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Airport Security


Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

[This post began February 15, 2011.]

I have a new niece. My brother had surgery on his neck. We have a vacation booked in a few weeks. We fly, of course. So, what does that mean, but Airport Security.

I really hate airport security. I find it intrusive and ineffective. I’m sure someone who is obsessed with security, terrorism, and the like would show me several studies proving how all these measures really make us safer, but I don’t believe it.

The first time I remember airport security was when I was in high school. I had the opportunity to fly to D.C. with fellow classmates in a project called, “Project Close-Up.” It is a week peak at Washington D.C. for teenagers. You are assigned a 20-something Georgetwon grad student (or similar) who serves as your own personal tour guide: taking you to lobbyists, congress, the Smithsonian, teaching us how to use the Metro. It was amazing.

Getting there was even more exciting. It was April. 1995. We had a snowstorm the night before. We had to meet at a school an hour away to bus-pool with a few other schools to Detroit-Wayne County International Airport (DTW). We averaged 30 mph on the freeway. The bus drivers were talking in their radios how they didn’t get much sleep the night before. We slipped and slided, in a big yellow bus, all the way to the airport. My knuckles were white nearly the whole way there.

We arrived, with twenty minutes to check into our flight. We had 20 students and teachers in our class.We were rushed to the front of the line. We ran down the cooridor to airport security.

We were waved through. One gal had some metal piece stuck in her ski jacket, and they waved her on after three wand swipes!

Waved us by! That was 1995.

Six years later was, of course, 9/11/01.

In 2004, I flew back to Michigan for a quick 4-day weekend to celebrate my maternal grandfather’s 80th birthday. It was held at the Rock Township hall where most family celebrations were held. To expedite this trip, I needed to fly from Portland to Escanaba. The most cost-effective flight took me from Portland to Denver to Kansas City to Milwaukee finally to Escanaba.

The airport that had the most stringent airport security was both Escanaba and Kansas City. We flew a puddle jumper in and out of Escanaba. Escanaba is a town of 30,000. Kansas City was one of the slowest airports I had ever visited. I came up with a conclusion the day I questioned why Kansas City had airport security at evcry gate and I was rewarded with a pat down for my question. I learned that the smaller, more insignificant hte airport, the more airport security works to validate their job.

I often wonder how that makes us safer. I really don’t think it does.

I believe that knowing our neighbors makes us safer. That means, we need to interact with them, ask them to check our homes while we’re on vacation. We interact with them over fences and on front porches. We wave and smile while they walk by. We don’t have to know them intimately, but enough that they are no longer strangers.

How can we shrink our world so we feel more neighborly in the big airport full of strangers?

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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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Culture of Food

Watch a movie or a play. There isn’t a single movie out there that doesn’t incorporate either food or drink or both. At some point, during some part of the movie, at least one character will partake in the breaking of bread or drinking of the cup.

We are centered around food.

I’m not the only one obsessed with it. We all are. We come from clear, defined cultures where we ate and modified what was available to us. We now have this processed food culture where Totino’s Pizza Rolls are hip and without substance and its clashing with a back to normal food front.

A co-worker recently mentioned how being a vegetarian [5 years ago] was easier than it is now. Then, you just ate vegetarian meals because all meat was processed like The Jungle. But, now the waters are muddied with grass-fed, organic, pastured choices.

We are obsessed with food.

Greek yogurt, gyros, hummus kabobs. Falafels, tabouli, eating with certain hands. Pitas, pasties, burritos: portable food for the working man. Seven-course meals paired with elegant wines and decadent desserts. Strawberries and chocolate mixed with champagne. Truffles soaked in wine and smothered over chicken.

We are enamored with food.

It nourishes us. We create religions around it. We know it gives us energy, go, life. And, then when we can’t find any other reasons for our ill-health, we blame the food. We base studies on it, create law around it, destroy law around it.

We don’t always know what to do with food.

Centered, obsessed, enamored, and confused. We know we need it to survive, and we have desires to make it more palatable while trying to balance delectable treats that sometimes run into our shared beliefs. We have cultures of food, even when that culture is missing a true culture.

I’m beginning to wonder, as inspired by Mr. Pollan while reading Omnivore’s Dilemma if part of our biggest problems with food is that we simply don’t have a solid, shared food culture. When considering these ideas,  like to compare my two (or three) families.

