The End of Summer

It’s Labor Day weekend. Next week school starts. We haven’t registered Levi yet. I was told before the end of the last school year, that for our neighborhood school – we could wait until the day before school. That’s September 4th. The day after Labor Day. Then, on the next day school starts. Then, on Friday – soccer starts. I am thankful events have been cancelled at my work.

Too much has been changing, to the point I am not comfortable writing about it all. I do not desire to host a professional and a personal blog. I tried that before, and it became too difficult to maintain while life trips over itself into one big … balancing act.

Some themes from the year:

  • Struggling organizations find themselves prey to lack of vision, leadership, and facilitation (among other things).
  • If delegating, embrace “Doers Discretion” or Do It Yourself.
  • Acknowledge that we all struggle with communicating our intent and to be understood. Understand that it is not often that we don’t share similar goals: to do decently for the organization.

Hopefully more writing to come later.

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“Say It Ain’t So Wisco” or in the news today “That’s Not Fair”

The complaints sound like this:

They get paid more than me! That’s not fair!

They get better benefits than me! That’s not fair!

They get better hours than me! That’s not fair!

We should cut their pay to make it fair!

We should cut their benefits so they have the same crappy benefits I have. That will make it fair!

We should make them work the same crappy hours I work! That will make it fair!

I have to drive far to work, so should they! That would make it fair!

I have to scrounge to find child care! They should too! They should quit complaining about how good they have it and suck it up like the rest of us!

They should stop whining! They don’t know what it’s like being a real American having to work for crappy pay, in crappy hours, with a crappy commute! I want them to suffer just like me!

The cause seems to be with these many feelings of unfairness, that the only way to level the playing field is to, quite simply, vote against ones own interests. Or, rather, just enough people believe that the playing field needs to be leveled in this way that the whole votes against their own interests.

What do I mean, you ask?

2012 National Housing Wage is $18.25 per hour.
The 2012 National Housing Wage is $18.25 per hour. (source: The National Low Income Housing Coalition)

It is not in everyone’s best interest to live below a livable housing wage ($18.25 per hour).

It is not in everyone’s best interest to have families working 2.5 jobs or 101 hours per week to maintain stable housing. That type of work week, in itself, is not stable.

It is as if we’ve forgotten that one part of the American Dream is to allow everyone to achieve their own dreams, however they may conceive them to be. Jack’s dream might be to be a hair stylist, Judy’s dream a truck driver, Joe’s dream a school teacher, and Jane’s dream might be to become the 10th Female President of the United States (I’m hoping for a more Progressive U S of A in the coming years).

But, collectively, we think that smokestacking the good social programs away is the path to fairness. We misconstrue the “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” idiom for a deluded version of equity.  We opt to choose “equity of outcome” and not “equity in opportunity.” And, instead of choosing an outcome that puts everyone in a state where food, shelter, clothing, education, and health are taken care of – we are choosing an outcome where no one is taken care of.

No one.

Except the 1%.

All for the hope that one day, we too will figure out investment banking and other quick rich schemes to have golden parachutes and swan sculptures for birthday parties. For that faint hope, we vote against our own interests.

By voting against our own interests, we vote against our grandparents. We vote against our parents. We vote against our aunts, our uncles, our cousins. We vote against our sisters. We vote against our brothers. We vote against our children.

For the vain hope that we can be the next Mitt Romney, we sacrifice our children’s future. We sacrifice our kids’ health. We sacrifice our kids’ education. We sacrifice our kids’ housing.

When we sacrifice our basic needs for a whim, we sacrifice our lives.

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Monday, May 14: Spreading the Food Word

Mommy & Levi
Mommy & Levi (Photo credit: alexis22578)

Tonight, I had the opportunity to discuss buying clubs with a newly formed club. They were focused, enthralled, and concentrated on every word I said. It was like I was telling a beautiful fiction they’d never heard, simply focused on everything I had to say. And, to think, I wasn’t even sure on the intent of my being there once Levi and I got there.

