... who knew


One of the big problems with a charity is that someone that is a powerful person that gets to the top can stay there and milk it.. they get their friends on the board etc... since no shareholders, nobody to really report to.... sad how some people take advantage of that....
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Old 08-01-2010, 08:27 AM   #6
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Yet further evidence that no good deed shall go unpunished.

Reminds me of why I retired. I loved the work but got too frustrated with management's foolishness.
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Old 08-01-2010, 09:41 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Leonidas View Post
This reminds me that I really need to get off my can and write those letters to several of the charities I support letting them know that spending all that money on cute little ways to try and get me to send them more money is just a huge waste. I have a budget for such things, and if you make me think you're stupidly wasting my money I may have to cross you off the list.
So, when does the missus tell the CEO the details of how upgefu$ked her staff is? Should we start a pool?
BTW, it appears that Greenspun is getting grumpier on the subject of charities and waste. His most recent missive here: Philip Greenspun's Weblog Where your charitable donations end up
So far I'd rather donate my money than my time too, and this certainly isn't doing anything to change that opinion. I'm a strong believer in donating anonymously, too. Fidelity's charitable gift fund lets us uncloak anytime we want, but that attracts way too much of the wrong kind of attention.

Phil sure is getting grumpy in his curmedgeonhood, isn't he?

Spouse hasn't minced any words with the CEO, and that's probably what got her the job offer. However I think the CEO is a bit disconnected from what's going on in the trenches, and she's certainly getting her eyes opened by spouse's comments on the hiring process. I'm carrying spouse's luggage to the training, and I can't wait to hear the stories.

I don't think I'll ever get over the work dissatisfiers-- the uniforms, commuting, rush hours, endless meetings. Even if I'm self-employed I'd object to deadline pressure, and of course there has to be time off when the surf is up. But I was surprised at how the nonprofit's attitude changed when spouse "upgraded" from volunteer to employee. Before it was "Oh, you're right, we'll try not to waste your time on that, you're a valued volunteer." Now it's "We're paying you to do that, whether you think it's a waste of time or not." Spouse's attitude, of course, is "Hey, what are they going to do, fire me?" They've learned not to tell her "You can't do that."

The nonprofit itself seems to have a good leader and a few good employees. I think they're belatedly realizing that they get what they pay for. They recently divested themselves of a couple employees who were causing more work than accomplishing it, and they're taking their time on hiring replacements. I'm going to have to dig into their 990s and see what's really being spent where.
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Old 08-01-2010, 09:52 AM   #8
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Not to worry, Nords. Your little family will achieve FIRE (again) in "just one more year."
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Old 08-01-2010, 10:48 AM   #9
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Thanks again for the reminder, Leo. Charity Navigator shows that they're pretty highly ranked for their program (four stars). $1.6M in 2008 donations, >80% going to the program and 9% going to each administration and fundraising expenses. Five minutes to register on Guidestar.org brought up their latest IRS Form 990; CEO earned $114K and the chairman/founder $88K. I know the chairman's donated far more than that and the salaries seem reasonable for their duties/location. The two of them are rainmakers but their salaries are sucking down a large percentage of the funds available to hire better staff.

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Not to worry, Nords. Your little family will achieve FIRE (again) in "just one more year."
Ouch!

I've been wondering if I'm going to have to post audited financial statements to show that we're living within our pension, rental income, and portfolio SWR. (No mommy-next-door rationalizations in Hale Nords.) I distribute my handyman "love offerings" to charity, power tools, surfing equipment, taekwondo training, & beer (in about that order). The rest I spend frivolously. Does that count?

I don't know if spouse's interests are "just a phase" or the beginning of a philanthropic juggernaut. The shipmate network got her started on this (paying it forward) and so far she's enjoying the challenge. I find her experiences at least as interesting as my own investment research, although I'm not sure I have her patience for most of what she puts up with. (At one non-profit she's spending four hours/week cleaning bathrooms and picking up trash, although that will probably change in the next 6-12 months.) But last month she got to experience far more rush-hour traffic than she cares to.
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Old 08-01-2010, 10:59 AM   #10
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Not to worry, Nords. Your little family will achieve FIRE (again) in "just one more year."
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Ouch!
Just pullin' your leg. I figure we're about 50:0 50:1 in your favor on well-deserved razzing about that issue.
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Old 08-01-2010, 12:17 PM   #11
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I admire your DW's civic spirit, her desire to contribute, and her ability to take a beating. Was she a boxer at the academy?