Until I was 8 years old, I spent my life living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan mostly surrounded by my maternal relatives. This environment is my baseline, my norm. My maternal grandfather was born to Polish immigrants since my maternal grandmother came from a family with French, Scottish, and Native American heritage. I do not know where my grandmother learned to cook but cook she does. Memories growing up include many loaves of baked bread, fresh cookies, and homemade pies. All jam was preserved by my grandmother or a team of aunts. Milk came from the cow in the barn that my uncle gathered that morning. A vegetable garden, as large as my backyard, was flourishing every summer. Once, I even recall being taught to churn butter, in a real wooden butter churn. It was hard work! Having my Cuisinart do it is a much easier option. Another time, I swear they were grinding hamburger into hamburger on the table.

All meals were together: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Every meal was preceded by grace, and just saying “Grace” didn’t suffice. Usually, it was the before meal prayer. Mostly, we squeezed people around the table, but big holiday meals required the “kid” table. Some of the “normal foods” we ate included beats, potatoes, lots of beef, cabbage rolls, sauerkraut, liver, and onions. Breakfasts were often sausage and eggs or pancakes or waffles. I remember having to stir the peanut butter after pulling it out of the cupboard for lunches.

My (step) grandparents from downstate, I often think of as my prim and proper grandparents. My grandma Arlene was very elegant, and she was the first person who served me herb roasted red potatoes. We didn’t dine with this set of grandparents like my maternal grandparents. They had a pool, so often we’d find ourselves grilling hot dogs and eating summer picnic foods when visiting. Although the difference isn’t incredibly stark, it outlines this food confusion in our society.

Now that I am married, and I am creating our own food culture, I see it even more. My husband came from a mother who claims she cannot cook. She mostly microwaves canned things, and the few times I’ve cooked for her she’s been surprised I was able to whip something up even from her cupboards. My own mother also claimed she couldn’t cook. These normal homemade meals of my memory came from my grandmother, not my mother. Hamburger Helper and canned tuna were our real norms growing up.

I know I am blessed with curiosity that allowed me to hear and see the two keys that unlocked the door of cooking mystery, for me. Cooking is temperature and watching a fresh mushroom be cooked, in my then tiny kitchen, into something that looked like a canned mushroom. Finally, my childhood memories were linked with my present, and for the last 10+ years I’ve learned and built upon that.

I live a life centered around with food. I think about meals for my family, trying to make sure I feed myself at work, and when I create something at home I often plate and garnish like I’m in my own personal restaurant where I am the head chef. I am trying to take the nutrition knowledge I have and make sure balanced meals for my family. Usually, we eat around a table with a meal preceded by giving thanks.

But, we don’t have many strong dos and don’ts, and we don’t have a strong collective acceptance of what to eat. Here, in Portland, especially, we have many diverse cultures of food trying to find themselves, and any potluck will showcase these phenomena to the extreme. Our lack of food culture makes us confused foodies. And, I sometimes wonder if it stems from that thinking that cooking is too hard.

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Controlled Capacity

Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire

“Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” This is one of my favorite adages. I love planning. I love thinking about upcoming tasks, comparing old tasks undone, all to move towards a common goal. While studying urban planning at Portland State University, I learned to believe that planning was even more important in urban settings (rural too). If we want to create and support a vision of our place, then we need to plan to manage the growth (or decline, think Flint, Michigan) that will inevitably happen. Given this framework, I think my friend was a little surprised when I told her I had a gut level reaction against Arcade Fire.

She asked me if I’d listened to them yet. She was letting me borrow a CD. I confessed that no, I hadn’t because well… they sort of irked me.

“I heard them on Soundstage once,” I explained. I thought back to that episode where the large band was sweating over microphones and the stage, all very animated in their own right. I’ve known musician types, and there is something about their arrogant personalities… that holier than thou because I play music attitude that really just bugs me. And, it really bugs me when it sweats all over the stage.

I had never heard of Arcade Fire prior to listening to this Soundstage episode, so I looked them up like any self-respecting internet user would do. Naturally, I turned to Wikipedia, where it was kindly explained Arcade Fire caps their concerts. They don’t sell more than, say 3,000 tickets per show (I don’t remember the number and Wikipedia isn’t saying anything about this memory.)