A friend mentioned to me a few weeks ago that people in her neighborhood were starting a buying club. Connecting the distance between the city and the farms which we depend on is important to me. So, if there’s an opportunity to chat with people about buying clubs, I take it. I offered to chat, and my friend made the connections. She told me the time of the meeting, and I told her when I could be there. I neglected to ask if there was a standing agenda or how much time I’d have.

We didn’t make it by 6:30pm. We made it by 6:50pm. They were gracious and encouraged us to sit and listen. Us was of course me and Levi. Unfortunately, there were no other kids. When there are no other kids, Levi gets quite excitable. That is, he gets rambunctious because he’s not getting the attention he wants.

Suddenly, the door to the room adjacent opened and an older gal gave a 5 minute warning. I understood that to mean 5 minutes until we had to leave. Now, I was questioning why I was there. Why did we bust our bums to get out there, 30 minutes away from home, to not share any knowledge with a bored 5-year-old who wants attention?

The organizer must have noticed my grumpy face because she clarified the agenda for me. It was 5 more minutes of the separate groups and then the groups got together to debrief together. Perhaps, I considered, my time wasn’t wasted after all.

They debriefed and started finishing their debrief, at which point Levi told me he had to go to the bathroom. So, we went to the bathroom. Naturally, this was a longer visit. Finally, we emerged and everyone was quiet. And staring at us! The organizer told me they were ready! I quipped we had good timing. Now, I was relieved that we hadn’t got there at 6:30pm. We’d have waited an extra 2o minutes… twenty minutes longer than we already waited!

I still wasn’t sure what they were expecting, so I simply went from what I planned on saying. I began by introducing myself and why I was invited to come, my connection to the group through a mutual friend. I checked my assumptions that the group was newly formed and had only completed a few buys by asking the questions to the group. I stood up the whole time.  And Levi literally ran circles around me. I had my notes. I had culled through my notes after listening to them talk. They didn’t, for example, need a rehashing of why buying clubs are necessary. They are living why.

So, I talked. I talked about what we do, and how we do it. I was flying through my notes. Occasionally instructing Levi to be calmer. Suddenly, a gal in the back said, “Wow, you have a lot of really rich information.” Oh! This is my time check. How long have I been talking? How long did I have? It didn’t really matter. It was 8 o’clock, and people want to go home. So, I passed out business cards and gave a sample of my presentation. Then, chatted with various people in the groups. We’ll have more meetings. Must get them invited to the buying club get togethers!

The point is bringing the city closer to the farms. Or rather, the farms to the city. Good governance is the mission, and through food. With everyone so enthralled and so excited – it is within reach.

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Sunday, May 6th

Okay narcissistic rants aside – I do enjoy writing every day. As the (over written?) introvert, I do better when I can process. Writing allows me to process.

But, what to process? The never-ending balancing act and working towards my deemed purpose.

I want to educate people on the importance of a sustainable society. So, I’ve picked volunteer projects, paid jobs, reading material, and seminars to support that idea. I’ve started endeavors to support that idea. Every choice I make tries to support that idea.

My thinking on what I should be doing with my life has always been ongoing. Growing up Catholic, there is a certain amount of time dedicated to thinking about listening for God’s calling. I never felt like I had one. I only knew to follow my interests. My interests have always been consistent in the environment and education. When I was 18 and a freshman at Michigan State University, a first year at James Madison College eagerly awaiting my studies in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy, I thought maybe I would or could be a lobbyist. I’d lobby for the virtues of the environment or education. I thought maybe I’d need a law degree, which always has intrigued me.

Then I got a bunch of loans through two universities, and suddenly spending more money I didn’t have on law school didn’t seem so important. In between those two universities, the school of life focused my studies on environmental thought, food, and community building. Those themes coalesced at Portland State University with the opening of their Sustainable Urban Development minor. My studies then concentrated on geography and urban development. Two themes where I continued to think about food, people, and how to make it all work together.