For those who haven't yet read the wisdom of brother Greenspun, a brief excerpt:
Quote:
Non-profit organizations exist to provide their staff with great jobs and the fun of making decisions and spending money. The folks who work at a non-profit organization are very interested in drawing a salary higher than their skills and working hours would command at a for-profit enterprise subject to competition. They are not especially interested in efficiency or accomplishment. If you've come from the commercial world, in which McDonald's must be ruthlessly efficient for fear of being destroyed by Burger King, working with or in the typical non-profit organization will likely drive you to insanity.
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DW has made me go through periods of being a single-father with her volunteer duties at the school system. She and her BFF managed to carve out a niche for themselves several years ago that allowed them to be in charge of their own little gig. That worked because it cut down on the interaction with some of the clique of bitches less-than-friendly co-volunteers. Their program was very successful, but they decided to quit at the end of last year because they felt that the money they raised was being wasted on foolishness.

So now, after BFF is moving away, I catch DW on her laptop re-applying for her background check to volunteer in the schools.

Quote:
Me: Sweetness....WTF?

The Princess: I know, I know. But I promise I'm going to keep it light and not get over-involved.
I'm in the girl's corner, as I always am, but I do reserve the right to remind her in the future that she volunteered for the abuse.
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Old 08-01-2010, 12:50 PM   #12
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Hey Nords - thanks for the post. I had a good laugh! My sympathies to your DW
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Old 08-01-2010, 12:52 PM   #13
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Wow, thanks for reminding me why I wanted to retire. My division's chief was paperwork and process happy. No consideration as to the value or need for all of that, just loved having papers to sign, file, forward, etc. Your wife's story brought it all back.
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Old 08-01-2010, 01:03 PM   #14
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So, tell me again, why is DW putting herself through such nonsense? Are you guys ER'd or not? I would just tell this organization to go jump in the lake.
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Old 08-01-2010, 01:33 PM   #15
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Who knew work could sneak up on you like that!
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Old 08-01-2010, 03:28 PM   #16
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Was she a boxer at the academy?
I'm in the girl's corner, as I always am, but I do reserve the right to remind her in the future that she volunteered for the abuse.
We earned our varsity letters in "persistence at any cost":
Military retention considerations: "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" (very long post) Beat Army.

I reserve that reminder right too, but I almost always end up waiving it at the last minute in favor of keeping my mouth shut.

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So, tell me again, why is DW putting herself through such nonsense? Are you guys ER'd or not? I would just tell this organization to go jump in the lake.
Well, at least one of us is ER'd, although I'm still not very good about scheduling my time. The other one seems to be exploring the options of "Whaddya DO all day?"

I can see her giving this a year or so of increasingly uninhibited initiative. She figures that once they start doing things her way she gets things organized then the problems will be insignificant. And I know from experience that when she imposes order out of chaos, it takes a long time for anyone to find a better way to do business.

I guess it boils down to "there but for the grace of God", and I don't think I would've seen it coming. A little over seven years ago I got a job offer that was six figures of tempting but after much thought/discussion I passed. With what I've learned this week, however, I doubt that back then I would've had the patience to cope with the indoc/training I would have had to endure before actually doing the work I was offered.

I was really surprised by the nonprofit's attitude change between "volunteer" and "valued headcount". Just one more thing to add to my personal list of work dissatisfiers. If I ever make a work commitment again (that's a mighty big "if") then I'm stickin' to freelance and flexible deadlines.
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Old 08-01-2010, 07:34 PM   #17
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Timely post Nords, as I have been researching volunteer opportunities this weekend. However, you have managed to convince me of the foolishness of even considering doing such a thing. I had been discussing it with a friend, and was thinking with my bluntness and intolerance for incompetence that volunteering may not be a good fit for me, and after reading your post I think I may be right.
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Old 08-01-2010, 08:16 PM   #18
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Well.... I am on your wife's side on this.... I think you said it best with her quote 'what are you going to do, fire me?'....


