Volunteer Journal #84 - The Crown Jewel Club Tea

If you see a flock of chickens on the sidewalk in Los Angeles you’re in a bad neighborhood. Roosters are illegal within the city limits.  People do bad things with roosters, the most innocuous of which is wake everyone up at sunrise. However, when I pulled up to the small elementary school south of Downtown LA for a tea party that’s just what I saw - derelict houses, and 2 Roosters managing a flock.

I was in South Central to help The Crown Jewel Club throw a graduation tea party for their newest graduates.  Somebody mentioned to me that this seemed kind of frivolous – tea parties weren’t necessary.  But instilling confidence in at risk girls, The Crown Jewel Club’s mission, is necessary, and this tea was to celebrate a group of 5th graders graduation from the program.

The Crown Jewel Club teaches basic etiquette and social skills to girls in small classes.  For example: before the tea party began the volunteers lined up opposite the girls and they practiced shaking hands, formal greetings, and eye contact.   You may think this is easy or natural, but I would beg you to try to get a 5th grade girl to look you in the eye and shake hands firmly.  As Sheryl Sandberg the COO of Facebook mentioned recently the girls are instilled at an early age to lean back and not be assertive – it’s perceived as bossy or worse.  You could tell some of the girls were desperately fighting the need to look at the floor.

My job was beyond easy and fun - help set up the tea party and then sit down and help the girls practice conversation skills.  It went something like this [with body movements like this]:

Me: “Okay Guys... Sorry I shouldn’t call you guys… Ladies.  Okay ladies. [Taking elbows off the table and holding my shoulders back] What is your greatest dream? [Again don’t slouch].

Smart Girl 1: “I would like to be a vet. Errr…. Veterinarian.”

Me: “Cool… I mean that is wonderful.  So did I." [Gently taking the sugar spoon out of her hand before she used it to stir her tea, and then immediately dropping it against my saucer with a clatter as I almost did the same thing.] "What about you?” [Nodding to the second girl as a burn tongue on hot tea.]

Smart Girl 2: “I want to be a teacher!”

Me: “Great.  What subject?” [Stirring milk in my tea.]

Smart Girl 2: “Milk?”

Me: “Try it. You’ll like it.  It will cool down the tea. You won't burning the... it will keep you from burning  your tongue. Ah hmm. Yes. Now... What subjects do you want to teach?"

Smart Girl 2: “Math and Science.”

Me: “Are you serious? I mean that’s awesome!  You’re awesome.” [Smirking. Take that study which says little girls don’t like math and science.]

Well, I did my best.  I probably messed up the etiquette a bit.  I ended up telling them the story of my children's book.  They got excited because it's about a girl only a year older than them. They gave me tons of suggestions for the second book.  Maybe I'll use them...

My Interview with Trailer Talks!

Hey guys! I did an interview with this great little start up called Trailer Talks. Check it out here!

I wave my hands around a bit, but don't worry nobody was hurt while filming.

Volunteer Journal #83 - Helping Community Theatre

Sometimes volunteering means doing hair.  Other peoples’ hair.  I barely do my own. Buddy Sara asked if I’d be interested in putting my “crazy hair modeling” experience into practice helping Santa Monica Rep with their annual fundraiser.  We’d be prepping the actors. Ah shucks… why not… I’m a playwright.  If I’m not going to help a neighborhood theatre company – who is?

As for my "crazy hair modeling" experience I was a hair model (about the same time as the body doubling happened – it’s called being a “Parts Model” and it means you’re short). I worked for brands like Aveda, Paul Mitchell and Sexy Hair in print ads, catalogs, and industry show. It was fun; I made a few bucks, and got my hair “didz”.  I have attached a picture of my hair done ultra-fancy for a wedding catalog.  Check out the cool vintage wedding dress.

The problem was that Santa Monica Rep wanted their actors to have French Restoration hair – think Marie Antoinette.  In reality, in those days, high class women and men would have always worn wigs in public.  What I knew from having this hairstyle done to me for a Sexy Hair show was that to pull this off they needed half a day and a hairdresser on each woman.  They had Sara and I – a few cans of hairspray and one hour for five actors.

