Doing Good

Where the Wild Things Are

If you've been reading my blog for even the smallest amount of time, you know I like to garden.


I love flowers -- and I like creating peaceful, beautiful spaces in my yard.  My gardening, though, is about more than just nice flowers!  I like . . . the ALL of gardening.  The plants.  The dirt.  The compost.


The bugs and the worms and the slugs.  The birds and the bees and even the chipmunks!


I collect rainwater.  I compost.  I feed the birds and watch them splash around and drink from the bird bath when its hot.  I like finding toads, and I don't even mind the occasional garter snake.  I put up with weeds and black spot and pest bugs -- because I won't use chemicals in my garden.

So, yeah.  It's more than just flowers.  It's also the wildlife, the environment; it's about creating a habitat!

So this year, I decided to "certify" my garden as a Wildlife Habitat.


It's really pretty easy!  You just need to show that your habitat provides the four basic elements needed for wildlife to thrive:  Food (native plants, seeds, berries, etc); Water (birdbath, pond, water feature, etc.); Cover (thicket, birdhouse, rocks, etc.); and Places to Raise Young (heavy shrubs, nesting boxes, pond, etc.). 


There are no space requirements -- your habitat can be tiny. . . or huge.  You just need to be able to attract wildlife by providing the four elements.  The National Wildlife Federation currently has a campaign going.  They are trying to certify 150,000 wildlife habitats this year (there are about 140,000 right now).  Maybe you'd like to certify your habitat!  (Click here for more information.)  It's easy.  It's free (although you do have to buy your own sign).  And it's good for the wild things out there, too.

Then. . . while I was at it . . . I decided to certify my butterfly garden as a Monarch Waystation* with Monarch Watch.


Each year, hundreds of millions of monarch butterflies migrate from the US and Canada to overwinter in the warmth of Mexico.  It's getting tougher for the monarchs , though, because they are threatened by habitat loss in North America.  Monarchs, you see, have only one food source:  milkweed plants!  As the plants disappear, the monarchs disappear. 

Monarch Waystations provide milkweed plants -- to help insure future generations of monarchs.


My butterfly garden features butterfly weed, common milkweed, swamp milkweed, and Joe Pye weed (all milkweed variants) -- along with other butterfly-friendly plants.  The butterflies (and the bees) have been entertaining me all summer!

I've had black swallowtails. . .


and tiger swallowtails. . .


and red admirals. . .


and plenty of monarchs!  (Sadly, no photos of monarchs this year.  Seems I never have my camera AND the monarchs together at the same time.)

I like gardening for lots of reasons -- color, design, beauty, peacefulness, stewardship.  But mostly, I like it because. . . that's where the wild things are!

* I have taken much good-natured ribbing all summer about my "Monarch Waystation" from Tom and Brian.  No end of jokes about the monarchs calling ahead for "reservations."  While they might think I'm silly (nerdy, actually), they are really supportive and get nearly (emphasis on nearly) as excited as I do when the butterflies come for a call.


Saying Something

Today is National Cancer Survivors Day.

LIVESTRONG (really, the ultimate organization showing the world how to LIVE with, through, and after cancer) is celebrating today by asking people to "donate" their Facebook status to National Cancer Survivors Day.  LIVESTRONG and Stand Up To Cancer are giving us all a chance to stand up and speak out . . . to vent your frustration. . . to support your friends. . . to honor someone you've lost . . . to express your anger. . . or to celebrate your survivorship.

So.  What would you say?

I am a Survivor.   Cancer, you are a really scary monster with three heads and vile, dripping teeth and sharp eyes.  But you can't catch me!


I am a Survivor.  Cancer, you can't define me; you can't limit me; you can't set up boundaries for me.  I'm LIVING!


I am a Survivor.  Cancer, you have taught me to dance on The Edge.  And I'm better for that.


I am a Survivor.  Cancer, you're going down.


And that's saying something!


Green Day

"There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth.  We are all crew." -- Marshall McLuhan


I'm taking a little break** from blog-as-travelogue today to celebrate Earth Day

Every year, on Earth Day, I make a personal commitment to doing . . . something . . . to show my commitment to the environment; to take responsibility for being part of the crew.  These are small acts of green, sure.  But my small acts of green turn into habits and change the way I live.

