Category Archives: Rant

A dysfunctional non-profit (draft from 2009 or 2010)

Addendum

Wow. I don’t remember writing this ten years ago, but I imagine that I didn’t post it because I feared the wrath of the outgoing Director of Operations in case she stealthily read my blog. The film group is still going strong, even after the death of our president. I continue to do the website and write and send the emails. We have only two other active board members — the doer-of-all-things and a film reviewer who helps select films and has some contact with some embassies. We met last weekend and decided the show must go on but two out of three of us are tired of it.

We’ll probably keep going. I promised to be more active after retirement. I also suggested that the doer-of-all-things say a few words before each film, mostly about how we really need help.

Original Draft

Before I had kids I don’t think I ever volunteered for anything — but once they were in school and I got a taste of volunteering for school-related events and organizations, I couldn’t get enough. That was also around the time I’d acquired a new skill (web design) and my “talents” were needed.

One non-school organization I volunteered to create a web page for was a local film group. I found out about it because I’d heard about a film on public radio that didn’t get wide release and I saw that this film group was showing it. I was so excited about this group that I bought a season subscription and soon after volunteered to redesign their web site. They invited me to join their board of directors, and I’ve been on it ever since.

The board consists of a president (the original founder of the club), a film discussion leader, a treasurer, a secretary (who writes all the press releases), a web designer and email list keeper (that would be me), and a director of operations (a job that has the most frequent turnover rate).

The president is sometimes hard to work with. She has strong opinions about what we should do as a film group and sometimes I disagree. For instance she decided we should not serve coffee or bagels this year because she thought the price was restrictive. While she did give in to allowing coffee to be served, she steadfastly refused to provide bagels. Instead she bought a few dozen tiny muffins which were gone long before the last patron went past the coffee area. However, I understand that this film group is ultimately hers. She founded it and, I think, should have the final say, even if the board disagrees.

The job of director of operations (a name that one of the folks who held that job created for himself a few years ago) is probably the hardest one, but as with all of the other positions on the board, has no set list of duties. The first person that held the job when I became involved in the group did the following:

  • ordered the films the president chose
  • sent the films back to the distributor
  • acted as treasurer
  • sent email alerts to our patrons reminding them that a film would be shown the following Sunday
  • instructed me as to how the web site should look

After that person quit we found a new treasurer and I took over the email alerts, so the job was a little easier on this member of the board. I think that this person then took on the responsibility of helping the president order the films as well.

He lasted a year and when the president could not find someone to take over, asked if I’d help out. I did, but I hated the job. I hated contacting the distributors, especially if I had to do it over the phone. I hated the tension of wondering if the movie would get to the theater on time. I hated the fact that the job took up so much of my time.

Luckily midway through my year as the director of operations a patron of our film club decided to take on this job. She was recently retired* and wanted a new challenge. She did a great job and added “outreach” to her list of duties. Because of her we increased our film patrons. She also had many ideas for the group.

I agreed with some of her ideas: sending emails to the local embassies when we were showing a film in their native language, increasing patrons by inviting other groups, and continuing offering free bagels and coffee when the president was ready to give up doing so.

However, I did not agree with her idea of sponsoring a film festival or sponsoring a trip to a film festival. She also had grand plans for our website, based on her cousin’s advice. She thought our site is boring. Her cousin’s site is trashy and reminiscent of something from the late 1990’s. She wanted to use our email list to send out a request to see if the film patrons wanted to join her on her trip to Africa this summer. I guard our email list ferociously and refused her request.

She still wants our patrons to be able to order tickets online and pay with credit card. While I agree that might generate more income, I don’t want to be responsible for credit card numbers of anyone but my own. I foresee big problems if we accept credit cards, especially online.

Three weeks ago this woman sent an email to the board announcing her resignation. The email was hurtful, in my opinion, and if it were directed at me I would have thought, “good riddance”.  However, it seems that some members of the board, including the person it was directed at, have asked her to reconsider.

Yesterday she sent another email saying that she’d reconsider if she were given the rights to making all decisions regarding the operations of the group.

I was shocked. In my opinion, what she is asking is to have the dictatorship (which is what I think we really have) transferred from the president to herself.

If it were not for the group losing the treasurer and most probably the director of operations, I’d resign myself. This is just too much for me to deal with. I hope that the president calls a board meeting to discuss this because it is too much to handle over emails.


*A few years ago I discovered some interesting fun facts about the woman who was briefly the Director of Operations’ position.

