goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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Being Prepared

Graham and I just came back from a short vacation in Puerto Vallarta. Close friends  from our time living in West Virginia have a timeshare there and have been going annually for twenty years.  They’ve invited us before but since Graham was teaching daily then and the timing never meshed with his spring break from Marshall University, we never could schedule it, until now.

Graham is currently teaching one forensic chemistry course for the fall, winter and spring quarters at Western Oregon University. He teaches Wednesday evenings so last week after class we headed to Portland and spent one night in a motel close to the airport. They offer free parking and provide an airport shuttle. That cost us about $20 more than parking in the long term lot and saved us from having to leave home at 4am to catch our southbound flight.  We returned the next Tuesday and so, he will not miss teaching any classes.

It was a short but sweet vacation, valued highly because of time spent with friends who live in Kentucky. We appreciate the ease of communication Facebook and cell phones permit, but nothing is better than to give hugs in person.

Based on my Facebook postings it looks like all we did was eat…and drink. LOL

But I also went prepared with two prescriptions from my allergist. He said he writes them all the time for both Mexico (you must present them in person) and Canada (you can handle the transaction by mail).

I want to explain the reason I travelled with the hopes of purchasing two medicines and then tell you about the experience.

When we first moved to Oregon, my health insurance was part of Graham’s retirement package. It moved me from PEIA (if you have been following the news recently you know West Virginia teachers went on strike to win a 5% raise and no change in their health insurance rate from PEIA. The state had offered a 1% salary raise which was more than negated by a higher increase in the employee share in the health insurance premium. I am so pleased that it took teachers in all 55 counties to stand strong to win this concession from the state legislature but the issue is still not over…more wrestling ahead…but this blog is not about that fight. Just suffice it to say that West Virginia schools are severely underfunded while people in power issue themselves plenty of perks. Seems to be the culture these days throughout the country.)

Okay, back to my story. My health insurance was with a national company and worked fine. It cost me about $500 a month.  Then the ACA passed its Supreme Court test for the mandate that EVERYONE must buy health insurance and I switched over. My insurance premium cost me $550.  That was based on the prior year’s income and of course, Graham had retired and our income was significantly reduced. I appealed for a reduced premium and in their infinite wisdom I was moved to Oregon’s Medicaid expansion, the Oregon Health Plan.

I was initially concerned because I assumed that the healthcare I received would be of lesser quality but with the exception of only one questionable doctor visit,  I was very pleased. The clinic was prompt, the staff was very friendly, and the doctor usually spent at least 30 minutes with me, or longer if needed.

I rolled through that system for 18 months but at the next renewal the questions changed and I got bumped out. Back to the ACA. My new premium was $462 a month BUT it would not start coverage until January 1st. My OHP plan ended September 30th.  That left me three months without any insurance.

I pleaded with each organization to let me stay longer or to pick me up sooner but was told no. I have found out since them I should have called the state insurance commission and it would have continued the OHP the three months. Remember that if it ever happens to you.

What it meant to me was I needed to pay cash for my prescriptions. The blood pressure medication was not bad ($60) but my two prescriptions that help me breathe were close to $1000. Per month.  Simply, we could not afford that.

I picked up my medications the first work day in January and went to the allergist (after I got a referral) about 3 weeks later. My lung function was measured at 37%.

Two months later, back on daily meds, it was up in the high 70s.  In other words, I need this medicine to live.  Each time Congress plays around with dismantling the ACA I know I can expect to die.  I understand I am not alone. I do not generally join in with conspiracy theories, but it is easy to believe “they” want “us” to die.

So flash forward to my friends’ invitation to join them in Puerto Vallarta and our pre-trip discussion about what we want to do etc.  She mentioned that the farmacias there have medicines at much lower prices than here. Hence, the request and issuance of those prescriptions for my breathing.

They had one of the medicines I needed at the pharmacy we visited the last evening we were there. (Yes, I should have started this part earlier but……) I was able to purchase the medicine that helps my lung function, Symbicort. IMG_3171

The cash cost for the Symbicort here is between $400-$450, even with discounts. The cash cost for the same amount of medicine in Mexico was $80. IMG_3172

The packaging is different, but sometimes when I get my prescriptions refilled here the new bottle has a sticker telling me the pill may look different from what I have been issued before but it is the same.  So, the issue is not uncommon.

