A few weeks ago, we worked with some of the pieces of walnut and oak we have, and we updated our shop. Check out the new pieces on Etsy. Most are one of a kind. Get yours today!
I had the opportunity to view a special showing of Cottonwood in the Flood, Saturday, June 11 at the International Firehouse Cultural Center (IFCC). Bottom line: two thumbs up, beautiful exploration of history through the lens of one family.
I graduated from Portland State University in 2008 (unbeknownst to me, it started as Vanport College). In my studies, which focused on urban planning, community development, and geography, Vanport was mentioned a few times. It can be summarized thus: ship building, segregation, and a big flood. The conversation was sometimes the start of tracking a history of Portland race relations where, often, poor and black found themselves the object of eminent domain (Memorial Coliseum, Legacy-Emmanuel Hospital, I-5 corridor), and most recently the increase of gentrification in North Portland. What was never clear to me was where Vanport was, who it really affected, and how we could have let something like this happen with the flood.
A friend in housing-social justice recommended I see Cottonwood in the Flood, so when the opportunity presented itself, I had to say yes.
Cottonwood in the Flood, written by local playwright Rich Rubin and directed by local artist Damaris (rhymes with “glamorous”) Webb, was a beautiful collage of local headlines, radio reports, and relevant history, knit together through the story of one family. The companion piece is the exhibit IFCC hosted on their second floor gallery, where you can see maps, local headlines, and other stories about what happened in Vanport.
What happened in Vanport – it has ended with a muddled history and retelling, until now. For example, to give a nod to the suffering, there is a display on one of the transit stops giving space for the history where it happened. It would be like taking all the suffering of Hurricane Katrina and siphoning it to one train stop. A train stop that has a particular audience, is off the beaten bath, and you have to be in the know to know it’s even there.
Thanks to people like Damaris Webb and Rich Rubin, along with the actors in the play and their community partners, we can explore this complex history more fully. Rich Rubin’s play, Cottonwood in the Flood, explores the allure of hope and a better way for a family under the cloud of war. His play explains the changing tensions, the unfairness, the subtle racisms, the overt racisms, the government double speak, while telling it through a family you easily fall in love with. Grandpa, mom, dad, and two brothers, who all they want is a better life where they can achieve their own human potential. It’s their story of how they navigate the social constraints, how it affects their moods, their livelihoods, and how they overcome … or don’t.
I spent four years at Portland State, and I never got a comprehensive story of what Vanport was. Two hours plus a 30 minute discussion, and I finally have a working understanding of the hope, the devastation, and the work we have to do to never forget.
One of my favorite ways for getting the benefits of any oil in me is through internal use. When I started using the oils, I added orange oil to my water. At the time, I was locked into an 8:30 am – 5 pm desk job. I was a main point of contact, so my mobility was limited. Colleagues would often walk to the nearest convenience store, and they would generously ask if they could get me anything. I routinely asked for something sweet, like a brownie.
Now, here’s the thing. We weren’t talking about a quality brownie. There was no richness. There was no delectable quality of cocoa and flours coming together to satisfy an intense chocolate craving. No, we are talking about the most replicable, boxed, processed thing in all its unhealthy glory.
And I would eat one, every single day. Every single day.
Until the oils were introduced. And I noticed my cravings weren’t calling out to me. My water tasted bright and uplifting, and I wasn’t relying on a sub par dessert to get me through my morning.
One of my favorite ways to use essential oils is in the laundry. I like slathering my wool dryer balls with an oil of my choice. Not only do the dryer balls reduce drying time, but then I get an all-natural clean smell for my laundry – with therapeutic benefits.
And, for the next installment of “the reading list.” The last few weeks has found me contemplating things like…
Are we looking at the wrong factors when considering health care? (“Hospital toilets offer clue about what’s wrong with US health care.“)
According to Renner, we are. In his piece, he gives a surface glance at a solution of preventable care. So, imagine my surprise when I skim over to The Atlantic, to find what I had been reading in hard copy, and I come across Andy Hinds article describing the necessary ridiculousness of exercise (“Your Workout Looks Ridiculous“). Do you exercise? What is your favorite version? For my part, I always hope to do better at (as in restart the routines even) swimming, walking, and biking.
These are all well and good – surface discussions into how we can create a more sustainable society by encouraging fitness on every level. But, I was really reading about labels. I was reading about the DSMMD downgraded Asperger’s – no longer making it a certifiable thing (“Letting Go of Asperger’s“).
On the book side, I am finishing (or working on) The Defining Decade, The 12 Tribes of Hattie, Confessions of a Shopaholic, The Enneagram: Understanding yourself and others in your life, What Type of Leader Are You? Using the Enneagram System to Identify and Grow your Leadership Strengths and Achieve Maximum Success, and Your Seven-year-old: Life in A Minor Key. Recently, I finished K Is for Killer: A Kinsey Millhone Mystery. On the shelf, waiting to be read include The Story of My Assassins and Bad Religion: How We Became A Nation of Heretics.
