goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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Aim for Information NOT Confirmation Bias

Seven years ago, about a year before we planned to move from West Virginia to Oregon,  I got deeply involved in helping establish The Wild Ramp, an indoor year-round local food market. Among other things, I visited the farms and other food producers basically to get their stories to tell consumers, but also to verify that they were raising or producing the yummies they brought to sell at the store.

For a person who grew up in the paved part of the Garden State and one who earned a degree in urban planning, finding myself knee deep in mud was one of my earliest experiences and I immediately bought muck boots for later farm visits. I am a quick learner…at least in some issues. 2014-10-07 10.48.42

I believe the first farmer’s patience with me and my questions helped establish my process: I spent an hour asking questions sitting usually at the kitchen table, and only then did we walk the farm and I got to see and take photos.

Because I knew next to NOTHING about farming (other than going with my grandpa into his chicken coop when I was 3-years-old was a terrifying experience which he sure could have made easier!) I asked tons of questions. I may not know a lot but I am curious.

“What’s the issue about corn fed versus grass fed” was a question. “What kind of cows are these?” was another. (The answer to that was also enlightening: “Well, ” the farmer slowly answered, “they’re black.  Angus are black, so I guess we can say they are Angus.” And my response: “So ARE they Angus, or are you riding a marketing message?” was answered with a smile.

So I learned something there and I later learned that perhaps it is not always just the breed but also the diet that helps make some meat tastier than others.

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The point is, I was not afraid to appear that I did not “KNOW”. In other words, it was okay for them to figure I was ignorant and it was their job to teach me. And almost all of the 70 farmers and food producers I visited were happy to give me the two precious hours of their work day. The later sales jump after the blog was written and read by the consumers was worth the work interruption.

So last night I again watched the debates. And I will watch the 2nd debate with the rest of the Democratic candidates tonight. WHY?

Because I am not going to rely on what news organizations chose to tell me. I am not going to read my Facebook friends’ comments as a basis for my own decision-making. I do find comments by people I know and even people I have no idea what their background basis is for their comment. This is our reality: people have various levels of evaluation tools and their decision making may or may not be similar to mine.

When I read restaurant reviews when I am searching for a place to eat in a location I have not fully explored, I have no idea if those reviewers’ taste buds are similar to mine. I have no idea if they value food without additives, as I do.  Same kind of issue when I hear how people love or pan a movie. How can I know if any person making a comment is aligned with my values on what entertains me?

Even more important is the much more rigorous and important evaluation for the next President of the United States.  A crummy meal or movie may, at worse, provide a wasted couple of hours or a tummy ache, but typically not more than that. Playing passive on the evaluation of candidates can provide for poor leadership that will affect me…and you…and the world.

So, it’s all theater. I made a comment on Facebook as the debate started that the narrator sounded like he was introducing a sport event. But this is NOT the time we chose one winner and all the rest are losers.

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Source: Apple Podcasts

Each person standing on that podium last night had something that was important to be heard. Each one.  How would you know if you don’t put your own mind to work?

Do I think they are all equivalently experienced for the job of President. Hell no! But they have their viewpoint and it may overlap someone else’s, including your own.

Let’s be careful not to throw support to one candidate so early that we don’t listen. Let’s be careful to listen and evaluate how we feel about the various solutions to issues posed.

And let’s remember that the way the government is working now will not change much without some huge changes that are, unfortunately, needed to be made by the people who currently would not want them changed.  For example, we have clearly seen the damage to the election process that the Supreme Court decision about Citizens United caused.  By permitting money to be equivalent to free speech, and corporations defined as “people”, we have seen that our government is now being controlled by megawealthy corporations and people. Very few people. And the rest of us, working (or not) to make the changes have a tough uphill battle. How can that be changed to give the governing of this nation back to the people? Listen to how the candidates suggest changes and see if they align with you.

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Source: UMass Dartmouth

Above all, quit sitting back and only using your voice to armchair quarterback. Get out there. Locally, you can have some huge influence in the way your city or county runs.  On the national level, if you like a candidate, get involved. Give an hour a week…..that certainly is not too much of a drain when you think of what gets decided that will affect you.

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Source: Waupaca Rotary Club

 

 


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How to Say Thank You

Someone died. And I got a cornea to fix a vision problem. 

