volunteering – day 5

I’m back to volunteering and it feels so good.

Saturday I started out my day by heading to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. The photo above is one of the many awesome greenhouses on campus. As you know I have my own but it sure doesn’t look like these here!

They have almost an acre of gardens that produce vegetables for FeedMore’s Community Kitchen. This year they hope to produce 10,000 pounds of crop. Last year they only missed the mark by about 80 pounds!

The garden depends heavily on volunteers to help with all tasks from tilling the land to harvesting at the end of the season. I enjoy gardening at my own house so I thought I’d help out.

We spent the morning moving through various tasks. The first thing we did was check squash plants for squash bug eggs. It’s a tedious but necessary task that helps prevent the bugs from killing the plants. To get rid of the eggs, we snapped off any leaves that held the tiny, copper-colored eggs. Pretty easy to do and rewarding.

The next thing we did was plant tomatoes. Many plants are grown from seed but others are often donated like the ones we dealt with. We planted about 30 plants in a very short amount of time. It’s amazing how much you can achieve with a good amount of volunteers!

After planting another 20 or so tomato plants, our last task was to do some weeding in the wheelchair accessible beds. Yet another task that seemed to go quickly. Did I mention that I love weeding? Not normal. 🙂

I really enjoyed the morning – talking to the other volunteers and learning a little from the head gardener all while helping the community. I hope to visit again soon. It’ll be fun to see the results of our work!

Are you volunteering this summer?

volunteering – day 4

Remember how I like to force my family to do art and crafts with me? I talked about it here. Well today I got my sister to join me in a little project!

We used our creativity to help brighten the day of sick and/or injured children. How you ask? By sending them fun cards!
I don’t know about you but I love getting cards. It makes my day, especially with a little personalized note inside.

We had to keep the cards pretty generic so they can be given to anyone but I’m sure the children enjoy them. I even added an ‘in Virginia’ to my signature so they know that the card was sent all the way across the country to them in California.

I broke out all the markers, pencils, and colored paper that I could find. Then we went to town.

my sister stenciling

It was a pretty quick project but fun!

Of course I wish we could go see the kids but a cross country trip isn’t possible. 🙂 I actually looked into volunteering at one of the children’s hospitals here in Richmond but they require a one year commitment which I can’t give since I want to keep volunteering at different places. The good news is, I think there are special events where they need volunteers once in a while. I’ll be looking more into that soon.

the results

If you’d like to give this project a try, here’s the link! Instead of spending Sunday afternoon just staring at the TV why not throw it some coloring while you’re at it? That’s what we did! 🙂

volunteering – day 3

On Saturday my husband and I went back to BARK. The first time I went I was nervous and didn’t know what to expect. This time around I was recognized by familiar faces (which was so nice!) and I also already knew what I was supposed to do. Familiarlity = comfort.

There were so many more volunteers this time! I’d say 3 times as many. It was a nice surprise to see so many people wanting to help the dogs and well, last time was super exhausting so more help is awesome!

Lots of people were bringing the dogs from the kennels to the outside runs (so that the kennels could be cleaned) so my husband and I stayed inside to scoop poop and lay new wood chips the whole time. It’s amazing how okay I was with the barking and the craziness this time around. I got my tools and just got to work.

Because of the large amount of people, the chores got done in half the time. I felt like I had barely done any work even though I definitely had!

Since we finished the chores early, we were able to spend more time on the hike and with the dog of our choice. My husband’s favorite dog, Rocky, is actually ‘reserved’ for one of the regular volunteers (which is so great for Rocky but sad for him!) so he decided to take his next favorite, Spot.

cutie rocky

There’s another picture of Rocky in the volunteering – day 1 post. He’s such a looker! Not that I’m attached or anything…

spot & the husband

My pick of the pack was the same beagle from last time, Heidi. She is just too sweet.

heidi

I hung out with her for a bit before AND after the hike. At one point my husband came up to us to say ‘hi’ to Heidi and she did the following:

may I have a belly rub please?

