Three months done

Can you believe it? A post a day for THREE months! It’s such an amazing feeling once I’ve made up my mind about something to successfully execute that plan.

I’m sitting here, at the breakfast bar, watching television. It’s late. This isn’t something I normally do. Sit at a breakfast bar and watch cable. I’m watching the Food Network, the show is Chopped. The judges are currently being challenged to cook since they do all the juding. Oddly, the sound just got weird.

To me, and my husband, the funniest thing about all this cable-tv exposure has been our realizaation that OPB and its four digital channels are really just enough for us. We’ve tossed this idea around, not often, but regularly we do the “should we get cable/dish tv?”

Eleven years ago, I made the decision to not have TV. I used a radio and the internet (free dial up at the time) to get the connections I needed to the outside world, not including the daily in person connections. Soon, a friend suggested that it would be easier to get a free tv than it would be to get a free meal. That month, I had three offers for a free televison. I figured I might as well hold out for the tv/vcr combination, which happened in the third offer. Ever since, I have had a television. We’ll discuss what that says about our values as a society at a later time. I accepted this television, though, because I do enjoy films/movies and simply vegging out.

During that eleven years though, I have held out that I need nothing else. We don’t need cable, dish networks or satellite, or any other device to further our tv watching. There are tvs in so many other places, why add one at home? Well, with nursing, small fry interactions, and even husband interactions – we wanted tv. So, we broke down, and we bought an antenna. We had rabbit ears! (I had an upgraded tv now, gifted from my father.)

Soon, the government decided we needed digital tv. So, we made teh choice to upgrade then too. The irony is we never did use that $40 coupon (we received two). But, we had our Saturday Night Date Nights. OBP 1 & 2 hosted As Time Goes By and My Family followed by New Tricks. This was two hours of British Bliss.

We watch tv. We know we don’t need cable. The added a

Today, E is for Economy

Previously, a frequent theme has been money and how we spend it.  While I was studying at Portland State, Prof. Messer reminded me that Sustainability holds three major tenants, economy, equity, and environment.  I have always had a pretty good handle on equity and environment, bu the economy has usually been something that brings me down. But, as I’ve been writing about money, how tight it has been, which is tightens our economic belt as the pants become a better fit.

I’ve been there, chiding people to buy organic, even though they couldn’t afford it.  How does that fit with the economic aspect of sustainability?  It doesn’t, and it doesn’t balance with the triple bottom line.  So, what can we do about it? How can we get the economy and the environment and equity to all balance? If they are all important on the grand scheme, how can in our microcosm of the home, we balance the 3es?

I can talk about what we’ve been doing.  My husband thinks about economics before he thinks about the environment.  Whereas, I think about the environment before I think about economics.  So, how can we merge the two?  Equity comes into play in our microcosm in how we treat each other and others, not how the man may or may not be bringing us down.

Some people think we should never make any concessions.  Some people think we should be eating, for example, farmer’s market certified organic all the time.  One simple question to help debunk this theory is the certification processes themselves.  Sure, they help the end-consumer more quickly identify a product that could suit their moral proclivities, but does it really do anything for the farmer?  Farmer A never uses chemicals on his produce, but he serves a smaller clientele than Farmer B and cannot afford the leg work and money it requires to get the certification some of his customers would like.  Farmer B can afford the certification because for other reasons he has a larger more profitable outfit than Farmer B.  Who does certification serve in instances such as these?  Farmer B, the potential big guy.  This is one reason why buying local is more important than buying organic.  Often buying local gives you a more validated organic product than the same product with the label.

Okay, but this post is entitled “Today, E is for Economy.” So, what does that organic example have to do with economy? It’s a linked system, no matter which way we slice it, and we cannot vote completely by one instance alone. We cannot rule by environment, or people, or money alone. We must consider the system. Both Farmer A & Farmer B serve the local area where you live. So, for a family, it might be better to opt for Farmer A based on cost. Farmer B has the certification others demand, and it’s not a budget buster. If they like his product, they should certainly buy from him. This does a few things. First, it keeps a diversified food economy. We need our farmers to be plentiful and compete. It doesn’t serve our interests to buy from the Wal-Mart of farmers, for example, because it decreases the number of people farming in our own locales. We need our farmers to supply us with food, not other countries. We need the food to be created locally, so that in the event of economic or environmental disaster, we can have secure sources of simply food.