Sometimes I think I’m addicted to books. I have to have a steady stream coming in from the library and from Amazon. I need to smell them, touch them, feel them. I need to absorb their words and ideas within. So, the above mentioned ideas are on the continued quest for understanding myself and the world in which I live – compared to and along with those around me. Coupled with the fiction to take me away from this world and understand a time or a place not generally known to me. The never ending expansion of ideas that make our world interesting, rich with content, and enable us to grow.
Writing prompts are a godsend when one doesn’t want to divulge too much about their day-to-day, yet exercise the thought connections – words, texts, paragraphs, brain synopses, how it all flows together. I’ve used Plinky previously, but their topics don’t always resonate. So, happily, I checked out WordPress’s Daily Post, Writing Prompt, and yesterday, this is what I discover.
Every city and town contains people of different classes: rich, poor, and somewhere in between. What’s it like where you live? If it’s difficult for you to discern and describe the different types of classes in your locale, describe what it was like where you grew up — was it swimming pools and movie stars, industrial and working class, somewhere in between or something completely different (See more here.)
I followed a boy here, but he was just the catalyst. I had always dreamed about living in the Pacific Northwest. After watching Singles, I had this idea of perpetual fall – my favorite season – and if Michigan wasn’t doing it for me, then where else could I go? This boy afforded me the reason to move – we were in love. Well, the relationship didn’t last, but my love affair with Portland has.
I moved here in 2003. I was told I didn’t need a car because the bus service was amazing. I heard stories of a hippies paradise, and what I found was that I no longer had to argue about recycling. There were interesting things on every corner – Portlandia adorned a building that looks like a present, it rained blossoms in the springtime, there was art in the parks like Washington DC, and people even painted the streets to slow down traffic. The bus came, frequently, so I didn’t even own a car for the first 3 years I was here – relying on my feet, my seat (on a bike), the bus, or ZipCar (then FlexCar) to get me where I needed to go. I was in my twenties, and it was a dream. The independence I felt was triumphant, as I continued to go to school and work a full-time job, then about a mile from each place.
When I moved to Portland, I lived in three neighborhoods over the course of three years. I started in southeast, moved across the river to southwest (Corbett / Lair Hill), and finally have made North Portland my home, with my husband, who I met here.
In 2008, I started looking at my neighborhood in more depth. We had lived in Arbor Lodge since 2005, and in that short time, we saw many changes. The Yellow Line Max finished and started running, local favorite health store (New Seasons Markets) opened a store, and the development soured. The boy who brought me here liked to repeat that wherever MAX goes stores turn to gold. And the amount of development that continues to blossom is astonishing.
In 2008, when I was examining the changes in the neighborhood, the rose-colored glasses came off. No longer was I a 20-something who only cared about an organic garden and getting along with my housemates. Now, I was married with a baby. Now, our income reduced because of situations beyond our control. Now, we had to look at things in a leaner light. And, we were surprised. In 2008, we made less than half of the median family income for the area, and we qualified for many services offered in the social safety net. Our housing related costs were 70% of our family budget, well over the HUD recommended for a stable family. But, what could we do? We had a house with a garage and a yard. If we moved we’d be getting a slightly less expensive apartment. So, we stayed, and we got by, and things got better. We stayed in our walkable neighborhood, where we would frequent King Burrito and Walgreens. We stayed in our neighborhood where I could still take the 35 to work, and as our income increased, we started to get more interested in buying a house.
The shock we found. We assessed our income and figured we could afford a $150,000 in 2009. So, began our real estate search. 3 agents later and a month of flea bites to torture my sensitive legs, we decided that buying a house wasn’t in the cards for us. Clearly, we are being priced out of the market since staying on budget was so important to us. The only thing we could afford wouldn’t qualify for a loan!
We waited, and the market changed. Circumstances adjusted so that in 2012, we started our search again. We found a compatible agent who walked us through house after house after house, over the course of about 10 months. We cringed. We looked beyond our price range. And we bemoaned the low inventory. Finally, all the puzzle pieces fell into place, and we found a modest home with sturdy bones, without fleas, that was in our price range. We haggled, we negotiated, we inspected, and we waited. And, on the day before Thanksgiving, we closed on what is now our first house. I know we got a good value for our home, based on the market, the walkability, the neighborhood, and the type.
