Confession No. 101 — I’ll help, but I don’t want to be in charge.

It’s happening again today.

My wife has once again found herself in charge — responsible for 25 volunteers who’ll spend a few days taking care of 180 high school students at band camp. Undoubtedly, she’ll see some old familiar faces.

It’s hardly her first time directing a corps of do-gooders. Between the two of us, we’ve been president, vice president, treasurer, coach, assistant coach, den leader, Cubmaster, committee chair — you name it. We asked for none of those positions, and attempted to shy away from most.

Our unintentional service to others began more than 10 years ago when our son wanted to sign up for Tiger Cubs, the youngest group in Cub Scouts.

‘I’m taking Chris to the school after dinner,’ I told my wife. ‘And I’ll be damned if they convince me to be a leader.’

‘Just tell them no,’ she responded, as if it were that easy.

‘Damn right I’ll tell them no,’ I retorted. ‘I’m trying to run a business and I just don’t have the time to lead a group of someone else’s kids.’

And off we went to the cafeteria at Pine Tree Primary School, where at least 100 boys and their parents gathered to sign up for a childhood of adventures.

‘If you’ll just fill out this paperwork — here’s a pen — we’ll take care of the rest,’ the polite lady said to me. ‘We’re really excited that you chose Pack 211.’

After peeling dried ketchup from the cafeteria table, I sat on an undersized seat and began to fill out the membership form. It was a five-minute task — name, birth date, contact information and a brief questionnaire regarding the parent’s previous Scouting experience.

My ego got the best of me.

‘Oh! I see you are an Eagle Scout,’ the woman said cheerfully, as she glanced over the completed form.

‘Yes,’ I responded with pride. ‘Class of 1987. I have President Reagan’s signature on my certificate.’

‘You are exactly who we’ve been looking for to lead our youngest group of boys,’ she announced.

The guilt immediately began to creep in. So many people, including my father, had volunteered to lead my own childhood adventures. He worked two jobs during much of that time. Am I that much of a loser that I cannot give back? But I also became frustrated that, in an attempt to show some swagger, I signed my life away.

‘I’m glad you brought that up,’ I responded to the woman, ‘because I’ve been looking for an opportunity to put the ol’ uniform back on.’

Truth be told, my wife did 90 percent of the work that I’d rooked myself into. And that was just during the first year. By the time the boys graduated to Bear (or Wolf – I can’t recall), I’d somehow agreed to take over as the Cubmaster of the entire pack while Catherine signed on officially to lead a den.

In the mean time, she also became a Girl Scout leader for our youngest daughter, hawking thousands of dollars in cookies outside the local Wal-Mart during 100-degree weather in between trips to nursing homes and Build-a-Bear.

Somewhere in there, Catherine was also a baseball team mom who took care of providing sunscreen, first aid and post-game drinks for the boys. She did it because one of the coaches — yours truly — asked for her help. I’d registered as a coach for two reasons: I wanted to be able to schedule practices around Scout meetings; and I wanted to make sure that some Tom Seaver-wannabe dad didn’t try to live vicariously through our children.

Though we both were on the constant lookout for our volunteer replacements, we gradually found ourselves to be more immersed and committed to our children’s activities. Before our son ever earned his Arrow of Light (the highest award in Cub Scouts), we’d already led a couple of Mom & Me (overnight camping) events for several area towns and put together two weeklong day camps. Not to mention, Alexandra was playing soccer by then.

Through it all, there were a few constants.

At any meeting of coaches, Scout leaders or PTA officers, the faces were always familiar. Like us, they didn’t likely hear very many ‘thank yous’ from parents who dropped off their children and drove away. And, like us, they probably heard more armchair quarterbacking than kind remarks. Still, our tickets had been punched and we were along for the ride.

That ride has included many drive-thru dinners, missed TV shows, late-night homework sessions and countless shipments from Oriental Trading Company. And plenty of exhaustion. Mental and physical.

Another constant that I’m most certain reared its head to my wife over the past month or so: apathy. Need a list of excuses to help you steer clear of … helping? We’ve heard it all — from working 40 (yes, 40) hours per week, to being allergic to sunshine. There are also those who tell you that they’ll pray about it and get back with you. Or they’ll tell you that they need to talk to the better half. Either way, that always means ‘no.’

