goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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It Could Be You

So many of us are living paycheck to paycheck, stressed to pay all the bills we have and concerned that something may happen to shake your world. Losing your job would do that. Getting seriously ill also would do that. Few of us have enough in savings to ride through months of being unemployed.  Taking a minimum wage part time job won’t help.

cant-pay-bills-on-timeSo then, what happens? You can’t pay your rent or mortgage, your power gets turned off after a few months and you manage to get it paid by going to one of the churches who has a Compassion Fund for things like that. You go to food panties to save on grocery costs and then to soup kitchens to get a warm meal as often as possible.

So then, what happens? You stop answering the phone because you know the calls are from debt collectors.  The day comes when you get the eviction notice.

So then, what happens? You can’t or won’t turn to family or friends.  Either your relationship with them are not healthy or they are as financially stressed as you were.  Or you do approach them and they welcome you, for a time, and it becomes a cycle of a few days on the couch and then you move on. Your appearance deteriorates as your emotional health is shaken to the core. It is just about impossible to think clearly to find your way out of this quagmire.

So then, what happens?  You retreat. You run and hide. You might be using drugs or alcohol to blunt the pain. You find yourself on the street.

You think it can’t happen? That everyone you see wandering the street pushing shopping carts full of their belongings muttering to themselves can’t be you?

Yes, some of the people on the street have mental illness. Yes, some are using drugs and/or booze to blunt the pain of their situation and the addiction adds to the problem. Yes, some are lost souls. But not all. In fact, not most.

All are people with a need to have some basics: shelter, food, and love….yes love.

We have places that in the name of “family values” are making laws to run the homeless out of town.  Those may or may not be the same towns that also had sunset laws mandating that all the “colored help” must leave the town limits by sunset. Fear and bigotry in the new age.

colddogI see a lot of postings on Facebook not to leave pets outside in the winter weather. A good, heartfelt warning to many people who own dogs but keep them tied up outside.  A reminder to people who feed stray cats but prefer them outside.  We feel for the helpless, the four- legged creatures who rely on us.

Find some compassion for the two-legged homeless.homeless-in-snow

There are solutions. Salt Lake City, for example, crunched the numbers and it became clear that the cost to the city per homeless person was running about $20,000 a year. When abandoned housing was converted into apartment space for the homeless, the cost dropped to $7,000 per person per year and reduced the number of homeless on the streets by 74% since 2005. New York City and many other cites have program to put housing first. THEN the social assistance programs to help with health issues, job training and more.

Here in McMinnville, there is an organization with the acronym of CWISH: Community Winter Inclement Shelter Help.  We heard about it last year but this year Graham has gotten involved as one of the three coordinators. Five area churches open their doors on a schedule to provide warm and dry shelter during the winter.

This morning in Portland, Oregon

This morning in Portland, Oregon

The current cold front started two night ago and so, one of the local churches has hosted 12 and then 15 people the last two nights. Families are welcome. Women and men are offered safe, warm and dry shelter.  They will continue to host tonight and tomorrow night and then pass the baton on to another of the participating churches. Volunteers are needed to be at the church in four-hour shifts from 8pm to 8am.

This is a band aid but efforts are being made to come up with a better solution. Once again, I am glad we chose to move here. This is a town with a heart.

What are you doing?

 


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Armchair Quarterback or Player

armchair-quarterbackWhich are you?  Do you sit on the sidelines and complain about obvious problems or do you get involved trying to solve them….or even ONE?

One of the things I highly appreciated about my experience with Huntington, West Virginia’s Create Huntington was it had one rule: no complaining without suggesting a solution. The Chat and Chew sessions held weekly were attended by only a few of the people in the city, anywhere between 4 and 30 people would show up. Some came just to listen to learn what was going on at a grassroots level. Some had specific issues close to their heart and were there to bring them to everyone’s attention. chat and chew

Some of the ideas gained interest and more people were attracted to the concept and helped it become a reality. It was the way the dog park was established, the way the Wild Ramp Market grew from an idea to a reality in only 5 months, the way volunteers gathered to help build a bike path, paint the viaduct tunnels and so much more.create huntington

At a grassroots level people in Huntington decided they were not going to wait for some mystical element in local government to fix the problem. They decided if it bothered them enough, it was worthy of their energy to fix it.

But you need not get down and dirty to have a voice. You merely need to be educated about things that are really going on, who the players are, and then go vote. And then contact the person in the position about how you feel about issues. Yes, they actually do read those letter.

