Friday, June 06, 2014

What to do if you lose your cat

Sadly, this week we've had to learn what to do when a cat goes missing.

Our cat Bogey went out on Wednesday evening and has not come back. It not unusual for him to spend the whole night outside - but usually the morning he'll be crying at the door.

But it's now been two nights, and he's still not home.

So what to do if you live in Ottawa and you've lost your pet? Here's what I've learned so far.

1. Call the the Humane Society's Lost and Found department. They will ask for a description of the pet and the area of the city where it went missing. They check that against their database to see if your pet's been found already.

2. Fill out their online lost animal report so if they find your pet, they know where to reach you.

3. Email them a photo of your pet. (So if you have pets and don't currently have a good photo of each of them, might be a good idea to get those images now).

4. Call the city. In Ottawa, you can simply dial 311. You'll be filing two reports (easily done over the phone) - one with the City Bylaw Department to find out if anyone has called in a strange cat roaming around, and the other with Road Maintenance. It's awful to think about, but it's the Road Maintenance crew that is alerted when an animal has been run over on a street.

5. Go to the Humane Society Animal Shelter to see if you can find your pet among those there. Be optimistic and bring your pet carrier with you.

6. Print up posters with a picture of you pet and descriptions of any identifying features - as well as information about how to contact you if it has been found. You may even want to offer a reward as an extra motivation. You can hang up posters around your neighbourhoud - and chat with people you meet to see if they might have seen your pet.

I'm still holding out hope that our Bogey will come home. He's a lug of a cat with some quirky habits - and he's also quite lazy. But when I find him curled up on my bed, I'll lie down and put my head on him like he's my pillow. Instantly he'll start purring. And then I'll just lay there for awhile, listening to the comforting, contented sounds of his rumbling purr. I'm really going to miss that.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Donations made easy - household pick-ups

I'm now in my 20th week of the year of giving (#365gifts). It's not as difficult as I thought it would be. Turns out that once I start looking closely at all the things we have, I realize how much we don't need. It also helps that we have a baby who rapidly grows out of her clothes. Baby-related donations make up a good chunk of my giving (which is why I did research into places that will accept baby clothes).

My biggest challenge is not what to get rid of - but where to give the donations. I have some shelves in the basement where I've been putting items I have decided to pass on. But how to find someone who can make use of them? And since I'm working full-time, it's hard to make trips around the city to make donation drop-offs (to places like food banks, shelters, and supportive services for young moms).

So I welcome any opportunity where someone will pick up donations from me. In advance of a scheduled pick up I just leave the items to be collected in bag outside my front door, with the name of the person or organization it is for. Then someone comes and collects it. Couldn't be easier.

Where can you find the people and organizations that will pick up donations from your home?

Freecycle: The Freecyle network has groups all around the world. It's an online community of people giving (and getting) stuff for free. You sign-up and then post items you have to give away. Often the things I post are snapped up right away - and almost always the person who takes my 'gifts' will pick them up. I love knowing that what I've donated is going to someone who wants it. And I love the convenience of the pick-ups.

Clothesline: The Canadian Diabetes Association runs the Clothesline program which accepts gently used clothing, electronics and small household items. They have drop boxes in communities across Canada, but they also run a free pick-up service. Register online and they will get in touch to confirm their pick-up day. They will also contact you periodically to let you know of collection drives in your neighbourhood.

Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy: Like the Clothesline program, the OFCP offers a free home pick-up service. Their primary aim is to collect clothes, shoes, coats, bedding and linens. They also accept donations of re-usable items that are in good condition and working order, such as toys, games, small appliances, small furniture items, sporting goods, books, electronics, and housewares. They too will contact you periodically to let you know of collection drives in your neighbourhood. (If you are not in Ontario, check for your regional CP organization to see if they also offer this service.)

Salvation Army: If you have larger items to give away (such as furniture), the Salvation Army will send their truck to pick it up. Contact your regional thrift store to arrange a free pick-up.

If you know of other charities or organizations that will offer free household pick-ups, please post the information in a comment below. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Book Spine Poetry

The Ottawa Public Library is holding a contest called 'Poetry on spines'. They are encouraging people to send in photos of book spines arranged so as to form poetry.