What I don’t get is why collectively, we let it all get out of hand. We have known we live on a fine line between making it and not making it. We try to plan and budget to make sure we stay on the “make it” side of the line, but like many American families, we’re only a few paychecks away from needing to go back to that social safety net if something bad were to happen. In fact, Kaiser Health News released a report documenting how close we are to being eligible for premium benefits compared to the federal property rate. And, I had thought that we’d been moving forward over the last few years! Now, it seems we’re taking a few steps backwards.
The pundits have talked, since Mitt ran for president, about the growing divide between haves and have nots, and it seems that Portland is one of those key examples of how that divide is working. After considering this writing prompt, I’ve been digging through the census data and collecting some things that have been percolating in my brain for the last few months. And, this is what I found out.
Oh! How Portland has changed over the years! In my first observation, I considered that I moved here in 2003, into the home of a friend who bought her house the year before with her husband. They live in a modest neighborhood, that in the 70s earned the nickname “Felony Flats”. Their modest, 1,200 square foot, 3 bedroom home, with a tiny backyard, and intriguing shared garage increased in value by 35% over the last 10 years. A 35% increase in value seems outrageous to me. The US Inflation Calculator figures that there is a 26% cumulative rise in inflation from 2003 to 2014. So, my friends’ home increased in value 10% over the rise in inflation. Our new home increased 82% from the value of the home in 2003 and the value of the home in 2014 – over 50% higher than the cumulative rise in inflation!
Thinking about housing prices, made me consider income and who holds the wealth in the city. I was able to find a comparison between 1999 and 2012. In 1999, it looks like the wealth was distributed in a fair bell curve, with a bulk of the city’s wealth being held in the middle. In looking at the 2012 data, though, it looks like it’s beginning to distribute up, as if we’re on the beginning of a J curve, giving the haves more resources than the have nots.
That is Portland in a nutshell. You have neighborhoods that appear primarily working class, but the desirability factor continues to price existing residents out. The incomes are distributing away from the lower and middle class towards the upper class. Housing affordability matches the higher incomes. Houses are being torn down and developed into McMansions. The sustainability factor of Portland is decreasing because all the kitschy amenities that make this place great are disappearing.
So, a day in the life of PDX is interesting, because it is in the midst of this change – and I, for one, am not sure where the change will lie when it’s all over.
- Portland Maps – enter an address, and browse through the data
- Portland Business Journal, “Portland’s 25 hottest neighborhoods”, Feb 19, 2014
- American Fact Finder, Community Facts – browse through census data
- US Inflation Calculator – enter comparison years, and the calculator does the rest
- Redfin – a real estate site that focuses on a few metro areas, great for home comparisons
- Kaiser Health News, “HHS Releases Poverty Guidelines For 2014”, Jan 27, 2014
Barbara Kingsolver talked about her coffee methods in Small Wonder. She and her husband indulge in this one non-local treat, but source their beans from a well-managed farm that focuses on shade grown beans. Prior to reading that some years ago, I never considered the sustainable factor of coffee.
I have been buying my beans from Peet’s Coffee & Tea for about 10 years now. I will switch off between Peet’s, Cafe Mam (a roaster in Eugene, Oregon), Stumptown (another local roaster), and local coffee shops (The Arbor Lodge) that also focus on locally roasted coffee (Coava Coffee).
I don’t know the particulars from each, but common themes include well-managed forests, fair wages, and farmer controlled prices. This isn’t necessarily found in all roasters – just themes I look for and note when I can find it.
My favorite, by far, though, is Peet’s. I enjoy the experience of walking into the store. I have a friend who has worked their longer than I’ve been choosing their beans. And, the coffee is fantastic. I started with their signature blends (Major Dickinson and Arabian Mocha Java), but as I tried more coffees my preferences have tightened to specific origins: Africa and the Americas. A kind barista suggested I have a sophisticated palette, yesterday, when I thanked him for giving me a chance to review the offerings.
I love my smooth, bold flavors that wake your mouth up with every sip. I love making the boldness creamy with half-and-half. I don’t mind drinking it black. I love the smell. I love the concept.
When I consider that I started drinking Folder’s Crystals, based on what my mother was drinking at the time, my indulgence has certainly turned into an investment. I sometimes feel guilty about that – comparing what we indulge in today versus other times – thinking that I’m bathing too much in a lap of luxury. But, my coffee is like other food. I want to make sure we are putting good quality into our bodies and the people who work really hard to get this product to us are paid and treated fairly.
So, I was thrilled, yesterday, when I walked into the store and saw the stand advertising their Panama Reserve. The storyboard explained that the family who produced these beans are dedicated to preserving the Rain Forests of Panama. By securing ownership of the land that buffers the rainforest, they protect the sensitive habitat there.
I continued walking around the counter to collect my drinks (one for me and one for Levi), and was pleased to see a resurrected brochure describing the Sustainability Initiatives Peet’s enacts. A recent initiative is ensuring their roasting is done in a Gold LEED certified building. One of the reasons I started drinking the coffee is their direct relationships with their farmers. And, I was surprised to learn about their targeted philanthropy that focuses on education, kids, and the grounds around coffee.