Is it any wonder then that I work intimately with a food buying club that focuses on local food sustainability and an environmental nonprofit that guides its thoughts in stewardship? One of my parting studies introduced me to the concept of “servant leadership”. It’s this idea where you lead from behind. A great example is how I stopped arguing with my husband about what to have for dinner and just focused on whole foods, home cooked foods, and organic foods (as budgets allowed). Now, he tells me the virtues of the food we eat.

Each refocus can be identified by a shift in thinking and impatience with the day-to-day. Like when I finally graduated. I had spent so much time thinking about my degree, that when I finally got it all I wanted was to put all those studies into action and work towards some semblance of a career. Then, there was the (housing) crash of 2008. Just one month after I graduated. I was loathe to apply for just any job – I had an idea of what I wanted to do. So, I focused on environmental jobs. I applied to be program coordinators and managers. I tried for AmeriCorps jobs. I tried for a plethora of administrative jobs. I had interviews. I had second interviews. I applied for more than 300 jobs in three years (starting in 2007).

I get a job. And, well… it proves to be more or less as dysfunctional as the twenty some jobs I held in my twenties. So, maybe working for others doesn’t work for me. I don’t get their lack of vision. I don’t get their lack of leadership. I don’t get their in ability to properly facilitate meetings. (Meetings that could identify vision and leadership and focus the organization past dysfunction!!)

These weeks of not writing have been thinking about all of that. It’s been spent thinking and doing the day-to-day, just to get by. It’s been pondering how to fix the rut and get into a career. I think I have some ideas. Now, to put them into action.

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On being liberal

Being liberal means you take the time to honor choice, even if you don’t like the proffered options. It means considering the greatest good and putting your own self interest aside. Being liberal means being planful for the future and future generations. Being liberal means just being so that others may be as well.

The opposite

I don’t understand this mindset as well. He examples before us show that being conservative evokes stubbornness to tired ideals. Being conservative means one must affiliate oneself with religious fanatics. That is not the definition of the word. Being conservative should be a liberals ally because, if true to the definition, we’d be conserving and enhancing life at the same time.

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To Have Hope

Temperature predictions from some climate mode...
Image via Wikipedia

Climate change is happening. We can attempt to deny it. We can go along with the conflict among politicians and in the newspapers. We can close our eyes to it. We can say “weather is weather” when we look at a balmy January day when it should be 20 below. Climate change — global warming — is happening. No matter what we say to console ourselves doesn’t change the trend that 98% of the scientific community accepts as fact. Our world is warming and places are already being affected. Recently, the Oregonian published a map put out by the USDA. The USDA is redrawing their garden zoning maps to more accurately reflect current temperatures. The caption lightly explains warming, but also attributes the change to better mapping software! So, I put a flippant comment on my Facebook page that got its own attention from my friends. One didn’t realize I was being sarcastic. Another responded with his own, appropriately, flippant remark. Finally, a family member expressed her own frustration with how we glaze over this very serious problem. As a follow-up, I posted a link to a three-year old Scientific American article that showcased ten places that in 2008 that were clearly affected by climate change. Some of the listed places include:

Darfur

Until the rains failed in Darfur, the region’s pastoralists lived amicably with the settled farmers. The nomadic herders grazed their camels on the rocky hillsides between the fertile plots and fed their animals on the leavings from the harvest….[More]

The Gulf Coast

Climate scientists may still be debating to what extent climate change is going to translate into stronger and more frequent hurricanes, but insurance companies aren’t waiting for the final answer….[More]

Northern Europe

The warming of the globe has so far generally been good for the world’s wine. It has allowed the fruit to come off the vine richer and riper. A study led by Gregory Jones, a climatologist at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Ore., and the son of a winegrower, tracked the impact of rising temperatures between 1950 and 1999, using as a measure of quality the values by the auction house Sotheby’s, which rates wines on a 100-point scale….[More]

Great Barrier Reef

Not all the carbon dioxide we emit contributes to atmospheric warming. More than a third of what we have produced since the industrial revolution has been absorbed by the oceans, where it reacts with seawater to form carbonic acid….[More]

In recent years, no less than four Alaskan communities have been forced to relocate (Shishmaref, Kivalina, Shaktoolik and Newtok) due to climate change. Waters are rising. Temperatures are rising. Plants and animals are migrating, and now people are migrating too. These communities are the canaries in the coal mine. They are the ones screaming to the rest of the world, “LISTEN! Climate change is happening! It’s happening to us! Now!”

