Secular Tithing 2014

One of my life list goals is to give 10% of income to charity for one year – something I’ve been thinking of as “secular tithing”. I’m still a long way from that goal, but I decided to start this year by giving 1% of my take home pay to charity. Just trying to get in the habit of giving regularly. In 2015, I hope to up it to 2% and then maybe in a decade, I’ll be up to my goal amount. 🙂 Here is who I gave money to this year:

January: DC Central Kitchen
I hoped to focus my money locally this year (although you will see, I didn’t always), so I started with DC Central Kitchen, a wonderful organization that serves dual roles as a provider of meals to homeless shelters and transitional housing, and as a vocational program, training unemployed individuals for culinary careers.

February: Russia Freedom Fund
I love to watch the Olympics, but Russia’s treatment of LGBT individuals is truly horrifying, so I felt I needed to so something to offer some support and solidarity to queer folks in Russia, hence this gift.

March: St. Baldrick’s
My cousin shaved her head to support children’s cancer research, making this an easy choice for my March contribution!

April: Columbia Heights Community Market
Donations to this farmer’s market are used to provide matching funds for food stamp purchases – doubling the amount of fresh produce that those recipients can buy!

May: DC Abortion Fund
The DC Abortion Fund provides grants to women who cannot afford the full cost of an abortion. My gift in May was specifically to support a woman who was having to travel from out of state because she couldn’t get the procedure she needed where she lived, an all too common occurrence these days as a woman’s right to chose is restricted more and more.

June: ScholarCHIPS
ScholarCHIPs is a wonderful organization, founded by the granddaughter of the Education Director of Frances’ daycare. They offer college scholarships to children of incarcerated parents (CHIPs). This is generally a great idea, but became more relevant after I had federal jury duty in June. We convicted the individual charged, who had three children. Although convinced of his guilt and that our decision was just, it really struck me the effect that his incarceration would have on his family, and this seemed like a good concrete way to try to make life better for those affected – the innocent bystanders of the criminal justice system, if you will. If you are aware of other great organizations that support the children of incarcerated parents, please let me know!

July: Donors Choose: Barnard Elementary
I love Donors Choose – there is something so satisfying about funding projects for students/teachers. Barnard Elementary is our neighborhood DCPS school and even before I started my 1% project this year, I’ve tried to help fund at least one project a year.

August: Mary’s Center
Mary’s Center is a local non-profit that provides health care, social services and family literacy support. I gave to them though, for their support/creation of Briya Public Charter School, which I read about in the Washington Post and was totally inspired by!

September: Donor’s Choose: Barnard Elementary
Couldn’t decide who I wanted to give to this month, so I just went back to Donors Choose and found a different project at Barnard that needed funds.

October: Gilchrist Hospice
This was a donation that I gave in memory of a coworker’s mother. I will always support hospices though – they do great work, easing the end of our lives and supporting the families of the dying. So important.

November: ArchCity Defenders
Like a lot of folks, I have really been disturbed by what has happened this year at the intersection of race and law enforcement. This article in the Washington Post encouraged me to support ArchCity Defenders who represent low-income clients who are dealing with what can only be described as harassment (and a poverty tax) by their municipal governments.

December: Capital Area Food Bank
Another gift inspired by a Washington Post article. Given the struggles that many folks in our area are having getting enough to eat, it seemed especially important to give to the Food Bank this month.

Secular Tithing 2014

Life List #61. Visit the FDR Memorial.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is my favorite president. I am a fan of the Civilian Conservation Corps (and in particular all the work they did in our National Parks creating trails). I love the Works Projects/Progress Administration (and especially the work they did recording our American history). I love that FDR thought big and tried to do good for the least among us, despite coming from incredible wealth. I love that he named the first woman to the Cabinet (Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor, worthy of her own gushing.). I even think he married well (Eleanor FTW!).

Despite all this (and more shamefully, despite living in DC for 13 years now, in relatively close proximity). I had never been to his Memorial. So on a beautiful day this Fall, I corrected that – walking over on my lunch break to check it out.

When you see pictures of the Memorial, you generally see this statute:


I thought that was the full Memorial, but I was so wrong. Here is a little tour of the Memorial, but there is so much more. It is definitely worth checking out if you are in DC.








The Memorial was dedicated in 1997, but the statue with FDR in a wheelchair was not added until 2001, following the protests of disability advocates. It’s a powerful addition to a great monument. You can read more about the monument here.

