Posts Tagged ‘volunteering’

NASM Volunteer Appreciation Night

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , , , , , ,

This Monday, the National Air and Space Museum held a Volunteer Appreciation Night for the folks who help out at the Udvar-Hazy Center and the NASM downtown. It was in the main hangar of the Udvar-Hazy Center, extending into the space shuttle area. Since Panda volunteers there, we decided to go and see what it was all about. Apparently they really stepped up their game this year and had a great event with delicious catering and a hired band with dancers and singers. There was even a 1950s theme with the performers.

nasm volunteer appreciation night in udvar-hazy center

When we first walked in and looked down in the hangar, we saw plenty of people mingling. There were food stations, stand-up bars, a live band, dancers, and singers.

nasm volunteer appreciation night food table with lobster ravioli

The first thing we did was help ourselves to all sorts of food! They had these lobster ravioli as well as chicken and beef dishes.

nasm volunteer appreciation night food table with mini sliders

Another table had an adorable spread of ingredients to make your own sliders. The patties were beef, mushroom, or salmon.

nasm volunteer appreciation night food table with poblano corn souffle

My favorite dish of the night, which is made of sweet corn and somewhat like a dessert.

nasm volunteer appreciation night drinks table with mugs stacked neatly in pyramid shape

They lined up the mugs so very neatly for us. Everything about the catering was wonderful. We were told that it didn’t use to be so fancy.

nasm volunteer appreciation night dessert table with plate of s'mores on a stick

How could you make s’mores an elegant snack? I’d say this is the way. These were delicious!! I need to try making my own.

nasm volunteer appreciation night bar with artfully stacked martini glasses

Small touches like this cool mini art sculpture made of martini glasses really elevated the feel of the event. The bartenders were very professional too.

We were very pleased with the event and went home happily full. I look forward to attending more of these and hopefully getting a chance to check out mine for the Natural History Museum another year.

What are your fears?

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , ,

I’m not a very fearful person.

I’m not scared of bugs, or rollercoasters, or flying, or snakes, or public speaking, or traveling alone, or so many of the other common fears people seem to have.

The creature-related fears come up a lot since I volunteer at the National Museum of Natural History and I handle caterpillars, grasshoppers, hissing cockroaches, various beetles, Australian stick insects, butterflies, moths, tarantulas, and vinageroons/whip scorpions. I’m constantly amazed at the folks who are grossed out or terrified of these guys. Obviously if we have them out at the museum, they’re not going to hurt you. Yet children still cringe and cry when a butterfly circles them with their erratic dance and adults still make a face and stay ten feet away when they see a live insect or arachnid on someone’s hand.

Or take my friend, who is afraid of traveling by herself. Granted, this is probably something a LOT of people have not done or may never do. But the limitations you put on yourself when you can’t bring yourself to strike out on your own can keep you from a certain independence and self-discovery. I love my time traveling on my own, especially in foreign countries. I find those the most rewarding experiences to look back on. Should fear of some stranger in the world hurting you stop you from trying this? Or should you plan carefully, be vigilant and smart, and go for it?

Things like these make me wonder why people are so fearful. Of course, I’m not without my own fears, which generally are related to dying and pain, like falling from really high up (so stable buildings are fine, but if I have to balance on something to cross a chasm…) or not having some stability in my life (financial, emotional, or otherwise). But my fears don’t come up very often and they don’t make me shake or scream or cry or run away. So how do people deal with these fears they have that probably come up pretty consistently?

You’re bound to find a spider or two in your home at some point. You’ll probably board a plane to travel. You may not have to do massive speaking events, but you’ll probably have to present in front of a group occasionally.

So if you’re afraid of these things, what do you do? Do you spend exorbitant amounts of time worrying, fretting, sweating? Do you try to avoid them at all costs? I’m curious.

For me, when my fears come up, it’s more about planning for the future. This usually means that I spend some of my time concerned about the idea, but that allows me to consider how to prevent unwanted situations. I imagine having to deal with death and maybe I cry at the thought, but then I think about how I would get through it. I think about what life would be like if I had no money or I was all alone and consider the hard choices I might make. These are the types of fears I tend to have, about things that haven’t happened. It makes it a lot easier to deal with since I have time to think through possible reactions and courses of action.

My fears are mostly things I may never have to go through. I find it fascinating all the fears of things people have do have to contend with. Why am I not afraid of them? Why are so many people? And what are your fears?

The Madagascar hissing cockroach

laelene Posted in stories,Tags: , , , , , ,

holding madagascar hissing cockroach to faceIt’s been almost exactly a year since I started volunteering at the Smithsonian’s Insect Zoo & Butterfly Pavilion! It’s hard to believe and I’m happy that my volunteer time is still going strong. Every time I go volunteer, there is so much to preoccupy me that I hardly ever get pictures. I’m slowly working on that so I can share more of what you’d be able to experience there!

Let’s start off with the Madasgascar hissing cockroach, one of the staples found on the insect cart. These are hardy creatures that don’t require much maintenance. We keep two tiny slices of sweet potato in a jar for them and I can’t even tell they’ve been eaten. While they may look scary, they’re actually really safe and quite clean. I’m sure that’s why they’re popular in TV shows that have them crawl all over people or offer them up as creepy snacks to contestants.

Hissing cockroaches don’t fly, jump, or bite. They are not toxic, have no stingers, and their only defense is to hiss. So really, there’s no way they can hurt you. At all. Even when people know this, they get creeped out. I guess many phobias are rather irrational. I admit they aren’t the prettiest of species, but they’re cute in their own way.