I did my best.  I tried to be kinder than hairdressers of old had been to me. I took my aggressions out by teasing the hair (this generally won’t hurt a model).  Helpful hint - the secret to getting out rat’s nest teasing is to lie in a bathtub after conditioning and gentle run your fingers through your hair.

In the end... we did all right as the picture suggests.

The great thing about volunteering is often you are faced with challenges that can’t be completed in the amount of allotted time.  Then you apply Macgyverism (make an explosive out of a toilet paper roll, etc.), and Parkinson’s Law takes over ("work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion"), and you get it done.

Doing Polar Plunge 4 Special Olympics! Need Help!

Answers to all your questions about why you should go to this link and donate to the Special Olympics to make me jump into ice water.

Who?

Me! TheGoodMuse. On a mission to complete my 85th volunteer activity - a Polar Plunge benefitting the Special Olympics.

Special Olympics Northern California provides year-round sports training & competition opportunities for children and adults with intellectual disabilities FOR FREE.  We need to raise money to help them do this it's awesome!

What? !!!!!!

I know, free training and competition opportunities for those with disabilities!  Why wouldn’t you help?

As for me it’s been on my bucket list forever, and I’m using this as an excuse to get back into “Body Double Shape” (pictured) after I was struck waiting for a red light in March (which left my neck screwed up).

Yes, I really was a body double when I first got to LA.  It’s how I survived.  No nudity.  I was just in really good shape.  I worked out A LOT.

I figure if the kids and adults of the Special Olympics are going to show an incredible amount of bravery and persistence at the gym so can I.

Where?

San Francisco “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco” – Mark Twain

And I’m jumping into the Bay in the winter.

When?

February 23,  2013

Why?

Because over 15,700 Special Olympics athletes participate in The Special Olympics.

Because you are encouraging me to get back the stomach pictured.  Serious motivation if everyone is going to see a picture of you jumping into freezing water in a white bikini.

Because this is on my bucket list.

Because no amount is too small and whatever you can give is appreciated.  I set the goal at $250 total, because that’s double the minimum, but I think we can do better.

Why does your hair look like dry twisted straw in that old picture?

I have no idea.  People make mistakes.  Please forgive.

More?

For more information on Special Olympics Northern California, go to www.sonc.org or join the chatter on Facebook.com/SONorCal and Twitter.com/SONorcal

For more pictures of my adventure and adventures check out Facebook/TheGoodMuse

If this goes well maybe I’ll post up some more pics from body doubling days and tell some stories ‘bout it on TheGoodMuse.com

Volunteer Journal #82 - Cleaning up Ballona Creek

January 19th, 2013

Yay!  National Day of Service!

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

LA organized a citywide cleanup. I picked an event hosted by Friends of Ballona Wetlands. I helped clean up my local bike path, which runs next to Ballona Creek.

A little editorialized history for those not local - Ballona Creek use to be part of the Los Angeles River's drainage area.  Then someone got the bright idea to wrap it in concrete. To "prevent flooding" and create a massive eye sore - something like that. Today it is a pathetic little stream of water that runs through barren concrete on it’s way to Marina del Rey.  I privately cheer everytime I see a little bush or tree that has pushed up through the concrete.

I showed up at 10am and had to leave at 12pm.  The Friends of Ballona Creek provided me with gloves and trash bags.  Beyond that these BEFORE and AFTER pictures speak for themselves:

[slideshow id=5]

Trash picked up...

Cigarette Butts. Stop smoking! It's so nasty! Throw your cigarette butts in the trash - it's not hard.

Plastic Bags (grocery, newspaper, dog poop bags)

Styrofoam – why is this stuff still around?

Take out containers, coffee stirrers, Starbucks containers - just... stop... buying stuff.

Volunteer Journal #80 – St. Joseph's Relieving Hunger

Because no one likes cans of mixed veg…

New mission - to make experimental grocery-store-style food pantries all the rage!  Like toast! Because it gives people dignity, and the non-profit I just volunteered with trying it, St. Joseph Center*, is saving money.

How does it work?

St. Joseph distributes fresh produce, (it's one of the many programs benefitting from Food Forward’s Farmers Market Gleaning) and non-perishables in their food pantry, which they have now set up like a grocery. See picture.