How do we balance these 3 es? An ongoing conversation, certainly. But, I also think that we’d benefit ourselves by finding some food buddies – that is others who are interested in working with the local farmers who supply our food. We’d be strengthening our local economy, our local food systems, and our local equity – buy supplying from the poeple who work the farms – locally.

That’s really all I have to say about economy. Buy local. Know local. Grow local.

Fiction: Setting the Stage

Polar bears on the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean...
Image via Wikipedia

So much was the same, yet so much different. Technology still whizzed by and people always had a hard time getting used to it. Not unlike with the introduction of cars to iPads and smaller phones and personal computers. The older generations always thought it was moving to fast, and the younger generations embraced it until they turned into the older the generation and wanted it to slow down too.

In America, it was still Right vs. Left. In Europe, social taxes were still higher. There was a new blend of third world countries with whom to pawn of the labor the richer countries didn’t want to complete. There was still waste. There was still overconsumption. There were problems of years before that technology couldn’t solve because they got worse, out of hand, or it wasn’t time yet. There were problems of the past, though that technology could (like the never ending cycle of waste to nuclear energy, that surprised most everyone).

The polar ice caps were simply a sea now.The Amazon Forest was burned 20 years ago for one final farm-land push. Earthquakes had shaken parts of California loose where Los Angeles and San Fransisco were now islands. Florida was half the size it used to be along with the rest of the Eastern Seaboard. The Netherlands receded in-land. Italy was half its size. South Africa was no more.

Polar Bears had been extinct for 30 years. Most “tropical” birds died out before the Amazon Burn.

New species were born to take their place. We had new trees, new “natives” as they had been dubbed. As the climate changed, so did the surrounding environment. Desertification hit strange areas and caught people by surprise. No one expected the Great Lakes to dry up, but they did. With most of the belts around the equator looking more dessert and less tropical, and the seas where the polar ice caps used to be looking more tropical and less frigid – life certainly changed.

The neigh-sayers forgot that all creatures are resilient in their own way. They wanted to put so much fear in the hearts of men to change, they simply forgot that we can survive and we need to embrace our knowledge in order to do so. What they wanted though, was simple recognition that we must be stewards of this place we call home. That recognition came with the Amazon Burn.

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A word about bleach

Bleach Bottle Image
Image via Wikipedia

I began this post on August 10, 2008, where I had recently posted a few items regarding cleaning: general house cleaning and whiter laundry. It seems that quite a few people are trying to find ways to make their whites whiter. As I look at the search terms, I noticed that often the search is ‘how do I make my whites whiter laundry’. The same old question that maybe has been plaguing our civilization for centuries continues to plague us now. How do we keep clothes looking good? For some people, tipping the balance into an eco-friendly home routine is pretty easy but for others hanging onto these old standbys like bleach is difficult to let go. Even in natural cleaning books, many suggest using bleach to kill germs and make whites whiter.

Remember a few things when considering bleach.

  • It is an acid, a very caustic acid and a poison.
  • It eats at clothing (and other things) a lot faster than alternatives like vinegar.
  • Vinegar we eat and is much safer for children and pets.

My original intention with this post was to summarize some scientific studies that displayed the horrors of bleach. Time, life, and lack of information in my searches made my original goal change. Now, I just want the post out of my draft folder! When this topic again interests me… hopefully it will be grand.

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Potty Training

Little Levi Sunshine
Peter reading a "Little Miss" book to Levi. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

I blamed the frequent night-time urination for the reason we stopped using cloth diapers. But, in retrospect, I think it might have been the poop.

I hate poop.

Let me repeat myself.