With my background as a hungry poet, and since we our home holds at least 600 books, this seemed like a project made just for me.

So I've been browsing our book shelves and playing with titles. Here are some that I've come up with so far. (And my fabulous friend Laurene has sent me one of hers too.)

The Time of the Angels
Fall On Your Knees
Immovable Wisdom

I am a Cat
A Jest of God
Who do you think you are?

Will you take me as I am?
Sense and Sensibility
Secrets and Lies
Light in August
Dark Age Ahead
The Long Winter

Lost Antartica
Reinventing Your Life
Among Penguins
-by Laurene Dong

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Revisiting Little House on the Prairie

Like many children born in the 1970s, one of my best childhood friends-in-a-book was a plucky pioneer girl named Laura.

I loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books: Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek... I read and re-read them so many times that I knew the stories backwards and forwards.

And I loved Laura. Like me, she had a older blonde sister who was the one who liked to cook and sew, while Laura wanted to be running barefoot in the wind. When cows got into the haystacks, or a ball of fire was rolling toward the house, Laura was the one who leapt into action. She was the brave one, always ready for another adventure. I loved that about her. And I loved that she was always pushing back her sunbonnet so she could see the whole world around her.

Over the years, and my many moves, my well-worn series of Little House books has traveled with, covering more miles than the Wilder family rode in their wooden wagon.

A few months ago I brought out the first book to show Miya. At first she was not too interested. She is used to short books filled with colourful illustrations and brief narratives. Long chapter books with only occasional pen and ink drawings were new to her. But just like her, the character of Laura is four years-old when we first meet her in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. And Ingalls Wilder writes in a beautifully descriptive yet accessible style that is perfect for children. She describes birds in flight, the shifting play of colours and light in a sunset, the sound of winter winds on clapboard walls... I could see Miya imagination increasingly engaging with the stories.

Soon she was asking for the Little House book each night at bedtime and would listen carefully to the story. When we finished one, she couldn't wait to start the next. She listened wide-eyed to stories of prairie blizzards and fires, wolves howling in a circle around the house. We had to reassure her several times that there are no wolves around here.

I wondered if she would lose interest as Laura grew into a teenager, then a young woman. But she stayed engaged in the story. I will admit I skipped over some passages in the latter books. The part where the woman she was boarding with pulled a knife on her husband - we passed over that. I also left out the chapter where Pa and some other men dress up in 'black face'.

But the book prompted conversations about the native rights and how settlers pushed people off their land. We had discussions about racism when Ma says 'The only good Indian is a dead Indian.' And I figured our other conversations about diversity have sunk in when Miya announced that after college Mary would likely marry someone who is also blind, "a blind boy or a blind girl".

We finished the last book a few weeks ago, but Miya still brings up Laura and Mary from time to time. It's neat how they have become real to her, just like they were to me in my childhood.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

50 days of giving

I am 50 days into my giving project - a gift a day for 365 days. So far it's been pretty easy and I'm already feeling some de-cluttering joy.

Loaded up for a day
of deliveries
One of my primary motivations for doing this project was to take a serious look at the things we have and pass on those which we no longer need. In keeping with this, more than to 3/5 of my daily gifts thus far have been donations of 'previously owned' items, especially baby clothes. Knowing that I would be starting this project in the new year, I had a stockpile of these ready to pass on and it was very satisfying to pack them up and get them out of the house.

But in my eagerness to get rid of things, I packed the bags pretty full in those first few weeks. Then I began to realize that it's still a long way till the end of December and I should stretch things out a bit. This has also encouraged me to look around for different people and organizations I might be able to help.

It's funny how happy I feel when I hear of places or people looking for donations. Our school is collecting books for the spring book fair. The Snowsuit Fund is having an annual drive. The upcoming Winter Carnival at Iona Park will be collecting donations of mittens. Excellent!

I've also become very appreciative of local organizations that have lists on their websites of the kinds of things they regularly accept as donations. And I must admit, Freecycle has become is an easy go-to. I have posted offers for things like cook books, CDs, and art supplies and have had them snatched up in no time. People will even pick the items up! Although there is still a set of V's martial arts belts that no one has asked for...

