"If there’s a world here in a hundred years, it’s going to be saved by tens of millions of little things. The powers-that-be can break up any big thing they want. They can corrupt it or co-opt it from the inside, or they can attack it from the outside. But what are they going to do about 10 million little things? They break up two of them, and three more like them spring up!"
- Pete Seeger, in YES! Magazine

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Talking Like a Grownup

Today I took photos of a wedding. This was the first wedding for which I've provided photographic services for someone OUTSIDE my family! I wasn't super thrilled with my camera performance (the lens isn't the best for anything but up-close-and-personal shot), but I had a great time, got some nice shots and spent the day with lovely people.

One of those was "D."

The project:
Speak with "D" like I'd speak to anyone else in the room.

10 minutes

Why bother?
Why wouldn't I? Well, not very many people outside his family were. "D" has severe cerebral palsy. His body is twisted by the disease, but his mind is all there. Anyone who paid attention could see that pretty quickly. He has a sense of humor, and while his specialized wheelchair and spasticity may be daunting to many, he's human and needed to be included.

The place was pretty crowded, and there was a lot going on. D spent much of the time on his own, watching the world go by. Sometimes he seemed forgotten as we lined up family pictures. I don't know about you, but I hate hanging out at a party with no one to talk to. It's so uncomfortable. To live a life of exclusion would be tragic.

We have some friends who have a son with mild CP. I guess that was my first contact, and education, about the disorder. It's not a disease. It's not contagious. And not everyone who has it is completely disabled. Our friends' son is incredibly intelligent, vocal and talented, and you wouldn't know he had CP unless you saw him run. The leg braces help him stand, but they also make regular kid play kind of tough. He doesn't care. He runs with the pack.

Worth it?
Absolutely. I'd forgotten to ask anyone what his communication set included. But when I started talking to him it became pretty clear. We established, for instance, that he really enjoyed the cake and would like more, if I could find a family member to grab another plate for him. We also established that he was quite interested in the girls his age. Go "D!"

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Website Maintenance

The project:
Maintain website for nonprofit organization

20 minutes today, but countless hours since building the site

Why bother?
When I joined TriCity Sound Chorus, a charter chorus of Sweet Adelines International, existing leadership was interested in a web presence. Using VERY crude software tools, I'd created my own ugly website, but knew I could do better. With proper software, a steep learning curve, countless hours smacking my forehead and plenty of persistence, I got it done. Now it only takes a few minutes each month to update the site.

Worth it?
Yes. I usually enjoy learning new things, and the chorus has been pleased with the site. I like to think it may also be helping to spread the word about barbershop for women.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


The project: Donate items to others through Freecycle.

30 minutes posting, responding to e-mails and, in one case, waiting around for someone to pick up an item.

Why bother?
I had posted several items for sale on Craigslist and offered them up to local friends. Most of our friends' kids are older, so these things didn't appeal to them. (Or maybe these items just didn't appeal to them.) Usually I run our stuff down to the thrift store that supports our local shelters, but for whatever reason I decided to experiment with Freecycle.

How it works: You sign up for your local Freecycle list (free). You post your goodies. You either deliver or arrange pickup. Your garage/playroom/spare closet is cleaned out. You're no richer, they're no poorer, the landfill is no more full, they're stoked, you may be, too.

Worth it?
In a matter of hours it was all over. Kids' toys they'd outgrown (or not used in a year) and other household items had been taken, often with grateful smiles, by people who swung by to pick up. I never had to leave the property.

So, why did I feel not so great about this?

First of all, I have a hard time getting rid of the kids' things. They still want to keep EVERYTHING, but they have too much to fit in our house, too much for any kid really, so much they can't keep it cleaned up (in part due to size of house and limited storage space in relation to their goodies). Yet they don't play with EVERYTHING because, even for a homeschooling family with extra spare time on our hands, there's only so much time in a day. Too many toys, not enough time. I figure, if I haven't seen them play with it for half a year, it goes in the big box in the garage. The box is accessible to them so they can pull things back out if they want them. If those items go untouched for 6 months or a year, then the kids are finished with them.

Second, we usually either sell stuff on Craigslist (I've given up on EBay - too costly and cumbersome) or donate our stuff to the shelter store. I don't feel bad about giving up perfectly good stuff because I know it will go to another grateful home for very low cost and also benefit our local shelters of various descriptions.