I H.A.T.E POOP!

Hate it. Really really hate it.

If it’s dried out in a bag labeled “steer manure”, I can dig it. A bag of bull shit is good for the tomatoes.

But poop, that you have to clean off with your hands, or a brush which in turn you need to clean off the brush with your hands. And, where do you put it all? It all doesn’t float all nicely in the toilet. Oh no. You have to scrub it. A lot. You have to treat it. You have to soak it.

Yes, in retrospect, I think it’s the poop. The poop is why I changed to disposable. I wanted the sanitized throw aways where my hands didn’t need to get near the poop. Sure, I soaked the cloth diapers – but after we were in Michigan for 4 weeks, something changed. My patience lessened, and I just couldn’t deal with it. Either way, we were looking at a cost for a bigger investment in cloth or a more expensive, easier to budget cost of disposables. We chose disposables, and this retrospect thinking encourages I pushed it for avoiding poop.

Now, enter potty training. Today, Levi is four years and six weeks old. He began potty training in 2009. He was 26 months old when he started. Right away, he picked up on the mechanics. Unfortunately, the daily ritual daycare provided only lasted two months. Exponentially, from when he left daycare, his interest in going potty declined. Peter and I, perhaps, expect too much of our young person, and we wanted him to feel the urges to go and go, right away. He knew the mechanics, so what’s the big deal? Oh, how short our memories are.

Confession. I still wet the bed until I was in 4th grade. I am not sure of my husband’s potty practices, except that I do know we both go when we have to go as adults. The whole definition of being “potty trained” I find interesting. Especially wrapped in with when I stopped wetting the bed. What does fully potty trained mean? Going to the bathroom on your own 90% of the time, even if 80% of the whole is under the guise of peer pressure and constant reminders to go? Does “fully” mean when we’re in adulthood and 99% of the time we are without accident? What does it mean when we age and we’re back in diapers? Does “potty train” simply mean an adult isn’t burdened with wiping our butts? How far does this spectrum go – because it is a spectrum!

Well, Levi would fall into the he knows the mechanics, but needs to be reminded constantly to listen to his body. We’ve been reassured countless times by peers and his pediatrician that he will go when he is ready. After year 3, bribes (stickers, candy, chocolates, other rewards) are moot. We are heeding part of this advice. After one of these poopy-in-the-underwear incidents, I asked Levi why he won’t go in the toilet. I had to reword this query three times. He answered my suspicions: he likes being changed. I don’t know what about it he likes. If the poop is on his bum longer than a minute, he breaks out in these awful hivy, localized bumps. The only cure is diaper cream and a baking soda bath. So, I proposed a bribe. If it’s quality time he wants, there are a million ways in which we can have better, more interesting, more fun, and less gross quality times. The standard should be one book a night before bed. So, every time he goes potty at home (at school he’s dry all day and often comes home in underwear), he will get an additional book added to the nighttime ritual. If he poops in the potty: two. So, if he pooped once and peed three times in the potty, he’d get an additional 5 books for six books total.

It’s been working. Now, mommy and daddy need to be consistent in the enforcing of this bribe. Right away, the reasons bribes don’t work was showcased as he tried to exploit the rule. He peed in his potty and turned around barely having his pants pulled up to pee again, AND, then said, okay that’s two books! No… one full incident. What a concept to explain!

We are still with accidents, but again, this whole thing is a spectrum. If we can just help encourage the listening to your body so he can poop in the toilet instead of his underwear…. well, that’d make my day.

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Fiction: The Amazon Burn

Amazon Rainforest created by ?????:?? ????
Image via Wikipedia

Twenty years ago from today, the Amazon Rain Forest was set on fire. What was left was burned to the ground in hopes of more farmland for the shrinking South American Continent. The birds and animals, what were left, died when the fire started. It was as if their hearts knew they were done for, and their own survival instincts urged them to go with their long-gone brothers and sisters.