The article further explained some restrictions the band put in place to control their grow, their numbers, and as such have become a cult classic revolving around the lead singer. I recall there was something catchy about their music but it didn’t hit to my core like say, Sinner Man or At Last. It was catchy. It was modern. It was clearly very popular.

Now, maybe it’s because I was never a popular kid. Maybe this hearkens back to some childhood jealously, but something about this just rubbed me the wrong way.

When I explained this to my friend, after she argued isn’t a good thing that they are controlling their growth and not selling out to the Man (record labels), she thought, “Oh, you mean, like they are capping their concerts with the premeditated assumption they will be popular?”

This was the closest set of words that explained the revulsion I felt.

But the group is popular. So, what’s so wrong, really, with the band exercising controlled growth, maintaining their vision, and doing what they love: playing music? Nothing really in the grand scheme of things. And, the irony is they are doing that which I actively advocate.

We have had a capped membership in my food club since we merged. Since March 2010, we have frozen our membership at about 60 families. As people shift, we make room for more, but that’s it. We can’t handle more than 60 families with our current structure, and now we like our structure. So, really, what’s so bad about capped capacity?

I think I better listen to that album (The Suburbs) now.

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There’s no such thing as work-life balance

Stuck in Traffic
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Her pregnancy claim was rejected, but all agree it doesn’t work. So, I hear that the conversation can’t be about discrimination but rather how we can make something work.

Family not withstanding, I have a lot of interests. Often, it feels like my brain is just going, going, going (except now, where I really need a vacation, most days I’m just surviving). So, when I’m not feeling overwhelmed, I have a lot of interests in which I take part. It started when I was staying at home and needed something to stimulate my brain. Then, I had commitments I had to follow through with once the job started. Even after some of these commitments get completed, I’m not going to stop doing other things. So, when I’m at work, emails need to be answered, problems solved, and maybe even a little research done.

While I’m at work, I’m thinking about all the work tasks and how to manage xyz event, keep on top of abc calendar, and complete the daily tasks that never make it to the list. I’m also thinking about my husband how his day is going, is he going to be hungry when he gets home, is he going to go for a longer bike ride, when did we schedule his chiropractor appointment. I”m thinking about my son hoping he’s enjoying his day at school, wonder if he had an allergic reaction, but I didn’t receive a phone call, and what thing we might have planned for the evening. I’m thinking about what to make for dinner this night and the next. I’m considering what other foodstuffs need planning. I’m thinking about the bathroom and kitchen floors that need to be scrubbed along with the laundry that needs to be folded and put away. I’m thinking about all the stuff in my house that needs to be organized thankful that my space at work is. At work, I’m thinking then about the files that miraculously aren’t that organized and how they should be but what an in-depth project it is that I don’t have time for.

When I was home, not working, I was in a rut. Sure, I helped start a food club and I volunteered and participated with my church. I sat on the board at the Community Alliance of Tenants. Work is (environmental) stewardship. Church is spirituality. Food club is food security, foodsheds, local, organic, sustainable. The Community Alliance of Tenants is housing, empowerment, education. Home, is home, is family, is life. So, all these things fit important interests, values, core to my soul. How can I give any one up?

I am finding it’s near impossible, and often, lately, they collide. They run out of balance. So, even though this article is in part about the unfairness of this woman’s claim being denied, it is something many of us face daily. And, I don’t think a law suit is how we’re going to handle it for the better paradigm shift. Not a law suit about discrimination, that is.

Instead of anti-discrimination suits, we need our laws to change to make it easier to accept this imbalance. We need better child care allowances. We need part-time weeks that allow for health care to be offered at the same rate as full. We need work place flexibility that understands life happens outside of the cube farm. I believe we all have the right to reach our potential in a supported way, but the way we organize ourselves often gives undue challenges to that cause. We want what’s best for our kids, and sometimes we need to make sure we have what’s best for us to give what’s best for them.

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Nickle & Dimed

Getting drawn on.
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

I read it shortly after it came out, on recommendation from my lifelong teacher friend. Personal experience confirmed and has confirmed Barbara Ehrenreich‘s reporting in Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. When I participated in Project Closeup in 1995, our week long steward confirmed another bit I already knew to be true: most women get out of welfare by getting married. Although our prospects weren’t much better even after that event. If a strong middle class is part and parcel to what makes this country, this world, great – what sort of disservice to we provide when we strengthen the gap between those at the top and those at the bottom of the economic ladder?