This is a first person example of how we pay so much more for our medicine than other countries.  You’ve probably seen charts before like this one.oxycontin_0

Some people argue that we are paying for the pharmaceutical companies to do their research. But recently some of those corporations have announced they will no longer do research for medications to help with  AIDS, Parkinson’s disease and more.

Some people argue that we are paying higher prices to subsidize the rest of the world.  Really?  Not true. Other countries have negotiated prices with drug companies for their health insurance programs.

I believe we are charged what they think we will pay. Simple as that.  And so, many people are either not taking the medications they need to be in good health or they are finding other ways to cope.

The problem is, many of us can not afford jacked up prices, like insulin that increased 197% from 2002 and 2013. Or how the cost of an epi pen went up from  $100 in 2009 to $600 in 2016 (400%)and the CEO of that company is well known for his smirk.  Thank goodness there are generic alternatives. 160826143616-mylan-epipen-exlarge-169

Bottom line: there is a lot wrong with our healthcare system and what we pay for it. Our premiums increase annually, our service plans decrease and the insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies are experiencing record profits.

Why is health care not considered a public service industry similar to water, sewage treatment, electric/gas/whatever you use for heating and cooking?

Until we fix our issues here in the United States, Mexico and Canada will continue to reap the benefits of attracting savvy  medical shoppers.

 

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Learning Along The Pathway

When I was growing up my Dad would often drive into town and pick up the Sunday New York Times. As I got older I enjoyed reading not only the magazine but I started perusing the classified, looking for my “someday” job and apartment. Oh, the dreams I had of what could be……and then life took another pathway.

I’ve had a checkered past. I earned a degree in geography and urban planning, but  my first job out of college was for the Tennessee Supreme Court in the court administrator’s office. They were starting a judicial PLANNING division and so, since I had a degree in urban PLANNING, I was hired. It was fun but as I realized I was getting further from my education, I looked for and moved to the planning job.  For three and a half years I actually worked for a planning and engineering company and really enjoyed it. But again……life took another pathway.

There was a death in my husband’s family. His mother asked us to move to Connecticut to take care of the estate issues. We lived in the house rent free and would until it was sold. One of my tasks was to determine the market value of the property and in doing so, we listed it for sale and boom! we needed to move within a couple of months. I was looking for work as a planner but we were in the middle of a recession then and jobs were scarce. So… life took another pathway.

I started working as an real estate agent for the broker who had listed the house. While I did well, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Showing houses was a challenge because I did not know the area well and there were no apps with a talking GPS (hey, no cell phones at all)  in those days so I had to rely on paper maps, all the time portraying an image of competence to the buyers.  That was stressful enough but the part that made me more uncomfortable was listening to a homeowner extol the cost of the renovations he had made when it looked like a piece of incompetent amateur construction.  And then Baby #1 was born and I no longer wanted to put in the long hours needed in that kind of sales position.  Once again…. life took another pathway.

 

When I told the broker I was going to let my sales license go he persuaded me to start an appraisal division of his company. I built the reputation and business started coming in nicely and then I needed to hire some staff. The broker told me he was moving to California and was selling the real estate business, including the appraisal division. I said no way, it may be your name but it was my blood, sweat and tears. He very much understood and so, I soon owned it. I got a partner who had the bookkeeping kind of background and so we went on, growing during the 1980s real estate boom to 12 employees. (Although I planned longer, I only was able to take off one week when Baby #2 was born.) And then there was another blip in the financial market and property values started to decline. Where there is no room for a second mortgage or a current home value did not support getting the mortgage refinanced, there are no appraisals. We closed the business and…… life took another pathway.

By this time I had had baby #3 and no income. My husband got laid off. We ended up moving from Connecticut to Tennessee where I stayed home with the baby. Then my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer and after surgery, radiation and chemo I got a job at Vanderbilt Medical Center, working for one of my husband’s eye doctors. I had looked for a managerial position at Vanderbilt and when HR asked me what salary I wanted I thought about what I had made in the good years in Connecticut and then made a “cost of living” adjustment and said $30,000. They laughed…too high apparently. Anything lower would not help the family so I changed my resume to administration instead and ended up taking that first position as an AA for $18,000. I figured if I was not going to earn enough money I might as well not be in charge of anything. And so….. life took another pathway.Image result for vanderbilt university medical center

After five years of learning eye health jargon, things changed when the doctor in charge left. My position was eliminated but I was not, so HR moved me to another place in the hospital. The boss was, to put it nicely, a challenged individual. I left and move over to the university side of Vanderbilt to the Department of French & Italian. More new things to learn and master. And then my husband died and there I was a widow with a young child. Graham entered my life and I sure made him work to woo both of us. And there I was again….my life took another pathway.

