Connecting Women: Why This is Our First Priority

I’ve written about this before, but this is a topic so near to me that I think uncovering and unpacking the layers is relevant, important, and necessary. When I go back to what it is I do, connecting women and holding space for women is the common theme. So, why is that so important?

Connecting to Sustainability

Years ago, I identified that my goal is to educate people on the importance of a sustainable society. This was a beautiful moment because it allowed me openness to opportunities that had just been created and were now available to me. I was able to declare Sustainable Urban Development as my minor at Portland State. I was able to travel to Italy on a Sustainability Study Abroad. I was able to co-author a book on Sustainability. Because my bucket job explorations in sustainability didn’t lead to a paid gig, I kept unpacking what sustainability meant for me.

The Triple Bottom Line is the common definition I use. It’s easy to understand, wrap our heads around, and generally gets the point across. I’ve called it the Three Es, until this new definition. It means that you balance three things equally instead of just one.

In business, the norm is to balance the books. You know if a company is making a profit, or not. You balance the profit books, the economic books. In the Triple Bottom Line definition, you add two books: people (equity) and planet/place (environment). With how we’ve measured environmental success, this piece is easy to measure. We know if we are polluting the environment more than cleaning it up. We know if we are cutting down more trees than planting. We know if our food is contaminated, or not. We know if our water is contaminated, or not.

Connecting people

But people, that’s where things get messy. Because people are messy. We bring all of our junk, or baggage, to the table – no matter what the table is – work, family, volunteering. If we had a bad day at work, it’s often hard to hide it from our families. If family life is stressful, it affects our concentration at work. We are a society that likes easy things, so we don’t deal with the people aspect because it is hard.

And, the hard thing is exactly what we need to deal with. If we want our society to be a better place tomorrow than it is today, we have to tackle the hard thing. I want society to be a better place. I want my son to grow up with kindness, compassion, and opportunity within a setting of health, wellness, wealth, and awesome choices. I want the next generation to have even better opportunities. If we collectively want that, and I think we do, then we have to work together to figure out people.

Connecting with Women

I am focusing on women for many reasons. I am a women. I was raised by a women, who served our family as a single mother using social services, until she remarried. I have sisters. One sister is the mother of a special needs child. One sister was killed by her boyfriend. That is, one sister was a victim of domestic violence.

I watch all the women in my circle: gay, straight, single, parents, black, hispanic, white – and they all have spaces where they need support. Many women I see are not the sole breadwinners of their families, and that directly affects choices they make. Some women face exclusions that I, as a white women, cannot relate to, and it’s unfair and unnecessary.

So, I see a need for us, women, to come together like we never have before. I see a need for us to cross race, political, and economic lines and see the potential in each of us. I see space for us to thrive together.

When women support each other in joy, we do amazing things. We love. We share. We are kind. We show up with compassion. We gift, and we support. I want to create a society that honors the feminine to bring these necessary things back into our world, massively. Join me. Let’s connect.

The Shop is Updated

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!

Stained Walnut Oil Holder
Finished with a salad bowl finish, this oil holder holds 11 9 or 10ml roller bottles. The salad bowl finish brings out the dark, beautiful richness of the walnut. This piece was designed to accentuate the natural beauty of the grain. It’s great to fit in small places.
Walnut Oil Holder
This unstained walnut oil holder, with its butter soft finish, will hold 12 9 or 10 ml roller bottles. This is a one of a kind piece. Fit your diluted touch kit or your emotional oil touch kit with ease!
Massage Kit Oil Holder, White Oak Massage Kit Oil Holder, White Oak Massage Kit Oil Holder, White Oak 🔎zoom  Request a custom order and have something made just for you. Item details 5 out of 5 stars.      (1) reviews Shipping & Policies Do you have your favorite massage oils in 5ml bottles? This holder was designed specifically for dōTERRA's AromaTouch Technique Kit, including space for fractionated coconut oil. Keep your massage tools at the ready to offer the healing touch of massage and oils! Will hold any 5ml bottles or 4oz bottle in the center. This holder is made of white oak. Meet the owners of BalanceShared Learn more about their shop and process  Michelle Lasley    Peter Lasley Massage Kit Oil Holder, White Oak
Store your 5ml AromaTouch oils and Fractionated Coconut Oil in this oak holder.

