Creating Friendships…One Bench at a Time.

One person can really make a difference.

Christian Bucks, an 11 year old fifth grader from York, PA came up with a great idea for encouraging friendships on the playground.  After seeing kids on his playground sitting alone or having no one to play with during recess, he asked his principal if they could get a Buddy Bench. A place where a child could sit down and be joined by others looking for friendship.   The principal agreed and a bench was installed on the playground.

It was an instant hit.  A lot of new friendships were being made.  The bench also helped prevent bullying. Since the installation of that first Buddy Bench, the concept has taken off and there are now more than  2,000 Buddy Benches at schools in all 50  states and in 13 countries including Russia, Australia, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia.

When asked how he felt about his idea Christian said, “I like how the idea has spread.  It’s a little thing, but little things can be big.”

To find out more about the Buddy Bench visit: http://www.buddybench.org

Kim Pfennigwerth Returns to Give Something Away.

It’s almost here – Our Second National Give Something Away Day!

Last year I wrote that July 15th is National Give Something Away Day and Darlene and I thought it would be wonderful to celebrate it once again.

As a quick reminder National Give Something Away Day is exactly what is sounds like. Give something away. Give something small or something large to someone else. It can be an organization, a family member, a friend, or a total stranger. It will lift your heart and bring a smile because giving something away is a kindness that our world needs.  

What are your plans? Going to the beach? Take along some small bottles of sunscreen to give to others.  Live along a popular walkway? Leave out some fruit or bottles of water with a Free: Take One sign. Know someone stressed-out and frazzled? Surprise them.

Giving something away is a win-win moment. You are either giving away something you’ve purposefully thought about or you are cleaning / organizing shelf or drawer space for yourself while taking the time to give it away rather than adding to a local landfill.

Recently my sister and I walked 300+ miles of the Central Portuguese Camino Way to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. We experienced kindness given away daily.

Conversations were struck up at tiny cafes and well wishes given. Dozens of times a day the phrase ‘Bon Camino’ (have a good journey) were given and shared.

Pilgrims resting at Roman Bridge, Santiago.

A house along one part of the trail had fresh water and fruit for ‘pilgrims’ like us to enjoy. Another provided a shady area with chairs to enjoy a rest with the added bonus of hot coffee or some water at no charge.

On one hot day, a woman in Spain gave cool, juicy peaches and cold water to two weary women who still had 8 miles left to walk.

Daily in tiny cafes, along trails, or while sharing a cold stream to cool hot feet, kindnesses were given away. Band-Aids, cookies, fruit, with no thought other than the enjoyment of sharing with someone else.

Give away a smile, some books, or delightful time and conversation. Wish someone a good journey. But do yourself a wonderful service and take delight in the magic of giving something away. Someone else will be glad you did, I guarantee it. If you need ideas links are included below.

What have I given away? Books to the library, toys for a toddler, clothes to Good Will.

WHAT HAVE YOU GIVEN AWAY?

Share your plans and how they made you feel and be in the running for our own give-away to two randomly chosen people.  One will receive a Barnes and Noble $15.00 gift card from me and another a handmade quilted cosmetic bag from Darlene.    WINNERS WILL BE DRAWN AT RANDOM AND ANNOUNCED HERE ON THURSDAY, JULY 27. 

And from Darlene and myself enjoy a Smile-Inducing, Happiness-Boosting National Give Something Away Day!

Kim Pfennigwerth

Helpful links:

Vietnam Veterans Of American: http://www.clothingdonations.org/about-us/

Dress For Success: https://www.dressforsuccess.org/

Books for Soldiers: http://booksforsoldiers.com/donate_to_the_soldiers/

Good Will: http://www.goodwill.org/

Volunteer Your Time: https://www.volunteermatch.org/

Give to Food Banks: http://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank/

Find Your Public Library – donate books or give a monetary donation: http://www.publiclibraries.com/

BIO:   

Kim Pfennigwerth is a lover of books, animals, children, and kindness. She is often spotted in a bookstore or library reading piles of books while revising her own picture book manuscripts.

Darlene here:  Ever since Kim’s post last year, I have been making an effort to give away things large and small.  In January, I gave away my old – but in good working condition – car to a woman who was unable to find a job due to lack of transportation.  For Valentine’s Day, I gave chocolate candy to random people I saw throughout the day.  I try to give a smile to everyone I meet.  I’ve given away clothes, household goods, free copies of my book, and some hand-made cloth cosmetic bags.  The smiles on the recipient’s faces made my day.  Giving feels wonderful!