In the past St. Joseph, operated like a standard food bank and handed those in need a pre-package bag of food.  But if you’re allergic to peanuts, for example, you're not going to use that expensive jar of peanut butter. It will go to waste, clog a landfill, make a child cry, etc. So instead of cramming every bag full of expensive, but potentially wasted items St. Josephs decided people could and should make food choices themselves.

Now as SJ's customers move through the pantry they are confronted by shelves of well organized foods.  They are told, by volunteers like me, how many items they can collect in each section based on availability.

Low income families & individuals must apply to the St. Joseph pantry for assistance. As my volunteer friend for the day Pete said, "You never know who you're going to see.  Some people look like they can afford [food] but they can’t. Other people, well they desperately need it and you can tell."

My favorite part of the day - there were little ones, tiny kids with their moms, barely the size of the cheerio box they carried out of the pantry.

*St. Joseph kept repeating that this was a pilot program and had not been perfected yet.   But it’s pretty awesome.

Volunteer Journal #79 – The Election

I did this for you America. I volunteered at an election phone bank. I would rather submit to multiple paper cuts or lick a cactus.

The idea if interrupting people at home during quiet time is repugnant, but it was that or sell campaign merchandise (and you know how I feel about the environmental blight that is t-shirt and button printing by orgs.).

In the fairness of this blog and to further the idea that I am suppose to elucidate a variety of volunteer experiences I dragged myself to the local campaign center of my choice*, which just happened to be at an empty studio at the Culver City Studios.

After doing a bit of research I discovered that YOU DON’T HAVE TO MAKE PHONE CALLS TO VOLUNTEER AT AN ELECTION PHONE BANK. Yes. True. So, I emailed ahead and said I didn’t know how to talk on the phone. Could I do data entry? The response was, “Sure, bring your laptop.”

I walk in to the studio, sign my name and they say, “Hey we’re kinda covered on data entry can you do phone calls?”

Noooooooooooo. “Sure,” I said.

Dragging my feet over to the phone training area I mentally blamed the candidate for his inefficient staffing.

When the phone bank trainer asked if there were questions I hopped up, “I’m here for data entry. That’s my question.” They sent me to the back of the room.

In reality, data entry in a campaign office turned out not to be that boring. The only comment I have to make is: HOW ARE YOU PEOPLE STILL UNDECIDED?!?!?!? Read something! Pick an issue! Cue true/hilarious SNL skit.

Doing the walk of shame home (Called the walk of shame because I forgot to take my name tag off) I talked to a nice girl I met in data entry that really loved the energy and camaraderie of a campaign office. She loved it, but political volunteering is just not for me. The point is to try.

* I will not tell you for which campaign I volunteered. I think if you’ve read my blog and looked at the pictures you might be able to figure it out, but for heaven sake go figure out your own political opinion.

Volunteer Journal #78 –Farmers Market Gleaning

Americans throw away 165 billion dollars worth of food a year! What if we could re-route that food to the hungry, or starving.

Food Forward – a Southern California charity that needs to become national and international is doing just that.  They started by picking un-harvested fruit trees and donating the fruit in 2008.  Today they’ve donated over a million pounds of fresh produce to local food banks

Now they’ve moved onto gleaning (collecting) unsold food from 3 farmers markets in the Los Angeles area.

In less than two months Food Forward Farmers Market Recovery Program (started Aug. 15th) has collected and donated 15,000 lbs of fruits & vegetables to those in need.

I loved the sound of this program, so  I had to see how it worked.  Last Wednesday I joined the projects coordinator Mary Baldwin and her group of intrepid and beautiful volunteers at the Santa Monica Farmers Market.

We braved humidity, 50 lbs boxes of produce, baby strollers, and what I can only call food pirates to collect over 1000 lbs. of fruits & veg.

How does it work? First, Mary and her team pass out Food Forward boxes to farmers, who believe they will have leftovers, towards the end of the market.  Mary keeps track of the names and just over an hour later the team runs back through the market to collect the boxes.  The produce is weighed, recorded, and then distributed to the food banks.  In Santa Monica 300 lbs. of food was sent to local charity Step Up on Second and then the rest was taken by van to St. Joseph Center which provides help to the working poor.