So why do I feel unfulfilled by Freecycle? I think it has something to do with the whole setup. Everyone who grabbed our goodies had: a computer, internet capability, in many cases internet on their cell phones, and cars (sometimes newer, nicer cars than ours). Any of these people could have afforded the $10 to $20 I had asked on Craigslist, and certainly half that price they would have paid at the shelter-supporting thrift store.

I think I'll stick with Craig and the thrift store.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Care Package for College Kid

The project: Fill a Care Package for a "Starving" Student

Today the girls and I continued with our monthly care package project to a cousin of mine who's a sophomore in college. She and her roommates actually COOK! Last month's theme: breakfast. Can you guess this month's?

20 minutes in the store - and some time making the money to spend.

Why bother?
For Christmas, I was going to give this cousin one of those "breakfast of the month" or "fruit of the month" deliveries from a catalog. But then I realized she wouldn't EAT all of the things in those expensive baskets. There were several items she didn't like. I didn't see spending the money that way. SO...we personalize the box. It probably isn't any less expensive, but it's sure fun to gather the goodies, write personal notes and draw pictures, decorate the box and then send it her way.

Worth it?
I imagine her opening the box and digging through the goodies with a BIG smile on her face. That is worth it! :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Little One Gets into the Act - Opening Doors

Everyone at our house is getting into the act. They may be simple helpful acts, but it's the spirit in which the help is given that's so wonderful.

The project: "Mommy, I'm going to hold every door open today."
Our youngest, age 6, reported that today was her day to open doors for everyone. She opened some pretty hefty doors, and held them for people who offered in return raised eyebrows, smiles and sometimes words of thanks.

A couple of extra minutes at each door. They were tough doors, but she didn't want any help. This was HER project today.

Why bother?
"I just want to be helpful. Sometimes people don't have an extra hand to open the door."

Worth it?
She says yes. She liked the attention.
I say yes. She's clearly learning to help without being asked. (Sometimes.)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Socialization at the Animal Shelter

Our girls really enjoy animals. They, like their mother, would like to live on an expansive property (or at least 3 acres) where they could have dogs and cats, horses and chickens, maybe even a goat or two to milk for healthy, raw milk every day. Alas, we live on less than 1/4 acre in a homeowners association in town, so we've settled on cats, and V has begun a farm she can manage including: worms, ants, ladybugs and SeaMonkeys.

Three miles or so from our house, however, is the county's animal shelter, which is incredibly full of dogs, cats, rabbits, even chickens. The Humane Society has another shelter a few miles further out.

The project: Volunteer at the local animal shelter.

Today we checked in, helped socialize several of the animals and inquired about regular volunteer positions that would accept both the girls and me. Alas, the minimum age limit is 12, so we'll settle on occasional, unofficial socialization sessions for a few more years.

60 minutes

Why bother?
Most of the animals at shelters around the globe are friendly, house trained, and in need of homes. Our shelter is overfull. And animals that aren't adopted can be put to death. What a waste of perfectly good lives.

Worth it?
Certainly, though walking dogs and playing with cats, petting rabbits and feeding poultry doesn't get them adopted. I wish there were a better way to get the word out, and encourage people to check the shelters for wonderful animals before shelling out for newly-bred, high-dollar animals. One option is Petfinder.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Driving With Patience

Unfortunately, we live in a sprawling community where carrying out our daily chores by foot is very difficult. We do manage to walk the mile to the store, ballet lessons, farmers market and other services at our nearby shopping center, but the next nearest service/shopping center is some 3 miles away in a town where drivers are hardly bicycle friendly. So, like so many Americans, we drive too much.

The project: Drive charitably.
I'm usually a pretty friendly driver, but I have my moments. Today, while running errands, I made a point of being as aware of other motorists as I would be of loose rocks on a hike, children underfoot, nails at a construction site.


Why bother?
It peeves me when people are rude while driving. It's unsafe, first of all, and why do people have to be so darned rude anyway? If I signal to change lanes, that is NOT a sign for the nearest vehicle to speed up and close the gap they've left open for miles. If I drive kindly and share a smile, will that help turn the tide?

Worth it?
Yielding to mindless drivers probably won't make a difference (except that I felt more peaceful about being on the road), but yielding at four-way stops and waving pedestrians on to make clear I'd seen them led to smiles and waves of gratitude improving the mood of everyone involved.