Each of us has the opportunity to think ahead to a possible situation where we might not be able to live, but can donate parts of our own bodies that can make someone else’s life better. Thinking this way does not make your death happen. It makes a precious gift happen if and when. What a legacy. Go to this website if you already do not have it marked on your driver’s license.

Years ago I lost a husband to brain cancer. At the time the shit hit the fan I was quietly told by the neuro-oncologist that we had 3-5 years. Well, he lived 10 years and the doctor really had no idea how. The last MRI, done about 18 months before his death, showed that this incurable cancer had not grown. For some reason, his brain chemistry caused it to act differently. It was that summer I decided and got things in place to donate his brain when the time came. Heading to a neurological research program, perhaps whatever he had in his brain chemistry could be identified and help someone else. I wanted to make lemonade out of the very sour lemon we had been given.

Perhaps this concept is not so hard for me because I appreciate the sentiment of Thanksgiving.  While I don’t count my blessings daily, I give thanks after we return to our driveway after a road trip, when we have a good day at the farmers’ market, when one of my kids has a wonderful achievement. Thank you. Thank you Lord. Thank you God. Thank you Man in the Moon. It doesn’t matter who receives your thanks. It’s recognition that we are not alone.  And the One who is honored hears it all.

Being part of society means I chose to be active. I offer skills and energy within my capability to issues I feel are important.  As I age perhaps the working parts are not as usable to someone else as if I had died early. But letting them harvest whatever can be used is one more way I can give back to my community. 

When we feel this connection to others, our world is safer. When we feel we can have an impact, our world works smoother.


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A Next Step

Like many others I was hoping, but not expecting, the Electoral College to act in an unprecedented but authorized way to negate the Trump presidency. Had that happened, however, it would have opened other doors of unknown outcome, so maybe this is the best way.

This way, we can hold the incoming President to his Constitutional duties and responsibilities. We do have guidelines for that and will know when he inappropriately strays.  I expect he will stray, as his prior comments indicate he is not clear on much of what is ahead of him.

Meanwhile, enough angst. Each of us either feels distress now or will soon. Each one of us. The efforts of a Republican Congress backed up by this President will mean we have big changes ahead.  It is the anticipation of some of those changes that have people already upset. However, the rest will join the fray when program cuts begin to affect them. When campaign promises go by the wayside. When life does not get better for the many many people who expect the Federal government to fix things for them.

So, onward.

I have said often on my Facebook feed that I will stay vigilant and be as active as I can to help retain the rights won by all of us to give equal access and protection of the law to all our citizens. I will stay vigilant and be as active as I can to make sure the least of us continue to be helped regardless of any political stance.  I will stay vigilant and be as active as I can to make a positive difference.

Back in 1970 when Earth Day was initiated I heard a slogan that resonated. “Think globally but act locally.” We know the earth has overwhelming issues, not only environmental but in every aspect of life.

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We have a choice, each one of us.

  • We can ignore and carry on, dong what we do that may help or hinder any situation, self-centered and choosing to stay apart from the community of the world.
  • We can get stirred by all the need in the world and affected so deeply we can’t deal with it, so we freeze, stuck in despair.
  • We can opt to get involved in one or two issues that deeply resonate. We may send money or sign petitions or write letters or emails or even show up at our state capitol to join a protest.
  • We can chose to get active in our own communities, making our voice and action count where it will show a difference.

I’ve done each of these. Earlier in my life I was focused on my own young adulthood and all that involved including building a career and raising a family. I had a nodding relationship with a few issues but not much money and not much time, so not much involvement.

I’ve been on listservs that overwhelm me with need. It seems that I receive more than 20 a day with hands outstretched asking for $1, $5, $25 or more. It was with extreme pleasure that I unsubscribed from almost all recently.

I sign petitions and sometimes post them on Facebook urging others to take the minute to add their  support. It seems to be the LEAST anyone can do.

Mostly, I am active here in my town. I have chosen three main areas and participate as much as I can. I do what I can, offer my skills to forward the mission of the group. I self impose a limit on what I feel I can do and ask for the group to respect that. (If the group doesn’t, as some have in the past, I moved my energy elsewhere.)