Make Your Own Body Butter

Body-Butter A few weeks ago, I ran out of lotion. I sort of despise going to the store to buy new personal care products. The labels confuse me. I don’t understand all the ingredients, what I need, why, what it’s good for. The longer and more chemically the name sounds, it raises more red flags than I care to admit.

So, my lotion ran out. But, I have sensitive skin that needs routine hydration. I have autoimmune issues that exacerbate that sensitive skin, so no matter how hot or cold or wet or dry it is outside, I need hydration for my skin.

What’s a girl to do? Well, not unlike my cooking, I went for whole ingredients. Herein lies the confusion, how do you make lotion? Why do you need certain ingredients.

Confession: I love to read and I love to research. But, if it’s not easily understood, then I pass. In college, I loved digesting complex ideas and trying to understand them. As my son has grown, and my family and I have settled into these roles, though, I find the more complex something is the more of a turn off it is.

So, when looking at a recipe, I found I want simple, easy to understand, just like my cooking desire of 5 ingredients or less.

Lotion added water. Body butter was straight plant fats, which meant simpler though there was a bit in the process. I opted for the body butter, because the whole thing felt simpler. Comparing some recipes, the ratio seemed to be 1 part plant oil to two parts plant butter, and for every 1 cup of body butter about 10 drops of essential oil. I decided on my amounts not unlike making soap. You figure out how much you want in an end product, and adjust accordingly. I figured 3 cups of finished product would be enough. And, I then proceeded to make about 4 cups! (Oops!)

Recipe & Technique

Materials

  • 1 bowl filled with ice
  • 1 bowl, smaller, to nest in iced bowl later
  • I crockpot for slow melting of fats
  • Container(s) for finished product
  • A stick blender for mixing

Ingredients

Butters

  • 1 cup mango butter
  • 1 cup shea butter
  • 1 cup coconut oil (counting as a butter because of consistency)
  • A few shavings of coconut butter

Oils

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup jojoba oil

Essential Oils

  • 10 drops clary sage
  • 10 drops geranium
  • 10 drops lavender

I found this didn’t scent my body butter as much as I wanted. Next time, I’ll up the geranium and lavender to 15 or 20 drops each. And, next time, I’ll maybe have ⅔ cup each of the mango and shea butters and coconut oil.

Process

Add all plant butters and oils (except essential oils) to your crockpot. Put on low, and let sit until all oils are melted. One blogger noted that letting her oils melt together for 20 minutes refined them enough that the finished product wasn’t grainy. I forgot about my crockpot for a bit, so my oils sat for nearly two hours. Note, many recipes instruct you to use a double boil method. I don’t like it. Something about the steam and hot bowls that turns me off. I found the crockpot method works best for my “fix it and forget it” world.

When the oils are sufficiently melted together, you now need to cool them. After they had been in the ice bath for about 5 minutes, I added my essential oils and I began mixing with my stick blender. I didn’t have enough ice, so while I was using my blender to mix up the oils, I noticed it wasn’t coming together as well as I liked. I refrigerated the mixture for about an hour. Some recipes skip the ice bath and say to refrigerate for 2 hours.

I compared the process to making a meringue or whipped cream. The oils cooling, the mixing to change the texture, it felt the same. So, that’s what I used as my guide to know when I was done. Once the oils were cool enough, whipping them up was quite fast. The yellow color quickly changed to the thick white you see pictured above. I made enough to fill that container plus another.

About the Essential Oils

Clary Sage

The oil of clarity and vision, it gives courage to see the truth, see limiting beliefs, encourages openness to new ideas and perspectives. The body system affected by clary sage is largely the hormonal system, which is why it can help balance hormones and soothe monthly discomfort associated with menstrual cycles. Clary sage also soothes nervous tension and lightens mood. I chose it for this body butter because of it’s calming properties and how it is soothing to the skin.

