goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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Family Values

We have a revolution happening in my family. One of my adult children is now houseless, by choice. And she is working and healthy without any bad habits, so what is going on?

What has happened is the result of thoughtful decisionmaking: how she and her partner choose to spend their hard-earned money. They also have a very different view of what they want in their life than I had developed at the same point in my life, and they are wiser in many ways. They want to make sure that “work-life” balance looks more like “work<life”. They want to enjoy their lives. They are outdoor enthusiasts and being able to work hard and then take time off and play hard is their joy. Dropping $2000 a month for a bedroom and shared kitchen, living room, and bathroom is not their idea of what is important.

Instead, after a minor minivan rearrangement for sleeping on trips, they seriously started looking for a Sprinter van and converted it for living and trekking. After a year or so, they had some better ideas, sold that one and are now in the middle of renovation on the next Sprinter van.

While this is “tiny house” living in an even smaller space, this is not an inexpensive project. Electrical provided three ways, clean and dirty storage for water/etc, insulation to keep it comfortable in heat and cold, all the cooking and food storage and prep requirements, this time a composting toilet and a shower arrangement, a platform for comfortable sleeping (he is 6’2″) while providing storage underneath for bicycles and more. This new home is jam-packed with all that will be needed.

I was asked to help with window coverings. Let me add this right here: I can sew but my skills are limited to “nothing fancy” and I also knew that they deserved something better than “mommy” level sewing, as this is definitely becoming a business for them. I told her I would go slowly…..and I did. I also only needed help from the sewing machine technician twice…..the machine will get tuned up after this and prior to the next big similar project. Live….and learn.

One more aspect to understand about van living: most areas do not have permitted areas for parking overnight. This is part of one of the societal changes we need to adjust as more and more people are forced to live houseless because of the current economy. So, those window coverings need to address the issue of privacy, of course, but also for stealth living as well as basic insulation. The windows must be covered tightly so no light escapes. We use rare earth magnets to hold the panels to the metal on the window frames.

First, Lisa carefully drew templates for each window with heavy paper. Some windows shapes were similar, but some of those had minor differences. For example, the front passenger and driver windows have the same shape but are reverse images.

Then, she obtained and roughly cut out the sizes needed for the insulation. This is batting with a heavy fabric on one side and about an inch of the loft of the insulation. She labeled them appropriately for each window (i.e., R2 for the 2nd window on the right) which helped me understand where each belonged. I then could take the rough cut and, using each window template, trim to the exact size and shape needed.

Lisa and Josh live in California. I’m in Oregon. Fabric selection was next. They came through heading to the Olympic National Park to trek and we hit one of Portland’s major fabric stores. Carefully, and thank goodness Lisa has a head for numbers and organization, she and the cutter helped me by cutting each window panel section piece, instead of just giving me the raw yardage and me trying to figure out the cutting. We needed decorative fabric for the interior side and plain fabric for the side that would face the windows and show from the outside.

We bought a lot of fabric. I found some seam binding there and ordered more online, obtained thread that was the perfect color, and got started.

My first step was to sort all the pieces so I had each window’s components together: the pattern, the batting, the plain fabric, the decorative fabric.

Then, I sewed pouches for all the magnets. By placing them in pouches that are attached to the material, the magnets will stay in place. Magnet pouches were placed in corners and along long straight edges.

Next, the seam bindings and the magnet pouches were sewed to the plain panel.

Then, placing the insulated batting and the decorative fabric in place appropriately, pinned closely, the topstitching on the seam binding edge closes the window panel.

In preparation for their next trekking adventure, a raft trip down the Colorado River in January, Josh and Lisa zipped through Oregon in an effort to hook up with a friend to learn some river rapids reading skills. We met them at an REI where they picked up one more needed item and brought the two window coverings I had completed. We identified issues I knew, others that needed attention, and I brought those two panels home to rehabilitate.