 

How to “BEE” Kind to Bees.

For thousands of years, honeybees have transformed flower nectar into that wonderful sweetness called honey.  Not only is honey a delicious treat in recipes or to sweeten a cup of tea, it has many medicinal properties as well.  Due to its sterile qualities, doctors used it as wound dressings during the civil war.

Honeybees are important in another crucial way – as pollinators of our food supply.  The USDA estimates that “about one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefits from honeybee pollination”.  Some crops, such as almonds, rely completely upon honeybees for propagation.

So what, you might ask?  Honeybee populations are dwindling worldwide from a combination of factors that contribute to Colony Collapse Disorder. This happens when worker bees leave behind a colony with only a queen and a few immature bees, resulting in death of the colony. Currently the main factors are thought to be: viruses, parasites, management stressors, migratory stress and pesticides.  To view a film on CCD: http://www.vanishingbees.com

Honeybees are one of many indicators of a healthy environment.  A disturbance in their life cycle, could be a symptom of larger issues.           

HOW CAN WE HELP?

  1. Buy organic to help reduce pesticide use.  Refrain from use of pesticides in your own yard and garden.
  2. Plant pollinator-friendly plants such as bee balm and red clover.
  3. Buy local and single producer honey to support small scale bee keepers in your own community.
  4. Enjoy the wonderful taste of local honey in your own recipes.

BEE KIND TO BEES…Our Food Supply Depends on it!

 

Under the Radar: Low Profile National Parks Part 1, by Marilyn Ostermiller

More Americans than ever plan to vacation with their families this summer, according to a recent AAA survey. Many of them are going to America’s national parks. The Great Smoky Mountains expect about 10 million visitors this year, compared to five million each at the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.

Looking for a “road less traveled” experience? Five low profile national parks, based on the number of annual visitors, are listed below.

Ultimate Wilderness

 Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve was created to preserve and protect 8.4 million acres of the diverse Arctic ecosystems of Alaska’s Brooks Range. It serves as the headwaters for six wilderness rivers. There are no facilities, roads or trails. Visitors should come equipped to backpack, hike, camp and cruise the rivers. Transportation in and out of the park, usually by plane, must be pre-arranged.

Annual visitors: 10,047

Photo Credit: National Parks Service:  A Student Conservation Association volunteer stands on the Continental Divide in the Brooks Mountain Range, which divides the continent north and south.

Sunken Ships: Isle Royale National Park is a remote island in Lake Superior near Michigan’s border with Canada. Cars aren’t allowed in this wilderness of forests, lakes and waterways where moose and wolves roam. There are dive sites where visitors plunge into the lake to explore several shipwrecks. Ferry is the only way to get there and camping reservations are required for visitors who want to spend the night.

Annual visitors: 18,684

Water, Water Everywhere, But Not a Drop to Drink:  Dry Tortugas National Park is a cluster of seven islands 70 miles west of Key West, Florida. The “Dry” in its name came from the Spanish explorers who determined the sea water surrounding the islands was not fit to drink. “Tortugas” is the Spanish word for the sea turtles that build their nests in the protected sandy shores.  The waters around the islands particularly appeal to snorkelers because their coral reefs teem with interesting marine life.

Annual visitors: 70,862

South of the Equator:  National Park of American Samoa, Territory of American Samoa, is 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii. It is America’s only national park south of the equator. Rain forests and extensive coral reefs are its main draw. Visitors should pack snorkel or diving gear; air tanks can be rented. The only land mammals are three types of bats, among them the fruit bats with three-foot  wingspans.

Annual visitors: 13,892

Newest National Park:  Pinnacles National Park in California was designated the 59th national park in 2013. It dates back millions of years ago, when multiple volcanoes erupted, flowed, and slid to form the land encompassed by this 26,000-acre park. Rock climbers and hikers are drawn to it. Another attraction are the condors. About 30 of them are tagged, but fly freely.

Annual Visitors: 206,533

A sequel to this blog post, scheduled for July 10, will acquaint readers with five more of the less-traveled parks around the country. The U.S. National Parks Service provides extensive information about the 59 parks it operates  including trip planning information. https:www.nps.gov

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.