I was born on a peninsula whose industry was dominated by mining and logging. Driving through, you see the contrast of depression and boom by the dilapidated farm houses and new McMansion log cabins. The shoreline resorts that are in disrepair now, decorate US2, whereas when I was young they always seemed to be a in state with a fresh coat of paint. Roads were worse off than I ever remember, with potholes and jagged pave jobs traveling with you as you drive. That’s Michigan now. A state dominated by industry, and when the resources are used up and the jobs go overseas — what’s left?

Cover of
Cover via Amazon

When my father left, my mother, a then stay at home mom, remained to support her three children. She got retail jobs where she could, but with a high school education and one who was never on a white collar career path, the only real support option we had was welfare. We were on foodstamps and public housing until my mother remarried. Even then, our prospects weren’t much better given the large family we had. Now we had free or reduced lunches to compliment our daily schooling. My own, more recent experience, also confirms the more humiliating aspect of asking for help.

Nationally, according to Kaaryn Gustafson of the University of Connecticut Law School, “applying for welfare is a lot like being booked by the police.” There may be a mug shot, fingerprinting, and lengthy interrogations as to one’s children’s true paternity. The ostensible goal is to prevent welfare fraud, but the psychological impact is to turn poverty itself into a kind of crime.

I’ve confessed to some people I work with that asking for help is one thing I have a hard time with. Is it any wonder, when thinking back to these other experiences — especially when one is at their most needy. When you’re a kid on food stamps or free/reduced lunch, you know the social stigma that goes with it. Other children talk, tease, about the lessor parents who basically can’t support their children and have to be on welfare. A term said with such derision that only the dullest person could miss it. Now, add the process onto it, and you have more humiliation than some people can handle.

We handled it because we had to. My mother had three children, then 4/5 to support after remarrying. We have our one son and ourselves, and with some chronic health problems to boot. Thankfully my husband was able to find a union job so we could get out of that economic depression. But, sometimes, I feel like we’re still on the brink, like when my husband back went out just three weeks ago. His job is manual labor. What happens should his body fail him, permanently?

Poverty shouldn’t be viewed as a crime. We all have a right to be here. And, we all have a responsibility to one another. These problems we face weren’t created in a day, and they won’t be solved in a day. But, we have to collectively take part in their change. We owe it to ourselves, our fellow neighbors, and our children.


How America turned poverty into a crime Barbara Ehrenreich on Salon

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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

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CSTI: Western States Center

CSTI: Western States Center advocacy training.
CSTI: Western States Center advocacy training. Sitting under a tree waiting for the afternoon session to start.

I am lying on my back, on a pebbled, concrete bench. I am in the shade, under the tree. It’s near 80 in the sun and 70 in the shade. A cool breeze keeps me comfortable. I open my eyes, and through my sunglasses, I see brilliant blue flickering through the moving green leaves. This is the epitome of summer. This beautiful summer day makes memories.

I had the opportunity, for the second time, to participate in the Western States Center’s CSTI (Community Strategic Training Initiative, the name is being changed to AMP). Western States Center trains social justice groups to help make effective change in their communities. It seems groups attend that, on average, have budgets less than $500,000. They have noble goals, diverse communities, and small staffs. They face the same kind of challenges other non-profits do: board engagement, how to fundraise, what’s my message, how to engage members and volunteers? The bit I find most fun about this conference is the level of engagement among the attendees. It’s like going to a college class but you only get the A students. Everyone wants to be there. They are committed to their respective causes, and they want to learn more to spread the good intent and bring upon the social justice revolution. Here, at CSTI, I am among people who share, passionately, the vision, the ideal, of making this world a better place.

Reed College, Portland, OR

I never thought I would enjoy or see purpose in networking. Over the last few years, though, my Portland has gotten a lot smaller in part due to my involvement within groups like Western States Center. When I attend CSTI, there are always people I know or know of or have seen at other events. And, given who the training attracts, I’m always meeting new people that I want to connect with because of our shared interests.