This isn’t my first foray into the Food Forward world.  I volunteered on a couple of fruit picks when they were a baby group of volunteers.  I’m thrilled they’re now humongous.  Their programs have helped up the nutrition level of those in need, kept food local, saved over a million of pounds of food from landfills and improved the health of the trees.

If you are interested in joining the FMR Progam Glean Team, which I highly recommend, say hello to mary at fmrecovery@foodforward.org.

So many farmers decide to donate and things are not easy for small family farms, so I'd like to take a minute to mention some of the regulars who feed so many.  If you’re lucky enough to go to a Southern California farmers market look for:

flora bella: http://florabellafarm.com/

fairview gardens: http://www.fairviewgardens.org/

windrose: http://windrosefarm.org/

see canyon: http://www.seecanyonwedding.com/

weiser family farms: http://www.weiserfamilyfarms.com/

yasutomi: http://www.realtimefarms.com/farm/5214035/yasutomi-farms

mud creek ranch: https://www.facebook.com/mudcreeksp

jimenz family farms: http://www.jimenezfamilyfarm.com/

gloria's: http://www.realtimefarms.com/farm/5069057/glorias-fruits-veggies

Fair Hills Apple Farms: http://www.fairhillsapplefarm.com/

And Dave Eakin Citrus Farmer Extraordinaire!

Now, in the spirit of this post, and using local produce, may I recommend my favorite virgin cocktail recipe that involves freshly squeezed juice-

Lavender/Grapefruit Yummy Drink

1 cup fresh grapefruit juice

1/3 cup sparkling water like Pellegrino

1-2 tablespoons (to taste) lavender simple syrup – homemade or Monin.

Pour together – stir or shake - enjoy

My Radio Interview with Holly!

Here is my first radio talk show interview for Holly’s Advice 4b2c. http://hollysadvice4b2c.com/raegan-payne-the-good-muse/

AND here are some behind the scenes stories to make the listen more interesting:

The entire thing was recorded by SKYPE on my MacBook while sitting on my bed. It was incredibly fun after I got over my nerves. Holly is a very warm, professional, and forgiving host.

Listen for the points in the interview where she accidentally calls me Megan and then Rachel.  I was trying not to laugh.  It was an honest mistake, she knew my name, but it’s a good thing I answer to almost anything.

The first few minutes are composed of me pausing and saying, “ummm…” and “like…” a lot because I was so nervous.  True, I did have a radio show in college for 4 years called “Bitchkittens” but no one wanted to hear me talk. I played music.

She calls me a high paid actress at one point and again I almost spit the tea across the room.   I am high paid in comparison to the average Bangladeshi. If we’re talking third world earning potential then yes.  I love to act, but I’ve been mostly a stage actress. For a minute, I thought maybe another actress was also on the phone.  See if I cover my momentary confusion.

I screw up and say I helped “undeserved” children and then quickly say, “Underserved.”

All in all a good first showing.

http://hollysadvice4b2c.com/raegan-payne-the-good-muse/

The groups mentioned are listed below.

TreePeople

Food Forward

Lange Foundation

Operation Gratitude

Burton’s Chill Program

Best Friends Animal Society

The Red Cross

Volunteer Journal #77 – DonorsChoose.org

Recently, I stumbled upon the brilliant organization Vittana – a group that makes loans to students to finish their education much like Kiva makes loans to small businesses in developing countries.

Seeing how excited I was to loan to students a TGM fan suggested I check out Donorschoose.org, which makes donations directly to teachers for school supplies, class projects, field trips, etc.

I had heard about Donorschoose around “the water cooler,” and the fact that America's teachers dip into their own poorly paid pockets to provide at least $40 a month in basic school supplies for their students. I believe, American public, this constitutes an epic fail on our part.

DonorsChoose, developed by teacher Charles Best in 2000, has unique transparency, you are allowed to choose the exact way in which your money is donated.  After a brief search I made a donation to a southern elementary school to help them fund a school garden. (I am particularly fond of school gardening programs). I responded to the brave request of Mr. Carberry who wants his student to have gardening supplies.  Currently, this loan is still not completely funded.  Look people, when a fund will educate, provide food, fight obesity, and teach real world skills it's a no brainer - donate to the garden.