One point was the small round magnets, as strong as they seem to be, are compromised a bit with the fabric. We ordered more magnets, this time rectangles, that will more easily attract to the car metal frame. We hope.

They will be coming back for another river lesson in a few weeks. That will be the time to see if I am part of the next Sprinter van conversion or not. Photos to follow!

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On My Mind Today

I’m having trouble writing in a calm tone today…there are just so many things going on that are hollering for something better.

The son of a friend, a chef in his 30s with a young son and loving wife, in good health, died suddenly at home this week.

The niece of a friend, together with 2 other high school friends, went for a ride together and all are now dead, thrown from the vehicle despite seatbelts.

The President is taken to Walter Reed Hospital because of a positive COVID infection and now, a few days later, says he is feeling better and planning to return to the White House. No one has said he is testing negative, of course. Everyone understands that this is way too early in the illness for him to be “better” but no one is adult enough to contradict him and order him back to bed. It’s gotten to a point that nothing that is announced from the White House can be considered truthful and reliable.

The desire for making a personal choice the highest rule of the land seems to stop people from noticing the strong correlation between unmasked events and infection outbreaks. Can you say Spring Break? How about Sturgis? And one recent superspreader event, the Rose Garden announcement? Can you notice people not thinking?

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source: US Today

A candidate in a local election against an incumbent who has provided good service has been identified as an enforcer for compliance with rules of the Church of Scientology. Can she even serve equitably when so few are in agreement with her church policies? What is her real reason for running?

Another candidate for public office campaigned really hard to fight for a DEQ air quality sensor here in our city because perhaps someday there might be a reason to expand to automobile emission testing. So, during our wildfire season we have no way to know our local air quality, but must extrapolate the data from sensors 25-40 miles away. This man is proud of the way he “protected” us from maybe fees in the future and sees no reason why anyone needs to know if the air is unsafe.

Some people on various Facebook pages dedicated to food processing don’t even read any recipes when they start putting food into jars. The questions indicate a complete lack of any understanding about the food safety requirements.

A lot of people on freeze-drying Facebook group pages are thrilled about the candy they are processing, saying they eat it as fast as they preserve it because it tastes so good.

Residents still resist recycling – The San Francisco Examiner

I can’t help but notice on trash day that my neighbors have a lot of take-out boxes and piles of plastic overflowing their large bin. I wish I could help them reduce their monthly bill to Recology by teaching them how to sort their trash at the very least and then to refuse all the single-use plastic next.

Recent surveys of the US population reveal that about a third of people are tuned into Qanon and hoping that yes, we will be rescued by aliens and all will be announced in October, no, wait, now the big reveal is in March. Stay tuned, obviously.

Other surveys of the American population disclose that about half are now drinking or drugging daily. As personal ownership of weapons rises, most new gunowners are not taking any safety instructions, and assaults at home are rising.

Gun-Rights Advocates Claim Owning a Gun Makes a Woman Safer. The Research  Says They're Wrong.

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Meanwhile, I’m wondering why we are even trying to maintain a “normal” educational curriculum right now. This is the time to introduce Life 101 to include lessons on growing food, cooking and preserving; on sewing and ironing and doing laundry; on car maintenance; on household maintenance; on general small electrical repairs; on art and music and dance. This is the time for those of us close to the coast to teach about tides and sealife, including time for beach cleanup and plastic trash collection. Others can do to nearby rivers and streams and learn about the difference in those ecosystems. This is the time for matching older teenagers with adults who are working in a field that the youngster has expressed interest.

This is also the time for a huge survey of homes here in our town to identify which are not fully occupied. Those homes occupied by one or two elderly people who no longer can easily do the maintenance required may benefit from a match with a younger person or couple who can rent a room and provide some younger energy for daily life. Those homes that are sitting vacant may be able to be added to a housing program for people who currently can not afford to pay for indoor housing.

This is also the time for neighbors to join together to plan their 2021 gardens, so participating families can grow different foods to share with all in their circle. This is the time to arrange for seeds and jars and lids before the seasonal requirements run the stores empty.