In little more than a year, our grandson will be receiving a flyer at his elementary school. It’ll feature photos of Pinewood Derby cars, campfires and probably a wild animal, or two. He’ll want to sign up and I’ll gladly take him to the Bramlette Elementary School cafeteria, just as I did his uncle years ago.

This time, however, I’ll make sure that I leave that Scouting experience? line blank. Then again, maybe I’ll just let them know that I’ll help, but I’ll have to pray about being a den leader.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. I’d also love for you to join me on Facebook (click the ‘like’ button), Pinterest and Google+. — Special thanks to Megan E. Hawkins at The Underground Writer  for editing this piece. With her, there’s never any doubt as to who’s in charge.


I’m proud to say that Generation X, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service, has the highest rate of volunteerism of any age group. Many of us older Xers also have the misfortune of being sent to grade school with that nasty pimento cheese spread that is typically enjoyed by geriatric patients. Thus is why it took me so long to give real pimento cheese a chance.

It was about 10 years ago when my younger sister brought a homemade version to a family function. If memory serves me correctly, her recipe came from Southern Living magazine. I’ve tinkered with my own recipe through the years. It’s basic and addictive on its own, with numerous add-in possibilities.

Classic Southern Pimento Cheese

Pimiento Cheese is a classic Southern staple.

Pimento Cheese is a classic Southern staple.

1½ cups – Mayonnaise
4 oz jar – Chopped Pimento, drained
1 TB – Onion powder
2 tsp – Garlic powder
1 tsp – Ground Mustard
1 tsp – Paprika
1/2 tsp – Cayenne Pepper
Few drops – Louisiana-style Hot Sauce
1 lb – *Sharp Cheddar, shredded

Combine first six ingredients. Add cheese and stir. Refrigerate at least an hour before serving. *Use a combination of extra sharp and mild for more flavor depth.

Mix-in Ideas

  • 1/2 cup – Chopped Pecans
  • 1/2 cup – Green olives, chopped
  • 1/2 cup – Cooked Bacon, chopped
  • 1-2 – Jalapeno peppers, diced
  • 1/4 cup – Chopped dill pickles
  • 1/4 cup – Chopped Green onions (instead of onion powder)

Comments

  1. juanitascocina says:

    All I need is a spoon.

    Signed,
    The Soccer Mom (AKA: What is Saturday?)

  2. I started as coach of the T-Ball All Girls Purple Pherps (yes the girls picked the name out) My youngest daughter went on to 12 Varsity Letters in HS playing Basketball, Vollyball and running Track. My oldest daughter graduated with 11 Varsity letters in the same fields. I have led many sports and attended enough events to have my seat named on the bleacher at the HS, HA!

  3. Have fun being your Grandson’s Den leader … tee hee. I’ve never put pimento cheese on a burger, and have seen it several times. I must give that a try. And I love that stack of corn in the background. We’re just starting to get Colorado sweet corn in our markets, which I’m sure you know is the best in the Nation. ;) (now no arguing)

  4. Some of my favoritest food in the world – homemade pimento cheese!! Nana made a great version but I like yours with pecans! That burger and corn look so delicious to. I’m impressed you are an Eagle Scout – that is NOT an easy task and you should be VERY proud. My Son-in-law is an Eagle Scout and my husband (college baseball player) gave him some advice my dad (college football player) gave him: Expect to volunteer – expect to coach and expect to lead – “To whom much is given, much is expected”. My dad was my daughter’s homeroom grandpa,daisy and brownie scout leader (yep), and also her History Competition coach – uh, he lived it so who better? She won state that year! My husband coached soccer (he doesn’t like soccer – not a man’s game he says) football, little league, baseball, and basketball. You will be the most loved and revered person leading your grandest son’s den…………and so will my husband when it comes Rocket’s turn because Son-in-law is still slaying dragons. :) You are my hero for doing it! When kids SEE it done, they do it too.

  5. fransiweinstein says:

    I don’t do as much as you and your wife, but I do volunteer at a hospitall once a week from 8:00 am to 6 pm. I must say it is something that I really enjoy.

  6. I am very pleased to see you too enjoy real pimento cheese. Some people here make it with weird things… Velveeta cheese, for example. Poor souls have no idea just how awesome the real thing is…. I love the idea of adding bacon or green onions, though. MMM!

  7. Allergic to sunshine! Hahaha. The “I have to pray about it” was startling, coming from New York. If that was said outside of a church function here in NY, everyone would exchange looks and raised eyebrows. In NY, it’s considered cool to be an atheist. This is one of the many reasons why I’m not cool.
    Excellent post as always. (And I confess – I always have an excuse for not helping at such events, I totally take advantage of good people like you and Catherine.)