My kiddo and I joined Graham when he went on sabbatical to Colorado for six months. I thought a start together in a neutral location would be good. We made friends and when it looked like he might be offered a job there I started looking for work. I had a sweet sweet double interview with the statewide blood bank and they offered me a position for a beautiful salary. I came home from that interview to be told we were moving back to West Virginia.  Ha ha…guess what….. my life took another pathway.

Looking for work in the Rust Belt was a challenge. I finally was hired as a practice manager for a financial adviser. Since it was a start-up I accepted a lower than desired salary with the promise of bonuses that would boost it to the sky (dream on, eh?). That never happened. After three years of building that business into something sustainable, I asked for a $10,000 raise and he basically countered with 50 cents an hour. I resigned. This time, definitely my choice…..my life took another pathway.

I started to build up my book selling business that I had been running on a small scale for about 12 years to provide additional income. I was able to match that prior salary for the next two years while having the time to also get involved in the farm-to-table movement and helping build The Wild Ramp. All the time, we were planning for my husband to retire when my kiddo left for college and so……my life took another pathway.

We moved to Oregon just about four years ago. I applied to about 50 jobs, making sure each cover letter and each resume was custom tailored to each specific job. I never heard from 46 place, but had four interviews. One had the grace to tell me I was overqualified and they were sure I would be bored and quit. I countered with an comment (I had nothing to lose)  that at this age I would love a job I could do with one hand behind my back. But no job was offered. (Ageism is one more hurdle to getting a job that needs to be fixed.  Date of birth information can no longer be asked, but they can and do asked for education information, including year of graduation. I think you agree, most of us complete high school at age 18, so extrapolation is easy.) So feeling ready to do anything….. life took another pathway.

I took a summer job as a farm hand. Yes, me. I never ate so much ibuprofen in my life but I did it and learned a lot more. In all my effort with The Wild Ramp I had probably visited 100 farms and had heard their stories. Now I got to get a (very small) taste of the life farmers live.  And the experience confirmed something I already suspected: I am not a farmer. But I need my farmers (we all do) and respect them highly. And so, taking a plunge……my life took another pathway.

I started up the commercial food processing business, Can-Do Real Food, to support local farmers by preserving their surplus produce by canning and dehydrating. (This gives the farmer another income, provides consumers a way to have a taste of the local summer harvest any time during the year, and reduces food waste.)  When we moved to Oregon I learned to can, so I had one year of canning at home. Other people have forgotten more than I have learned but it has been a pretty amazing experience. You can read more about it at the Can-Do Real Food blog. 

In the past year I had been dealing with a knee that has been injured but there is nothing surgical that can be done to fix it. It forces me to walk a bit wonky which has now affected my hip joint on the other side. I am in a new world of hurt and so…..I suspect my life is about to take another pathway again.

Through all these years (63 and counting) I have received continual education. The first part is one we all are fed K through  12. The next was the narrowing down of a field of study (college). And since then, through work and seminars and conferences and self teaching, the learning has continued and increased.  I urge everyone I love to never stop exploring, never be afraid of change.

I know jargon related to the legal profession, the medical profession, the academic profession, and now food processing (and government regulation thereof).  I wonder what’s next!  Whatever it is, I strongly doubt I will ever live in New York City!

 

 


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Targeting our Wallets

Maybe it was the way I was raised. Maybe it was years of tight cash flow and different priorities, but I have never been a big television watcher. So, I often do not know much about the latest popular show and definitely do not get assaulted by a lot of commercials.  Recently the games I play on my phone (Words with Friends and Sudoku) have started to run ads. Boo! But since that personal budget constraint makes me feel I have better things to do with $10 than pay to not have ads show.