Generally, I try to limit TheGoodMuse activities to physical acts or loans like Kiva or Vittana*.  My rational is - most people in this economy, around the world, don’t have money to spare, like myself, but they can act – thus volunteering or acts of kindness.  Also, making TheGoodMuse a sight about giving money away was too easy and boring – unengaged, unplugged, and not realistic for the majority of readers.  But Donorschoose was a unique case, and I wanted to demo how it worked for all of ya'll.

I believe, in the digital age that most charities will be required to move towards a more transparent donation model like Donorschoose, they just got the jump on the competition.

* Vittana and Kiva are loans not donations because your money is given back eventually and then it’s your chose to reloan or pocket.

Volunteer Journal #76 – Back to School Shopping

Bless the Salvation Army; they are efficient because they handle things simply.  To help underprivileged children buy new school clothes they teamed up with Target who offered each child an $80 gift card.  For some kids this would be the first time they would be able to buy new clothes and items for school.

I arrived at 8am, checked in with the Salvation Army representative and waited in a volunteer cluster.  Soon the volunteers were lined up on one side, the kids on the other and they pared us together.

I got paired with an adorable 8-year-old girl, we’ll call T because she’s a minor.  Her older brother and sister were also getting new school clothes and were chaperoned by two other volunteers.

Each chaperone was handed the Target gift card and told to let the kids get what they wanted for school as far as clothes and backpacks.  This was a rare treat for the kids; school supplies (like pencils, paper, folders) would be handled by another group.

T and I grabbed a little basket and headed into Target.

I don’t have kids, and so at this point I felt majorly outclassed by the other volunteers, who thankfully offered advice like, “If she wears an 8 buy a 9 because she’ll grow out of it in a month.” And “With only 80 shop the clearance racks.”

T wanted new shoes so we headed for that department.  She had a particular tennis shoe in mind, but when she realized Target didn’t carry the brand she gladly switched her wish to a pair of pink Hello Kitty sneakers (Buy stock in Hello Kitty – little girls are obsessed).

New pink tennis shoes acquired we went to clothes next. Little T took my hand and guided me through the section as she looked.  She picked out a number of cute options and we narrowed it down to panda t-shirt, Mickey sweatshirt, black leggings to go with both and the essentials underwear and socks.  Now the most important – the backpack.  The day was won when we found a fuzzy monkey backpack with plush squeezable zipper for $15 bucks.  We came in just over the amount because of tax but that was fine.  We backed up all her belongings in her backpack; she recycled the target plastic sacks herself in front of me.  A task that earned her a big hug.  T seemed thrilled with her finds.

I was about to leave when the volunteer coordinator asked if I would take one last little girl through who’s name was Jo.  She was a tiny skinny little thing and had arrived late. Her mother apologized saying they were looking for a place to stay.  No problem.

Jo had to wear a uniform, which we grabbed, and a Hello Kitty backpack, but when it came to shoes – I let Jo go a little wild and she was thrilled. Her purchase? Knee high black sparkly sneakers, good for running or being a fierce little girl in a plain school uniform. Only $5 more than standard sneakers.

I had a fun day. Even though I am an amateur shopper and have no kids everyone, including the little girls, were very patient and helpful. And let’s be honest, it’s fun to shop for little girl stuff, since I believe, though it’s been a while, that I was one once upon a time.

Guaranteed my little girls were the cutest little girls ever when they start to school.

Volunteer Journal #75 (UK Edition) – Thames21

Sometimes the greatest thing about volunteering is the people you meet.

I worked with Thames21 in London, an organization dedicated to cleaning up the waterways in and around the British capital.  Specifically, I got to use a log carnival-like hook to pick plastic pieces out of Regent’s Canal (which is celebrating its 200th birthday!).

During the muddy fun I met Ben Fenton, Thames21’s Big Waterways Clean Up 2012 Coordinator. Because of his service to the country, Ben was also one of 8000 people picked from 64 million British citizens to carry the Olympic torch. A cool personal fact like that, combined with his high spirits in the muck while dragging up plastic bags, coke cans, toys, etc. meant that I had to interview him.

How did you get involved with Thames21?

