"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, March 14, 2009

Trash on Vacation - And Home Improvement for Our Hostess

The project:
Picking up trash and clothes in the kids' play area & a home improvement for our hostess.

Negligible for trash. 20 minutes for home improvement project.

Why bother?
It's amazing. No matter where we go, we seem to find no lack of trash to pick up. Why is that? Anyone have a theory?

This community has a wonderful little playground. As with all parks, kids leave their clothes behind (jackets, shoes, whatever). But unlike other parks, kids can return HOURS sometimes even DAYS later and still find their stuff available.

We were the last to leave today, so we collected remaining trash and put it in the garbage can, then gathered up the leftover clothes and hung them in the unofficial designated space.

The home improvement project involved closet organization. While our hostess was at work, I worked on the drilling and hardware installation for a closet project with which she'd hoped to surprise HER daughter. I decided to surprise our HOSTESS by getting it done while SHE was at work. :)

Worth it?
In this town, most everyone contributes to everything. The park was built by locals, and much of the maintenance is picked up by locals. We like to pretend we're local. ;)

On the home improvement angle - my hostess was very pleased.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Volunteering at the Library

The project:
Reshelving books at the community library.

10 minutes

Why bother?
We're out of town this weekend, but the community we're visiting has a FANTASTIC community library with a wonderful librarian. The library's volunteer corps includes a LOT of local residents. The librarian welcomes all able help. The return cart was packed today, so we reshelved the kids' section.

Worth it?
We'd do just about anything for this library and its librarian. Wish we could have done more!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Visiting with Grandma and the Old Folks

The project: Spend time with an elderly relative and her friends.

Three hours - this can take as little or as much time as you have available. We managed to work in a lunch date between morning studies and afternoon ballet class before heading out of town tonight.

Why bother?
Grandma doesn't hear well anymore, and she doesn't remember what she said five minutes ago, but she remembers a LOT from the past, is pleasant, laughs easily and enjoys company. She's a joy to be around.

It's also necessary for children to spend time with the older generations. So much can be shared, learned and enjoyed.

Worth it?
Yes. She lives in a retirement community (apartment-type setup with a shared dining area). Many of the residents enjoy the attention a visit from our little girls brings. The girls enjoy it, too. And I love to hear Grandma's laugh.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cleaning up - Recycling

The project: Taking in the recycling.


Why bother?
Before we head out of town, we usually clean up the leftovers: trash out, toys away, laundry done (sometimes), and recyclables out. Today's the day.

Worth it?
Little extra cash for the trip, house cleaned out a bit, recycling to the proper place rather than the dump. Yep.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Food and Company for an Elderly Stranger

The project: Share freshly baked cinnamon buns, groceries and some time with a near stranger.

30 minutes

Why bother?
In October 2007, I wrote a story for the local paper about this elderly man we see nearly every morning working the weeds and dirt in a vacant lot in hopes that kids would play pickup games on his homemade baseball diamond. He was 85 then.

He's still out there. Read the story (below) for details. I knew he didn't have much in the way of food when we stopped by before, and certainly nothing fresh. (Lots o' cans.)

I made these rolls this morning, he was out, and V was particularly interested in sharing. We chatted a bit while he took a break from work, then the girls and I played a game of ball (with imaginary bat and ball since we hadn't brought ours) on his field.

Worth it?
Absolutely. Very nice morning out. Funny old guy whose eyes nearly POPPED out of their sockets when he saw the plate of gooey rolls. He didn't hesitate to grab one, only to find an even MORE pleasant surprise - they were still warm from the over.