This year, at the fundraising workshop, our ice breaker question was, “What will you be doing after the revolution?” Ari Rapkin, a co-director at my organization, the Community Alliance of Tenants, came up with this and our facilitator loved it so much she shared. What does that imply? After the Revolution? For me, it means that all the things we independently and collectively work for have been achieved. After the revolution we won’t be fighting for equality in health-care because everyone will have equal access to great care. After the revolution we won’t need tenant advocacy because there won’t be discrimination in housing and all repairs are met. After the revolution we will realign our priorities so that we all value life as most important, and not just rich, white, property owning male life. After the revolution we won’t need to discuss gender neutral bathrooms because we will finally accept people for who they are: people like us hoping for intimate connections to make our world less bleak. After the revolution we won’t be fighting for food security because eating local and organically will be the status quo. So, after the revolution we will be free to achieve our own self actualization and realize our independent dreams. We won’t have to fight for social justice causes because they all will be won.

My memory of this year’s CSTI is of dreaming. My memory of that beautiful Sunday, where I sat under the tree dreaming of food, art, philosophy, and where I will be at 70. I sat dreaming of being a docent at the Art Museum, while living in a high rise condo across the street, frequenting farmers’ markets and enjoying the fruit life brings. That is my social justice memory.

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Sarcasm as Communication

Let's Talk About Feelings
Image via Wikipedia

Jane said, “Oh, he’s gone too?”

I confirmed that his contract was up. It was only a year, and this was day four of my former colleague‘s absence.

She said, “But, I really enjoyed giving him a hard time.”

“Yes,” I concurred.

He was fun giving a hard time to. He gave and received well. He was very proficient in sarcasm. He wasn’t mean. He wasn’t rude.

Some time ago, a friend changed his opinion on the use of sarcasm, we’ll call him Bob. I often go back to my conversation  with Bob where we discussed sarcasm’s falsehood. Bob argued that sarcasm was just a euphemism for real feelings, and that we would get farther in life if we expressed those feelings, those emotions, instead of by way of sarcasm.

But, sarcasm is fun. It’s not always a euphametic way to cover up our feelings of hurt, anger, or loneliness. Sometimes we tease people because we love them. Sometimes we tease without any mean spiritedness, and we laugh. And when we laugh we release endorphins making our brains think we are happy. So, Bob, in his effort to make positive change was actually quite short sighted.

I’ve written before about sarcasm as a teaching tool, how we use it with peers to say, “I don’t like that!” when we don’t have the courage or confidence to say, “I don’t like that!” I am beginning to think that this is what all those high school girl conversations were about… how to interact with said boy about said crush when we don’t really know what he feels. We were too afraid to bare it all in those tender high school years, so we would use jokes or polite humor to see if we had an “in.”

I see adults use the same skills when they want to say, “I don’t like it!” and not so much, “I do like it!” Now, though, I’ve gotten tired of those games. If Bob was really addressing those games that sarcasm covers up, then yes he has a point. This type of sarcasm is a communication tool that operates out of mistrust.

First, thanks to The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, I define trust as being able to believe in someone’s intentions. Let’s not make mention of whether those intentions are good or bad — but simply trusting that someone’s judgments and decisions are based on intentions. Most people define trust as predictability of actions.

Someone vented to me they were told they couldn’t be trusted because her colleagues couldn’t trust what she said. Her colleagues wanted scripted, predictable responses. Scripted, predictable responses weren’t natural to my friend, so she would more often than not find herself floundering, feeling insecure, and not performing her best. Her colleagues weren’t willing to trust her intentions, not to mention they operated under this misdefintion of trust. Sarcasm in this euphametic sense, was rampant.

I have been more self aware of growing up processes now that I am in my 30s and a parent. I am watching Levi learn to get along with others at every play date we attend. I encourage him to use his words and ask nicely for what he wants. I tell him to step back when he interferes in a playmate’s boundaries. Having this recognition of my own boundaries, and the permission to enforce them, I want to teach Levi to do the same. It’s okay and accepted to say no. It’s okay to tell someone when you don’t like something. It’s okay to not like something. You don’t have to do it just because the alpha person suggests you should. You can say no and you can act on it.

When we take ownership of our feelings, our needs, and turn them into honest requests then sarcasm just becomes another funny moment in an otherwise bleak existence. We have so much burdening us on our daily lives, why not make it more fun? Cheers to all those who recognize their own wit and use it, daily.

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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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