Geranium

The oil of love and trust. Need I say anymore? It seems so obvious to me that for something I am putting on my body, it should absolutely include proving love, trust, and emotional healing. Geranium can even encourage forgiveness, and it fosters human love and connection. Geranium primarily supports emotional balance and skin. With skin, it promotes clear, healthy skin. It can also helps calm nerves and lessen stress. And, as a bonus, it supports liver health! We like to say, with using essential oils there are side benefits.

Lavender

Lavender is widely known for and used for its calming and relaxing qualities. But, did you know that it’s also the oil of communication? While it can soothe occasional skin irritations, helps skin recover quickly, and even ease muscle tension it can also promote emotional balance. It encourages positive emotions of open communication, being released, expressive with emotional honesty, and being heard.

People Forgetting People

Iraq War soldiers and bombing
Image via Wikipedia

It was 2004. The Iraq war had waged on for about a year. I, and my friends, [we] were still in shock over all that happened. He hadn’t listened! We protested. We wrote. We petitioned. We called. We bitched. We complained.

We didn’t want another Vietnam. We can’t do that to our people again. We can’t do that to our brothers and sisters. We can’t let them suffer for a cause, for a rich man’s war, that isn’t really about freedom at all.

So why is he doing this? Why? Why is this Yale graduate, son of an oil man, baseball team owner, married to a librarian enforcing this war?

The simplest answer, and the most comfortable one for my little brain to wrap around, has been that he was simply taking care of those he cares about. On the surface, it seems that he cares about contractors making $6k to $10k per day more than soldiers without shoes. On the surface, it would seem an oil company was more important than the people working for the company.

I related it to my own cirlce. I want my family and my close friends taken care of. I want them healthy. I want them to have secure jobs that give them benefits to help ensure good health. I want them to have access to clean, healthy food. I want them to be educated on healthful (clean air, clean water, clean soil) ways to take care of their families. I want them to have access to the American Dream, and not just the same station in life in which they were born.

My wants certainly can’t be that different from Mr. Bush’s, can they? On that macro level. On that big, 50,000 mile high level. We all really want the same things. We want our loved ones to be taken care of.

The difference is who the loved ones are. And, someone, in this myriad tangled web of life, we forget about people we don’t care about.

Mr. Bush is an extreme, political example, but I hope it highlights what I see happening all over. Recently, I was a part of a conversation where it was argued that the only thing missing out of a particular sustainability equation was the Environment. I was shocked, since the conversation was about an organization that only does work in the environment. No where, though, were people mentioned. Not the people who do the work voluntarily. Not the people who get the details done to do the work. Simply, people were missing from this conversation, and no one recognized it.

Sustainability was put on hold the year I graduated from college. With bank, market, and housing crashes – all fell like dominoes after 2008, it’s as if we couldn’t focus on anything but that which was right in front of us. And, still, three years later we are reeling. We’re still trying to calm the frenzy around us in order to organize our lives and dream about the American Dream.

In the frenzy, the environment wasn’t forgotten. The Sierra Club is still doing their job. I”m not saying the environment doesn’t suffer, I’m simply saying it wasn’t forgotten. But, people were.

Wages dropped. Homes were foreclosed upon. Details were lost that made people homeless and lose their jobs. benefits were lost affecting the health of many.

People were forgotten.

You can’t have a balanced three-legged stool without people. You can’t have a true balanced Triple Bottom Line general ledger without people. You can’t have a world, without people.

I am dismayed that after all we’ve been through, we still take two steps back. I’m dismayed that people are still forgotten and the gap between the haves and have nots widens. I’m dismayed that people are forgotten.

But, as if by a miracle, a group has risen up and shouted to not forget us. My question, today, is this: Can the Occupy Movement get people to remember people?

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S-S-S-Sustainability!

Cover of "Ecotopia"
Cover of Ecotopia

“I want to educate people on the importance of a sustainable society.”