You’ll only find them hissing when they’re feeling upset/threatened (or for males, also when they want to mate). They domesticate pretty easily and the ones we have hardly ever hiss. Usually it’s just a brief “Ugh, why are you picking me up again? Just leave me alone” sort of hiss that vaguely resembles a rattlesnake. To create the noise, they have spiracles along their abdomen – look closely and you’ll see dots lining the sides. They push air through these spiracles to hiss, which is kind of like whistling through your sides. This is pretty unique in the insect world, since most of them create noise by rubbing body parts together, like wings. Obviously, the Madagascar hissing cockroach does not have wings, so it found a different way.

Here I’m holding a male up to my face to show you how large he’d gotten. You can tell he’s a male by the horns on his head, which are quite pronounced. Females have tiny bumps there and their antennae don’t get nearly as fuzzy. They grow to similar sizes and colors vary from about as dark as this guy to far lighter, almost golden yellow. They can live a good 2-5 years (females tend to live longer), which makes them a long-lived insect. Their longevity combined with their ease of domestication and lack of harmfulness make them great pets! I’ve had many schoolteachers and students tell me they had them in their classrooms.

It’s always fun to see who is willing to hold these guys and who freaks out. It’s usually the children running up all wide-eyed and excited while the adults stay back. The larger the person, the greater the fear it seems. I had a towering giant of a man scream when he tried to hold one, which was actually quite terrifying. Some people actually shake and jerk as they try to not throw it off their hands. Then there are the babies who jut out their little hands and I can barely get the hissing cockroach on their tiny palms. Usually people go away with a new appreciation for these creatures, and a little less fear/misunderstanding of them. That’s always my goal!

Udvar-Hazy Open House

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, photo blog,Tags: , , , , , ,

This past weekend, the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center had its second annual open house. They opened the doors to the staff areas where restorations take place in the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar, a variety of items are archived, and more. We walked through the hangar, went on a freight elevator, saw the conservation lab, and looked around their library. I was pretty impressed by how many staff and volunteers they had. Panda was one of them! These people are totally aviation/space/history nerds and it’s cool to see their passion.

mary baker engen restoration hangar at udvar-hazy center

Massive hangar area with all sorts of things being painstakingly restored.

front of flak-bait plane that flew over 200 missions in world war ii

This plane flew the most missions in WWII: over 200!

udvar-hazy center archives with tons of lockers preserving items

Pristine archives. I was amused by the pink forklift thing.

star trek spaceship model in udvar-hazy conservation lab

Apparently this is what they used to film the spaceship in Star Trek.

paper library catalog at udvar-hazy center

They had a funny sign saying that yes, they do still use these catalogs.

Green Festival DC 2014 haul

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, photo blog,Tags: , , , ,

This year, Green Festival DC came to the area in the summer rather than the fall, and as usual, Panda and I were there volunteering on Saturday. We’ve fallen into a pattern: I sign up for the 1:30-6 pm shift for the Green Festival Store and he signs up for the 12-4 shift at exhibitor registration. This time around was much different for me in the sense that I went well-prepared to do a bit of spending. I feel like the last two years (see 2013 and 2012), I was more focused on getting samples whereas this year I was ready to discover some great products to purchase for myself.

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The haul!

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SheaTerra always has nice samples of African Black Soap.

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The first purchase was a 24-pack of seaweed snacks, nommers. I even helped the guy sell another box to these ladies.

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I had *just* been talking about getting glass cleaning products, how perfect! So of course I went for this purchase when I saw it.

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I immediately fell in love with this brand and was even happier to discover the bath salts came with their own scoops!! Amazing.

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When a kid offered me this sample, I figured why not? I can certainly try protein powder and see what it’s like.

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At first I passed on this, though I wanted it. Then after getting the Orange Owl products, I rationed that at $10 a pop for those, why not spend the $25 for these? They’re so unique and exactly the sort of thing I want for my home. I opted for the flower set, with Marigold, Calendula, Lavender, and Flax.

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When I saw these free meditation kits being passed out, I was mildly interested. Then I saw the bracelet and I thought it’d be great to meditate with! Not sure about reading all the texts, but I’ll take a peek.

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I noticed people walking around with these sprouts and I sent Panda on a mission to find them when his shift was over. Luckily, they were still available! They’re not trees… 😛

And there you have it! Panda also managed to find a bunch of snacks and even some other random samples. I’m starting to get familiar with many of the vendors who show up year after year, but I also love the new ones that come and go. I love some of the things I found this year and we’d like to try going to Green Festival LA and other cities as well.

Good Friday

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , , ,

Last night was the first time in a long while that I actually fell asleep unintentionally. I woke up at 2 something in the morning to find the lights still on, my laptop running, and the cat dozing away. I thought about getting in a blog post, but that required too much effort to wake up from a fog, so I turned off the lights and settled back to sleep. I’m pretty sure I had a dream in a world that I’d dreamed of before. It was like a hybrid of SF and Georgetown and (much like last time) parts of it were flooded. I even recall a house that I’d admired last time. This time I decided to sneak in with Panda and another friend (I think it might have been Ninja) to check it out.

Such was my exhausted state of mind last night, so I’m very glad that we get today off. I’ve got to say, I’ve never had Good Friday off (nor have I had Earth Day, which I also get this year). It’s quite nice and I hadn’t realized how much I was trying to cram in before my long weekend (I’m taking Monday since Earth Day is Tuesday, so I get 5 days!). I guess it all caught up to me last night as I finally got a chance to decompress from it all. It’s also the perfect time for me to be able to go pick up my volunteer badge for the Smithsonian. Their security office is only open weekdays so I haven’t had time to go all the way out to DC to get my badge.

I’m also looking forward to swinging by a macaroon shop that closed before Panda and I could go buy anything last time. I might just get some Georgetown Cupcakes or Sprinkles too.

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