I hope by this example you can see how you might work through the coming years when so many of us feel what we have known about the United States of America will be changing. I plan to keep on keeping on. Joining with other like minded people empowers all of us. emplowerment


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I Feel Lucky

It’s a pretty busy time, but when is it not busy in my life?  Anyway, it’s busy and I like it that way.

Today I had an appointment with my allergist to go another scratch test for some of the standard issues here. I had to be off my antihistamine for 5 days and boy oh boy I didn’t know how effective it was until now. The pokes were easy compared to my memory of the scratch tests as a kid. One of my arms got red and swollen quickly. (Thanks, Cat, who is now 15 and will probably live to 25 just to spite me.) But as soon as that was over I swallowed my antihistamine and rubbed some anti-itch cream on my arm and felt better in a half hour. I sure feel lucky.

I then headed over to the kitchen I rent at the McMinnville Cooperative Ministries. We had the first of two tests as  part of a special project for Can-Do Real Food. One of our farm partners, Keeler Estate Vineyards, has some wine that is not permitted to be sold because of some form that was not filed years ago. So, we offered to see if we could turn it into wine jelly. They gave us bottles of Pinot Noir (a red) and Pinot Gris (a white) and that jelly tasted awesome. We cookeda little more of each down and mixed with sea salt to make a culinary salt as well. I get to play with yummy food. Boy oh boy, I feel really lucky.pinot noir and pinot gris april 4

This weekend I am hosting a handcrafted artisan fair inside a pavilion at the local county fairgrounds here in town. The story of how this all got started points more to my Pollyanna attitude than my realistic view of life, but it is coming together despite a couple of setbacks. Good thing, since it is only 4 days away. We have an awesome and eclectic group of talented craftspeople.  I am going to have a great weekend spending it with artists who show their love with their abilities.  I am so darn lucky.Crafts Fair poster WEB

I got 27 emails from candidates today, most, of course, begging for money. You know, this political hoohah can be very annoying. But you know what else?  We have a system that permits us to be involved. Especially if we don’t like it.  I met a candidate a couple of years ago and after talking with him decided I would help a bit. He’s campaigning again and there I am. It is rewarding and comforting to see an honest person who is very much interested in the issues of the people in this area try to make a difference.  I feel lucky to know how to get involved and help try to make this government work for the people.

My husband Graham probably did not fully know what he was getting when he asked me to marry him. We just celebrated our ninth anniversary and were able to take a few days away “at the coast” (Oregon speak for “down the shore” which is New Jersey speak for “go to the beach” everywhere else). So despite his cold we enjoyed the beautiful sunny blue skies and warm days. He humored me to head to a good viewpoint for a sunset photo too and we headed to Tillamook cheese factory on the way home so we could get some cheese and, of course, ice cream. I know I am lucky.IMG_0679

So this evening we ran a quick errand to Lowe’s to pick up something we needed for a wood craft Graham is making for this weekend. Afterwards we stopped and he put up two signs about the artisan fair. I was off the road with the flashers on and when Graham came back to the car I planned on pulling a u-turn to head home. But there was a car, and then another and then another….three police cars, so no u-ey. I drove a tiny bit and pulled into the grange parking lot to turn around. One of the police cars also pulled in…and turned his lights on. You can imagine the expletive deleted that I was thinking. I figured we might get a ticket for putting the signs up. Nope, he wanted to check we were okay and did we know we had a taillight out? We denied it and promised to get it replaced and headed home. Oh yeah. I feel lucky.

In reviewing my day I realized I left off the very best part. I heard from each of my three kids today. I feel very very very lucky indeed.

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Why I Bother

I just finished helping make phone calls for a local candidate running for state office. It’s early in the campaign season so I only had one rude person on the other end of the phone. Based on my experience when this candidate ran two years ago, it will get worse the closer we get to November’s election day. People get pretty sick and tired of all the campaigning that goes on, especially this year with a Presidential election. phone bank

So why do I bother to put myself in a position for potential abuse?  First, I don’t take any of it personally.  I’ve had enough sales training in prior chapters of my life to know an upbeat voice (have a smile on your face) can make a big difference in how you sound to the other person. But still, calling at supper time, in the middle of a family crisis, following someone’s bad day means many won’t answer the call and if they do, they may be short tempered. Not a big deal.