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We can’t sit in the doldrums. We have too much good work to do to help raise everyone.


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Popularity Contests and the Consequences

I admit it. There have been times in the past when I looked at my ballot and realized I had NO idea about the candidate. I had not read anything about that person nor the one running opposite. How was I to choose?

How about you?

Do you just vote for a name just because it is familiar? It’s familiar because of massive advertising, perhaps. The issue of money in campaign marketing and how elections have changed significantly since the Citizens United Supreme Court decision comes up each cycle, but when money from outside the state is injected into local elections, the issue becomes of even greater concern.   Do we want people who live in another place in the world influencing our life in small rural towns?

Suppose you see some tv personality is running for office?  We have a number of politicians who achieved popular appeal because they were in your face daily or weekly or at the box office.  You are comfortable with them; after all, you invited them into your home on a regular basis as an entertainer. At what point do you begin to think that entertainment equals competency in other areas?  Can you even speak about that candidate’s stand on issues?

Some of these people have had a surprising ability to be thoughtful and careful in their representation of the people who elected them.  Unfortunately, most of the others just continue on their way without much effort at learning things that were outside their scope of experience.  We can easily name several of these in both political parties.  And you voted for them?  Because you saw them on tv? Really?

We have a new face on the local political scene. She is presenting herself to the public as a candidate for mayor and has been doing an amazing job marketing herself on social media with lots of posts, mainly supporting local restaurants and shops around town. She also started presenting the state’s daily infection report and very mixed messages about compliance with the governor’s mask-wearing order.   Her following is growing.  Comments are glowing, lauding her for being “fantastic”.  But there is no direction being given.  And no one says specifically what is so “fantastic” about her other than she volunteered to pick up trash, as many others do in Mac.

She has recently offered a survey with restricted choices to see what people’s attitudes are about “bullying”, possibly because she is beginning to feel “bullied”.  Most people will feel the survey is great, but the survey is poorly designed and does not offer a full range of responses nor permit any comments from anyone.

And no solutions offered  But that is not even the most important thing people need to recognize this coming campaign.

Between the pandemic and the civil rights demonstrations, many of us recognize that there are things that MUST be fixed, such as equal access to affordable health care as well as equal access to affordable housing. And yet, a whole segment of this city feels anyone who is needy is flawed, but NIMBY is just not going to be a viable option any longer.  (Even the current administration recognizes that as bankruptcies and foreclosures occur, the number of people who will become houseless will be rising over 45% next year.  Abd the current administration, being who is in charge, is doing nothing to prepare for that.)  This coming influx was not caused by anything any government official did either here in McMinnville, Yamhill County, nor the state of Oregon. We need leadership to help us come together to help our neighbors. 

In the coming months, we have a real choice, people. We can continue narrowing what is acceptable and end up with a community that has chosen to fail.

Or we can stop right now and agree there are times like now, in the midst of several crises, that we MUST pull together to survive.

What are we waiting for?  Your action is needed. Your vote counts.


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Meat Issues Coming Our Way

Growing up in the Garden State did not provide any automatic skill set (I still do not have green thumbs) nor an ongoing strong dedication to getting my hands into the dirt. Like most of you, I was trained to obtain my food at the supermarket with periodic fun excursions to pick-your-own farms and farm stands.

When I became involved with the farm-to-table movement and the group establishing The Wild Ramp in Huntington, West Virginia, I was often the butt of my own joke.  Yes, I bought some muck boots after I ended up mid-calf in mud and “stuff”.  My first farm visit to a cattle ranch was filled with questions: please explain the issue of grass-fed versus corn fed and why are Angus preferred?  Many questions.

One thing I learned is that our market, being at the corner of three states, required the ranchers located in the adjacent states of Ohio and Kentucky to take their meat animals to a USDA approved slaughterhouse for processing before the meat would be permitted to cross state lines.  The West Virginia farmers could bring their meat animals to a state-approved slaughterhouse.  This resulted in more time spent traveling for the out-of-state farmers, since there are fewer USDA approved firms, and they typically have higher fees. So, a shopper at our market could compare West Virginia beef and Kentucky beef and the same cut would be less expensive from the West Virginia farmer.