But now we’re not listening. Collectively. We are stuck in group think, not embracing our group wisdom. Collectively, what can we do? That was the question that was posed to me. So, here’s a short list.

  1. Don’t lose hope. But realize that people will only change when they want to. So, while not losing hope, stay the steady course.
  2. Lead by example. Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Then do it all over again, and better.
  3. Be mindful of your own consumption and aware of how this culture of things is perpetuating the problem.
  4. Realize hope in that 60% or so of Americans do recognize that there is a problem, so while the media isn’t up on what Americans really are thinking, there is a paradigm shift around us.
  5. Educate yourself, and then, educate others. Do it with compassion, and when they stop listening do it with your actions. Show people how the local organic food you create with is better than the tasteless, flavorless, nutritionless food found in the average grocer.

To have hope can be hard, but I think it’s imperative we stay the steady course. We can find solace in the Romanesque period in history where buildings became strong again when the world didn’t end in 1000 AD. We can find solace in realizing we have found lost technologies, like concrete, to make our world more solid. We can find solace in remembering that no matter how stubborn, we are one of the most adaptable creatures, and adapt we will. We can find solace in our relationships that we forge, foster, and create. Because, then, we know that we will have a network to turn to who supports our ideals of local, homegrown, homefunded communities.

To have hope, in my mind, is the only way to live. And, to have hope, is the only bottom line that will drive us when madness surrounds.

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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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Rousseau & the First Discourse

This was a paper written for Professor Curtis Stokes at Michigan State University for my MC 370 class (taken for the 2nd time).

Note: Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the First Discourse: on whether the restoration of the Sciences and Arts has contributed to the purification of morals.

In Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s First Discourse, the blame he puts on the Arts and Sciences for contributing to the lack of morals and virtues in his modern society is very relevant today. Just look in the morning paper to see the variety of morals that are diminishing. We have people killing other people to support hallucinatory habits. Corporate takeovers and monopolies controlling the market are commonplace. We constantly see the religious right and other morally right peoples try and persuade our government to correct our immorality. Wear your seat belt. Don’t do drugs. Don’t let this big mean company hurt my innocent little company. How did most of these things come about? They were by-products of the arts and sciences. All stems from education. We are taught that we must have a good education to succeed in the world. Perhaps it’s the education that is really the root of all of this evil and purging of our morals. After reading both Rousseau’s First Discourse and his Preface to “Narcissus” it becomes clear that Rousseau abuses the arts and sciences in the former and becomes a defender for them in the latter if they are taken in moderation and not idolized.