So, I have been collecting slogans in the past couple of months. I know that the people who design ads are using words, pictures and sound to attract their assumed demographic for their products. I just do not think I fit many of those groupings.  Here’s a small example:

Perfect today, better tomorrow.  I don’t remember the concept being marketed but just looking at the words I think they missed it. What is better than perfect?  If we have perfect today, why change? But since most of us do not have “perfect” I guess some people buy into a better tomorrow with whatever they were pushing.

Luxury has no boundaries. Again, I did not note the item being sold but this reminded me of something my family discussed 22 years ago. (I remember when because I was pregnant with Sam.) We were on a summer vacation (cabins, not camping because of my pregnancy) when the lottery had reached 80 million dollars.  To kill time while we were driving we played the “what if we won” game. With 3 families in attachment, we bought everyone new houses, new cars, set up college funds for the kids and retirement funds for all the adults, went on several trips a year and believe it or not, by the 7th year we had run out of things to do and buy. BUT I reminded them that we, at this level of middle class, had really no idea how the wealthy spend their money.  For example, wouldn’t it be more comfortable to hire a private jet to fly us to Europe than even taking first class on a scheduled airline?  So I understand the concept that I don’t really know about acquiring luxuries.  So exactly whom is being targeted with this ad?

Fake but accurate. What?  I certainly not buying that news and information can be accurate if it is fake.  So let’s play with the idea of eyelashes, hair color, fake fur. All perfectly acceptable, but would you use “accurate” to describe them?

Double means double. This was for a credit card marketing their earned points system. But come on. Single means single. Triple means triple.  Horse means horse, Meaningless drivel is meaningless drivel.

Image result for double means double credit card commercial

Two bucks is better. Really, McDonalds? What is better about $2. Oh, you are flashing photos of your various drinks with whipped cream. So, what are you trying to tell us? They used to be more expensive? They ARE more expensive elsewhere (like Starbucks) and you are implying the quality is the same?  I have no idea. I just know that in the years McDonalds has been in business their prices have gone up, their serving sizes have gone down, and their food just doesn’t taste like the same thing I can fix at home…for less.

Image result for mcdonalds chilled drinks

Enjoy the Go.  Charmin wants you to have a nice experience. LOL  Here’s one that was not televised. I suppose we should be grateful.

So, just a small example of one that I felt were not talking to me.

On the other hand, I have enjoyed AND WATCHED several video ads in full recently. Two were for Audible. One was a woman on a train and the other was a older dude sitting in a cafe. Both listening. Both absorbed. Startling back to reality with some intrusion.  I recognize that feeling.  I haven’t gotten an Audible subscription yet but the next road trip I will.

Image result for audible ad

I also clicked on an ad for an insulated bottle that holds a beer bottle.  Now that product shows up in more ads on my internet feed. Love those cookies, eh?

The point is, ads work. Even for me who is not a big shopper. In the past year I purchased socks that were advertised on Facebook (and love them) and a solar charger that looked like it would work well for my daughter and her dude who do a lot of back country exploring.

But who finds themselves heading to Micky Ds to get some pink stuff?

 


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Buy American

Early in my blog writing a woman who I really didn’t know messaged me “don’t yell. No one listens to someone who is shouting at them.” Or something like that. She became one of my best friends and I trust her judgement often and always.

But it is apparent that many people don’t listen to anything that involves thinking and change.

I will try again, though. I am Taurus = stubborn.

So we have the start of the growing season here. The earth is warming and food crops are being planted. In large mechanized commercial farms, much of planting can be done by machines with one worker covering a large field. And some food crops can be harvested mechanically also.  However, many require hands-on. And that needs a work force.   Part of our national history is the transition from an agrarian economy to an industrial and now a post-industrial economy.  Almost 200 years ago most people living in the United States were involved with farming. You can see what has happened over time. 

In the past twenty years more and more of these farm jobs have gone empty until filled by migrant workers. Many are Latino and here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon we very much recognize that our vineyards, orchards and large commercial food farms need these workers.

It’s hard work. I know. I took a farm hand job three summers ago. Me. At 60 years of age, overweight, arthritic and with a bad back. The high school worker was heading back to school in August and the farmer needed someone until the end of the season. I never had done this kind of work and my body let me know. But this is not impossible work. So anyone who can walk, can bend, can use their hands, can do this work.

However, it seems that in most areas of the country, white people do not want to do this work so much. And so, others fill in. They are not taking jobs away. They are helping feed us. Some are not legal workers. 