"Buttons by Miya"
I'm trying to involve my family in this project as much as they are willing. If Miya makes cards or crafts for someone, that counts as a daily gift. One afternoon we fun making little magnets from old buttons, half of which she gave to her grandma.

I'm also always happy to have an excuse to knit, so I've knitted up a few daily gifts: wash cloths for Clean Kits, a hat for V, and a couple of scarves. So in many ways, I feel like I'm just getting started.

For the sake of public accountability, I am tweeting my daily gift. You can follow me @AnitaGrace11. I'm also always looking for gift ideas - so if you know of a local charity that accepts donated items, please post a comment below or send me a tweet.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The 1st 10 days of giving

I'm 10 days into my New Year's challenge of giving something every day (a.k.a. 365 gifts) and so far it's been quite fun.

As planned, my daily gifts have been a combination of new/purchased items (i.e. coffee beans to thank our lovely hosts in Kitchener) and donations of used items (i.e. a blanket and flannel sheets for my favourite food bank).

But I've had to pace myself and am purposefully not filling up the donation bags as full as I can. 355 days to go, I remind myself. So in some ways this is curbing my generosity.

Like yesterday, when I was at the Parkdale Food Centre chatting with the Executive Director Karen Secord, she told me about a new bakery in the 'hood - Bread By Us. They have a suspend system where clients can buy a loaf of bread and pay for another one which is 'suspended'. Karen directs her clients to the bakery and they can receive a loaf of suspended bread, no questions asked.

"Go now," Karen urged me - and tried to convince me that 8-month-old Nisha really needed a cookie.

Sounds great, I thought. But I'd just dropped off my donation for the day, so I'm going to save it for another time. This delay felt a bit counter to the spirit of this project.

That said, I have had to make some modifications to the project. Since I don't usually have access to a car during the week, it's hard to deliver my gifts or donations outside of walking distance. So on the days I can't deliver, I'm setting the bag or box in the sun room. And I'm not going to let myself cheat here (no saying, I'll put that together tomorrow). By the time I tweet it (#365gifts), anyone can show up and say 'I hear you have a donation for ... and I have to be able to hand it over. I also appreciate organizations like the Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy who will pick up donations.

This means on the days I do have the car, I'm get to feel like Santa, driving around with my gifts to deliver. Ho ho ho!

But I have discovered that this project is going to require a lot of research, at least if I'm going to stick with my goal of trying to intentionally place items where they are needed and not just dump everything in a charity donation bin. I really appreciate the organizations, like Ottawa's Youville Centre, that provide an online list of items needed.

I'm also keeping a little notebook with ideas for donations, places that accept used items, etc. It's great too that friends are starting to make suggestions.

And more ideas are certainly welcome - 355 days to go!

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Donating baby clothes

It is amazing how one little person can have so many clothes!

As any parent knows, you end up with a lot of clothes when you have a baby. And given that most babies grow an inch a month in the first six months, then an inch every two for the rest of their first year, baby clothes are outgrown very quickly. There are cute little outfits my girls have received as gifts that were only worn once or twice before they were outgrown.

So, what to do with the mounds of baby clothes that have been outgrown?

There are consignment stores, such as Boomerang Kids in Ottawa, that will accept used items. But with so many families wanting to off-load clothing, consignment places can afford to be pretty picky and they prefer top brands. I have taken bags of clothing there, only to half of the items rejected.

While I'm not trying to pass on stained and worn-out clothes (those I turn into rags), I have been looking for places in town that will accept gently used items that are still in decent condition - and give (not sell) them to people in need.

Here's what I've found so far. Would love to hear more suggestions.

- Birthright Ottawa, a volunteer-run charity that supports women with unplanned pregnancies. They will take good quality clothes for infants and toddlers (up to 2 years-old).

- Youville Centre, a charity which helps single mothers. They have a handy pdf of the various gently-used items they accept, which includes children's clothing (infant to age 6).

- City of Ottawa's family shelters. There are two family shelters run by the City that assist families in need of temporary emergency shelter for a variety of reasons including financial, health and family crisis. The shelters accept donations of household and personal items - including baby clothing and bedding.

Additionally, those looking to donate cloth diapers can pass them on to Diaper Lending Ottawa, a volunteer-run not-for-profit that will accept donations of cloth diapers (in any condition!) which they repair, clean and lend out.