Sitting at home, on the sidelines, complaining does nothing helpful.vote


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A Good Kind of Tired

Just home from helping at the McMinnville Cooperative Ministries Saturday morning breakfast where we served about 300 people this morning. It feels good to sit down but this is a good kind of tired.2014-07-19 08.59.15

The hungry are are our neighbors, as I wrote yesterday for Yamhill Valley Grown after visiting Heart 2 Heart Farms where farmer Tyler Boggs distributes free produce to anyone who wants it.  Some of the produce is a bit tired and best fed to his animals, but Tyler realized much of the food was in great condition and several hundred people show up each Friday to gather what they want.

I went yesterday to see the activity and took advantage of the offering to bring 4 huge totes of fruit to the church. At 7:00am my first duty, assigned by this week’s head chef and pastor Mark Pederson, was to prepare a fruit salad.  IMG_3401

About 8 volunteers arrived at 7 to help with the prep. They chopped potatoes and onions, broke and beat the eggs, shredded the cheese, prepared the pancake mix, formed sausage patties and all the things that needed to be prepped for the meal.  IMG_3403

Others arrived around 7:30 to prepare the dining room and for some quick training to newbie volunteers.  Then it was 8:00a.m. and the doors were open and I joined the serving line.  Other volunteers arrived to help with the dish washing and others would arrive later to help with the overall cleanup.2014-07-26 08.26.42

At the Coop the people come in and sit at tables covered with cloth and chose their breakfast from the menu. The servers then bring the orders up to the window where several of us load the plates or take-out boxes.  As we dished up the plates the servers would bring them to the appropriate person for their eating pleasure.

The people who come to eat are treated with respect, no questions asked, no prayer service requirement.  Take-out boxes are offered for those at home who could not make it in for the meal.

bath towel storageToday we had a big bang for a start. It seemed, when I looked out at 8:00 that all the seats at all the tables were full, and sure enough the orders came in fast and furious and we soon fell behind. Dishing as quickly as we could, the last of those 8:00 a.m. eaters finally got their plates around 8:20. And the orders kept coming in pretty steadily but at a more manageable pace.2014-07-26 08.25.25

Things slowed down about 9:30, a half hour before the official end of serving at 10. By then the fruit salad was gone, the hash browns were all eaten, but there were plenty of scrambled eggs, sausages, pancakes and a delicious peach and blueberry cobbler Mark had prepared.2014-07-19 08.59.21

I know I enjoyed my breakfast very much!

Helping at the Coop or another soup kitchen is a way to return appreciation to the community. People who enjoy meals can also volunteer, as can people who are not even members of the church.  We get volunteers during the school year from Linfield College but during the vacation breaks everyone who shows up has to work a bit harder because we don’t have enough hands.  If you can help, you are very welcome to join in. Contact Lauri Muller at compassionfund@gmail.com or call 435-890-4214.


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New Americans

About 25 years ago my family was one of two which helped a new immigrant family get settled into their new life in Connecticut. Jane and Igor, along with their daughter and his parents, were Russian Jews who seized the golden ticket to the United States when Russia, after the collapse of the Soviet Union,  decided to try to encourage its Jewish population to emigrate.  Israel and the US were the major players in receiving these people, who often had had no exposure to the religion.ImmigrationReform

Jewish communities around the country worked to help these newcomers get settled. Apartments were located, furniture and furnishings were donated. We were asked to contribute about $100 and were given a list of toiletries to purchase and place in the apartment. The other family bought some food staples.

Over the next year we worked together to tag team so we would remain in steady contact without overwhelming them. Over the months they started to show us places they had discovered in our own town. That was when we realized the system worked.  “Adopting” an immigrant family was a way to help them get settled without a huge burden on any one of us or society overall.

Igor and Jane both got jobs as computer programmers within 6 months of their arrival, accepting positions below the level they had last worked in Russia but soon were making progress as their English skills improved. The young girl went to elementary school and within a few years had no trace of a Russian accent. The older parents were retired, slow to learn English, but made efforts to participate in activities at the Jewish Community Center and received a small monthly stipend that was part of the government’s immigration program for this group.

I remember an early discussion with Jane. I realized no one had discussed birth control and we knew that in Russia, abortion was used pretty regularly as a way to deal with an unplanned pregnancy. Jane’s English was pretty good but she did not have the vocabulary that you can imagine would be used in this kind of discussion. It went somewhat like  this:

Me: Jane, I was thinking that you and Igor might want an American baby.