Life List #61. Visit the FDR Memorial.

Life List #53: Visit the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.

I have been meaning to visit these gardens for YEARS, and finally got my butt in gear this morning. I saw a blog post yesterday about a volunteer day at the gardens today. The volunteer day didn’t really work for us (it’s hard to volunteer WITH a 16 month old), but it reminded me that I had been meaning to check it out, so when Frankie woke up the morning, I checked the weather – it looked like the rain was going to hold off until about 11 – and the park opens at 7 am (perfect for toddlers/babies who wake early!), so after she had some breakfast we headed off for our exploring adventure.

this way

It was much quicker to get to from our house than I expected – only about 20 minutes, definitely an easy early morning activity.

The first thing we saw when we walked into the park, were Canadian Geese – who had recently had babies. So adorable! We tried to get close enough to get a peak, while staying far enough away to keep the moms from getting nervous. Frances loved seeing the “ducks” (as she calls all birds).

baby geese!

Canadian Geese & their babies

The gardens were started after the Civil War as a commercial operation growing and selling water lilies, and became a part of the National Park Service in 1938.

cultivating water lilies since 1913

When we first walked in I could see all the ponds with the lily pads, but no blooming lilies, which disappointed me. The park’s website says that mornings are the best time to see the flowers, but I thought that maybe it wasn’t the right time of year or something. Turns out I was just a little too early. Over the course of the next hour, I got to watch as buds appeared and slowly opened. Pretty magical. I’m really glad that I got to see that!

buds coming up

starting to bloom

Water Lily!

The Park consists of three areas. The aquatic gardens, which are the ponds created after the Civil War to grow the water lilies, a Marsh Boardwalk, that goes through marshland (some of which was restored by the Park Service in the 1990s), and a River Trail (which is mostly wooded, but ends at the Anacostia River.


We could see that it was low tide as we walked along the boardwalk, which means there was a slightly marshy smell that always reminds me of home. This is the only part of the park that is “paved” in any sense. The paths through the aquatic gardens are packed dirt and the River Trail is pretty grassy. All were easy enough to do with our stroller, but if yours isn’t a good “off roader” or if you have a smaller baby who is easier to carry, you are better off using a carrier of some kind. The paths/trails themselves are easy walking. No hard hiking here.


The River Trail at 0.7 miles (one way) is the longest of the three, which didn’t seem to bad when I read it, but because it was the roughest with the stroller, by the time we got down to the end and saw the Anacostia, I was starting to feel a little grumbly.

On the Anacostia River

Then on our way back, we saw a big turtle (Frances was not impressed, but I was pretty thrilled) and two young white-tailed deer (too quick for my camera), and I decided that the trail was definitely worthwhile after all!


In the entire time we spent at the park, I only saw 6 other people – 2 birders when we first arrived, 2 runners heading down the trails, and 2 park rangers on our way out. Definitely a hidden gem! I’m so glad I finally checked it out, and now I’m curious about the other National Parks in the area. We’ll have to have some more weekend morning adventures!

Life List #53: Visit the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.

Mighty Life List: 28. Tour Lincoln’s Cottage at the Old Soldier’s Home.

lincoln's cottage at the soldier's home.

Before Camp David, there was the Soldier’s Home. Although established in 1851 as a retirement home for military personnel (which it remains to this day), it also hosted four Presidents during the hot and steamy summer months, most notably among them, President Lincoln. The Soldier’s Home (and Lincoln’s Cottage) are just a short walk from our house, and although we have lived there two and a half years, we hadn’t actually made it over for a tour. We decided Lincoln’s Cottage would make a perfect Christmas Eve date – because we are dorky, historic house buffs like that. So good we married each other 🙂

It was pretty neat. The Cottage (if you can really refer to a 30-something room house that way) was restored just a few years ago and is mostly unfurnished, but the guide did a good job talking about what was known of Lincoln’s time in the house. One thing that I found really interesting was that while Lincoln and his family lived at the cottage in the summer months, he commuted on horseback to the White House every day for work – a true Washingtonian!

If you like history and happen to find yourself in the neighborhood, Lincoln’s Cottage is a good way to spend an hour or two.

Mighty Life List: 28. Tour Lincoln’s Cottage at the Old Soldier’s Home.