USDA  recently approved faster speeds on meat processing lines.

So, now we have this novel coronavirus and we have learned that some of the USDA meatpacking plants are locations of high infection. Changes to the set up in those plants have resulted in lower processing rates and now, there is a problem that the ranchers may not be able to get an appointment time for their animals, and some are being forced to destroy those animals.

That loss is horrible and puts stress on the workers, ends up with the unnecessary loss of life, and the loss of income to farmers who already are among the lowest-paid workers in this country.

There is a third butchering option available. It is called custom butchering and is the way used when a customer pre-purchases a share of the animal, either half or whole and we have even seen cattle offered by fourths to help reduce personal budget and space requirements.  In those situations, the custom butcher processes and packages the meat with “not for sale” labels.  They are not to be sold as individual pieces, which is the way most people purchase meat at the supermarket.  The farmer basically pre-sells the meat while it is on the hoof, knows that there are customers and no food will go to waste. 

There are many farmers nearby who offer meat to the market.  You can build a relationship with your farmer at a local farmers market and you can check out the resource of the Local Harvest website. By entering your location, the database will provide you with all kinds of local food opportunities including markets, farm stands, pick-you-owns, and yes, the list also provides what farmers grow what so you can contact them directly.

For example, there are several farmers in the McMinnville area who sell meat by the piece in their farm store. Eola Crest Cattle’s 71x farm store is located at  7140 Booth Bend Road, McMinnville.  Kookoolan Farms is located at 15713 Highway 47 just south of Yamhill.   Please use the links to read what they offer. 

Meat prices are expected to rise as a result. So, your choices include:

  • Modify your diet so that you can still provide the protein your body needs but reduce the AMOUNT you eat. We tend to eat larger portions of meat than our body actually requires. Here is a link to a site that helps you calculate your protein requirement. Once you know how you can safely reduce you can start making some meatless meals as well as recipes that use smaller pieces of meat but provides lots of flavor, perhaps a stir fry.
  • Protein is available from plants, also. Here is an article that explains the benefits of these sources.
  • If your meat and potato lover will not bend, then perhaps you should consider that third option, buying a share of an animal that is raised on a local farm. If you can’t afford the layout of the money (usually 3 payments: 1-reserve the animal with usually at least $100 which goes to any care it needs, 2-hanging weight to the farmer, and 3-butchering fee to the processor.) All in all, we get meat for a lot less money this way than paying retail, BUT you must pay it in those larger amounts, so it takes budgeting and planning that is different from your typical meat buying.
  • Support the effort to permit custom butchered meats to be sold by the piece. That will bring the price down to the supermarket level (or lower) and the ability to purchase individual cuts will also increase marketability for the farmers.

By the way, one other advantage of buying your meat locally direct from the farmer: it tastes amazing. You can learn what it was fed and it is surprising how that affects flavor as much as it does.  And, also important, if you spend money buying food from a local farm, your money stays in the local economy. We need to be thinking and acting that way now even more than ever before.

 

 

 


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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Really?  I’m taking a survey. Vote for one or more.