Jane: (turning red) Oh yes, but not right now.

Me: You know how not to have a baby right now? (handing her a Planned Parenthood pamphlet)

Jane: I will read this with Igor!

A couple years later, when I moved from Connecticut to Tennessee, the family had purchased a home and Jane was expecting their American baby.  In time they received their American citizenship and were active members of their community.

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Today we are amazed and horrified at the number of children who are coming over our southern borders. The United States has always been a magnet for people all over the world who want a better place. While many people here are stuck in economic stress, the tolerance for these illegals is low.

The contrast between the organization that helped the Russian immigrants get settled and the current system is dramatic. Surely we can develop a better system.immigration-economy-new-465


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The Fine Line

McMinnville caught our attention as a place to live when we were doing our research for a number of reasons. Graham first read about one of the local chefs who had spent several years in Italy learning how to make charcuterie and now runs the Fino in Fondo salumeria….he makes salami. Then Graham became aware of how this region excels in making pinot noir wine and as one who suffers gladly from oenophilia, he was happy to try to meet the challenge of the 100+ wineries in this county alone. east to cascadesMeanwhile, my research determined that this region of the Willamette Valley is truly a garden; among the vineyards and farms growing grass for seed and others growing most of the nations’ landscaping plants, there are many many farms producing food.  I hoped to replicate my involvement with The Wild Ramp in some way.  In addition, as a city planner, I appreciated the effort that a group of people in McMinnville had made to turn the downtown around. Once a strip of many vacant stores in the mid 1980s, the street now is tree lined and vibrant with boutique shops and services, almost all locally owned and operated.Dec 6a

McMinnville doubled in size since the 1970s and more people continue to move here. A license plate perusal in the parking lot during the Saturday morning breakfast served by the Cooperative Ministries identified many out of state cars. In talking to one family, one of the church members was told that the news that McMinnville serves free meals every day has spread, and many homeless people are finding their way to this town.

This creates a bit of a dilemma.

I am on a small committee investigating ways to help the business owners on our main street, NW 3rd Street, with the “loitering” problem that exists.  Some hang out on street corners, panhandling. These people are well known to locals, as they have had their spots for years and their stories are known. One Vietnam Vet just waits until he collects about $20 and then buys his wine and rambles back home.   Some hang at the library, but many have no interest in the benefits of what a library offers, so a lack of proper behavior gets them banished. Some hang around downtown, blocking shop entrances, making comments to young women, and smoking any number of substances.

St BHeart2Heart foodIt truly is amazing to hear the services that are available in this county for people who need assistance. There are meals available every day of the week, for example.  The St. Barnabus Soup Kitchen serves dinner four evenings a week; it is not unusual for over 300 people to be fed.

Meanwhile, one of the farmers I have met, Tyler of Heart2Heart Farms, has made a tremendous effort to collect edible  fresh produce from area sources and have it available for free for those in need. He just collected enough through crowd sourcing to buy a large truck to help collect and transport the food to his farm. All he asks is a few hours of volunteer work in exchange and he tells me that few offer to help.

My concern is that we have forgotten how to teach people to fish and we are providing fish dinners so often that many have no desire to learn the skills to manage their own pathway. In our effort to provide a hand and a safety net the actual message, as spoken by the California man in the Cooperative Ministries parking lot, is McMinnville is a place to go to be taken care of.

It’s a fine line between helping and enabling.

fishing4

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ADDENDUM: A friend has suggested that this post seems to be a bit judgmental about the homeless. That was not my intention.  At an earlier time of my life, when I was home with the baby and my husband suffered a stroke while undergoing surgery for brain cancer, I was in a tough spot. No income. My landlord was the amazing spirit in those days, telling us the last thing we needed was to worry about the rent. He permitted us 6 months free rent until the social security disability kicked in and we could once again start paying. I have no idea what it did to his own finances; I just know without his offer, we would have been out the door.

The blog, however, is a bit judgmental about the programs offered here in McMinnville. I believe what began as a way to help people through a bad time may have become a regular routine for many. I believe the need is still there. I just think there has to be another way to help people out of the hole they are in.  Some of the people who take advantage of the meals offered in this town may never be able to have anything close to a lifestyle where they can support themselves, but there are others who were working, became unemployed and for a number of reasons  have not found another job. Those are the people I think might be able to be helped with a different kind of assistance. There are plans underway to do just that; it is just some time off in the future before it becomes active.