In Rousseau’s First Discourse, it is not “Science… [he] abuse(s) … it is Virtue [he] defend(s) before virtuous men (page 5).” He defends virtue in an era where education of arts and sciences is precedent to being good. Time and time again, Rousseau gives argument after argument how the sciences and arts have led to men preferring luxury over hard work and a moral living. He claims that Arts and Sciences rarely exist without luxury, and luxury cannot exist without them (16, 18). What is it that most of us want? Is that what education really teaches us? How to want expensive things? Why are we in college? We want the good life. We want the nice car, the great house on the beach, the apartment in the city. We want to do better than our parents, and our parents want us to do better than them. We want to support our children better than our parents supported us. We want to have more toys and gadgets to make our lives easier and more pleasurable. Our parents want to spoil our grandchildren, as good grandparents do. All of these things are luxurious. Do we really need the nice car, the house on the beach, the apartment in the city, and the fun toys and electronic gadgets to make life easier? Are they necessary to a healthy life? Rousseau would argue no. Rousseau is very admirable of the vulgar or rustic man, although they wouldn’t have the ability to comprehend his writings, he loves their simplicity. Their lives aren’t complex, and they innately understand what virtue is by acting on it and not explaining it. Rousseau claims that in the modern society, people do a lot of talking about virtue, a lot of analyzing it, but they fail to understand and act on it. Only the common rustic man can really live the virtuous life, for once corrupt you are doomed to always be corrupt. The educated man is corrupt once learned from the corrupt education institutions. Rousseau states that “until the Romans had been content to practice virtue; all was lost when they began to study it (13).” It isn’t difficult to find examples of Rousseau’s arguments in our world today. As humans are innately good, we recognize hints of immorality. Therefore we despise the learned wealthy cooperate financier for his ruthlessness. We despise the all-knowing politician for his corruptness. We despise the intelligent scientist who cloned Dolly the Sheep for corrupting our morals. We despise so many people who are learned because they degrade our morals in society today. What good has our education done but to make us want more of what we don’t really need? Do we really need the $300,000 dollar a year job to support our futuristic families and ourselves? Can’t we get by on $40,000 or maybe even $10,000? If there’s a will there’s a way, right? (Unless we don’t really want to be virtuous.) Do we really need any monetary compensation? Can’t we get along in the wilds of Canada picking berries and sleeping under trees? We’d have the barest of necessities, just enough to survive on. We wouldn’t care about the newest, fastest car that has come to the market. We would only care about our survival, and the survival of our friends and families. We wouldn’t need an institutional education because we’d be surviving on instinct to survive.

Another interesting similarity between Rousseau and our modern day society, is his claim of lack of citizenship. He argues that “we have Physicists, Geometricians, Chemists, Astronomers, Poets, Musicians, Painters; we no longer have citizens; or if we still have some left, dispersed in our abandoned rural areas (24)…” What do we have today but Scientists of all sorts, physicists, chemists, and astronomers. We have Mathematicians, and musicians; we have artists who specialize in painting and poetry. How many times do we hear how awful a country is? How often is it said that people are not proud to be from their birth country? We have a lot of inhabitants that choose different paths, but despise where they come from. As far as our abandoned rural areas, what job is disappearing very quickly? Recently a town next to my hometown of Greenville held its annual Applefest. Oddly, there were no apple orchard representatives. There was one scheduled, but it could not come for it went out of business a few months earlier. Our nation’s farms are being sold for expanding cities and corporate mergers. An honest man’s wage is getting harder to come by. Rousseau would be saddened that there has been no real improvement in our morals.

In the “Preface to Narcissus” Rousseau defends himself against his critics by claiming that it wasn’t all sciences he is against, just when one pours all of his energy into defending and expanding them without a thought for the common good. He feels that Science taken abstractedly is wonderful. However, one needs to be better rounded. Do not devote all of your energy into them. Take the good and move on (97). Rousseau’s argument in the First Discourse was very strong. He put a good case against the Arts & Sciences in his defense of virtue. His attempts to save face in “Preface” are weak at best. He raises many good points and he does clarify the overall argument, however, he seems to sidestep the replies and comments to the First Discourse like a well-staged politician. Despite his meager retreat to please the critics, Rousseau still had good points about Sciences and the Arts and modern Society.

“What a strange and ruinous constitution, where having wealth invariably makes it easier to get more, and it is impossible for the man who has nothing to acquire anything (101).” Isn’t that true of our modern day society? Single mothers dependent on welfare rarely get out of this cyclical system. If, and when they do, it is usually by marriage. Sometimes that is not even enough and both parents’ end up struggling together. How wrong is it that a rich man can get richer (Bill Gates before the anti-trust suits) and by bigger gadgets and things, while the poor man must beg for food so he can live to see another day? How awful is it where our children aren’t learning and are dying malnourished (third-world countries around the globe)? Isn’t it backward to live in a society that encourages learning but fails to teach people to care? A society that proclaims freedom and equality for all while we have people sleeping on park benches because they lost their house or were abandoned by their parents. We speak the learned languages and philosophies of the Ancients, yet fail to act virtuous.