I do it because I like the candidate. I think he is a good person making a tremendous effort to reach out and really listen to the constituents. When he lost by a narrow margin against the incumbent 18 months ago he said he would run again, and essentially he has never stopped. He got even more involved in the community and people on all sides of the issues know him better now. They know him to be someone who will listen and search for the commonalities.  THAT is a huge reason why I support him.good listening

I do it because I agree with the candidate.  Before I felt comfortable to work on his campaign I actually spoke with him and heard him speak at a small group meeting. I saw how he listened and interacted. I learned how he did additional research and how his position on that issue matured based on what the person had brought to his attention. I liked his viewpoint but I also liked the way he never assumed he knew the answer right off the bat.

I do it because good candidates are hard to identify. Certainly you can’t tell from the advertising on tv or what you get in the mail. Everyone sounds pretty similar, all promising to fix problems. But whose problems? How will they fix them?  Many candidates seem to run on generalities or flip flop depending on their audience. It is amazingly wonderful to find someone who has a good moral compass and is genuinely interested in what people have to say, and be willing to learn from that person’s  experience.

I do it because in a local contest my action makes a tremendous impact. Sure, I have a favorite Presidential candidate but any effort I could make would be a drop in that national bucket. Here, in our state representative district, I can really have an influence on sharing my feelings about this candidate to others AND sharing my opinions with him.

So, if you live in this state house district and I call you about Ken Moore, please feel comfortable to chat with me. Even if you are angry about issues, please share. We have someone who wants to do what he can to help.Moore-for-Oregon-logo-final2

People who chose to not get involved, to never really learn about their elected representatives in any level of government, who may not even vote, are losing out on a tremendous freedom. It is our responsibility to be involved. We The People means each one of us.

 

 


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My Father’s Daughter

My dad probably had a file at the FBI because of his quiet but steady leadership activism in civil rights in our town in New Jersey. I really don’t know what he actually did but I do know that lots of people came to meetings at our house at a time when our neighborhood was all white. The visitors stood out.

My father also was active pushing for a new high school and it was an uphill fight because even back in the 1960s no one wanted more taxes.  But together with a group of parents, many who taught at Rutgers and others, like my dad, who had a college education, they prevailed and a new school was built in time for my oldest sister to attend prior to her graduation.

We think about legacy most often as the money and things of financial value we will leave to our children, but let me suggest that this penchant to take desire for change and move into some level of action is one of the legacies my father gave to me.  Other people bang away on their computers expounding their anger, but few actually get involved in a way to try to help fix the system.legacy

It took me a while to grow into it. I think I started waking up about 8 years ago when I became aware how so much of our food system was tainted with chemicals. Preservatives that kept hot dog rolls from molding, even after a month, caught my eye in the mid 1980s, but I was still unaware of the additional chemicals we all ingest when we eat conventionally raised proteins and produce. GMOs are another bugaboo but simply, pesticides and herbicides cross into our bodies.  As their use increased so did, coincidentally, a lot of autoimmune issues, digestive issues, and behavioral issues.

Politics were of minor interest to me. I read the pamphlets from the League  of Women Voters and watched the presidential debates on tv. (My daughter Lisa graduated from her high school in Constitution Hall, the location of many early debates, and I discovered it had no air conditioning.)  But it wasn’t until the 2008 election that I really started doing my own research about the candidates.

I also noticed arguingduring that election season that people who had been close friends no longer were willing to talk to me. They had their political viewpoint and were offended by mine. I never have understood why friends in particular can’t talk through the issues. How else can we understand the “other side”? Surely someone with whom we have a shared history and knows us can explain better than some unknown pundit.

A little over a year ago I met a man running for the state legislature from this district.  We got into discussion and I challenged him to explain himself;  he responded and we chatted. I saw he had knowledge and ideas for improvement for local_issuesseveral things in our community that affect our quality of life. I liked his demeanor, I liked his viewpoint, so I put my action into gear and helped the campaign one day a week.

Getting involved in a local election provides significant information about your town. It actually is a scale where your viewpoint, your opinion, counts.  And yet, few people bother.

Some people vote for President and little else. Some vote for other positions but rarely understand who the candidate is and if it is the incumbent, if they have done a good job.  We complain about the people in Washington not doing their job. Make sure you know who your Congressional representatives are, how they have been voting and work for them if you like them, or for their opponent if you don’t.  Know the same about the people in your state capital, in your county, in your city. Be concerned about the schools even if you don’t have school aged kids. The children are the ones who will be leading this nation day after tomorrow.