Here's the story as it appeared in the Santa Maria Times on October 11, 2007:

Orcutt man dreams of a field
By Jennifer Best
Like many rural residents, Bill Simpson spends most mornings raking, shearing and picking away at acres of weeds. But Simpson is 85 years old, and neither the weeds nor the land on which he toils are his own.
Five days a week, Simpson rises at dawn to beat the heat as he works on the land at Clark Avenue and Stillwell Road. He loads is favorite tools in his wheelbarrow, and makes a beeline for the lot.
“I like to think of this as something useful. This is a good open space that kids could use to play baseball,” he said.
It all started with a little sweeping under the eucalyptus tree at the entrance to his Orcutt mobile home park.
“It just didn’t look very good, and when I move into a neighborhood, if there’s something I can do to make it look better, I’m going to lend a hand. It helps change the neighborhood, make it a nicer place to live,” Simpson said.
He moved on to maintain a dead-end street where trash accumulated, then to another nearby eucalyptus.
“The branches were piled up against the trunk and it was a fire hazard, so I had this idea,” Simpson said.
He cleared the trash, moved the branches away from the tree to create a low, curving berm, and has begun arranging broken bits of discarded concrete into a curving border. Simpson stacked larger pieces of concrete against the base of a tree to create a shaded seat for his occasional break.
“It’s repetitious, and I like that. I never seem to get tired of it,” he said.
Simpson was raised in Boston where he learned a love of baseball that was, in those days, infectious. He cheered on the Red Socks and played sandlot ball with neighborhood kids.
During World War II and the Korean War, he served as a Naval Aviation Cadet flying a variety of single-propeller aircraft on patrol. He also served as an embarkation officer before returning to civilian life and a career as a draftsman.
As an adult, he helped maintain a public skating pond which replaced the public garden each winter, but his community service, he said, has otherwise been fairly limited until the Orcutt project fell in his lap.
“He’s been cleaning it up for a long time,” said Mary PiƱa, one of many neighbors who have taken notice of the changes next door. “I know he doesn’t have to do it, but now I walk there. It looks great.”
People have stopped to thank him, at times leaving cookies or water, a candy bar or soda. But Simpson, who isn’t even sure who owns the land, said the greatest thanks would be to see kids making use of the baseball diamond.
“It’s like a painting on a wall; people should enjoy it,” he said. “It seems like the only sports offered are organized or in schools, but anyone can pick up a game of baseball.”

Photo for illustration purposes only, NOT of lot or anyone related to this story. Posted courtesy Michael Lovitt under Creative Commons License.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Three-fer: Picking Up Trash, Educating Youth, Giving Kudos

The project:
Picking up trash/recycling while educating neighborhood kids about the benefits of keeping public areas THEY want to use clean and encouraging them in their recreational endeavor.

10 minutes

Why bother?
For 13 years I've watched this small patch of dirt in my neighborhood sprout weeds and wildflowers, then dry, then pile high with eucalyptus bark before starting the cycle again after the first windy storm blows away the season's detritus. No kids played there. I've been waiting.

Over the past two weeks, some neighborhood kids have been out with their shovels and bikes building jumps, a perfect use for this county-owned, unimproved lot. The kids are out, working together, doing something that requires cooperation and physical activity. They're on government land which belongs to us all.

Today when I stopped to watch the kids jump (the first time I did this they thought I was going to tell them off - you shoulda seen their smiles when I told them the jumps were a long time coming and asked to see them use their new jumps), I noticed some extra plastic bottles blowing around the place. I picked up the bottles (some were quite old, clearly predating the new improvements), and asked the kids nicely if they'd watch out for each other and keep the place garbage free. "If your friends or anyone else leaves their trash blowing around, some people are likely to complain. That could mean the end of the jumps." THAT they seemed to understand. We'll see if they keep up their end of the bargain.

Worth it?
Yes - it's great to see kids out playing in the neighborhood. This is a perfect spot for it, too. Is it the SAFEST sport? No. But what sport is safe? And they're DOING something OUTSIDE...TOGETHER! Fantastic!

Photo by AddyEddy under Creative Commons License.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Thank Heaven for Families! (And more trash)

Yesterday I spent too long on my Super Secret Project (sewing). My back was in agony all night. Today I was a mess. Mom came, though, and knew just what to do. She also picked up the deed of the day for me. :) Thanks, Mom.

The project:Picking up trash - again.


Why bother?The trash was blowing around in our park. Mom's a good egg.

Worth it?Yes.