Trump ran for President hollering (hey! he yelled and people listened……or maybe they didn’t, but that’s a different blog) that it was important to put America first. That we needed to get rid of all the bad hombres and that has translated into all people who are here without full legal status, no matter the agreements in the past.  Trump supporters have not yet woken up to the fact that when the work force is removed, something will happen.

In this case, it means the food raised here on large farms in the United States most likely will not be successfully harvested. One farmer we know lost his work crew last year when the blueberries matured early. His strawberries matured late. All that is because of the weather. But it meant his picking crew went off to attack the blueberries, which are easier picking than strawberries. He lost thousands of dollars and many of his strawberries rotted on the plants because there was no one to pick them.  This situation will happen again more and more in more places, not necessarily because of the weather but because of a shortage of willing workers.

Trump’s policies are convincing many people without family roots to head back south to their native lands. The risk of imprisonment and deportation is high. So, many people are leaving. There are also many people who are not leaving because they have been here for 20 or more years. Part of their family was born here. Others may have legal status.  The undocumented workers are still here, but there are fewer than before and many are not taking jobs because of the risk of being arrested.

As this situation will exist in the coming months everyone, including Trump and his supporters, are going to feel it. They may be cheering now, but the time is going to come when they realize there may have been a better way. They’re already feeling it in southern California and in Florida where harvests happen several times during the year.

How?

  • Prices will go up. To keep your business and their profits supermarket chains will contract for produce from other countries.
  • Flavor will go down. That long distance produce gets harvested a bit early, a bit green or immature, to give time to the transportation process before it starts to rot. Flavor just does not develop that way. If you buy produce from overseas, you miss the flavor of how it really should taste.
  • Farmers here in the United States will not be able to continue to farm. Or at least to farm food. (Much of the Willamette Valley farmland is used for wine grapes, hops, hazelnuts and landscaping plants.) Farms will fail financially, and the land will go fallow. That will have a ripple effect on the economy, too.

So, Southern and Central California are where the bulk of supermarket produce is grown. And harvested. Or not harvested…and then not shipped to your grocery store. 

So, why do I say BUY AMERICAN when I also am saying food raised here in the US is going to have smaller harvests and higher prices?  Because if we don’t support American farmers we are going to see our food production, like our manufacturing, move offshore.

There are ways to buy produce at affordable prices but it means a commitment to change your shopping pattern. Only you can decide if giving your children and grandchildren a chance to buy American food is important.

Am I exaggerating? Unfortunately, no.  I remember my parents complaining that it was getting harder to buy American made when they replaced our black and white television with a color model in the late 1960s. At that time, Magnavox was only one of a few and they are still in business today.  All the other tvs that are manufactured here are by Asian corporations who have built factories here to save on shipping and other costs.  How did this happen?  Simple-we consumers like to buy based on price, not patriotism.

Yet I bet you believe you are a patriotic American.  Demonstrate it by investing in America’s economy.  This is a consumer driven industry! Buy locally raised food. Go to a website like Localharvest.com to identify when your farmers markets are, where the farms are near you that offer CSAs, where you can pick your own produce. Perhaps this whole discussion is meaningless as most Americans do not eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, but if you do try to eat in a healthy way, this will affect you unless you also grow your own food. 

And get those teenagers to take summer jobs working on farms….they’ll buff up, tone up, and get a great tan!

 

 


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Empty Words without Any Real Meaningful Action

The other day I received a message from someone who was angry that certain words were not used during the Democratic debate. My friend wanted to know what I think about it. Dem debate

I can understand why someone who prefers Republican candidates would notice the absence of these words at the Democratic debate. After all, most not spoken at the Democratic event were used a lot at the two Republican events.  And therein lies one of the profound differences between the people who are enrolled in each party.