The World knew it was coming. It was talked about, debated, discussed at length for years. Yes, it belongs on one continent, but the whole world needs its benefits. Stop exploiting our labor, our land if you want it so much, the natives rich retorted.

But, slowly, while all the talk went on, the forest was stripped away to make room for farms, subdivisions, and mining. One day, a spark from the mining flew, but it didn’t stop. The forest had been so stripped barren that it had little defense against the one, tiny spark. Since the habitats of the exotics had long since eroded, the animals that were left had no fight left in them. With the barren-ness of the forest, desertification had begun to set. Kindling was what was left. After that spark ignited: only ash, like the mountain after a volcano.

It was as if this spark ignited the sleeping dragon. Sure, unions were busted. The haves versus have nots had been divided more than anyone could ever imagine, for years. But, a part of the human spirit hung onto the solitude only nature can supply. Suddenly, in one week, the world’s most cherished solace erupted in flames, turned to ambers, and over the course of a few weeks it all turned to ash.

Scientists studying the after affects were amazed at the charred remains: bones, plant life, remnants of third world civilizations. All the talk turned to ash because we couldn’t, wouldn’t pay attention to such a simple concept: stewardship for someone’s home.

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Nothing Profound Here

Pacific Northwest: 1841 Map of the Oregon Terr...
Image via Wikipedia

I like to write. I like words, and I like thought exploration. I am an introvert, so daily processing is a must for my sanity. As such, writing serves as a useful tool for something I can do by myself to process, as I’ve said before, all those daily inputs in order to make sense of the senseless.

I saw the “Post a Day” and “One a Day” challenges on January 2nd. I’ve needed/wanted motivation to write daily for some time. It’s commonly stated that if you want to be called a writer, you must write daily. Free writes, simple exploration of thoughts, branching out into new literary territory – these are all up for grabs for the self-proclaimed writer.

I’m not comfortable calling myself a writer, just like I’m not comfortable calling myself an artist even though I can sketch better than the average bear. But, I do enjoy writing. So, to do something, you must practice. Practice is best had daily. When I saw the challenges, it seemed a natural merging of my wants with a public accountability system. So, I signed up. I’ve been successful in posting more than enough posts for a post-a-day. There have been a few times where I haven’t had time to write on that day, but I wrote more than one on a previous day so I use the “scheduled post” option WordPress graciously gives to allow for a seamless post a day.

But, how much of this writing is worthwhile? I imagine it is a good conduit for family living far away to keep light tabs on the life happenings here in the Pacific Northwest, with commentaries on birthdays and job changes. I’ve written a few things that I found were enjoyable to read, maybe thought provoking, and even, yes, a little profound. Writing a post a day though – not everything is profound.

The lack of profound thoughts is something I’m … adjusting to right now. On one hand, I’d like every post to be a quality post. But, to achieve this challenge, most things posted are simply to get that post a day done so I can state that I’ve done the thing I said I would. This is an experiment in habit forming and word tests. I am experimenting with the discipline of putting “pen to paper” or “fingers to keys” or “butt to the chair.” I’m experimenting with doing what I’ve wanted to do for a very long time: write.

Thank you for following along. Thanks for commenting, when posts justify comments. Thanks for telling me about how you’ve been keeping up in conversations outside the realm of the Internets. It’s all motivation to keep up the habit, to practice, to experiment, to write.

So, I would rather have more than just “I don’t want to write posts.” Sometimes, they will be, in keeping with the habit. But, I did have some guidelines in mind when I accepted this challenge. The basic guidelines being I want my posts to be between 500 and 750 words. More than 750, I’m being too verbose. It’d better be a damned interesting post if I’m going to spend that many words on a daily thing, that I would like read. Less than 500 seems like cheating. I’ve admitted they exist and will continue to exist because habit forming trumps quality. But, the idea is that 500 words is a good cut off for an essay. A good cut off for exploring a thought through, explaining my pros and cons, or describing the alliteration of a thought.

