Childhood, Revisited

Snowy Nights!
My lovely Snowomen

My lovely Snowomen

Team, I know this is absurd coming from someone in their twenties, but I really wish I was a kid again. Not so much to experience the growing pains and awkwardness but so I can go to places like the Memphis Botanic Garden and experience Snowy Nights in My Big Backyard for all its glory. Since I was blown away as an adult* I can only imagine how much fun I would have as a child!

Snowy Nights!

Snowy Nights!

*I don’t necessarily consider myself an adult though I understand that it is a title that society expects me to hold.

 

 

 

 

So, Snowy Nights! ‘Twas beautiful! ‘Twas rain free! ‘Twas not too cold! ‘Twas a great experience! It really was a wonderful way to spend my Saturday evening. Before heading over there, I was at my friend’s house. Pretty much everyone was on the couch. Coming back to that same friend’s house later, everyone was still on the couch. I, however, had played with real life Light Brights, hung out in a snow pit, drank hot cocoa, gave away pink snow and watched little kids run in joy to take a picture with Frosty the Snowman. I’ll let you decide who had the better time.

Part of the backyard all lit up!

Part of the backyard all lit up!

On a normal day, the Big Backyard is awesome in its own right. When it is all lit up and decorated for the holidays, photographs really can’t do it justice. I was there a little bit early and got to walk around and I WAS SQUEALING WITH DELIGHT. THIS IS AWESOME! THIS IS AWESOME! See, adult is not a correct term for me.

 

When I was finished with my self-guided tour it was time for all the volunteers to line up and hear more about Snowy Nights from volunteer coordinator Rosemary. There were about 25 of us volunteering and we were all assigned different posts. A few were sent to the cookie dough ornament making station. A few more were sent to the fire pit to help with s’mores. A few got to man the various costumes et cetera. I landed the lucky position of greeter!

Throne Chilling

Throne Chilling

Although I would’ve loved to be the Snow Queen, I really loved my time welcoming everyone, handing out pink snow, then getting to see people exit with their little ones tuckered out from all the great things they got to see and do. When talking to one child leaving she said her favorite part was “everything!” then, looking up at her mom exclaimed, “Mom! Can it be next year now so we can come again?!” I died. That was the cutest.

It truly was a magical time. Even though I won’t be having a white Christmas this year, I was proud that Memphis really brought the holiday spirit to life. The Botanic Garden was a great way to mediate the rest of this week. Although I have been in high spirits with all the volunteer work I’ve been doing this week, it was great to remember that there are super easy ways to bring a smile to a child’s face while having some fun yourself. There is certainly a balance that needs to be maintained. I’m slowly figuring out that I need to mix in joy to provide balance. Snowy Nights was a great way to tilt the joy factor a little higher.

Stay tuned for more updates from the 901.

Love,

Ari

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job in community outreach or partnerships position at a non-profit organization. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.
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Nature Meets Imagination

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I want to be six years old. I think it was the Once Upon a Time House that did it. Or Storybook Corner, which has it’s own Little Free Library and giant throne for storytime. It might have been when I heard the words “Snow Queen”. As in, “The Snow Queen hands out candy during Snowy Nights.”

It’s possible I want to be the Snow Queen.

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I spent my Saturday morning marveling at the Botanic Garden’s My Big Backyard. Despite the overcast skies and cooler autumn temperatures, there were lots of children running back and forth, their patient parents jogging to keep up. There were lots of excited faces, and rightly so. The Botanic Garden has created a children’s paradise, combining nature and fantasy to great success. There are mazes and swings, slides and creeks, themed playhouses and a giant treehouse. The area is designed to be fun, of course, but also to teach. In Home Sweet Home, plants grow out of furniture and appliances. The area is designed to show how plants can be used in different rooms of the house, and signs show tips on conserving energy. Kids are encouraged to sample the mint leaves and figs from the trees that line one side. The Bee and Butterfly Patios are up next, explaining the importance of pollinators to plant life and lighting the way to Playhouse Lane.

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Local artists designed the differing playhouse structures, and it really is a fantasy wonderland for little ones. In addition to the fairy tale house, there’s playhouses devoted to scientific exploration, full of magnifying glasses and other instruments of discovery. There’s a music house with built in musical instruments and a country farm house with a chicken coup in the back. The giant tree house offers rope bridges, facts about birds, and an eagle eye view of the whole area. Volunteers are encouraged to read a story, put on a puppet show, build up the giant bird’s nest, invite kids to sample the edible plants, whatever and wherever they feel most at home.

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It’s really, really cool.

And it’s about to get cooler. With winter comes Snowy Nights in My Big Backyard, a holiday lights show with music, games, beautiful holiday displays, and the aforementioned Snow Queen. There’s always an educational piece, of course, and I got a terrible case of scissors fingers cutting hundreds of paper corn kernels for the “Holidays Around the World” class that will teach kids about Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, and more.  They can learn, and then explore the winter wonderland waiting just outside. I, for one, can’t wait to see the magic.

I might even wear a tiara.

 

 

Thank you for reading! I am looking for a position with a non-profit that will allow me to use my communication, fundraising, and special event planning skills to impact development at an organization making a positive difference in Memphis. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

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Week 10, Day 5: Rae-Anne Pitts at Memphis Botanic Gardens

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I have been to the Memphis Botanic Gardens once before. I knew it was spacious, but I had no idea how enormous it really is. It is a 96-acre property containing 28 different distinctive gardens. I did not know that volunteers, primarily, maintain the gardens. There is a small staff for a big place. Volunteers are used in almost every aspect of the garden such as planting, maintaining gardens, and assisting with events. The botanic gardens could not operate without volunteers. There are twenty-three gardens on the property, the most impressive to me is, the rose garden because there are many varieties of roses there, but my favorite is the herb garden. There, they grow almost every herb imaginable and have information on the uses of all of them.