That’s what I want to do with my life. In some shape or form, anything I am doing, I want it to mesh with that belief. The belief that we should live in a sustainable society and we owe it to ourselves to get there. The belief is also contingent upon the thought that what we are doing is not sustainable and that there is oodles of room for improvement.

I heard of sustainability first, while reading Ernest Callenbach‘s Ecotopia. In it, he referred to this concept of sustainability as a stable state system. A system in which everything is in equilibrium with everything else. There was a process for nearly everything to make sure that you really had the best information moving forward about making a decision. You harvested the wood if you wanted a wood frame home, for example.

A co-worker, during one of those nice “just go out to lunch with one of your co-worker” things, prodded me after I asked him why he was doing Construction Project Management. He returned the question. I wasn’t expecting that. I started with, “Oh, I don’t know.” But I had to pause. Because, I knew it wasn’t true.

I was at the end of a nearly 5 year break from college. I had gained more life experience, talked more with different people, read more about different ideas, and began formulating my own. Yes, in fact, I did know what I want to do … and I apologized for my cop-out statement and came up with that.

“I want to educate people on the importance of a sustainable society.”

Sustainable. But, what does that mean? I had the opportunity to go back to school, and back to school I went. What a fortunate time it was. Sustainability was popping up everywhere! Lucky for me, minors and specialized programs were too. I didn’t want to do another dual major attempt but rather, efficiently wrap all my interests under one degree.

One of the amazing opportunities I had after I decided on my minor in Sustainable Urban Development was to visit Italy for two weeks on an agri-tourismo property that specialized in sustainability. We were a crew of about 15. Some of us were young, some were middle-aged, and some were fresh of the boat young college kids. One of my favorite attendees was a Bosnian gal who spent much of her adult life in the US. I loved hearing her cross-oceanic view of the world.

People, she said to me, in one late night conversation around the farm table with tea and wine. People. People often forget about people. Labor. The people who do the job.

As someone who was raised in a blue-collar family with white-collar dreams, I can relate.

What did my minor say about that? Only that to define this stable state equilibrium, we should measure people, profits, and place on the same playing field. A field in which they all get equal play and are measured so that no one suffers. Equity, Economy, and Environment. The Triple Bottom Line. The Three-Legged Stool. Sustainability.

But, why then, if that’s a decent measure of how to define sustainability, do people still forget people?

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Commuting in 2012

English: Bus 2909 of TriMet, the public transi...
Image via Wikipedia

You may recall I’ve had a varied commute in all the years I’ve lived here, in Portland. 2012 marks the start of the 9th year I’ve lived here. Nine years. It’s a little surprising that I am working towards being here for an entire decade. While I was still living in Michigan, I was able to finally figure out my purpose, if you will. I wanted to educate people on the importance of a sustainable society. Once I got, here, to Portland, I began studying Sustainable Urban Development and living out my green dreams to the best of my ability.

I partook in regular bus commutes. I refused to own a car. I toyed with riding my bicycle. I bought organic foods and preached to others the importance of doing so. I bought recycled toilet paper. I ate more beans than meat. When I moved closer to work, I walked to work forgoing all fossil fuel options and using my own two feet instead.

Then, life changed. I got a curve ball. I got pregnant and married while still in school. What a humbling experience this has been! I used to eat arugula salads all the time, but then I found myself married to someone who’s taste buds hadn’t been acclimated to the slightly bitter green. Then, we found ourselves with a huge budget crunch: no income while taking care of a baby! Organic dreams went by the wayside. Always lurking in the background, but not something we could act on when we had $300 to spend, per month, on our total grocery bill (including the WIC and SNAP benefits allotted).

At the same time, I got the best bus pass – ever. It was good for five years and was an all-zone pass. That’s right, I got the benefit of being the partner of a TriMet employee. While I got the best bus pass, ever, I stopped commuting! My husband drove me to and from school on the days I went. Then, I finished school and I stopped needing to go places save once a week or so. Then, instead of taking the bus, driving, or walking – I found myself driving an SUV!

Next, life changed again, and I got employed. The only problem was that I didn’t look close enough at the job description and the job was twenty miles away. I was looking at a 45 minute commute by car or a 90 minute commute by bus. I had to factor in day care, so commuting by car became my new norm.