Cue the ‘Awwww’. I bet you can guess where she’s going to end up! Answer: my house.

We discussed adopting or fostering the two of them because well, we just can’t help ourselves. My husband and I are crazy but I don’t care!

The plan. The plan is that we’re going to give Olivia, our first foster, a couple more weeks before we take on any other dogs. We want Olivia to be super comfortable at home since we’re officially going to ADOPT her next Saturday. YAY!! We planned on adopting her the whole time. We just wanted to make sure that she would be happy at our house first before she became a part of the family.

Back to the plan. We agreed that we would only foster and not adopt Heidi and Spot. If we keep adopting dogs then we won’t be able to help nearly as many. Of course we are madly in love with these dogs and know that it’s going to be horribly difficult to give them up if/when the time comes but it’ll be for their happiness and that is the MOST important thing.

I’m pumped and a bit terrified if only because Spot is a BEAST (giant). I bet I’m going to have some entertaining stories soon enough. This house is going to be a zoo!

volunteering – day 2

Holy eye-opening experience batman.

I drove past the house of my most recent volunteer adventure twice before I saw another car pull up and decided that I should actually stop. I was alone in a somewhat scary part of town in front of a super old house that was painted all over with crazy sayings and colors. What in the…

Once I was inside I met everyone. The people running the show as well as the regulars were major characters – lots of piercings, tattoos, and expressive clothing. To prove all negative stereotyping wrong they were all SUPER nice and welcoming. Note that I was still a little uneasy so I decided not to take any photos while I was there just in case anyone objected.

Now the organization serves vegetarian meals to about 30-100 low-income families and the homeless every Sunday. I was there to help prepare the meals.

A man delivered some expired food from local grocery stores. We then sifted through the boxes and decided on what to make for dinner and dessert.

While prepping the food, everyone made small talk. Some people had regular jobs some had no jobs, some people couldn’t even afford Starbucks if they wanted to (this shocked me and my naive self). No matter what their troubles were in their own lives, they were still there working away to help people less fortunate than them. Amazing.

I interacted with people that I would never speak to or even really run into normally. It was a breath of fresh air. Again, an eye-opening experience.

I do have one regret from the day and it’s that I didn’t stay for the completion of the meals and the delivery. I’m not sure if I got the whole experience because I didn’t interact with the actual people that I was volunteering to help. Not to dish out excuses but my sister was alone with Olivia and since Olivia’s too scared of her she hadn’t gone to the bathroom all day. She ended up peeing in the house but I thought I should get back to take her out. Maybe next time I’ll stay for the whole thing. I’m hoping to bring along the family then too.

I am so so glad I didn’t chicken out. It was a wonderful experience.

volunteering – day 1.5

So I didn’t volunteer today. Why you ask? Meet Olivia!!

olivia

Olivia is a hound from BARK that we are now fostering. My husband and I picked her up this morning!

As you know I have major love for beagles or any hounds for that matter sooooo last weekend when we did our initial walkthrough around the kennels I saw Olivia. She was in a kennel with two other dogs. While the other two were going nuts she was in the back curled up and terrified. I felt so bad for her! She just looked so miserable.

After interacting with most of the dogs out there on the farm I still felt the need to help Olivia so once we were done doing the dirty work I asked the foster coordinator about her. The coordinator said she had been at BARK for 14 months and before that she was with a different rescue! Depressing. Supposedly she’s almost 5 years old – who knows what her previous years had been like.

I told the coordinator that I was going to put in an application to foster and then did that afternoon. A BARK volunteer came over for a home visit on Wednesday and said I was good to go. Waiting 3 whole days was painful. I was too excited to get her out of there. Seriously earlier today I felt like a kid on Christmas morning!

Once we got to the farm my husband started collecting all her supplies while I sat with Olivia and waited. She was too scared to move much and her tail was tucked severely. Little did she know that her luck was changing!