In the past, I've committed to composting, planting a tree every year, switching out my light bulbs, using cloth diapers, organic gardening, recycling, using more native plants in my landscape, feeding the birds, growing my own herbs, attracting bees to my garden.  Things like that.


This year?  Tom and I signed up for a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share.  We're committing to the "eating local" movement as much as we can.  We're really excited to be part of the Eater's Guild CSA in Bangor, Michigan -- and we're looking forward to picking up our weekly shares, beginning next month.


It's Earth Day.  Celebrate.  Make a commitment.  What can YOU do?  (And once you decide, visit Earth Day Network and log YOUR Act of Green.)

**The photos in my blog post today are from Claude Monet's garden at Giverny in France.  I'll do a post on that incredible place next week.  In the meantime, if the beauty of Monet's garden can't inspire us to make a commitment to the Earth, I don't know what can!


I happen. . . to love the colors of Noro yarn.  In fact, Noro Kureyon was what grabbed me in 2002 and got me started back into knitting . . . after a decades-long hiatus!

I happen. . . to have purchased 20 skeins of Noro Silk Garden last year (or maybe the year before?) in a WEBS online clearance sale (10 skeins* each of 2 different colorways).


I happen. . . to have had No Plan Whatsoever with either of my new Noro yarn stashes.  So it's just been sitting in my closet.  Waiting.

I happen. . . to have stumbled on to Kay Gardiner's Mitred Crosses Blanket for Japan.


I happen. . . to love it.  I also happen to love being able to contribute (in a very small way) to Japan Relief.

I happen. . . to have cast on.




* I do not actually have enough of the much-sought-after-and-now-discontinued Noro Silk Garden Colorway 269 (the light background color) to complete the pattern as written.  I'm going to have to improvise.  Either. . . I'll knit fewer squares. . . OR . . .  I found THIS in my stash:


Six skeins of an entirely OTHER Noro Silk Garden colorway.  But look!  There is a lot of light color in there.  Kind of similar to the colors in 269.  Maybe. . . I can piece something together.

Stay tuned!


Getting Perspective

Of late, I've been . . . consumed. . . with a couple of issues I'd like to solve.  Not family-related; not health-related.  Really, minor things.  But challenging.  Frustrating.  Maddening.


Sometimes, unresolved issues end up taking over your psyche.

But now, it's time for me to . . . let it go; get it all in perspective.

Knitting helps.  Planning out my gardening tasks helps.  Studying French helps.  Reading helps.

And thinking about the scope of my problems. . . compared to the scope of REAL problems. . . helps immensely.

I know that much of the world's philanthropic efforts are headed to Japan right now, and that's a Very Good Thing.  (I've helped -- I purchased Kay Gardiner's Mitered Cross Blanket pattern.  More on that another day.)  As for me, though, I've decided to focus my Perspective and general Letting-It-Go-ness on a different type of philanthropy.

I'm going to put my support behind an excellent Heifer International project.  I'm going to put some money into building holistic communities in Nepal.  I'm going to fund goats, water buffalo, and pigs - along with cooking stoves and biogas units - for women in Nepal!

I may not be able to solve my issues.  But I can change my perspective.  And I can help build a holistic community for women in Nepal.  I feel better already.  The power of philanthropy.

I think that's pretty cool!


Dear Fred

There is one thing…that must be attempted and most sacredly observed, or we are all undone. There must be decency and respect and veneration introduced for persons of every rank, or we are undone. In popular government, this is our only way.” -- John Adams


Dear Fred,

This hat was hand knit with care for you. Many of your colleagues will also be receiving hats from knitters of all political stripes and from all around the nation.

Why a hat? Knit hats meet a simple need for warmth. They are an every day comfort. Everyone can use a good hat.

Civil political discourse also meets a simple need - the need for our government to have the best information and insights from many viewpoints. It would be an every day comfort to me and many other Americans if the airwaves were free of hate-filled rhetoric, and it would lead to good government. As I’m sure you agree, everyone can use good government.

Thank you for your service, and best regards,



By now, I'm sure many of you have heard about the Warm Hats, Not Hot Heads campaign begun by knit-bloggers TwinSetEllen and SpinDyeKnit.  If not. . . check out information here, here, or here.  (There is also a Facebook page; just search "Warm Hats, Not Hot Heads.")