5 years ago I gave up my job as a photographer and moved to London, I wanted to do something worthwhile and work outdoors. After several unsuccessful interviews at Thames21 they realized they couldn’t get rid of me and created a job for me.

I’m still here, and still enjoying it, I have coordinated a wide range of projects for Thames21 including creating a community garden with volunteers with mental health problems, developing an online map of waterway ‘treasures’, researching inclusive volunteering, engaging 16-25 years old volunteers and running the East London project.

You studied Environmental Science at university - Why get involved with the waterways rather than other environmental groups?

I have always been interested in water, I find it fascinating and relaxing. London lacks wild places, but I think the waterways are veins of wilderness and hugely important for Londoners. Many people don’t know they exist and I love taking them to these places for the first time. Additionally, we do a range of work, so I don’t get bored; one day I’m canoeing, and the next planting reed beds!

 

What's the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of the job is definitely the people. Every event brings new faces, as well as the regulars who are a great bunch.

What's the strangest thing you've ever pulled out of the river?

We’ve pulled out all sorts: wedding rings, guns, messages in bottles, and thousands of mobile phones. I’m not sure of the strangest but my favorite find was an Anglo Saxon Spearhead from the 9th Century!

What's it like to be chosen to carry the Olympic torch?

 

What an honor! It was an amazing experience, and one I will never forget. I am very very honored to be nominated amongst such an amazing group of people.

Many congrats to Ben! Go to the Thames21 Facebook page to see the Olympic torch action.

Thames21 has regularly scheduled cleanups, so if you live in the London area I highly recommend spending a morning cleaning up with the crew.  I’ve volunteered with 75 different projects and this was the first time pedestrians stopped to say thank you to the volunteers as we cleaned.

Volunteer Journal #74 - Vittana.org

Dear Readers,

I am super excited to introduce you to the awesomeness that is Vittana.org. - A micro-lending site for student loans.

My love of Kiva is well publicized, as it is one of the easiest and safest ways to make a difference.  Plus, they don’t send you junk mail, which I hate.

Now Vittana picks up where Kiva left off.  Supplying loans to students in developing nations so they can complete their education and become problem solvers within their community.

i.e. “Our mission is to empower young people around the world with the the education and training they need to build a life of prosperity and opportunity.”

The students pay you back and you can either pocket the money or re-loan to another student.  Also, unlike Kiva you can donate any amount you want – from $1 to $100,000.  Those of us who have been students know that even $1 helps buy a cup of Ramen.

I found out about Vittana because I was contacted by one of their interns Isabel about a campaign launched by New York Times Best Selling author Tim Ferris who has pledged to match every donation to $50,000 for his 35th birthday.  He’ll also buy the person who does the most good a round trip ticket to anywhere in the world as long as you become part of the campaign by his birthday on July 27th.

I loaned to a woman named Huda in Jordan who is going to school for computer science.  Her loan is 90% funded – help me out and send Huda to school!

Volunteer Journal #73 (UK) – Conservation Volunteers

Not all volunteering can be as glamorous as cleaning snake cages. No, sometimes you have to get dirty. That’s what I set out to do during my stay in London, a place renowned for refinement.

Early on I zeroed in on an organization called The Conservation Volunteers.  They restore woodlands, plant community gardens, and clean up the unsightly. My first attempt to volunteer with them ended with me stuck at a bus stop, in freezing rain, for what felt like the length of that last horrible Twilight movie, because the buses were on strike and I’m an idiot and did not read the morning news.

Daring another trip outside the boundaries of zone 4 on the tube, to a far away land where only buses and horse drawn carriages dare to tread, I made it to Hounslow to help TCV with the Sow Good Community Garden.

As I walked up I noticed that it didn’t look like much of a garden.  Currently, it’s a vacant, unkempt, former local rubbish dump behind a chain link fence, but project leader Anna has big plans.

She guided me around saying, “And over here people will picnic, and they’ll be a path here for kids to run on,” and things of that ilk and I soon started to see the potential.  Strawberries and rhubarb has spread from cuttings the year before.  Two people sized apple trees already produce fruit and lemon balm pushes its way between donated flowering plants.

