Thursday, May 31, 2012

12 in 12: May Update

During 2012, Sophia, Olivia, and I are doing a special challenge that we've named 12 in 12. We are doing 12 different activities that help people in need, animals, or the environment. 

This is how we did during May: 

- Take 1 bag of food to the food shelf. We put a bag of food in Elim Lutheran Church's food pantry collection box. The food shelf supports anyone in need in two local communities.

Bag of food we donated to the food shelf.

- Volunteer 1 hour at a community organization. Sophia volunteered by being a part of Special Music Sunday at church. She performed two pieces as part of an ensemble. (See picture at the end of this update.)

This involved two hours of being at the two services, a half hour practice with the ensemble four days before the services as well as a half-hour warm-up before the first service. She also practiced countless hours at home so she knew the pieces well enough to perform them from memory.

We also volunteered for the African Library Project. Through them, we are collecting books to establish a library in Lesotho, Africa. More about the project is written below. There were three donors this month to the book drive, so we drove to pick up the books.

The girls with some of the books they collected
for the library in Lesotho, Africa.

Once we had them at home, we sorted through them and then placed them in bins. (We need to wait to ship the books until we have collected 1,000 of them.)

- Donate 1 bag of clothing to a second-hand shop. We donated two bags of clothing to Recycled Wardrobes in Lindstrom. They offer a selection of women's, children's, and men's gently-used clothing; as well as housewares, home decor, and collectable items.

We arrived during a thunderstorm.
Needless to say, we opted to take a picture
from the car instead of outside.

Recycled Wardrobe's goal is to keep clothes out of the garbage; and give low and no cost resources to others. They are a collection site also for cell phones for women escaping from domestic violence situations as well as eyeglasses for the Lions Club.

- Donate 1 bag of toys and other non-clothing items to a second-hand shop. We donated 5 bags of craft supplies and household goods to Family Pathways in Forest Lake.

Sophia and Olivia outside Family Pathways
with items to donate.

For many years, we have donated items to Family Pathways because the profits from what they sell in the thrift shop support programs that benefit the community such as:

• non-medical senior services, including advocacy, companionship, and respite care, to seniors 60+ years old so they may continue to live independently in their own homes.

• food to adults and children in crisis through their food shelves and community advocacy program.

• youth service programs that benefit children, teens, and their families.

- Donate 12 books that we no longer read to organizations needing books. We donated 15 books from ones that we have read to the African Library Project. Sophia, Olivia, and I are collecting 1,000 books so a library in Lesotho, Africa can be established at an elementary school. 

More about the project and how to support the book drive (either by donating books or money to help pay for shipping and/or purchasing books to reach the goal) is HERE.

Olivia and Sophia holding 15 books that we are donating
to the African Library Project.
We will be sending them to Lesotho, Africa, so
a children's library can be established there.

- Donate $12 to an organization that helps individuals, animals, or the environment. Sophia and Olivia chose Northwoods Humane Society again this month. We are hoping that dogs and cats (and puppies and kittens) find good homes soon.

Lucy is looking for a home.
She was so eager to be pet; and pushed herself
right up next to the fence.
She'll make a wonderful companion to
a person or family who loves dogs.

- Write 1 letter to someone who has made a difference in our lives. I wrote a letter to my friend, Yoshiko, who lives in Japan. I've known Yoshiko since I was in high school. We have written letters (originally on thin, "onion" paper to save money) and now alternate between writing letters (via snail mail) and emails.

We have enjoyed hearing about one another's experiences in high school, college, first jobs, and careers - and the similarities and differences between life in Japan and the U.S.

We have celebrated birthdays, holidays, and special milestones in one another's lives. And, we also have been there for challenging times - our own health issues as well as deaths of our fathers (hers many years ago, and mine this year).

Throughout the years, she has been able to visit the U.S. many times - including three times to Minnesota. The last time she was able to spend a couple of weeks at the farm; and Sophia and Olivia were able to learn more about Japan, and get to know Yoshiko. We also were able to show Yoshiko some things she had not seen on previous trips to Minnesota.

Her friendship, support, and encouragement throughout the years has been invaluable. Perhaps, most touching, was a handmade card she made after my father died. She went through her photos and created a color collage of images of my dad, her, and our family from each of her visits to Minnesota.

Her beautiful words and thoughts about my dad, and what he meant to her, were touching. Between her written words and the collage of images from times when my dad was healthy and not affected by Alzheimer's Disease, I felt incredibly fortunate to have someone as caring and compassionate as Yoshiko in my life.