While there might not be anything profound here. I’m hoping for consistency and something fun to read. You can help keep me accountable by commenting! (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)

Allergic Reactions

Naptime
Levi napping with Grandpa Chris from our last Michigan vacation, where, thankfully, we avoided the ER/urgent care. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr.

It started with a phone call. My husband calling down stairs as he noticed the hives all over Levi’s body. It ended with a trip to the  ER in Lansing. Levi had another allergic reaction. This time it was to strawberries, whereas last week was simply doctor visits due to hives reacting to pineapple.

The hives were so bad, it looked like one giant hive. His neck was swollen to the point I was worried about breathing. When I asked him if he could breathe, he said no. So, not knowing where we are or what to look for, I called his Oregon pediatrician after I shoved a Claritin in his mouth. He said his head hurt. He so was swollen. His eyes were shutting they were so swollen. His lips looked a little blue.

Probably one of those trickiest parts in parenting is acting calm when you are really panicked. I was freaking out. I shoved the Claritin in Levi’s mouth because I was freaking out. His head hurt. He was scared. And he wouldn’t take the only pill I had available to help the swelling go down.

He’s okay. We’re now back at Grandma & Grandpa’s.

In the moment, I call Levi’s Oregon pediatrician, the land of where Urgent Care does not work. They tell me that since he’s having an allergic reaction, we should bypass urgent care and go straight to the ER. The problem is, we’re in the sticks. Urgent Care 1) in the sticks and 2) in Michigan is a much wiser choice. Why? Because it actually acts as triage. You know, the whole point of urgent care. Figure out the problem, do some basic diagnosis and/or treatment, and then send the patient to ER for further treatment, if needed.

We were sent to the ER because we got to urgent care 90 minutes before they closed. Their protocol says allergies must be monitored for 6 hours. That’d put us out of the ER at 3am. Not exactly an exciting evening.

They poked and prodded Levi. They stuck oxygen sensors on his finger, they had him laid out on the bed. The hardest part was inserting the IV. Last week, when we were in the pediatricians office, she just handed him the tiny Zyrtec, and he ate it, like candy. When I gave him the Claritin, he could tell I was panicked even if I was trying to act not, so he refused. When getting the IV inserted, the head nurse prepared for the worst so she instructed the tech and me to hold Levi down. Of course, his heart rate spiked (it got up to 175 bpm), he cried, and he was very, very scared. We needed, though, to insert the IV. As they told me when I was pregnant, it’s better to have the bit inserted in case so they don’t have to constantly repoke. I tried to remind him of watching mommy get poked, but I think he was too scared.

I was able to ask him what was going on, and he confirmed he was scared. Right now, he’s playing with the wooden train set Grandma has procurred from various places (namely Ikea). He has also told me that he wants to go home. I don’t blame the kiddo for wanting the familiar after such a traumatic experience. I’m glad it’s over. I hope we don’t have to do this again. I used to think the ER trips were a one-off thing when visiting. But, now, since we’ve done this so often, I think we need to plan on it. We’ve got the vacation check list moving along, after day one. Visit with Peter’s parents: check. Work on a car: check. Meet the new sister-in-law: check. Visit urgent/care-ER & test Michigan’s emergency response: check. Visit Meijer at midnight: check. An amazing checklist to accomplish after just day one. Maybe this means we can relax the rest of the time.

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Worst Job. Ever.

At our steering committee meeting one Tuesday, I offered the ice breaker of “What was your worst job ever?” Many listed restaurants. Only one was a professional career, and one restaurant job was a family business which made things awkward. I picked a restaurant, too. I chose “Hot ‘N Now.” (You don’t see many in that chain nowadays.)

I was 16. I just got my license. I wanted a job so I could have my own money. I wanted to go to movies, buy my own clothes, and well, live a nice ole consumerist life. I had no idea what $4.25 at less than 20 hours a week would yield. I had no idea what it meant to work in fast food. I had no idea when I started what a middle-manager was.

In retrospect, it was an interesting character study and learning experience. One reason I picked Hot ‘N Now was because two of my classmates worked there. We didn’t often have the same shifts, but it was some semblance of a rapport (this was before I even knew what rapport meant!).