“What have we gained from all this? Much chatter, rich men and argumentative ones, that is to say enemies of virtue and common sense. In return we have lost innocence and morals. The multitude grovels in poverty; all are the slaves of vice. Uncommitted crimes dwell deep inside men’s hearts, and all that keeps them from being carried out is the assurance of impunity.” (101)

In “Preface to Narcissus”, Rousseau makes a stronger argument against corrupt men who cannot distinguish between good and bad, while he is much more favorable towards the Arts and Sciences. It’s as if the Arts and Sciences are the unwitting accomplices in the corrupt man’s plight to torture the civil and virtuous man. Rousseau does offer a small solution while acquiescing to the problem.

“It is no longer a matter of getting people to do good, but only of distracting them from doing evil, they must be kept busy with trifles to divert them from evil deeds; they must be entertained rather than sermonized.” (104)

Here, Rousseau gives an example of what today would be called your local YMCA, United Way, or any other Keep Kids Off the Street Organization. Keep people entertained at ball games, charity events, working on their gardens, or enhancing their crafts. Keep them busy with things they enjoy, and they will cease to do evil. If this pattern continues for many generations, maybe a virtuous lot will be born again.

Rousseau’s First Discourse is very relevant, no matter how emphatically he claims it was feasibly argued in his Confessions. Of everything Rousseau has to say in his First Discourse, the most important thing we should get out of it is a warning. If we continue on our paths of seeking riches instead of a form of salvation, if we continue to use the arts and sciences for evil by enhancing laziness, our society will be doomed. We should do useful things with our arts. Create things to be used usefully such as better farm equipment and building things with our hands, not things that abuse the human body and soul such as television (because it leads to apathy). Once we find the perfect harmony between the Arts and Sciences and virtuous living, this will be our hope and a virtuous man will again be born.

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Michigan Vacation 2011

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18 months from our 2009 adventure, we were able to travel back to Michigan. Experience has shown us 10 days is not enough, so this time we booked two weeks. It really looks like 12 full days when you consider one day you fly in and one day you fly out. This time, we traveled in March!

March! I’ve been living in Portland since October 2003. I think the last time I was in Michigan in March it must have been 2003. I didn’t realize how much I missed that crisp air, the chilly nights, the brown grass, patches of snow, and twiggy deciduous trees.

I do miss my home.

I am still glad I am here, in Portland. A point which my husband and I diverge. But, this post is about the vacation, not the time-line for moving back home.

This year, I did a survey of kitchens, bathrooms, and beds. My husband and I are always thinking about our dream house and if we were to purchase a house here in Portland, what would it look like. So, we are house hunters, no matter how cold of a prospect our Realtor should consider us. I am even more interested in how people organize their lives and what guests are given for their stays. Our house, currently, can only offer a lumpy couch.

I was amazed at the little things. The kitchens I most appreciated were open. No walls restricting vision to cooking surfaces, people in the kitchen, kids playing. My mother-in-law, cousin, and sister-in-law had the best laid out kitchens.

It was interesting to note who had the most intuitive organization and who did not. My grandmother’s kitchen was the most intuitive, but I could be biased there because that is my second home so I already knew where everything was. Next up was my cousin and mother-in-law.

My sister had the best guest bedroom. She even equipped the guest bathroom with amenities! Like we were at a hotel! Shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste! Extra pillows, pillow cases, and blankets were stocked in the drawers and closets! And, my sister boasted the best guest bed. Although we only stayed one night in her house, it was the most comfortable sleep, for me.

My brother and sister-in-law had the best kid toys – likely because of the two kids residing there. So, the most fun was had at my brothers, for Levi, because he got to play with cousins! It’s really amazing to see the connection these kids have, when they’ve visited no more than 4 occasions in their young lives.

We did better planning this one, I think. I wanted to make a conscious effort to try to visit with people, but I wasn’t going to press any visits given how tired and moody we can get traveling. We had adequate naps and play times, so it felt balanced overall. The last visit we had was such a whirlwind, we all ended up grouchy by the end!

To capstone our trip, we were even able to move our late arriving flight to an earlier arrival. Although, Levi and I still took the next day off to transition from cousins to normal. Thanks to all the family for such lovely visit. Hopefully we can get back before 18 months this next time.

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