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On Friday I volunteered at, “My Big Backyard.” My Big Backyard is the area of the botanic gardens specially designated for children. Here, children can play, splash, and discover. My Big Backyard has sixteen different areas; they are all designed with children in mind. During the summer, special events are held in My Big Backyard; they include: summer camps, “Firefly Glow Parties”, “Mud Pie Mondays”, and “Fun Fridays”

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My volunteer experience had me help with “Fun Fridays.” Fun Fridays are held each Friday from May until July. Each Friday includes a different activity or craft that kids can participate in, and then take home. The cost of Fun Fridays is $3, which pays for all the materials needed to make the craft. Children of all ages can participate. On this Friday our activity was held at the House of Rock on Playhouse Lane. Each house on Playhouse Lane is unique, and designed by a different artist. Since we were at the House of Rock, our corresponding craft was a drum. The base of the drum used a lemonade container. Each child selected a string so that the drum could hang around their neck, then they customized their drums with duct tape, stickers, and markers. We encouraged the children to gather sticks from the area to use as drum sticks. The children enjoyed discovering how to make different sounds depending on which area of the drum they hit. The children had a great time; one group left the activity, drumming, as if they were in a parade.

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I had a wonderful time at the gardens. I gained an appreciation for the dedication of the volunteers through learning how much they do; The Memphis Botanic Gardens is such an immense place and takes work to maintain. I have enough trouble keeping a potted plant alive in my apartment; I can’t imagine the amount of work it requires to keep the gardens looking stunning. While you are there it is so easy to forget that you are in the middle of a city.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job in public policy, non-profit administration, or social science research. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or raeannepitts@gmail.com

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Week 8, Day 6: Miki Skeen at Memphis Botanic Gardens

I think everyone has different reasons to volunteer in the community. For me, I think volunteering is a way to really be a part of Memphis, not just someone who lives here. I was so excited to have the opportunity to participate in Volunteer Odyssey, not just to learn more about the area non-profits, but to find ways to give back to my community with my daughter. Volunteering is a form of service learning by which children can make connections between their actions and positive results. It’s been very important to our family to help Janie Kathryn find ways to make a difference in her communityin the world. Volunteer Odyssey introduced us to many new ways to volunteer as a family.

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The Memphis Botanic Gardens might be one of the best places to begin volunteering with your children. There are several opportunities to foster civic pride and responsibility, using a charming, age-appropriate setting to do it. Janie Kathryn joined me again on day six of and we headed over to our beloved My Big Backyard.

IMG_3756Brooms and buckets in hand, we set out to Playhouse Lane. We scrubbed woodwork and windows. We picked up trash and swept the floors. It was real work that required a real effort- and not just the physical kind. It’s hard to stay focused on your responsibilities when you really want to join in the fun, but the end result was pure satisfaction.

We were hot and thirsty and tired, but Janie Kathryn looked at me and said, “This might be one of my favorite ways to volunteer.” Cleaning those little houses might have been more play than chore to her at the time, but I can see the bigger picture. When she re-enters one of those houses she will be proud to know that she had a hand in its maintenance. She will think twice before she leaves a mess in one house and runs off to another. Her contribution to our volunteer work on day six was early civic responsibility. Because she volunteers as a child, this is a habit she is more likely to carry over to her adult life in the community that waits outside the whimsical walls of My Big Backyard.

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Week 1, Day 3: John Cook at Memphis Botanic Gardens

I have been giving this a lot of thought. A LOT of thought: I’m going to become a farmer.
That’s right! I’m going to become a farmer and I’m going to grow ALL kinds of things too! Tomatoes? Duh. Carrots? Absolutely! Strawberries?! Get out of here! Of course I’m going to grow strawberries! And everything else in between!! Cucumbers! Zucchini! BELL PEPPERS of every color you can THINK of!! (except perhaps blue) PLUS- so many different herbs you won’t know whether to laugh or cry.
There’s just one problem: I don’t know HOW to do any of this. The only experience I’ve ever had with growing anything (other than an amazing beard) was a few weeks ago when I did this to an avocado pit:

Avocado farming.

Avocado farming.

Until today! I showed up at Memphis Botanic Garden in East Memphis, a 96 acre botanic garden that aims to enhance people’s lives by connecting them with nature and increasing awareness and appreciation of our environment. I met with a man named Manny, who has what seems like the best job in Memphis. He showed me around the place and then brought me to the volunteer greenhouse. It has everything you can think of growing in it.

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Volunteer greenhouse

After I looked around at all the different plants, it was time to get some work done. Another employee, Stella, and another volunteer, Will, joined Manny and I in the greenhouse. Then, Manny showed me how to properly take tiny plants out of their tiny pots, and then place them in slightly bigger pots. It might sound easy, but it was the perfect task for a beginner like myself. Stella and Will, who have much more experience than I do, worked along side of me but were re-potting and grooming bigger and exoticker. (yea, exoticker is a word, don’t try to look it up) We stood there, working with our plants and chatting about music, travel, school…you name it. I was having fun AND I was completely relaxed. Stella even referred to her work as “therapeutic”.

Stella during a therapy sesh

Stella during a therapy sesh

After about an hour of re-potting the tiny plants, Manny decided that it was time for me to graduate and move on to the plants that Stella and Will were working on. Manny showed me a few tricks, and within no time I felt like a pro. Well, maybe not a pro, but definitely more knowledgeable than I was earlier in the day.

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Manny and his green thumbs

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Now, it might take me awhile to become a full-fledged farmer, so don’t come knocking on my door demanding salads quite yet. Jeez, people, give me some time! Meanwhile, I’ll be at Memphis Botanic Gardens learning a few things from Manny, Stella, and Will.

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