 


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Love Your Neighbor

The people here in McMinnville, Oregon, our new home since September, do an amazing job feeding the hungry. Four evenings a week the Episcopal Church, St. Barnabus, serves dinner. Other days are covered by other churches in town.  Typically, each meal serves about 300-350 people, including take-out meals.  The annual total at St. Barnabus is very close to the population of this city, 33,000.  The need is high, even here in Oregon where the economy seems to be so much healthier than West Virginia where we had been living.DSCF5875

Imagine my reaction when our tour in India included a Sikh Temple.  After receiving head coveringsDSCF5873 and removing our shoes,DSCF5874we wandered around admiring the architecture, bathing pool,DSCF5881 and listening to the chanting, which had tonations that reminded me of Torah chanting. (Something to look into, as the Sikh religion is about 500 years old and when the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 CE the people moved west into Europe and east into Asia…would be an interesting study to understand the influences of how the Sikh religion started.)DSCF5887

Then Arvind lead us into the soup kitchen and we learned they feed the hungry three meals a day, a total of 22,000 people each and every day. DSCF5905

We saw volunteers chopping vegetables DSCF5906

baking the chapati DSCF5899to serve with the vegetable curry simmering in huge vats. DSCF5898

Don’t get hung up on the fact that this work is done on the floor; yesterday’s blog should have brought you up to speed that the concept of sanitation is very different in India. Focus, instead, on the service being done.  Pretty amazing.


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Planning Retirement

Most people who came into the last place I had a 9-5 job were looking for advice about the financial aspect of living without a paycheck. I worked for a financial adviser who specialized in retirement planning and part of the questionnaire prospective clients would complete included a section about hobbies and personal interests.

In other words, assuming the money part can be worked out satisfactorily, what fun did they plan to have once they retired from their regular work life?9-5

Most people answered in ways that showed they had not thought about it. Some men swore they would go fishing or golfing every single day. (Time for a reality check.) Many of the women said they would be living close to their grandchildren and expected that would fill their time. (Really? You have the energy for that every day?)  In reality, hardly anyone had thought about it.

Retirement is more than not going somewhere to work,  If you can retire in your 60s, you can assume you have at least 15 years of an active lifetime still ahead of you. That’s a lot of time to do the kinds of things you did not have time to explore before.

In fact, it could provide the opportunity to finally find a job that you love instead of the job you need.  My oldest sister, for example, has been a nurse all her life and is about to hang it up. She finds her current job to be a source of high frustration and wants to quit but can’t yet get her head around how to define herself if she is no longer a nurse. I have encouraged her to find something to do that feeds one of her interests. For example, she loves to cook. Perhaps working for a caterer helping with the food prep and maybe even the event activity would suit her.

There are a lot of activities that could enrich your life that will not cost anything. For example, when I lived in Nashville, I did not have the kind of extra money to spend on going to the symphony, and yet wanted to enjoy all the various concerts they offered. By volunteering to help with ticket sales and collection, basically, showing up an hour before a concert, I could attend that concert for free.  In Huntington I have volunteered at The Wild Ramp Market which not only gave my day a huge boost with interaction with people but first dibs on great foods.  You have to grocery shop anyway; might as well know your farmer!!veggies

Graham and I started planning our move to Oregon about five or six years ago. This included choosing a place to live. Granted, if family lives nearby, people tend to want to stay put.  As most of our family does not live nearby, we had more freedom with the decision to move.   Many people are so horrified by the concept of packing up and moving that they would prefer to leave the accumulations of a lifetime to their children to wade through. They have essentially been glued into place by “stuff”.  I’ve been to many estate sales and generally the main thought I have is “I need to clean my house and get rid of the excess “stuff”.

Is this how a sale at YOUR house would look?

Is this how a sale at YOUR house would look?

Many people are flabbergasted that we would pick up and move 2500 miles to a place where we know no one. When they learn my oldest son and one of my sisters live in Oregon, they relax. It seems that they define a place by family, but in reality my sister lives over an hour away and my son has his very own active life.  I will see them much more than I do now, but they will not shape my daily life. Perhaps I am not typical but I already have met a number of people in McMinnville and look forward to making new friends there.

This next chapter of my life is yet to unfold…..can’t wait!!

In other words, I am looking forward to what this new adventure will become…..not afraid of leaving the known behind.