We were told to take Roary and Olivia on a walk together before going in the house so when we got home that’s what we did. Again, she was too scared to move and get out of the truck so I helped her through it. After that the walk went pretty well and the girls seemed to get alone just fine. Roary wanted to play at first then finally cooled off while Olivia just darted back and forth to smell.

the first walk

the girls

After the walk and some yard work outside I walked in and found the following extreme cuteness. I DIE.

new buddies

I really struggled to write this post. This day has washed away any doubts I had about leaving a career I went school for to find a more fulfilling path.

I’m just so very glad I’ve been able to give a sweet dog a loving new life. It brings me to tears!

P.S. Olivia will be our first ‘foster failure’, I’m sure of it. 🙂

volunteering – day 1

Today was my first day of volunteering!

As we drove to BARK I felt both excited and anxious at the same time. Would I be too upset by all the dogs there and burst into tears or would I enjoy myself? I’d say I was in between.

We drove up to the farm and met with the BARK volunteer coordinator. She gave us the low down on what we were going to do – move all of the dogs to the outdoor runs so that we could clean their indoor shelters and then bring them all back inside. She said we could choose between moving/walking the dogs and cleaning the runs. It didn’t seem to fair to make the regulars push all the poop around while we played with the dogs so my husband, my sister and I decided to do both.

pretty lady

beagles!

Once we were inside the sights, sounds, and smells were overwhelming. The barking was at club music level where you have to scream at anyone in order for them to hear you. Over 100 dogs are held at this part of the farm, craziness. We wandered around a bit just to take it all in. The first couple rows were all beagles. The coordinator said that after hunting season is over a lot of beagles are just given away by their owners since they (in their minds) have no need for them anymore. This is horribly depressing to me. I must explain – 1. Growing up the ONLY type of dog I wanted was a beagle and 2. On Wednesday Caitlin from Healthy Tipping Point posted a video about former lab beagles experiencing grass and sun for the first time – article. I’m not much of a crier but I bawled when trying to explain the video to my husband.  Needless to say, I wanted to rescue all of them on the spot.

rocky

Over the next couple hours we moved dogs, got jumped on with poopy paws, played, scraped up said poop, and brought all the dogs back in to rest after their play time. At points I didn’t know what the heck I was doing but I just found a job and cranked it out. It was very rewarding to say the least. It really fueled my desire to foster a couple of them and volunteer their regularly. A career-worthy job? I should say so.

The day wrapped up with a great walk on a woodsy trail. Each of the volunteers got to pick out their own dogs to walk and well I chose a beagle. 🙂 It was such a great experience. After only one day volunteering is exactly what I hoped for. It’s tough at times but so very worth it.

me and heidi

2012

This year is going to be an adventure! We just moved to a new city and bought a new (to us) house so there’s lots of work to be had in that department. On top of all reno and DIY projects I have a couple other things that I’d like to achieve. I’m hoping for some positive changes and lots of learning in the months ahead.

  1. Yoga/Meditation/Stretching 3 times a week – A continuation from last years resolution that worked out wonderfully.
  2. Don’t let food go bad! – It pains me to throw away veggies that I don’t get to in time. Often my husband and I are too tired or too lazy to cook a meal that we’ve already bought the ingredients for so it goes bad. To help the problem we are going to try and make NO purchases during the week. That way we aren’t tempted by the pizza chains or the infamous junk food runs when our feet are dragging. Come to think of it, it’ll improve our healthy eating habits too!
  3. Cook new recipes – I read some amazing healthy living and food blogs but rarely do I use the awesome recipes I read about. I hope to cook at least one new recipe each week. Maybe on the weekend so I have more time?
  4. Volunteer often – There are tons of people, places, and animals that need help. It’s high time to do my part. This blog will be my proof!
  5. Write – I’ve always been afraid of writing. I’m an artist not a smartypants or at least that’s what I think. Writing this blog will improve my skill, bring clarity to my life, and help me in connecting with people that I might not have had the chance to meet otherwise.

After rereading what I just wrote I must say I’m excited for all the challenges ahead!

Good luck to you and your list of resolutions. Happy (belated) New Year!!