Well, the beginning of this year has proven another change. The office moved downtown. Downtown! My commute decreased by 15 miles! Challenges remain, especially in regards to picking up Levi. However, I took the one bus to work. I walked. Walked! I listened to NPR, sent emails, checked my schedule — all while on the bus.

The ride home was a little more stressful as the bus was running late. I might benefit from changing my schedule a half hour on the start and end time to allow more flexibility with picking up Levi. We made it home though, not without complaint. And, my feet just aren’t used to walking fast anymore, so they need to be retrained. Tomorrow, I will try a park and ride option. This means, I will bus to work then home, and then pick up the truck and get Levi.

Commuting in 2012 will mean a driver’s license renewal. It will mean an all-zone, five-year bus pass renewal. It might mean Levi gets his own bus pass. (I can’t remember the age kids are supposed to have their own tickets.) Yes, 2012 will have changes in commuting. Here’s to less driving and more bus riding.

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An Open Letter on Food Security

Milk & Honey Bread
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Dear Friend,

I co-coordinate a food buying club in my neighborhood. This idea arose from many things, one the example is the one set by my grandparents who always had access to local food through their garden, animal husbandry, and local grocery co-op. Mostly, though, I do this because food quality for my small family is very important. I also do this is a way to increase food security for everyone.

Nary a day goes by where we don’t hear about another food recall. These food recalls largely involve large industrial food complexes, like confined animal feed operations. I don’t buy from those operations. I buy directly from the farmer. My family eats fairly locally and seasonally. We learn how to preserve our food and make things from scratch, like bread — a lot like my grandparents learned post World War II. We develop relationships with our farmers, our distributors, our producers of the food we eat. We do this to increase our food security. We know where our food comes from. We visit the farms. We know the names of our farmers’ children. We are invested in them, and they are invested in us.

But that investment is being threatened. The City of Portland has hosted several meetings to revise the food zoning laws for our locale. Their recommendations are to increase the hurdles one has to go through to have access to local food.

This is a problem. A big problem. And, I need your help to tell them it’s a problem. 

Find out more about the city’s plans and please take the survey. Please tell the city they are going in the WRONG direction for CSAs & Buying Clubs. Tell them it matters to you because food security matters to you. Tell them having access to local food is important to you. And, most importantly, pass this message on and have your friends and family take the survey.

Thank you for your help.

In food!

Michelle Lasley
community advocate | green coach | nurturer
www.michellelasley.com

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Handpicked Pastoral Adjectives

I’m reading Omnivore’s Dilemma. Finally. In it, Pollen coins the term “Supermarket Pastoral” as a way to describe the literature we find in supermarkets, like Whole Foods. I think we can credit sustainability and this movement for great leaps and bounds when it moves into the regular aisles and ads of the grocery store.

08-04 Freddy Ad
Thursday, August 4th an Ad in the Oregonian

Sweet corn, picked, carefully (implied) by tender hands at the exact right moment to ensure the highest quality food. Who wouldn’t want that? The care, the thought, the ability that went into ensuring you and your family had quality food — the feeling is wonder, amazement… love.

08-03 Oregonian Cover
Wednesday, August 3, Oregonian, Front Page

What is this outbreak? Ground turkey? Who? Cargill? Where? Kroger? Wait… didn’t Kroger buy Fred Meyer less than 10 years ago? So, Kroger = Fred Meyer = contaminated meat amidst supermarket pastoral.

Finally, this expectation of quality is at the tips of many. Finally, this (re)awareness of the nastiness in industrial food is at the forefront of our brains. Finally.

But, clearly, we have a long way to go in combating this green washing that attempts to erase our understanding of the nastiness. Every time we remove ourselves from a process… the further away we get from necessary processes in every day life, the less connected we are with our real world.

Think sewer systems. Think about from where you get your milk, eggs, and meat. Think about who makes your vehicle that you drive to work. Think about the job you do at work. Do you have a systems understanding of your role and how it affects your company? Or, are you operating with one very small, very controlled piece?

