... the tales of two sisters

Dana lives in Seattle, and Tracie lives in Germany. We are businesswomen, writers and humorists. We write about life, dating, and today's modern women.

The Ronald McDonald House in Cologne

In these days of uncertainty, the snuffing out of innocent lives, plagiarism, narcissism, coup attempts and the global sentiment of ‘Je Suis Sick of All This Shit’, it’s relieving to know that good things are still out there. Specifically, truth remains in the fact that when we do something good for someone else, we feel good. It is truly a win-win.

And this is exactly how I feel when I, along with my co-volunteers bring our evening to an end at the Ronald McDonald House here in Cologne.

There are currently 322 Ronald McDonald’s Houses in 63 countries and regions. These ‘houses’ serve as a home away from home for the parents and family members of seriously ill children who don’t live within the vicinity of the hospital. They didn’t exist here in Cologne thirty years ago when my infant son underwent the first of his heart surgeries. I can’t even imagine what it might have been like to have had this kind of comfort. It’s a beautiful thing.

This is no doubt the reason that I give of my time, my cooking skills and desire to help a parent feel lifted, to see him or her smile if even only for a short time, because I know what it is like to feel otherwise. But . . . for the longest time I didn’t know if I would be able to do it: I wasn’t sure I could bear up to seeing the anxiety and worry and fear that I know so well etched on the faces of these parents.

I am so thankful I could jump over my own shadow.


There were four of us on hand for last week’s dinner service. We met in the kitchen promptly at 6 P.M. and gathered around the menus. It was quickly decided that Nicola and I would prepare the main course of stuffed cannelloni with fresh spinach and Astrid and Annette would arrange the assorted olives, prepare the bruschetta appetizers and a colorful mixed salad. Dessert would come in the form of a delicious chilled tiramisu. Nicola, the house direction assistant, had decided the menu for the evening and done the shopping. As we began cooking, the ingredients were multiplied by six–we weren’t sure how many parents would be attending–but it’s always better to have too much than too little and because I’ve been cooking for 10,000 years, the issue of exact measuring, thankfully, isn’t an issue for me.

In between our appointed assignments, we all pitched in to help chop or grab something out of the refrigerator for someone else, set the dining table, light candles and carry the drinks up from downstairs, all the while cleaning as we carried on.

The most beautiful thing to witness in all of this is to see how these women really care about what they do. They really care. I believe it was Astrid who called out, “Does anyone know a special way to fold the dinner napkins?”

Dinner would begin at 8 P.M. By 7:50, we were all quiet as we bustled about making sure all was in place. And then the parents started trickling in, one after the other, eventually twenty altogether. They greeted us with smiles and “Good evenings” and “Umm, it smells good in here” as they took their seats around the table. We served them their meal, pored their drinks, served them second servings and cleared their plates–the point is for them to come in and do nothing but try to relax and get some good nourishment with an enjoyable meal. We sat and ate with them. A couple of the parents shared their circumstances with me. I listened, shared my story with them and offered encouragement.

It’s a wonderful thing to know you’re not alone.

Shortly before all the dishes had been washed and put away and the kitchen had had its final wipe down, a mother who had eaten earlier and shortly thereafter dashed back to her baby, came rushing back in saying that the cannelloni was so good, she’d love to have another serving, if that was ok. We were thrilled that we had a bit left over and could give her something to smile about because that truth remains: when we do something good for someone else, we feel good.

There’s nothing better. It has no boundaries, no limitations. It’s a win-win. And at the end of the night, that’s a good thing.