"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 28, 2009

Roadside Assistance for Cyclist

This weekend I spent 24 hours, that's right - EVERY DAYLIGHT HOUR, researching for my next book. Tough work, you know, scouring southern Santa Barbara County for every family-friendly nook and cranny. While it's not a job someone has to do (unlike yesterday's deed), I joyfully accept the task.

Being out and about certainly increases the chances of coming across an opportunity to help someone else.

The project: Provide roadside assistance, and eventually a much-needed ride, to Michael, a UCSB student letting off steam with a good, hard, bike ride.

5 minutes if you don't count drive time. I was headed that way (more or less) anyway.

Why bother?
While driving up one of our steep mountain roads, I passed several cyclists doggedly pumping away at the climb. On my way back down the mountain one of them was on the side of the road where his bike was perched upside down on handlebars and seat. I have some experience with bikes, so I offered to lend a hand.

Well, this college student's rear derailleur was toast! Somehow, he'd managed to bend the derailleur hanger, and while pumping up the hill the derailleur had turned into his wheel, the spokes of which grabbed it and torqued it into a...mess.

His options:
- Carry the bike (it wouldn't roll) 13 miles downhill back to civilization
- Torque the part with improper tools (and potentially cause further damage - if that's possible) and MAYBE be able to coast most of the way into town
- Hitch a ride
- Spend the night with the mountain lions.

It was 13 miles back to civilization. So I offered him a lift. (I know...don't pick up hitchhikers! I don't...usually. But he wasn't hitching, and this was no fake breakdown!) His concern? Getting bike grease on my stuff!

He loaded it greasy side up on top of my camping gear in the back of the truck and we enjoyed a peaceful, safe ride down the mountain.

Worth it?
Absolutely. A super-easy deed that saved the guy a LOT of walking time. I like to think that if I'm in need of assistance when I'm out doing my biking thing (which isn't NEARLY as often as I'd like), someone would lend a hand EVEN if it meant giving a lift to a stranger.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Puke Patrol

The project:
Taking care of family business with a little volunteer planning on the side.

All day.

Literally. ALL. day.

Why bother?
Honestly, I'm not feeling incredibly driven to seek out a project outside the home today. V woke up with some sort of flu. Her recipe for the day: sleep, vomit, repeat.

SO, Mr. B and I worked together cleaning the couch cushions (they needed to be washed anyway), steam cleaning various carpet areas (probably needed it anyway, too) laundering bedding (see previous two comments) and mopping floors (which SERIOUSLY needed it anyhow). Geez, Kid. If you want us to clean the place, just ask!

I also received a call from the Natural History Museum where the girls and I used to spend part of each month volunteering as docents. That dropped off when we took off for a long trip last summer. We hadn't jumped back in, but the volunteer coordinator called with a special project in mind. You'll read more about that later this week if V is feeling better.

This would be the charitable part of parenthood, right? The part where we hold back our kids' hair while they puke in the toilet (or bucket when the can't make it that far). The part where we clean up things we NEVER imagined we'd deal with, in amounts we never thought imaginable, all without a hint of complaint. Maybe this doesn't seem to count on the grand scale of things, but if we don't take care of our own families, what's the point in volunteering to take care of others? The best way to teach our kids to care for others is to demonstrate care for them.

Worth it?
Well, barf patrol was not my plan for the day, nor would it be my choice activity on any given day. But it certainly made for a spiffy house in the long run!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Release the....SEEDBALLS!

It's Thursday, which means we're in the neighborhood of our grocery store, which means more trash pickup. Yep...it was there again. Along with a newspaper that was blowing apart in the parking lot. I felt like a crazy woman as I picked up the pieces while others walked by completely unaware. It was as if these were just autumn leaves to these people. Am I wasting my time?

We also turned in our plastic bag recycling (newspaper bags, produce bags and various shop bags we managed to pick up in spite of ourselves).

But today's project was --->

The project: Tossing the seedballs!


5 minutes, but only because we took our time

Why bother?