And THAT is the attitude she needs to keep... usually you have to abide by the rules and suck it up when someone makes stupid decisions.... but if you ARE coming out of retirement to do the things... then that hammer is not available to them....

My mom worked on and off at a charity... they used to hire college students as it was part time 'retail'... but 95% of the time you were sitting around doing class work... when they lost an employee... my mom would volunteer until they got another... then they paid her for her work.... which she would have done for free... they also knew that they could not push her to much as (like your wife), she could easily say 'bye bye'....

If you wife enjoys what she is doing... and she can get more done as an employee... then that is the way to go... the BIG thing that I used to get mad at my mom... (and I bet this will happen to you)... is that at times her 'job' interfered with her family.... she would not do something because she felt she had to be 'at the office' or something else.... I said 'let someone else volunteer while we go visit so and so'.... SOOOO, make sure that she sees the big picture of her life.... that this is fun to do, but secondary to other things that are important.... (like taking care of NORDS )
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Old 08-01-2010, 08:43 PM   #19
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Very timely post. I volunteer at Hanauma Bay a very pretty beach in Oahu and a top tourist destination.

The weekly job consists of spending 1 hour introducing a video and telling tourist to please not walk and the coral, and avoid drowning themselves. The remaining two or three hours is spend at the beach, girl watching, along with telling people where the bathroom is, and where to rent snorkel gear. A few times a day some kid (age 6- 75) gets very excited having seen a particular fish or sea creature, and I get to play 20 questions and help them identify what they saw. I also generally getting a chance to tell people about the exciting sex life of fishes (Transgendered harems of parrot-fish is my favorite) and few odd ecology tidbits.
The bulk of them time is spent BS with fellow volunteers and park rangers on the poor state of world.

All in all the the pay sucks, the job isn't intellectually challenging, although is pleasant, but the office scenery both the two legged and natural type is spectacular.

All of that threatened to change a month ago, when the steady decline in the facilities and maintenance got my so pissed off that I went to the Park manager office and ask.
"Is there anybody mayor, talk show host, city councilmen etc I can call or complain to that will help you get stuff fixed around her." He said no no don't that they'll just call and bitch to me. Come to find out that Park Manager is retiring this year and pretty much has retired in place, so while normally he has been part of the solution he is now part of the problem...


Last week an editorial in the Honolulu paper highlighted the problems at Hanauma Bay and I found out the name of the person leading the reform effort. I was all set to go out and join the fight until I read Nords post, and then realized that I was setting myself up to do was help fight city hall during a time of fiscal crisis, where everybody is in classic CYA mode. I think life is too short....
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Old 08-01-2010, 09:27 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Leonidas View Post

For those who haven't yet read the wisdom of brother Greenspun, a brief excerpt: Early Retirement
Quote:
Non-profit organizations exist to provide their staff with great jobs and the fun of making decisions and spending money. The folks who work at a non-profit organization are very interested in drawing a salary higher than their skills and working hours would command at a for-profit enterprise subject to competition. They are not especially interested in efficiency or accomplishment. If you've come from the commercial world, in which McDonald's must be ruthlessly efficient for fear of being destroyed by Burger King, working with or in the typical non-profit organization will likely drive you to insanity.
Wow, thanks for that Leo (and Greenspun). You have relieved me of any guilt feelings I've ever had over not doing more volunteer work.

While DW was a mostly stay-at-home Mom, she did a lot of volunteering. We both understood that it worked best that way. She has the temperament for that, and I was earning a good enough $ so that she could do it. I'm pretty sure it would be like oil & water gasoline and a match for me and a volunteer group.

Maybe some day I'll find something....maybe.

Nord's post was just too long for this ADD disposed reader, but after all the comments I took on the challenge. When I got to:

Quote:
weekly (two-hour-plus) conference call
I shuddered with bad memories of MegaCorp days. No way, run for the hills!

-ERD50
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