It oft surprises me the push back sustainability gets, because it’s not supposed to be something that takes away, in the end. What sustainability is trying to make sure is that we all have enough for us and for our children and for our children’s children. In this one brochure Peet’s captured that sentiment: take care of the families that produce the product, make a great product, and take care of the land that is important to the people and the product. Et, voilà, a sustainability plan that makes sense is born.
Here’s to your sustainable morning cup.
It’s my birthday, and I’m throwing a party! Okay, clarification, it was my birthday, but I’m still throwing a party. Come join me at the Lucky Lab Tap Room on Friday, September 13th. Join me and raise money for CAT!
Why do I want to raise money for CAT? What is CAT? CAT is The Community Alliance of Tenants, Oregon’s only renters’ rights organization. I’ve spent a lot of time there, over the last five years, because I firmly believe that societal change begins at home. And, that’s what CAT does – we empower renters to make sure they have safe, stable, and affordable homes.
It is our job to make sure we leave this world in a better place. I believe this world would be a better place if we could all realize our potential. I believe in Maslow’s Hierarchy of achieving self-actualization – our potential – but it starts with taking care of basic needs. And basic needs start with having enough to eat, enough to wear, and a safe home to call home.
I am celebrating my 35th year by raising $3,500 for this organization I love. And, I am celebrating at the Lucky Lab Tap Room. Don’t worry, if you don’t live in the area, there are plenty of ways to give! Donate to the organization I love, and help make my dream of raising $3,500 come true. Change starts at home. At CAT, we make good renters. Good renters make good communities, and good communities support one another to make our entire society better, more understanding, and more loving. At CAT, we make positive change a reality.
You’re invited. Please join me on Friday, September 13th as I toast my 35th year by raising $3,500 for the Community Alliance of Tenants. You can RSVP today or just give if you can’t come. I would love to see you all there. YOU are a part of my community, and I would love for you to help me celebrate a better society for us, for our children, and our children’s children.
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet a local gal who is doing her own part to save the world. Aimee Fahey, local recruiter and blogger extraordinaire, has a series she does where she interviews those who enter her circle. Some she has known for some time. Some, she has recently met. All are given the same series of questions. All are inspiring. I am honored to be among these great green examples of how we make our paradigm shift into a more sustainable world.
Aimee – thanks for the opportunity to answer your thought-provoking questions!
As to my green pledge – here’s to another week of trying to get on the bus.
One good, tangible measure of sustainability is the triple bottom line. The idea that we find ways to and enact on measuring equity (people), environment (place), and economics (profit) in equilibrium. We take each, and if one is failing – if we don’t make enough money for example, then we consider that we haven’t achieved a sustainable mark over the time in which we are measuring these indicators.
So, how sustainable are we in 2013? We have surpassed predicted carbon emissions, indicating we are on a road for disaster in an ever-changing climate induced world. Our recession still has a strangle hold making it hard for families to get ahead. And, we have reports every day – it seems – about another company cutting corners in such a way that its workers suffer the most egregious abuses.
And, in the midst of that, while working in an organization undergoing its own transition and struggle with change – the obvious thought reveals itself in startling clarity – we don’t value people.
Sustainability argues that we must hold these things: people, place, profit in tandem. We must balance them equally lest the three-legged stool topple over for ever more. And, what I have realized for the better part of the last 7 years is that we value equity least of all in this triptych. We grasp onto the things we can measure easily. We can measure if we made our profit – or not. We can measure if we planted enough trees – or not. These are easy things in which to define success.
But, when it comes to people, the number of indicators to use grows exponentially. What do we measure? Do we measure wages? Do we measure healthcare? Do we measure access to healthcare? Do we measure … happiness? In a sense, I think it boils down to the latter. This ubiquitous, moving thing that is difficult for an economist to measure strictly against a black and white line… so instead of trying, as a society, we just don’t.
Then it rears its ugly head in contract negotiations, workplace equity, overall societal health. It impacts the never-ending challenge of balance between work and family life – because we chase the greasy buck instead of the success of the people earning the buck. It turns loyal people unloyal. It makes people seek autonomy elsewhere. It creates and fosters toxic work environments where blame is placed haphazardly, and instead of listening to the real problems – petulant children are blamed and then reinforced the excuse on why we don’t need to listen.
So, where are we in 2013? Where is our equity? I would say it is far away, despite recent Supreme Court rulings and in spite of recent Supreme Court rulings. I would say there is more of this conversation to have – where we need to collectively assess our values, envision work-life balance in harmony, and propel ourselves to a future we do want to pass onto our children.