- Donate 1 bag of pop cans to places that collect them to raise funds. For the past four months, we donated cans to Northwoods since the girls are committed to helping animals find permanent, loving homes.

This month, we chose to donate cans to the local Lions club. The Scandia-Marine Lions club is part of the world's largest and most effective service club organization. According to the Lions website, the members of the organizations "do whatever is needed to help their local communities.

Everywhere [they] work, [they] make friends. With children who need eyeglasses, with seniors who don’t have enough to eat, and with people [they] may never meet."

Sophia and Olivia putting cans in the can collector.

The cans collected by the Lions are used to support projects that benefit the local community (e.g., scholarships, youth recreation programs).

In addition to local projects, perhaps the most well-known projected that the Lions do is related to vision. They conduct vision screenings, equip hospitals and clinics, distribute medicine, and raise awareness of eye disease. Their goal is to provide vision for all.

There are boxes that people can donate their used eye glasses to the Lions. Throughout the years, we have donated many pairs of glasses - both youth and adult - to this project.

- Donate 1 bag of Purina Kitten Chow (dry) to Northwoods Humane Society. We brought a bag of Kitten Chow to NHS, and this time we saw lots of kittens who would benefit from the donation. In fact, there were eight kittens available for adoption.

Two of the kittens looked exactly like Maggie and Lucy. (These are two of the cats who showed up at the farm one day as 3-4 week old kittens. The mother cat was no where to be found; and we ended up feeding them milk and soft food until they were able to eat hard food. Eventually, they trusted us enough to bring them indoors and make them house cats versus barn cats.)

These kittens look just like "Boo" when she was at this age.
They were so playful, and
both the girls enjoyed playing with them.

We were happy that many of the cats that were available for adoption last month had been adopted. Milo, a gentle and affectionate cat who had been there for about two months, finally was adopted!

It was fun to play with this cat.
He enjoyed trying to catch the wristband of the camera,
standing on his hind paws, and getting attention.

- Spend 1 hour outdoors doing projects that help wildlife. We cut small pieces of wool yarn and placed them on the top of a birdhouse as well as different places in the backyard that the wrens and other birds were visiting this month as they built their nests.

Olivia holding one of the bird houses that contains
seven wren eggs.

On May 22nd, we enjoyed watching a wren fly from her nest to the yarn pile and select different pieces that she wanted. Sophia and Olivia would put more pieces of yarn out for the wren while I cut the yarn. 

Butterflies at the hummingbird feeder.
Within five minutes of filling the feeder,
the butterflies were drinking from it.

We also are filling the hummingbird feeder since the hummingbirds have returned this month. Every day - since about May 20th - the hummingbirds have been drinking from the feeder.

Not a great picture....but it shows one of the
hummingbirds that visits the feeder.

Since there are more insects and worms available now, visits to the bird feeders have decreased. However, we still keep them filled so that the birds that like seeds have easy access to food.

Olivia filling one of the bird feeders that's 
by the side of the house.

We fill and change the water in the birdbath every couple of days. Many varieties of birds enjoy drinking from and taking baths in the birdbath each day. The cardinals seem to be the ones who like taking baths the most, while the finches enjoy drinking the water.

Gretel watching Olivia fill one of the feeders
that is in the backyard.

- Make and randomly drop off 1 toy for a child to find as part of The Toy Society. This month I made a stuffed elephant. The pattern is from a Japanese sewing/craft book. It is made from wool felt and stuffed with wool from sheep I use to raise.

Hand-embroidered toy for someone to find.

We placed the elephant, along with a label that said it was free, in the front legs of a coyote that was displayed in the visitor center at William O'Brien State Park. Sophia, Olivia, and I attended a program about owls; and afterwards enjoyed walking around the center and learning more about wildlife that lives in Minnesota.

The toy waiting to be discovered.

- Share 1 time the gift of music (piano and/or harp) or singing with others. Both the girls participated in a piano recital through the homeschool co-op on May 6.

Olivia playing "My Favorite Pets" at the recital.

They have a break from piano recitals until December. However, they'll select a piece to play for the winter recital this fall.

Sophia playing a sonatina at the piano recital on May 6th.

Sophia and Olivia sang two songs at each of the Mother's Day services at church. In addition, when family members were invited to come up to sing one of the songs, I joined the girls and sang as well.

Sophia and Olivia singing with the children's choir
on Mother's Day.

On May 20, Sophia performed "Canon in D" with her harp teacher, two violinists, and an organists; and "Tis a Gift to be Simple" with her harp teacher and an organist at both church services.

Sophia playing the harp at church.

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