Pregnancy Shaming

Not long after my son was conceived in May of 1992 I suspected I was pregnant. Sometimes you just know. I peed on a stick to check and when the pregnancy test confirmed I was probably pregnant I told one or two people at work. I waited until the school year was over before I had it confirmed by my ob-gyn. My husband and I talked about it and we agreed that I would take more time off than I did with our daughter. Raising two young children 18 months apart would probably be difficult. We also began talking about selling our house in Alexandria and moving closer to my husband’s job in Bethesda.

In the fall, when I returned to my teaching job and more people discovered that I was pregnant, I was summoned to the principal’s office where she told me she heard that I was pregnant and asked me what my plan was for after the baby was born. I smiled and told her I thought I would be taking a year or two off, expecting her next words to be congratulatory. Instead, she asked me why I didn’t tell her before the end of the school year in the spring. I explained that I was not 100% sure about the pregnancy until after school was over. She said that she knew that I told at least one person and told me that I was irresponsible for letting her place me with the 6th graders who would need more consistency* than 4th or 5th graders would. Then she asked me if the pregnancy was planned. Shocked, I told her that it was planned — very much so, but after the meeting I wished I told her that it was none of her business.

I taught up until winter break that year, then was placed on bedrest for 3 weeks because of early labor. The rest of my time at the school that year was filled with feelings of guilt. I don’t think she ever acknowledged my son’s birth, even after my extended maternity leave was up and because I was unsuccessful finding a teaching job elsewhere I pretty much begged for forgiveness so I could work there again.

When I did return to the school I discovered that one of the women I told about my suspected pregnancy in the spring had been reprimanded by the principal for not telling her.

Even now, nearly 25 years later, when I think about the principal’s words that autumn my gut clenches and instead of remembering my second pregnancy with pure joy, much of what I think about is what the principal said to me and the guilt she made me feel.

Some of you, maybe teachers or principals out there, may think the principal was right but it never occurred to me that my leaving mid-semester could do any harm. Perhaps, if you agree with her, you think it is good that eight years after that conversation, I decided teaching just wasn’t for me.


*I was a special education teacher. Our teaching practice involved a special education teacher supporting a mainstream teacher in a grade level for the year.

Where’s the coffee? Where’s the pie?

In 1990, back when I still read newspapers. Back before kids, I read an article about a new television series in the April 30 Washington Post. I trusted Tom Shales, the journalist who wrote the article because he’d never led me wrong when it came to entertainment. Maybe it was because he was born in Elgin, maybe we just had/have the same tastes in television.

I probably would have watched it anyway because it was the brainchild of mastermind David Lynch — a director whose works Dean and I liked. We’d seen a presentation of some of his very early works at a local (now long-gone) art theater, and we saw pretty much anything he’d done that far (except Dune).

Dean and I loved the first season of Twin Peaks. Our next door neighbors also loved it and we’d often watch episodes together, drinking damn fine, and hot, coffee and eating pie. We even had a Twin Peaks dress up party for the final episode. My friend Totty came as the Log Lady. I don’t remember who I dressed up as. Too bad that was before smartphones with cameras because we would have definitely taken photos.

Back then, I don’t think I knew anyone else who liked Twin Peaks. Certainly no one at school. There was no Internet on which to discuss each episode with strangers. (at least not in our house). We just liked it, talked about it among ourselves and when we did run into someone who’d seen the series we’d talk with them about it.

We bought the DVD set when it came out and Clare got into the show, so much that she took it to school, then Olympia (not far from the filming location) and shared it with friends.

On one trip to Olympia, we visited North Bend, Washington where parts of Twin Peaks was filmed and ate pie and drank coffee at the Double R and posed for photos in front of the Great Northern Hotel and it’s nearby iconic waterfall.

Needless to say, we (or rather I) followed with interest the rumors about the revival Twin Peaks series. Totty heard about the series and suggested we get together to watch the first episode. We were not able to watch it the night it aired, so we planned on watching two episodes the week after. Totty brought an apple pie she’d baked and I made some coffee. We settled down to watch the revival of what had been our favorite television series 25 years ago — and possibly still was our favorite.

Well… the owls are not what they seem. If someone had been secretly filming us our expressions would have gone from happy expectation to confusion to bewilderment to disappointment to sadness. As the credits rolled for the second episode, Totty remarked that it sure was not what she was expecting and said, “Where was the coffee? Where was the pie?”

Damn right — where were the coffee and pie? Where was the charm?

Dean and I watched episode 3 a couple nights ago and, after some strangely Eraserheadesque scenes, it got better. I am not giving up on the series, I am just going to go into the rest of the episodes with much less expectation.