Spring Chicken Day!

When I was a child, my mom invented a new holiday in lieuScreenshot_20160320-120027-2 of Easter. We didn’t do the Easter Bunny, or Peep candies and all of that. It may have been because we were poor when I was a kid, or because my mom found the over commercialization of Easter distasteful, or because the giant Easter bunny at the mall made my little brother cry, or because I had expressed a lot of interest in other things. For whatever reason, we landed on Spring Chicken Day.

Spring Chicken Day is the first day of Spring, and instead of getting new clothes, and hair things, and new ties for my brother, we did spring cleaning to get ready for the spring Chicken to come. We found all out old things that didn’t fit or we didn’t like anymore, and we donated them or traded them at with the neighbors or friends at school or at the church we attended when I was growing up. After that, my mom would take us to a second hand store to pick up some new/used clothes to replace the ones we had grown out of, and we talked a lot about reusing things, and sharing. It was never something we were embarrassed or ashamed about. Actually, I remember being very excited about Spring Chicken Day. I watched A LOT of PBS as a kid, and I remembered a lot of programs about recycling and conservation, and to me, Spring Chicken Day, followed soon by Earth Day was part of what made Spring and Summer so special. It was how we celebrated and took care of the Earth we live on.

Another big part of Spring Chicken Day, as we kids got older, was planting our garden. My mom would give us seed packets, and we would get to pick out garden tools from the second hand store as well, which would later be wrapped, and given to us from the “Spring Chicken”. Then we would spend the day planting new things. Sometimes it was beans, sometimes corn, sometimes flowers. It was always wonderful to have the responsibility of the garden, to take care of it with my brother, and make sure the plants got enough water and were protected from the hot New Mexico sun.

T is for Teacher

The passion I had for these lessons continue with me through school. When I was in 4th grade we had a student teacher who tentatively started a curriculum about water conservation, native plants and animals, and protecting our state of New Mexico, where I lived at the time. I loved it, and that passion for conservation stuck with me until college in Oregon where I took classes in Environmental Studies, Environmental Education, and Environmental Chemistry. You never know the difference you can make by sparking a child’s interest.
Today is the first day of Spring, and I spent time last week planting seeds with the children in my preschool. We talked about Rachel Carson, and recycling versus throwing things away. I may not be at home with my mom or my brother any more, but those values of cherishing the planet have stuck with me. I was able to share my book about reuse and upcycling with the kids in my class, There is No Away, and it has been a big hit. I wonder how they will look back on these spring activities in 25 years. Hopefully with the same fondness I do. Hopefully, they will be the next ones looking for solutions, with that same dedication and passion.

A is for Astronaut

Women’s History Month

This picture is based on the first Hispanic-American woman in space, Ellen Ochoa.
The first Hispanic-American woman in space, Ellen Ochoa.

March is Women’s History Month. It’s hard to narrow it down to just a few examples of women throughout history who have made a difference to us all. Women who have made a difference to the environment, women who made a difference to social justice, who made a difference in science or medicine, women who have been great leaders of their countries, who were great explorers. I could just start a list of names: Rachel Carson, Erin Brockovich, Dorothea Dix, Dorothea Lang, Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace, Jeanne Baré, Maria Theresa, Cleopatra, Elizabeth I, and Sacajawea.

US Supreme Court Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor.

However, Women’s History Month is more than that. It is educating ourselves, and young people who are still in school, who will soon enough be growing up to make choices about the world we live in, to know about the importance of women, the sacrifices the women before  have made so that we all could have everything we have, and at its most basic level, the fundamental understanding that people, no matter their gender, are equal.

Does this mean that the things that men have created or brought about are less good? Of course not. But in a society that still, sadly values women, on average, 77% less, it is good to make the effort to shine a light on the equally valuable efforts that women have made throughout history.

So from Anne Frank to Zenobia, let’s learn about, celebrate, teach about, and appreciate women all year, and not just during Women’s History Month!

ABC Girls

The Fourteen Female Rangers of Virunga National Park

Virunga National Park is in the East Congo, and is a very dangerous place, for people and animals. It is one of the few places that gorillas and other endangered animals still remain in the wild. However, because of the terrain and the proximity from human habitations, it is an ideal location for not just poachers, but rebel military forces and other dangerous criminals looking for a place to hide. It is the oldest national park in the entire continenABC Girlst of Africa. Historically the job of Park Ranger to Virunga has been an only male job. Women were not allowed to be Park Rangers.

However, in 2014 four women passed the very difficult tests to become the first female Virunga National Park Rangers.  Kisamya became the first female section commander, and she and her team of women protected the gorillas, tourists, and the Park from danger.

Since then ten more women have passed the exams, and successfullyPark Rangery passed training with Belgian Commandos to learn battle field tactics and and extreme survival skills to use against groups from illegal loggers to anti-government groups.

The woman I painted represents these women, although she is caring for a rhino instead of a gorilla. She represents women who care about nature and animals and choose to take that out into the field, even though the field may be dangerous. The picture also shows Indigenous Women caring for and protecting animals that live in their area, and achieving more autonomy over their homes.
veteran jobs
Another woman I thought of as I painted R is for Ranger, was Kinessa Johnson, a former US Army veteran, who after her time in Afghanistan joined a program called Empowered to Protect African Wildlife (VETPAW), which trains other people, like Kisamya. So Kinessa uses her skills and teaches Kisamya to protect the animals.

It just goes to show, when we work together we can accomplish great things!

Kisamya’s Story

Kinessa’s Story