Yes, donated.  Apparently, they don’t have much funding for this project so all the materials they work with have been donated soil, clippings, and tools.  Seems the odd individual (odd meaning rare not weird ‘kay) will call them up when they are tearing up their flowerbed and donate the plants that would otherwise become rubbish.

That’s what I would be working with today, rubbish plants.

I was to help Anna dig a flowerbed roughly the shape of a boomerang and then fill it with some flower cast offs and lemon balm.

The workout of course is in the digging and jumping/running away from the slugs, worms, and various other creepy crawlers that inhabit the plot.

After the plot is dug I looked for grass roots and threw them in the compost pile.

Then I dug holes for the clippings and castoffs, stuck the new plants in the ground and covered them.

No worries about watering because as sure as I’m a curly headed girl who spends way too much time straightening her locks a torrential English downpour will soak you before the process is finished saving you a step.

The garden is actually the ideal way to promote the idea of conservation.  Plants that would be trash given a place to live and blossom.  It’s going to be a lovely place with heaps of fresh fruit.  Someday I want to come back and see it in it’s full grown glory.

UPDATE! Volunteer Journal #72 – The NOH8 Pic is Here

Thanks to the wonderful Adam Bouska I finally got my NoH8 Campaign picture.  Super Cool!  Especially considering that the man probably takes hundreds of people's pictures a day.

Cheers to a really inventive charity and a fabulous campaign to bring equality to all!

To do your own NOH8 photo visit the website and check out a photo shoot in your area.  It's well worth the time and effort.

Hugh’s Fish Fight

Between 40 to 60 percent of the fish that are caught in the North Sea are thrown back dead. In 2011 Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall went on a mission to find out why and ended up starting a grass routes movement that is rewriting government policy called Hugh’s Fish Fight .

The fish are discarded because fishermen generally target one species, but they catch fish in mixed fisheries (i.e. different species of fish swim around in the ocean together, they don’t discriminate, they love each other.) Fisherman don’t want to bring in fish they can’t sell because they’ve fallen out of fashion with modern palates, and fish like cod, and haddock have to be thrown back because they are over-quota. Quotas were established to protect certain species of fish from over fishing. Quotas back fire because... Read full article at Celsias

Volunteer Journal #72 – The NoH8 Portrait

 

I was about to jump the border.  At the last minute I got the opportunity to work and live in Europe for the summer. It was a chance to work on a children’s book (8-12 year old age group) that I had conceived 5 years ago and had outlined in full and started the previous year.

Between brushing up on my Spanish, rehabbing injuries sustained when I was hit by a drunk driver in April, finding and packing sensible walking shoes, regular work stuff, lining up someone to take care of my US stuff, and going to play rehearsal for my play Things Unsaid opening in NoHo with one of the best casts ever - I was swamped.

Then…

I found out that NOH8 was doing one of their famous photo shoots in Long Beach, CA about 30 minutes from my house only days before I left town! Must do!

The NOH8 Campaign is a charitable organization whose mission is to promote marriage, gender and human equality through education, advocacy, social media, and visual protest.”

I’m always big on education as a method of social change, but the truly unique driving force behind this organization is the visual protest i.e. picture campaign launched by celeb photographer Adam Bouska and his partner Jeff Parshley.

In 2008 California adopted a hard line against marriage equality when Proposition 8 amended the California constitution to ban same sex marriage.

The NOH8 Campaign is a photographic silent protest. Photos feature subjects with duct tape over their mouths, symbolizing their voices being silenced by Prop 8 and similar legislation around the world.”

This is how the photo shoot worked.  Wearing white (required!) I showed up about 30 minutes early so I was one of the first people in line. (No, cutting corners for you people – I want to experience what you guys will experience, so I stand my ass in line – word!). I filled out a photograph release form, and paid ($40 donation) for Adam to take a few shots. Next a NOH8 temporary tattoo was plastered to my cheek, and finally the emblematic/nerve racking silver duct tape is placed over your mouth. Awkward.  Claustrophobics beware. Then I stood in front of Adam on a white background and he told me how to pose aka what looks best. He picks the winning photo and airbrushes it, so no worries about looking pretty. 6 to 8 weeks later you get your photo.

This is volunteering, in that, you’re taking time out of your day to show up and show support, and it’s also a donation $40.