  1. How many of you are done with your holiday shopping? You planned it out and spread the expense over the course of the year so it would not hit your budget ridiculously in February when all those credit card bills need to be faced. This actually happens rarely, although many of us have good intentions. For example, I had half my shopping done by October….but THEN received lists of needful things from my family. 
  2. You set aside money each month and stash it somewhere you hope you forget when an emergency comes up (new tires, dog is sick, etc). This was the budget to spread over 12 months and the shopping can get serious at this time of year, permitting you to catch the sales. Some stores market “BEST PRICES ALL YEAR”  but do you know that? Have you been checking prices earlier?
  3. You’ve told your family that there will be only one present per person from you.  And then you see something perfect for someone…..and get it..and soon you are breaking the rule you set up.  But they’ll stick to it and only get one for you. You will work on not feeling disappointed.  
  4. This year will be different. All gifts will be useful and sustainable.  The family will do a service project for the community to feel that your good deed has been taken care of.  Getting up at 6am to help cook breakfast for the hungry on Christmas morning is NOT a favorite choice. 
  5. This year you need to get serious to protect your family when the SHTF. Everyone needs a new semi-automatic weapon (I think there is a pink one that your  6-year-old daughter will love.) You will not tell the Christmas story to your children. Who needs all that “Peace on earth, good will to all” nancypants liberal garbage?  Oops, the 3-year-old grabbed the 6-year-old’s loaded weapon? Well, your aunt was always a bit odd, so not too big a deal. 
  6. You saw some snowflake on Facebook posted a list of stores that were starting their Black Friday sales on Thursday. Their corporate greed is not your concern, but you can make fun and find fault at the person’s post anyway.  After all, your cousin Bubba earns minimum wage (not a living wage) working at Wally World so he can use the money and no one likes him at the Thanksgiving table anyway. More pumpkin pie for you. 
  7. You really don’t buy much for anyone so this is no big deal. You might go out Christmas Even to the local drug store and pick up some toilet water. Then again, why bother. It’s not as if that person loves you. 

In my family, growing up, we celebrated Hanuka, but on Christmas morning, at the bottom of the stairs as we headed down to breakfast, my sisters and I would find a book, not wrapped, because the appearance of being a gift needed to be hidden. It was usually about a history of the Jewish people or a book about Israel. The only time we discussed this annual habit of my parents was when I was in college and dared to have a non-Jewish boyfriend. We had a loud discussion about mixed messages which, of course, was not resolved.

But what concerns me most of all is all the other hyped up messages that people receive this time of year.

  • Our Biggest Sale of the Year starts now! 30% OFF our entire selection of figure flattering, easy care dresses when you use the code GIVETHANKS at checkout. Proudly made in USA. Is giving thanks for getting a discount a bit self-serving?
  • Our Green Friday sale is here! Get 20% off everything plus a mystery gift*! 🌲ten trees planted for every item sold🌲 *while supplies last! Going GREEN makes you feel good…grab those bargains, keep the mystery gift for yourself, everyone wins! Do you live a sustainable lifestyle 364 other days a year?
  • Get in line early to capture the best! Don’t consider what you look like.  Don’t put any thought into this…just laugh…yup, you’ve been co-opted.pet smart

We know why the advertisements hit us nonstop starting  before Halloween. Retail earns over 50% of their annual income at this time of year.   Ever recognize the puppet strings attached to you?

You have taught your children to ask for toys they see in commercials and to eat foods they see advertised on tv. Your kids have behaviors that show they know only how to express the “wants” as “needs”. You have not been teaching them how to plan for a big purchase, how to defer gratification.  You criticize other people’s children while they are looking at yours with a stink-eye because of their fussing, their whining.

Even in the midst of the recession I was amazed at the people I would see eating out.  It is easier for people to wrack up credit card debt than to learn to cook. And bankruptcies are on the rise, so that explains why people who support Trump did not blink an eye at his multiple bankruptcies. The dream of being rich like him is not reality, but you can wrack up debt like Trump and blow it off like him. You admire him for showing you the way to not be responsible. That has become normalcy.

And meanwhile, we have numerous crafters and artisans who offer their efforts at affordable prices. and small local businesses that are owned by your neighbors.  They offer unique gifts that mean your loved ones will NOT be getting the same things as everyone else. This means that the artists earns pennies for all the hours s/he has spent to create, to share their talent. And most people scoff at what is shown, saying “I can do it” (but never do anything like it) and walk on.

I truly hope people find purpose and joy in their holiday celebrations. I just wonder if the message your children are learning is the one you are hoping to teach.