This was a fun completion of the project we began yesterday in creating the mud balls filled with native seeds to be dispersed in our community. We selected the abandoned center median strip of a busy local road, and the fenced in green space surrounding the neighborhood retention basin. That spot begs to be enjoyed, but the county, which fears lawsuits, won't take down the fence. At least it will look a tad nicer in a few weeks.

Worth it?
Yep, both today and in the future when they bloom and reseed themselves. The girls and I had fun "planting" and look forward to the added color.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Seedballing - Returning Natives to Suburbia

The project:
Make muddy, filthy, wonderful seedballs.

60 minutes

Why bother?
Seedballing involves mixing seeds in a mud/clay mixture that is allowed to dry. The balls are then tossed into areas that could use a little pick me up. When the rains come, the mud and clay break apart, exposing the seeds to elements that lead to their growth.

It is NOT intended for sensitive habitats. Introducing non-native species can be detrimental to the local flora and thereby fauna. Work with knowledgeable local experts to determine which seed varieties should be included. Some cities have park rangers

Our effort will focus on beautifying those abandoned open spaces, unimproved lots and boulevard medians currently overrun with weeds, or plain dirt. (We also opted to use native seeds in case they do spread out of their intended areas via wildlife, wind or runoff.) I've wanted to do something like this for YEARS, so when this opportunity arose to learn from a master, I jumped on it.

This video provides the basic info, but seems to focus on reseeding arid, open spaces outside urban areas. I do NOT suggest this without first seeking approval from biologists who specialize in and supervise the area.

Worth it?
It was fun for the kids, who did most of the ball rolling, and the adults, who both rolled and socialized. We've only tossed a few so far (into an untended median), but tomorrow morning we plan to hit up the dead spots along our regular walking route.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Picking up trash - again

The project: Pick up trash - again

Time: 2 minutes

Why bother? For some reason, people like to leave trash on the pillars at our grocery store. The girls and I pick it up each time we pass. Again, is it REALLY so difficult to walk the 10-30 feet to the trash can?

Worth it?
Yes, but annoying. Trash begets trash, so maybe we're helping to stem the tide. Plus, we add the recyclables to our home recycling collection.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Project Linus #6 - Turning in Our Quilts

The project: Turn over our quilts to the local organizer for Project Linus.

10 minutes

Why bother?
See original post about this project.

Worth it?
Our local organizer is fantastically gracious. She's a teacher at a local junior high school, and gave the girls rubs. She showed E's quilt around to passers by, really talked it up. It was great encouragement for our little seamstress.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Wishing Good Luck

There's a heckuva back story here, but let's just say I'm not coaching high school swimming this year, and I'm not very happy about that. I'd worked with some great kids and looked forward to seeing them through their high school years. Where there was once a Marco Polo team, my assistant coach and I had built a winning program, a division-ranked team, a county championship team. We'd helped polliwogs develop into sea hawks. We included anyone and everyone who was interested in being a member of this team, and it worked.

When the kids found out the school wasn't re-signing me, several swore they wouldn't swim this year. It would be their way of protesting the change. But these are their high school years, their time to shine, to grow, to enjoy, to succeed. I hoped they'd carry on, and most have returned to the team.

The project:
Keeping the conversation positive.

10 minutes

Why bother?
I was blessed with a group of teens who were all really good kids. OH SURE, some could be a major pain in the neck at times, but all of them were basically good kids. And several of them were fabulous people, people you'd want to know just because they're wonderful to be around. Though (I'll say it) I'm a bit bitter about the school's decision to "go a different direction" this year, I still support these young people's decisions to continue in their sport, to strive for excellence.

So when today, for the first time since the contract decision was made last fall, I ran into one of the girls, I kept our conversation light, positive. It was clear she wasn't sure she should bring up swimming, so I broke the tension by asking about it. I wished her well, encouraged her to work toward her own goals regardless of what the powers-that-be do, asked about the team and HER plans for the season. I wished her the best of luck, with all my heart.

Worth it?

May seem silly to include this as a good deed, but it's been pretty traumatic for me, and most of the team members. So, to be able to act like a mature person, rise above politics and move on in support of these kids, well, I think it counts! ;)

Next I'll work on not whining about it to anyone else. ;)