Join in!  Knit a hat for your Congressperson.  Send it with a letter by February 28.  Demand polite, respectful discourse.  It's time.  Stand and be counted!

(And here's a special challenge to my fellow-Michiganders:  There are PLENTY of Michigan Congresspeople without hat-knitters!  Join me!  Let's make sure our Michigan representatives receive some hats.)

PS -- On my Ravelry page, this hat is named for a CSNY song - Stand and Be Counted.  I couldn't find a decent YouTube video version of the song, so you'll just have to hum along in your head.



Philanthropy: A Parable

"Seek always to do some good somewhere.  You must give some time to you fellow man.  For remember, you don't live in a world all your own."             --- Albert Schweitzer

Last Thursday, I wrote about Philanthropy. . . and explained how I was going to focus on "doing good" or "giving back" during the month of December.  This week, I'm going to share a story - a parable, of sorts - that gets told quite frequently in the social change philanthropy world.  It's a good way to explain different types of giving . . . and how they work together to make the world a better place.

The Babies in the River:  A Parable About Philanthropy

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Once upon a time, there were two women walking together along a river bank.  Suddenly, one of the women noticed a baby floating by in the river.  Then, she noticed another.  And another.  Quickly, she jumped in the river, grabbed a passing baby and handed him to her friend on the river bank.  The babies were coming faster and faster, and the women were rescuing as many as they could, as fast as they could. 

During a lull in the action, the second woman jumped in the river with the first, and they started teaching the babies to swim.  This plan worked well.  Now, many of the babies could swim down the river - safely - on their own, while the two women continued to rescue those who couldn't.

But the babies kept coming.

After a very long time, the first woman climbed out of the river -- exhausted.  The second woman looked at her with alarm.  "You can't give up now!" she appealed to her friend.  The first woman answered, "I'm not giving up!  I'm heading up to find out who's throwing these babies in the river -- and convince them to stop!"

This story works well to show that there are lots of different ways to "do philanthropy" -- and they really do need to work together to bring about change in the world.  We have the "rescuing" and "providing"  kinds of organizations -- the food banks, the crisis centers, the homeless shelters, the chemo hat makers -- to provide direct support to people in need.  We have the "teaching" kinds of organizations -- the community gardens, the parenting networks, the literacy tutors, the support groups -- to teach people new skills and new ways of coping in the world.  And we have the "change" or "advocacy" organizations -- the community organizers, the activists, the marchers, the researchers -- who work to influence change at the root.

Most of us have our preferences -- where we like to enter the "doing good" movement and get involved.  I challenge you to think about your own personal philanthropy; what can you do to make a difference in the world?  Because. . . we all can!

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."  --- Margaret Mead

Philathropy Means Not Having to Lick a Stamp

"I shall pass through this world but once.  Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now.  Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."  -- Gandhi

Philathropy.  Such a big, old, stuffy word!  For most of my life, I thought it was . . . stamp collecting!  (Nope.  That's philately.)  I thought philanthropists were "old rich guys."  I thought you needed to have lots and lots of money . . . so you could have "extra" or, at least, "enough" to give away.  I never saw myself . . . connected to philanthropy.

But then, inexplicably, I landed smack-dab in the middle of the world of philanthropy.  I have spent most of my working life immersed in philanthropy.  I have spent a significant amount of time studying philanthropy.  And now, even though I'm not a stamp-collector. . . or an old rich guy. . . or someone with lots and lots of money, I have become . . . a philanthropist.

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be able to work in a field where "doing good" is part of my job description; where my charge is to . . . make a difference.  I didn't start out in this field because I was particularly charitable.  But because I am in this field, I have become . . . particularly charitable.

So, if it's not about stamp collecting. . . or old rich guys with boatloads of money. . . what, exactly IS philanthropy?  The most commonly accepted modern definition puts it this way:  Philanthropy . . . is . . . private initiatives for public good focusing on improving the quality of life.

In other words, it's something we ALL can do.

During November, I posted each Thursday about being thankful.  It's easy, in November, to think about and reflect on our many blessings; to remember - and even list - all the things we're thankful for.  Now, it's December.  It's easy for all our "thankfulness" to get pushed aside and buried away in the crush and bustle of holiday activity. 