There were people who cared about their jobs, those who didn’t, those who needed it for extra money, and those who depended on it. There was an awkward hierarchy of people and roles. Our Hot ‘N Now also had a Taco Bell. So, one station was dedicated to tacos whereas the rest of the small space was for the burger making money makers. Burgers were the coveted role. That is, you knew you’d made it when you were flipping burgers. I kid you not.

We wore yellow t-shirts, terrible ball caps, and our own black pants. Uniforms, of course, were required. There is a saving grace in that because every night I went home covered in grease, and I was at the taco station.

I hated making those damn tacos. You had to be fast. And, you couldn’t break any. I broke so many hard shell tacos, in part it was nerves. Your managers aren’t paid to care at that wage level, so that was my introduction to unrealistic expectations on a job.

I grew up with the you do your job, and you do it well. The shut up and get it done without complaining attitude. This, however, is somewhat contrary to my personality. I’m the type who wants to say something when I smell bullshit. Like the kid who outs the Emperor when she clearly sees, he’s not wearing any clothes! This job was bullshit! We were racing against the clock for a TACO! A taco that was less than a $1!

Later in life, I had the opportunity to read Nickle & Dimed: On Not Getting by in America by Barbara Einreich. She succinctly pointed out the correlation that the more complex the job, the less that is expected of the (potential) employee. Think about pilots who don’t have to take alcohol tests. The more mundane the job, the more stringent the requirements are. Think about Wal-Mart (or any big box store) orientations. You know, you’re seated with a video about how to behave. You have to answer, maybe, to several bosses, all middle-managers in their own right (someone else giving them a line of what to do). There is no flexibility with being late. You work less than 32 hours per week because you can’t earn benefits.

Yes. Taco Bell/Hot ‘N Now was my worst job ever. I’ve had some interesting jobs in between – but the greasy, slippery floored, fast food joint, with the middle manager mentality staffed with high schoolers. Yea, it takes the cake for worst job.

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I am not responsible for your feelings.

Levi's Cleanup
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Rosenberg would say this is my obnoxious phase. I would have to agree. Sometimes, I feel no empathy, only want of boundary enforcement. This is written for one of those times.

I’m not. Sorry, I, but I’m not. You are an adult. I am an adult. As adults, we have many responsibilities, one of which is our own feelings. That means, I am responsible for owning my feelings and you are responsible for yours.

That question I asked? Remember? Yea, it was just a question.

I know, I know, I am very sensitive and can take things too personally – but I own that too. I know it. I own it. I am working on it. All I ask is that you do the same.

I’m sorry about the stresses life has given you. I’ve got my own stress to deal with, daily. It’s called life. Own that too, please.

I will do my best to anticipate your feelings, remember to ask questions instead of demand things, change my lingo to “could you, would you, and please”, and again, the golden rule thing – I ask you to do the same.

See, I do believe we are all equal, at least given equal footing to deal with the crap life throws our way, and again, I just ask that you do the same.

Sure, you have a right to feel angry about the question I asked. Just like I had the right to ask that question. But, own that feeling, find out what it really is, figure out the need there. Please. You don’t really have to “blow up” at the next person who looks at you sideways. Mature a little, please, for all of us.

Remember, please, I didn’t make your bad day – your attitude and interpretation of events did that all on your own. I just wanted some info, or even just smiled at you to wish you a good day.

I know you don’t trust, and you have misguided ideas of what trust and respect are. But, please, let me assure you I only care about doing my job, whatever it may be in this moment, to the best of my abilities: whether it parenting, playing the role of wife-sister-daughter, working as a secretary, or a president of a club.

Oh, by the way, there’s this concept, you may have heard of it: it’s called non-violent communication. You should check it out. It gives people like you (and me) tools to express our feelings so we can move past this grumpiness and get on with life.

Take responsibility for yourself, you have to lie in the bed you made.

Thank you.

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