 

 

 

Enjoy Your Own Solar Eclipse Compliments of the US Postal Service.

Mark you calendar: On August 21, a total solar eclipse will be visible from coast to coast in the US.  It will be the first total SOLAR ECLIPSE visible only in the USA since our nation’s founding in 1776.  It will also be the first one to sweep across the ENTIRE country in 99 years.

The eclipse will start on the west coast in OREGON and trace an eastern path 67 miles wide, exiting in SOUTH CAROLINA.  The eclipse will last 2-3 minutes in each location.

If you aren’t able to get out and observe this phenomenon first hand, you can enjoy your own personal SOLAR ECLIPSE thanks to the US Postal Service “Total Eclipse Forever Stamp”.  The stamp – released on Tuesday 6-20-2017 – is a photo of a total solar eclipse taken in Libya on 3-29-2006 by NASA astrophysicist Fred Espenak.  Thanks to the use of THERMOCHROMATIC INK, rubbing the stamp with the heat from your finger or blowing warm air over it, reveals an underlying image of the moon.  The image reverts back to the eclipse once it cools.       

The eclipse is temporary, but the stamp is forever.  How COOL is that?   http://www.usps.com

Like Bugs? There’s a Museum For That!

As much as we adults lament the “peskiness” of insects, they are endlessly fascinating creatures and worthy of respect.  Without insects, our food supply would be in grave danger. These mysterious creatures are fascinating to children as well.

If you and your children want to learn more about insects, check out some of these INSECT MUSEUMS dedicated to bug fans everywhere.   You can make it a stop on your summer vacation.

  1. Oregon Zoo, Portland: Has an African millipede that’s 9 inches long (HUGE for an insect).  http://www.oregonzoo.org
  2. Los Angeles National History Museum: Insect hynts, puppet walks and cooking demonstrations with bug chefs.  Try BUGABOO BROWNIES made from mealworm flour.  http://www.nhm.org
  3. Pacific Science Center, Seattle, Insect Village: Mechanical Insect displays and walking stick bugs among the highlights.  http://www.pacificsciencecenter.org
  4. Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Zoology Dept: Largest collection of Praying Mantises and Dung Beetles.  http://www.cmnh.org

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  5. Butterfly House and Insectarium,Texas Discovery Garden, Dallas: Huge variety of tropical and near-tropical butterflies.  http://www.texasdiscoverygardens.org
  6. Fossil Beds National Monumnet, CO: Largest collection of insect fossils in the world. http://www.nps.gov/flfo
  7. Museum of Life and Science, Durham, NC: Though not an insect, Orb-weaving spiders are the main attraction.  http://www.lifeandscience.org
  8. Insectropis, Toms River, NJ: Interactive exhibits and a place to donate living bugs you don’t want to keep at home.  http://www.insectropolis.com

9. Butterfly Wonderland, Scottsdale, AZ: The largest butterfly pavilion in the US.   http://www.butterflywonderland.com

10. Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion, Philadelphia, PA: Touch, eat, and learn about our multi-legged friends.

http://www.phillybutterflypavilion.com

Why not “scratch your itch” and learn more about insects.

 

Use Native Plants For a Healthy Yard…and Planet.

Adding flowering plants to your garden supports earth-friendly pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.  But not just any flowering plant will do.  NATIVE PLANTS are necessary in order for insects such as butterflies to reproduce.  Without pollinating insects, our crops and food supply is at risk.

What is a native plant?  A plant that grew in the US in free colonial days.  More importantly, the plant should have grown and evolved LOCALLY.  Plants native to Maine would not be the same as those found in Kansas.  To create healthy ecosystems, our gardens and farmlands are best pollinated by creatures that depend on NATIVES for their survival.  One great example is planting milkweed for the monarch butterfly – an endangered species.  While butterfly bushes ATTRACT these insects, monarch butterflies DO NOT lay their eggs on anything except the milkweed.   

Milkweed from my garden.

For more information about native plants in your area, visit: http://www.npsnj.org

http://www.natureconservancy.org

Also check out the children’s environmental site: http://www.Parade.com/turfmutt

Follow the “right plant, right place” rule when you plant your garden.  Transitioning to Native Plants makes a positive contribution to our environment and the future health of our planet and food supply.