This holiday season, I've decided to keep my focus on my thankfulness. . . and shift my attention to . . . philanthropy.  Rather than get caught up in the hustle and hassle of the Christmas season, I'm going to try to look outward.  At how regular people . . . practice philanthropy. . . and "do good."

For example, earlier this week, I came home from work, pulled up in my driveway, and found a large brown grocery bag hanging on the doorknob of my garage.  A closer look showed this note:


One of the families in my neighborhood organized a small food drive last year -- as a family project.  They single-handedly recruited our neighborhood to gather food; they picked it all up; distributed it to a food bank. . . . and, clearly, felt pretty darn good about their effort.  Because . . . they're doing it again this year.  Only BIGGER.  This year, they have partner agencies.  They're collecting food from a larger community area.  They're distributing the food to several pantries.  They're doing . . . Philanthropy!  Private initiative. . . for public good. . . improving the quality of life for others.  No stamps.  No great pools of money.  No rich guys.  Just a family, trying to make a difference in their community.


Feels good, doesn't it?

"How wonderful it is that nobody needs to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world"  -- Anne Frank

Friday Round Up: Hurried Edition

Where does the time go?  Friday afternoon already.  How can that be? 

Lots going on . . .

Brian is involved in The Pull this weekend at Hope College.


Saturday is Light the Night (it's not too late to make a donation if you're so inclined!).


Next week is Banned Books Week.


The new season of Dexter begins Sunday night.


And Jenny wants to play.


Looks like a busy weekend!  Have a good one. . .

A Stash for the Future

Like many knitters, I have a stash of yarn.

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Let's just say. . . I have a LOT of yarn.

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To be honest. . . I have PLENTY of yarn. . . and books. . . and supplies. 

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Enough to last a lifetime.  Or, at least, I hope so.  Because my stash is pretty big!

The Yarn Harlot talks about SABLE -- or Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy.  I used to chuckle at this little term.  I used to joke about this little term.  I used to say things like. . . I'll probably die before I ever get a chance to knit all this stuff.

Well.  You know what happened.  I got cancer.  SABLE became. . . not a joke . . . but a possibility.  I didn't purchase any yarn while I was having chemo.  I knit a lot, though.  In fact, I knit like a crazed person.  I knit like someone who was trying to burn through her stash.  Because. . . what would happen if I actually HAD acquired more yarn than I'd be able to knit in my lifetime?  During chemo, my desire for "stash acquisition" was totally put on hold.

After my treatment was finished, though -- and after I heard those glorious words "no evidence of disease" and "remission" -- I celebrated by purchasing yarn.  I was alive.  I was healthy.  I had time. . . again.  Purchasing yarn and planning projects . . . represented future-thinking for me. 

And so, the stash floodgates are open again.  I do try to keep my yarn purchases under control.  (I really do, Tom.  Really.)  I mean, I don't want to fall victim to SABLE. . . but. . . I also don't want to stop thinking about the future, either.

This was all brought home to me last Saturday.  My favorite local yarn store, Stitching Memories, hosted a special benefit for a former employee and teacher at the store, Terrie Hale.  Terrie, sadly, died recently from pancreatic cancer at the age of 42.  Terrie left behind some whopping medical bills. . . and a huge stash!!!  So Mary, the owner of Stitching Memories, put together a "stash estate sale" in the parking lot of her store, with all proceeds going to Terrie's family.


Knitters and quilters and spinners and needlepointers came from far and wide. . . to dip into Terrie's stash. . . and to help out a knitter's family.  I had a heavy heart as I dug through bins and bins (and bins) of yarn -- all symbols of hope for Terrie's future projects.  I got a little choked up when I stumbled on to an unfinished sweater -- still on the needles with the yarn neatly rolled and the pattern clearly marked where Terrie had left off.  As I thumbed through some old knitting magazines, it was a little heartbreaking to see pages turned down -- at projects Terrie was planning to start.  Someday.

It was tough.  Because. . .this could be me.  It could be any of us. . . should we outlive our stashes.

In the end, I found a few items to bring home and add to my own stash.  Little pieces of Terrie that will go on.


And. . .  I'm really going to have to figure out how to knit faster.  That's all there is to it!