Now I’m pounding back green tea and Jacob’s Cream Crackers every morning, working on my book, and procrastinating by checking to see if the picture has come back yet.  They said 6 to 8 weeks, but you never know....

The NOH8 Campaign is an inventive and fun way to raise money for a good cause.  In the wake of North Carolina’s decision to ban same sex marriage this month more work clearly needs to be done for equality.

* My NOH8 pic isn’t ready yet so instead here’s a pic of me outside a conveniently named pub.

Volunteer Journal #71 – FreeRice.com

Do you like video games?  Do you want to volunteer but don’t want to leave the couch?

Great! I have an activity for you. Go to www.FreeRice.com

FreeRice.com is the Official Winner* of:

  • Volunteering Made Easy
  • Best Way to Stay Seated and Volunteer
  • I Made the World A Better Place While Procrastinating at Work
  • Can I Report These Community Service Hours to My Parole Officer?

And possibly…

All kidding aside – go play any of the fun trivia games on FreeRice.com. I am partial to the original vocabulary game.

For every right answer FreeRice.com gives 10 grains of rice to The World Food Programme. 10 grains might not seem like a lot but it adds up.  To date they've donated almost 100 billion grains. They're around 95 billion - time to pitch in and help reach a big even number.

I’ve been playing FreeRice for years and can’t believe I never thought of it as volunteering, but now that I’ve done 70 different volunteer activities - this totally counts.

Make yourself smart. There’s an SAT prep game for High School Kids! Feed The Hungry! JUST DO IT !!!!!!

*Made up categories by TheGoodMuse

** Not confirmed

Volunteer Journal #70 – Cut Hair 4 Cancer Patients

I cut my hair for charity. Again.

To be quite honest, this haircut…  It was kind of an emotional decision.  Don’t get me wrong – cutting your hair for charity is always a good idea. Always. However…

Unlike the last haircut, which I anticipated for a year, this one came out of…  Well, it happened after a particularly rough holiday season.

Oh, I told everyone it was a professional decision.  I was working with a girl with gorgeous long red locks, comedian Virginia Collins, on a project and I wanted us to be different. Sure.

But truth is I was trying to start over at the beginning of the year, like many people, so I chopped my hair. For a good cause.

Pantene Beautiful Lengths were the recipients this time.  They offer wigs to women suffering hair loss during chemotherapy at no cost.  Real hair wigs are expensive and many women suffering from cancer can’t afford them. Pantene partnered with the American Cancer Society for this project and to date they’ve donated 18,000 wigs.

It’s so easy to donate hair to charity it feels like it shouldn’t be volunteering.

8 inches is the minimum required.  Pantene’s program does not accept permanently colored, bleached, or chemically treated hair, but luckily semi-permanent dyed red hair is fine. Click here to read more on Donation Requirements.

On cut day I went to my stylist and friend for the last 6 years Sheena Rush.  Sheena made sure my hair was straight and braided in a ponytail secured at the top and bottom.  Then she chopped a little over 8 inches off.

I got mixed reviews on the new short do, a few people offered a “Don’t worry, it will grow back.”

Right when I was beginning to feel like my decision was faulty and even a bit self-indulgent my girlfriend Kara put it into perspective, “I remember when my mom got her wig after chemo.  It was such a big deal to her. It was so great after she had felt so bad.”

I like the new short hair. I like what it represents for everyone, me included, it’s a new beginning.

To see if you qualify for one of the wigs call The American Cancer Society Wig Bank at 1-877-227-1596.

UPDATE! Volunteer Journal #38 – Kiva: Last 1 Promise

Repaid Again! Re-loaned again. And just in time for Christmas.

I would never suggest that Kiva is more fun as a competition. Especially not a competition between family members. That would be tacky and defeat the purpose of being generous out of the goodness of your heart.

But... if, lets say, my family members and I were all making Kiva loans then... I would be ahead. By a lot. Maybe it’s because I do due diligence. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve learned to stick to the solid investment of used clothing - very little overhead.  Or maybe I’m just a better person than my brothers (almost proven). Whatever it is, in the spirit of the Holidays, I would just like to say – I’m winning.

Happy Holidays!