This video opens the door to fixing this need to buy more get more to feel worthy. My only addition would be, that if you don;t feel yourself as “perfect” as he wants you to feel, get to work! You can achieve a better place, but it starts inside.


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The Ten Suggestions

I think many of us last got this reviewed when we were under 12 years old so, let’s go over it again for a minute. Interpretations are mine, of course, based on my education and experience and very much on my observations of what people actually DO.

 

1. You shall have no other gods before Me.

Outside of the common organized religions we find in our towns and cities, there are many other belief systems that appeal to many.   Some do not hold a belief in a Higher Power, but see life and its value in many forms, including Jedi Knights, which many put this down as their religion on the UK census in 2001 believing that Midichlorians exist in all living beings, which create a ‘living force’ that can be interacted with. While we can smirk at this, it is evidence that mainstream religions and the way their churches act on the holy scripture simply does not appeal to many.  My suggestion: since so many of the major world religions have similar guidelines for nice behavior, please realize that the religion you claim as your own is most typically one you were born and raised in….so it was a matter of when and where you were born. Nothing much more special than that.

2. You shall not make idols.

There seems to be a type of Christianity that worships the almighty dollar.  As stupid as that sounds, there are many conservative Christian churches who preach that successful people are rich….and if you are not rich it is because you are not getting right with God. So send in more money to Preacher Living High on the Hog so he can upgrade his mansion or car fleet or buy a new jet. Meanwhile, you feel bad you are not one of the chosen. My suggestion: find a new God to worship than the one your church is touting.

3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.

Personally, letting off steam by shouting “God damn it!” is not demeaning to the Lord. What you are doing is calling on your Higher Power to punish someone…significantly.  And if this sounds okay to you, my next question is do you use witchcraft much? Hexes, bad curses, all that stuff? Perhaps you might want to think of a new way to express your dismay. And I know what you mean when you say Gall dang it……same thing.  My suggestion: be respectful to all, as we are taught we are made in God’s image. If you mistreat anyone, you are maligning your God as well.

4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

I learned in an intense Bible study group that this commandment was added to the others at the time of the Babylonian exile.  (Don’t remember that story.? It’s part of the Tenach, the Torah, the Old Testament or what you may refer to as the Hebrew Bible. It is part of your history if you are a Christian.) The rabbis at the time were very concerned about the people becoming assimilated so this commandment was added. Also added at that time were all the laws regarding foods that are clean or unclean….the kosher laws.  My point? Well, two fold. 1. So much of what many believe in the Bible is historically proven to be written by men. 2. Hold time aside (you pick the day if you want) where you can quiet your activity and spend some hours thinking about who you are in the scheme of things in this world. My suggestion: Connect with all that you consider healthy and  calm in your life. Do it with others in community.

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5. Honor your father and your mother.

Seriously, some parents can never win your respect or admiration because of their attitudes and behaviors. Hopefully, you will have at least one or two other adult mentors in your life that will help guide you. Good parents and mentors will challenge you; that is part of their duties to help you grown and stand on your own feet. We end up in arguments. That’s always been the way of the world. But unless a relationship with an adult is toxic, be patient and polite, and learn. And parents: smacking your kid because s/he does not respect you does not work.  They are learning that bigger and stronger wins…so guess what they will do to your precious grandchildren?  My suggestion: Do better when it is your turn to parent.

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6. You shall not murder.

We will always have certain people  in our lives who are affecting us in a challenging way and it is tempting to wish they would just disappear.  While I know many people who get really REALLY steamed up, I recognize they probably would not act on removing the person in question from this earth. But I also know many who would, if pushed to the point. Taking a life of a living person is wrong. Yes, there is evil in this world. But the death penalty has not provided a deterrent; no one says, oh I better not rape and kill this woman because if caught I will be put to death.  And we know of some individuals who torture and kill puppies and kittens. Also wrong. Now, the next hard spot is abortion.  The scientific part of me says no way is a zygote capable of life.  And the emotional side of me says, I support your right to chose while being glad I never had to. My suggestion: be pro-life in all its stages, not just the gestational one, but as part of that, allow that someone else’s life might not permit them the same decision making as your.