Getting involved is actually something each good citizen should be doing.  What legacy will you be leaving?get involved

 

 

 

 


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Outside Looking Back In

I lived in Huntington for seven years; Graham for 20. We worked, raised my son Sam through middle and high school, and got involved in a number of places and groups where our interests and talents fit.  We planned Graham’s retirement and our move to Oregon to coincide with Sam heading out to college and we feel good with that decision. But it sure felt nice to visit Huntington this past weekend.blog-logo

One of the groups that we loved and shared our talents was The Wild Ramp. I visited food producers and wrote blogs, worked in the market each Wednesday morning, and helped on an array of other projects including sewing volunteer aprons and shopping totes, compiling the cookbook, and making presentations to other groups around West Virginia who were interested in emulating the market model. I did not serve on the Board of Directors because I knew I would be leaving Huntington for Oregon and I did not want to “leave a hole” when I left. Well, I carried the “hole” of missing The Wild Ramp with me.

DSCF5747As lifetime members I have stayed as closely connected as living on the west coast permits. I read the blog and Facebook pages. I’ve ordered a few items, including ramps, which Shelly Keeney graciously mailed. I planted those ramps in as close a setting as I could find…at high elevation in a stand of deciduous trees…on a farm about 15 miles from where I live. Next spring we will carefully harvest enough for one dish to share with the farmer. I have worked with a group that wants a year round indoor market, but the commitment needed to get it beyond the planning phase proved too much. I think they have a lot of places where they can buy organic food and do not fully understand the benefits of more greatly supporting local farmers.

Last Saturday I spent five hours back at The Wild Ramp. I got to poke my nose in just about every corner of the new market and greatly admire the new space. I noticed the new items offered for sale since I moved and also missed a few I hoped to find. I bought tee shirts and coffee mugs and more and I’m sure my purchases helped the cash register take that day!  DSCF6590

Most of all, the best part, was connecting with the people. I chatted with shoppers, asking all those “pesky” questions I always asked: How did you hear about The Wild Ramp? How often do you shop here? Why? How do you tell others about the market?  How much do you usually spend? The answers continue to be interesting.

  • Many people still believe that The Wild Ramp is an organic market. There is one certified organic farmer but overall, It is not. But we know our farmers and if you want food that is grown without chemicals, you can find it here.
  • There is a belief before entering the market that it is expensive, more expensive than local supermarkets. Overall, it is not. Or maybe, I should say, it depends.  If you buy prepared foods, buying whole foods and all the ingredients you need to prepare a meal can be higher. Once you have a pretty standard pantry of common ingredients, buying whole food tends to be less expensive. In addition, whole foods are not loaded with chemicals, so if anyone in the family has some allergies or arthritis or skin rashes or digestive problems, staying away from food additives can make a huge improvement in health. Periodic cost comparisons of prices at The Wild Ramp and local grocery stores show that costs are comparable.
  • The market’s items continue to be chosen as local gifts for people who live elsewhere. I know I used to…and once again….had gifts in mind with some of my purchases.

Of course, some of my friends knew I would be there. It was a great emotional rush of hugs and laughter, playing catch-op and extending invitations to come visit. For foodies, Oregon offers a continual feast. I noticed as I shared stories with some that we seemed to be local gluttons: fresh salmon and oysters, olive oil, wine, hazelnuts, and all local produce and protein sources we had found. (The Wild Ramp’s effort to help Huntington experience the 30-Mile Meal could be limited to 15 miles in the Willamette Valley.)DSCF6593

It was working with the farmers and other food producers for The Wild Ramp that my awareness of the importance of local food grew. In today’s world, where food is sourced or processed in counties that do not have the same compliance record with food safety, where produce prices in the supermarkets will be rising because of the drought in California, identifying and supporting local farmers who produce healthy food is even more important.

So, as I laughingly admitted to Gail Stoll Patton, even in Oregon I still talk about The Wild Ramp as “my” market. And Gail, in her wisdom, replied, “It IS “your” market. And it is “mine” and it belongs to each and everyone who helps it operate and shops there.” No truer words. Be proud, Huntington, you built it, and you support it.