The less we know about the processes that make our lives work, the less connected we are with our lives.

So, sure, on one hand it’s great that visions of handpicked bounty are falling off the tongues of ad writers for local super markets. There is a suggestion in its being there that we want to be connected to our food, to that which sustains us.

But, when we read the day before about the outbreak of salmonella in ground turkey, we need to remember that we are still hiding things. In an effort to be healthy, ground turkey is often sold as a great, lean option, alternative to the fatty, heart disease, mad cow ridden ground beef. But, neither really answers the question of what is healthy. We have these tests by which we measure very specific things (heart disease) and link it narrowly to others (fat content) without thinking about how varied people are and how perhaps diversity of product is more important. We are trading cheap ground beef for cheap turkey and we get another devastating result: diseased food that still makes us sick even if it doesn’t give us heart disease.

Beware of handpicked pastoral adjectives, as often, while increasing the awareness and importance of the topic, it’s slight of hand, green washing gone mad. The best way to get handpicked produce is to pick it yourself. I’m busy. I struggle with balancing all these visions, ideals and wants with every day reality of naps, dinner, paying bills, and going to work… not to mention how do you find time to spend with your family in a fun sort of way! So, the next best thing is to vet your food with friends. Work together to get the handpicked goodness from local farms you trust. Visit the farms. Visit the farmers. Talk to them. Have conversations with them about how they get it all done. Thank them for providing you with quality food that doesn’t make you sick.

If we get more connected to our places. More connected to our food. More connected to  our homes, we can make “handpicked pastoral” a part of our lives. We won’t even need to label it in such quaint terms suggesting a different way of doing things because it simply will be.

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Passion

A palette of watercolours and a brush.
Image via Wikipedia

In response to my Cooking post, she said something like, “Wow, Michelle, I enjoy your passion about things.”

I thought. I paused. I reflected.

I was questioned several years ago why I won’t do art as a career. I can draw (always have been able to). I enjoy it. I love it. I love getting better. I love hearing new things and experiencing new things I can do with pen, paper, paint, paints, charcoal, any medium really. But, why don’t I pursue it as a career? I said, “I don’t want to ruin the thing I love with the pursuit of money.” He retorted, “Why not do the thing you love because you love it?”

Indeed. It’s too personal is the other answer. I don’t want what is so close to my heart criticized. And, there are so many other things I like doing, why be pigeonholed? I need a career that can encapsulate most of what I like to do – simply to keep me engaged!

I have realized that there are about three things – ideas – where I like to focus my daily thoughts: food, the earth (environment, planet, etc), and housing. There are skills I enjoy utilizing to talk about these ideas: drawing, sketching, presenting, creating, office busy work, talking, facilitating, organizing, motivating, problem solving, writing, reading, teaching.

I can use art to talk about food, but the creation of the artistic thing doesn’t have to be the only thing, and it doesn’t have to be tied to my heart or a commission. I can use the design skills I’ve used to help educate and inform marketing choices at work or in the clubs with which I work. I can use my writing to help with websites, newsletters, business letters – and it’s just part of the picture – not the whole thing.

I have learned I have to diversify my interests, but not too much because I can’t be stretched thinner than I already am. I learned that I can’t be a crisis counselor full time no matter how much compassion I might have for the person or the cause – but volunteering a few hours a month works. I have learned to overcome certain fears: like asking for money. I have learned that it’s even easy to ask people to support causes I love.

I have learned that I don’t want just any job and that it must be tied around a passion in order to motivate me to do it. Working a as a secretary just anywhere won’t do – it has to be around my interests. Several years ago I realized that my personal goal is to “teach people about the importance of a sustainable society.” Sustainability as defined using the metaphor of “people, places, and profit” all in equilibrium suggesting a balance in environmental use, the people who do the work, and ensuring there is a black bottom line for the finance people.

So, yes, friend, I would agree – I am passionate. But, I don’t know how else to operate! I feel like there is no point if I don’t go with where my passions direct me. Thank you kindly for your observation because it has given me this opportunity to reflect.

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