Sunday, November 27, 2011


Santa Garbage and his helpers deliver goodies to a nearby dump.
Thanksgiving always seems like the right time to do something good (besides eating, drinking and watching TV). Sure, it's fun to enjoy the holiday and spend some quality time with family...but's so benevolent, so...good an excuse to get out of the house and away from the relatives for a while (just kidding, Mom!)

Of course, try explaining that to two elementary school girls on break. Not surprisingly, they'd rather be playing in the pool, hanging with their friends, or throwing crazy DJ-hosted VIP parties in their rooms, than to hang out with their aunt and uncle doing something as "weird" as picking up trash in a local park. Even if said park is the friggin' Everglades, which is about 200 yards from my brother's house in Florida where we were.

So we made a deal with two of the cutest nieces in the world--we all take a bike trip with Tío Kip and Aunt Buzzie (that's us) to Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge to clean up the beach, and we'd agree to play in the pool all afternoon, help them with their homework, and attend a "VIP party" they were hosting at their house (hard bargainers, they are).

Nieces Isabele and Chelsea clean up with Tio Kippy.
An airboat passes as Aunt Liz cleans the beach.
The best part of the day, better than all the quality family time and even the fishing later, had to be helping my first grade niece, Chelsea, write an essay about her time volunteering. 

"I wanted to help the birds and the fish that live in the park by my house. My sister, my uncle and I rode our bikes to the park, and they helped me clean up trash on the ground by the water. We put bottles and broken glass in trash bags. A piece of broken glass in a trash bag cut my leg. It hurt a lot, but I didn't quit picking up trash. I kept doing it because I wanted to help the animals that live in the park."

Not bad for a six-year-old. Homework and volunteering over, then it was time for the VIP party with special guest performers Izzy P on the guitar and DJ Chels spinnin' the frisbees. 

Izzy rockin out.

DJ Chels on the frisbees.
Post party, we even managed to squeeze in some bird watching and bass fishing. You gotta love Florida.
Red-shouldered hawk
Turkey vulture 
Nice largemouth bass during Kip's first fishing trip in the Everglades.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


If it's Thanksgiving and you're looking for an easy option to help others, a solid bet is to turn to Google. Search "food bank" and your city's name, and you'll likely turn up an organization or two working to feed and clothe people in need. The websites of the various orgs can tell you the rest. 

Miriam's Kitchen in DC is one such place, providing meals and clothing for thousands of homeless men, women, and children each year.  A few work colleagues decided to organize a food drive for Miriam's just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. We collected and delivered more than 300 pounds of items, such as beans, tuna, soup and canned fruit. 

Miriam's Kitchen staff help unload donations. 
To donate or learn more about Miriam's Kitchen, visit

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Liz helps a neighborhood kid plant tulip bulbs. 
Just a few blocks from our house in DC lives "a place where gardeners of all ages can come to learn, create and grow." We had heard of the Marion Street Garden before, but not until we got an invitation through a neighborhood listserv about a volunteer day at the space did we venture down to take a look. Together with neighbors, new friends, and even a few folks from Aibnb, who had come out to help, we weeded, planted hundreds of bulbs, and painted a storage shed. 

As the little girl's smile below can attest, this was a perfect way to spend a sunny Saturday morning in November. 

To volunteer, donate or learn more about the Marion Street Garden in Washington, DC's Shaw neighborhood, contact Lola at 

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Call me crazy, but I can't say I've ever dreamed of spending the good part of a Saturday shoveling worm poop. 

When Liz said the folks out at ECO City Farms needed some volunteer assistance to help them prep for a long-planned expansion of their urban farm, I imagined a day of hard labor working the fields like we did growing up back home in Louisiana. Maybe pick some peas, hoe a few rows of leafy greens, or even feed the free-range ducks and chickens they raise out in Edmonston, MD, wherever that is. 

I had it wrong. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Our neighbor's dog Tennyson--not a fan of leaf gathering. 
Why do they call it fall? Because that's what leaves do this time of year.

Gravity-challenged and short-lived, leaves transform in November from verdant shade givers into red, yellow and brown billboards announcing the arrival of autumn and, worse, the impending return of another winter. It's a little like the finale of a fireworks show--brilliant to watch, but man, it sure does get dark soon after.

Another interesting thing about leaves, at least here in the city, is that they cover virtually every single thing along the many oak-lined streets, like ours. That includes the tiny yards, parked cars, flower beds and narrow sidewalks. The volume of fallen foliage, while nice to look at, will quickly clog storm drains and basically clutter up the place.

Time for 1 OF 7. Put on a jacket, grab a rake, sling the camera over a shoulder and out in the wild streets we go to protect DC's drainage system and tidy up the 'hood a bit. Turns out raking your way down a leaf-covered sidewalk is fun. Neighbors come out and talk. Kids do what kids instinctively do when they see a leaf pile (minus the lit matches). The best part had to be watching the confused canines, particularly the smaller ones, as they sniffed and yawned and peed and played their way down the street, disappearing under the islands of fallen leaves we left behind, before launching themselves from underneath, dog and owner as happy as should be expected while sober on a breezy Friday in November.

Volunteering doesn't have to be hard or far from home. It doesn't need to be planned in advance. Sometimes the opportunity just falls right in front of you.