The concept of patriotism and liberty is understood but practiced differently. For example, when I lived in the South I was surrounded by people who stood to sing the National Anthem at Little League games. That did not happen at rec soccer games when I lived in Connecticut. But what happened in New England was opening our homes up to refugees when there was a need to escape their countries because of discrimination and fear of death. The welcome to potential New Americans was active. Singing the National Anthem is really nice…..especially if the cheering is after it is finished.jesse-ventura-politician-quote-patriotism-is-voluntary-it-is-aThe concept of the national debt is one few people understand. They know it is horrible. They know it is larger than it should be. They also have no idea what really caused it and how long policies have been affecting it for decades. Most people also have considerable personal debt and live off their credit cards, maxing them out often. Bankruptcies are increasing, as more and more people are trying to find a way to get all their debt forgiven.  Very few people make a budget that works and includes savings. You say you don’t have enough income? Welcome the the problem of the US government where we, the small people, struggle to live on wages that have barely changed in the past 15 years while the top tier not only earn more and more and more but pay way less than they did before Reagan changed the rules.  One reason Democratic administrations were able to reduce the budget deficit (which has increased each Republican administration) is because they close loopholes.  When it comes time in December for the next debt ceiling “crisis” discussion in Congress I know I will hear many people say, “when I don’t have money I have to do without.” Well, help your representative in Congress and inform them which government benefit YOU receive you are willing to give up.  I know when I ask that question at each ciris time, no one ever responds to me.debt_ceiling_word_cloud-e1401716275433

I could do down the list but my point is there is a difference to USING words and living them.

Seriously, I think there are certain messages that we do need to hear from any Presidential candidate.  We need them to be clear about any program they would like to initiate. We need to hear who will benefit and how it will be funded. We need to understand how that Presidential candidate will get cooperation from others in Congress or the states to implement this concept.

We need to hear more than “I will look into all these issues when I get elected” as the most popular Republican candidate has announced. I’m sorry. I want to know my leader will be able to lead.  Hearing a basic plan of action for a problem now is a start.people who careNow, we can go on bashing any and all of these candidates but perhaps first we need to start with ourselves. Back to my spiel, written of before, of living the Golden Rule. Talking a lot about a concept is meaningless if you don’t walk the walk.

So this holiday season, when I see anyone post “I’m putting Christ back into Christmas” I hope they will be prepared for my question. HOW?  And why only at the end of December? Why not live that way year-round?  Few do.

If we can not hold ourselves to a higher standard, what are you expecting to see in our leadership?  And why are you so worried about words and the actions or plan for action is the important part?  Do you ever get the feeling we are only puppets on their strings? That it doesn’t really matter who is in charge because they all manipulate us by using words to incite emotions. Remember to keep your heart attached to your head and think through the words they all say. Is there anything there that indicates a program of action?  Deal with THAT, not empty words.

 


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Let’s Do It Better

Each year, the second Halloween is over, we get bombarded for 6 weeks with the need to be big consumers. The commercials on tv explode, teasing us into believing we just NEED that thing we never thought about five minutes before. The printed ads in the local newspaper or mailed to us via bulk rate paper our house  with colorful pleas to spend spend spend.christmas-shopping-chaos-560x360

If you believe them, Christmas is just not complete without the latest gadgets including technology for toddlers, more boots and clothes for the ladies, more tools for the guys, more makeup and perfume, more ties, more more more.

This year, do it different…..and do it better.

First of all, know your budget and stick to it.

Secondly, make a list of the people you want to purchase for.  Think about their interests, their hobbies, the things that make them happy. Start listening to them NOW if you haven’t been paying attention all year.  And be wise….the latest in fashion accessory for your fashionista may be out of style in a few weeks. Aim for classic to provide long term value.Stress-Free-Christmas-Gift-Master-List

Third, aim for the best quality you can afford. Better to buy ONE gift and one small stocking stuffer than a large volume of junk.  Let’s start teaching about the value of gift-giving as the living symbol of the three wise men.

Finally, buy local. Yes, I know,  it is less expensive to hit the major big box stores. But this year, let’s think about the effect of where we spend our dollars.  Big box stores are national chains with corporate headquarters unlikely to be in your town. So the only employment benefits are probably low paying, possibly minimum wage and maybe also part-time to avoid paying benefits to full time employees.  Many big box stores have corporate deliveries of items from a regional warehouse that does not typically make purchases in your town, so basically for each dollar you spend in that store, only 5-15 cents stays in the local economy.local this holiday