  8. Nice PC recipe – you have the South Carolina seal of approval (even with the olives!). You & your wife are ‘good people’, the real kind…just like your pimento cheese!

  9. I volunteer a lot, too…so I’ve learned to say, “So sorry, can’t do it, my plate is full! If I try to juggle too much, they all fall!!” But, I do give you lots and lots of credit for volunteering in any situations where your kids are involved!! You’re a great Dad, obviously!!

  10. Yup, us South Carolinians can do some mean PC…if you ever get in my necko’thewoods…try this one! http://www.pimentocheese.com/pawleysislandspecialtyfoods.ph

  11. Taking On Magazines says:

    So, the fact that I just signed on to be the assistant leader of Dudette’s Girl Scout troop means I’m headed down the same road as you? Cool.

  12. I somehow found myself being the President of the PTA this year. Not sure what I got myself into! :)

  13. Can’t beat home made pimento cheese and I love it that you put it on a burger. I’ve done that a few times and I gotta say its one of my favorite burgers. Usually I put it on the patty after I’ve flipped it once so it will melt a bit. Going to have to try it your way and put it on when its done and see how it compares.

    • There’s no comparison, Jason. We all love some varying consistency with mouth feel. Temperature variations are also a good thing. Just think about that hot fudge or caramel on that frozen ice cream. (I do sometimes put the pimento cheese under the broiler for a couple of minutes — browning and melting the top couple of inches and leaving the bottom couple of inches cold. People at the get-togethers are always impressed at such lazy antics on my part.)

  14. Another great story Adam. Keep up the excellent work.
    Best,
    Conor

  15. Pimento cheese – I’m glad I check in with you to find out about these yummy things. By the way, that plate of corn in the background really looks good too.
    You really know how to say ‘no’…kinda, well maybe… ok. I think there’s always a core of good people in every town who somehow end up helping out and as a result, your phone number is treasured. I had no idea how easy it was to get sucked in until I signed my daughter up for T Ball. I had no qualifications for coaching T Ball other than I’d played some kind of baseball in the cow pasture across the street as a kid & that I was standing and breathing -
    http://dianeskitchentable.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/spring-finally-in-new-england/

    My absolute favorite was the mother who dropped her son off on our front lawn when one of our games got rained out. She had things to do you see & I guess my coaching commitments included babysitting on rainy days.

    • You know, Diane.. That would be almost humorous — if I hadn’t experienced it dozens of times. I think it’s real crappy when people want everyone else to raise their children. Because, that’s what it boils down to. I’ll bet your T-ball memories are funny and fond. But most parents will never experience that, because they let everyone else do all the work.

      • You too? Seriously, I never say it coming. One minute I was getting ready to go out, next I had the child from hell ringing my doorbell & no mother in sight. Yes, this was pre cell phones. You know what his mother’s occupation was? Child psychologist.

        • Oh! Well, that explains it! I remember a child psychologist telling us to give our oldest daughter “some rope to hang herself with” when we talked about her poor choice in friends. So, we did. And our daughter smoked her first marijuana joint. Go figure.

  16. Oh, I hear ya! Been there, done that, got the pot plants to prove it (one a year, from one co-ordinator). Still doing it, along with all the same faces. But I’m not really sorry. I was brought up by volunteers and I do agree with England’s erstwhile Queen Mother, who said that work is the rent we pay for being alive.

  17. You know, I’m a born Texan and never had the taste for PC. I wonder if it’s because I always had the Velveeta variety? I will have to ask my mom about this. Anyhoot, I’m volunteering to man the popcorn booth at my daughter’s high school dance team Block Party this weekend and she won’t even be there! She’s off to do school clothes shopping in the big city with a friend. Apparently our small town’s outdoor malls don’t cut it. ;)

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  1. […] View Recipe Ingredients & Preparation Instructions […]

  2. […] It's happening again today. My wife has once again found herself in charge — responsible for 25 volunteers who'll spend a few days taking care of 180 high school students at band camp. Undoubtedly,…  […]

  3. […] one’s appetite … get it ready for the meal to come. This one, however, steals the show. Classic Southern Pimento Cheese is one of those rare things that can serve as a main ingredient, topper or compliment. In this […]

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