7. You shall not commit adultery.

Do you remember when President Jimmy Carter was roasted over the coals for admitting when he looks at an attractive woman he felt he was guilty of lust in his heart. Why did people make fun of him?  I think it’s very clear now that it was because society’s behavior is worse. Our current culture permits men to rape and sexually assault women and get away with it. So, back to being a better parent…..we are NOT doing our job teaching our children what it means to make a lifelong commitment. Now people hold their hands behind their backs, fingers crossed, when they swear “I do.” I do…until the next sexy body crosses my past. I do…..until I get irritated at you and need to feel loved again. I do…until I am bored. I don’t. SO many don’t. My suggestion: We must be much more serious when we make our promises, especially ones where we promise to partner with love and care for the rest of our days. Realize lust is NOT equal to love. Use birth control. As I told my kids, birth control fails, so be ready to have a lifelong commitment to the parent of that child, regardless of marriage.

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8. You shall not steal.

I suspect most of us have broken this one. I was challenged by a Bible thumper that when I took a pen from work I was just as guilty as a shop lifter or someone who bilks others of their life savings. Perhaps, if you truly believe Santa Claus is keeping a list. But starting with a pen and discounting it can lead to bigger issues. Why is there a need for stealing?  Are you hungry? Did you take advantage of the programs in the area where you can access free food? Are you an addict and need money for your habit? You have a larger problem than stealing and you might not be concerned about either, but get some help and you CAN do better. Most people want what they want when they want it. Deferred gratification and saving up for something desired is a skill set many people lack.  And then there are those who assume that someone is better off and they can afford to be without this one thing. Really? Feel like judge and jury often?  My suggestion: If your stealing habit is small and you want to stop, replace what you took. If you can’t do that, give something to someone who needs it. Now, if you think it’s no big deal, I really can’t help you. You missed some major ethics and morals lessons early on.

9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

When we have a President who lies daily and then lies that he lied, it sets a bad precedent in society. When we have people who like him and discount all his lies, we have a sick society.  Many of us fear we are seeing signs of a society descending into something similar prior to Hitler leading Nazi Germany. There, as in other right-wing dictatorships, people turned against people and reported them, even if not true. We have an episode in our own American history with the histrionics over Communism.  After McCarthy destroyed many lives, he was overcome when Joseph Welch, chief counsel for the U.S. Army asked “have you no shame?” Well, currently, it is clear the people in power have no shame. But we should. A person’s good reputation was something to be honored. My suggestion:  Tell  the truth. Don’t be cruel. Be honest about your own work and actions. Image result for telling the truth quotes

10. You shall not covet.

This one is hard because we are beaten daily with things to buy to make ourselves more beautiful, healthier, happier. After the World Trade Center collapsed, President George W. Bush told us to go shopping.  American’s debt level is at an all time high with more and more bankruptcies all the time.   There have been times in my life where my income dropped below what we needed for housing, food, medical care and the normal day to day. There was a time when it was recommended I declare bankruptcy. But I didn’t. Those credit card bills were our doing. The fact that we couldn’t pay them because of illness is a major reason why many people take that step and one more reason why we need to get healthcare costs affordable to all. But we had control over how we spent money during that time. We were on bare minimums and no, it was not fun and yes, it went on way too long, but it finally ended and we climbed out of our hole, proud that we had acted in a responsible manner. My suggestion: make a budget. Really. I remember one woman where I worked around 1980. She earned $400 a week. She wanted to buy a sewing machine. She sat down and made her budget work, saving $25 a paycheck. And in a year, she had her machine and started a new business. Own your life by keeping your desires under control.

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Final suggestion

If all that is still too hard, no matter than you’ve known this all your life here is ONE rule instead. If you can do this, all else will fall into place.

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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!