Meanwhile, down on Main Street and in small neighborhood shops you have stores owned by your neighbors. They’ve been there maybe for decades, but probably not.  Our shopping choices killed many downtown stores as we shoppers opted to head to the mall instead.  Many shops are small with eager entrepreneurs who lost their jobs in the recession and are trying to find a way to make a living. The dollar spent there basically gets spent almost in full in your community. shop craft fairIn addition, there are numerous holiday markets and bazaars at this time of year. If you are lucky, you have one in your area that features artist, artisans and craftspeople who produce all the items they sell by hand. Their skill, their talent provides you an unique gift of high value, one of a kind, for that special person on your gift list.  The prices at these markets range from $1 to over $500. I know, I run a holiday market and I see eager craftspeople work hard all year to produce their love in a tangible way. My job is to tease the shoppers to at least come take a look. 

simple gift

Unique might scare you. If you want to be just like everyone else, unique is not for you. But if you are your own person, walk your own walkway, want to stand out from the crowd, this is the place for you.excellence of a gift

 

 


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Changes in our Lifetime: Air Conditioning

If you are of an age, anywhere above 40, you most likely remember living through the summer without air conditioning. Growing up in New Jersey we had some warm spells but the reason we finally got a window unit when I was in high school was to help filter the air to help with my allergies.  It was the ONLY time my sisters wished they had allergies like me……

Each summer from the age of 3 until 16, I traveled with my parents on camping trips around the United States. We slept in a huge heavy canvas tent for years which eventually got replaced with two smaller lighter tents. In 1965 we got our first camper van that snugly slept all 5 of us plus our two boxers. Sometimes we enjoyed setting up wherever we wanted to stop, like crossing the Nevada dessert. Dad pulled off the highway (no interstate expressways in those days) and followed a dirt road a ways, making sure we stayed between the highway and the first rain culvert.  The idea of a camper van opened up new areas to us.our van on daytona beach fl

But we never went to the Deep South because, in the summer, the heat and humidity made things pretty uncomfortable. We visited some areas on trips during school vacations in December and the spring, but no full exploration without air conditioning.

I moved to Nashville in 1975 and my exploration of the Deep South really started.  My first car did not have air conditioning and I would jump in the condo complex pool after my late afternoon drive home. In the summer Memphis often was 90/90…90 degrees and 90% humidity. My hair in those days best resembled Bozo the Clown because of the damp. It was years before I finally got a style that was good for my curly hair and stopped fighting nature for that straight hair look that I never could achieve.

Until air conditioning spread throughout the South is was a laid back place. I lived there in the mid to late 70s and returned to Nashville in 1994. The difference was amazing. During those two decades, air conditioning had given the once sleepy culture a vitality it had not had – ever. There is a reason the South had a reputation for being slow….it was. You HAVE to move slower in the kind of weather that lasts for months and months.heatindex

Once air conditioning became widespread there was a new migration of people in the US. Many people moved south to areas that welcomed them and cities grew. Nashville had a population of 500,000 when I lived there in the late 70s and over a million 20 years later. And that population was much more diverse with people from all over the globe, not just the nation.  This influx of diversity resulted in some new cultural norms in the South,

For example, when I worked for the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1975-1978, a pretty conservative work place, I stood out as a “foreigner” because of my Yankee accent.  (In those days they called me a “Yamn Dankee” and smiled, thinking they were not being rude, bless their hearts.)  I used to fly home to visit my parents and bring back bagels. One day one of my co-workers asked me why I was eating my sandwich on a donut.  I introduced them to bagels and soon I was “importing” 5 dozen each time I flew back from New Jersey to Nashville. In 1994, when we returned to Nashville, it became very apparent things had changed…at least on the surface.  I saw  bagel shops all around town. More surprisingly, I saw many many many multi-racial couples. However,  people were no longer as “polite” as they had been before. They expressed very clearly the things that had changed that they hated. Very few thought the change was good, but they sure did like their air conditioning.

There have been a lot of changes in the past 27 years. At the time, 35% of American homes did not have air conditioning. By 2005 only 15% did not. By 2009, 97% of homes in the South had an air conditioner.

There have been a lot of changes in the past 27 years.
At the time, 35% of American homes did not have air conditioning. By 2005 only 15% did not. By 2009, 97% of homes in the South had an air conditioner.

 

As this climate change happens and various areas of the country experienced a hotter than typical summer through it all most of us have our air conditioning.  Can you imagine life without it?  Would you live where you do without air conditioning to keep you comfortable in the hot summer weather?  We are pretty spoiled.