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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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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Economic Patriotism

I heard the term “economic patriotism” on NPR a couple of days ago.  The discussion was about how the term was used politically over time but it did not seem to come down to the “man on the street” level.  I can bring it there I think and I also think you can live with it.buy Locala

We are climbing out of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Some areas of the country are still feeling pain. Some never really get to fly in good times so their “normal” is lower than other areas’ “good”. Regardless, if your area has some sense of economic development, you perhaps are seeing more signs of business activity, more job openings, more people enjoying going out to the movies, to restaurants and similar optional opportunities for spending.

Whatever your political leanings, you can help the economy in your area become more robust. Each time we shop anywhere we are throwing money into the vast world of business. When you go to the grocery store, for example, and buy your week’s worth of groceries, whether you spend $20 or $200, you are contributing to the world of business.  If you shop at a national or regional chain, like Kroger (some affiliates are Fred Meyer here in Oregon, Kings Sooper in Colorado and Ralph’s in California) or Wal-Mart, very little of  the money you spend there stays in the community. If you shop at a locally owned grocery store (IGA or even one not affiliated with that network) then more of your money stays right in the community. If you shop at your local farmers’ market and buy directly from local food producers, ALL your money stays in the community.shoplocala

That works for other goods and services also. Today I had to go downtown and used the one trip-many errands practice to pick up shampoo in the small local grocery store that has healthy products and also stopped in at the local office supply store for copy paper. I thought afterwards about the price I paid for that paper instead of saving about 50 cents by driving about 4 more miles to Staples. I probably paid a little bit  more than the cost of the gas (in my Prius anyway) but I knew I was saving time. I also was putting money into a locally owned business, a better option for the local economy than the national office supply store chain.

This is economic patriotism. This spending an extra 50 cents to help the local economy can add up to a HUGE difference if each of us would do it.shop mom and pop

When I was in West Virginia and involved with The Wild Ramp Market in Huntington we once figured out in a given week the average expenditure in the market was $15. We also estimated that if 10% of the town’s population would spend that average $15 a week in the market, the return to the farmers would be over a million dollars a year. While The Wild Ramp Market is extremely proud that in the two years of its operation over $400,000 has been given back to local producers, the difference of what has been and what could be is amazing.

It means YOU need to step up. You need to show you want this nation to be healthy. Your buying patterns make a difference. Are you willing to be considered a patriot?  Can you put economic patriotism into practice?shoplocal

Can you switch from consumerism as dictated by advertisements on the television and in magazines to locating and supporting locally made goods. In your area there are people who are passionate about producing high quality goods that would make superb useful items in your home or as gifts. There can be great pride in knowing your purchase can make a huge difference in someone’s economic health.

I’m not talking charity. I’m not talking giving money without getting something of value. I’m talking about buying American made goods. I’m talking about buying locally. Can you be a patriot?

 

 


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Our Kids Are in Trouble

There are a number of reports that indicate that we Baby Boomers are the last generation that will have an improved lifestyle than our parents. We had better incomes, lived healthier lives, basically had a better standard of living.

Back when we Baby Boomers were kids most of our dads left for work each morning and Mom was home. In elementary school I walked home for lunch and it was only when I was bussed into town for school and ate lunch there that my mom got a job.  At that time my dad’s income was more than adequate; mom’s income provided some extras.   They were able to help us pay for college and also were able to travel. My father worked for the same company his entire working life and had a benefits package that rarely exists today. For example, he  had lifetime health insurance, and my mom also did, even after my dad died.

There have been a lot of changes in the American lifestyle since then. Many conservatives decry that women should return to the traditional role of staying at home. If we want to assume that marriage will be a lifetime commitment and that all women are happy in that role, great, but let’s examine a few realities that make that difficult.Hands on a globe --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

INCOME                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I remember hearing in the early 1970s that the Cost of Living Index was initiated to help us understand changes over time. In 1978, several years out of college, I got a job working as a planner for an engineering/planning firm. I was paid $12,000 a year, had a car note of $97 a month for my Chevy Chevette (new price was $3600) and I also paid $350 a month for my 100% mortgage on a 2 bedroom-1.5 bath condo that had a sale price of $29,900. I managed to pay it all, my utilities, my insurance, my food. It was tight, but it was doable.

I quit my last 9-5 job when my boss refused to give me a raise to a fair salary. I had accepted a lower starting salary since the business was a start-up with the assurance that there would be bonuses and/or a raise when it was functioning well. Two years later, when it was making a steady profit he countered my request with 50 cents an hour. I was making $25,000.  When you use the Cost of Living index, the $12,000 I earned in 1978 would require a comparable salary of $41,000 at the time I asked my boss for a raise in 2011.Purchasing Power USD

EDUCATION                                                                                                                                                                                                            When I entered 6th grade my mother took a job with Rutgers, New Jersey’s state university and part of her benefits package included free tuition for her children. I was able to attend college and paid for my room and board from summer jobs, part time jobs during the school year and by becoming a residence hall adviser.  Their out of pocket contribution to my college expenses was my allowance which was the same as high school, $25 a month.   My total college cost from 1972-1976 was about $4,000. I am very proud I paid for it.

My youngest son Sam is now attending the University of Vermont. His costs run about $50,000 a year.  If the cost of living index was applied, that current 4-year school cost would be just under $17,000. Obviously, the cost of education has increased more than the cost of living. This makes it all but impossible to pay for without some assistance. Congress has raised the percentage on school loans and many people who graduated 5-10 years ago have calculated it will take over 30 years to pay off the accumulating debtload.10-09-05_college_inflation

FOOD  Some time in the mid 1990s advances in science permitted gene splicing in such a way that our foods changed. With the advent of genetic engineering, a gene from one kind of life form could be put into another to help it withstand some problem. This looked like an amazing answer to a concern people had about feeding the increasing population around the world.

Overseas, where farming with these new seeds permit and require the use of more and more herbicides, many farmers are becoming ill and dying. Here in the United States we have more people today with gastro-intestinal issues, diabetes, food sensitivities and allergies than ever before.  Some people argue that diagnosis is better. Some people find that when they cut out preservatives, artificial colors and additives, and start eating whole foods instead of nuking frozen prepared dishes, the health issues improve.FoodAdditivesPic

HEALTH The availability of inexpensive food in the United States is tied directly to the subsidies that we, the American taxpayers, give to major producers of corn, soy, canola among others. This program permits the farmers to accept a price that might not truly cover production costs and gets passed on to consumers with lower prices for processed foods using those ingredients. Corn, for example, is in many foods as a direct ingredient or as corn syrup or corn starch.

Many consumers find it difficult to feed themselves and their families without taking advantage of these subsidized foods, so many American diets are high in these ingredients which do not provide healthy nutrition. Add a more sedentary lifestyle in front of computers or game playing, and you have a population that is overweight. The Center for Disease Control reports that over 69% of the American population is overweight or obese. The CDC says this is our largest challenge as the unhealthy lifestyle so many of us chose is going to be the cause of our deaths. The sad thing is that about 12% of our children are also obese. They are not going to live as long. Their health is going to be troubled at a much earlier age. Their health care costs are going to be high.cost-of-obesity

We have a broken system. Our children are in trouble.

 

 

 

 

 


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Getting in Deeper and Understanding I am a Part of the Problem

The personal tour angle will understandably not appeal to everyone, but consider the option when you next travel. The benefit of hiring a personal guide is that the day can be very much responsive to your likes and desires. If we had asked to see Indian art in Agra or listen to Indian music or take in a Bollywood movie, I know that is what they would have shown us.  But we wanted to see how people live…that’s our “thing.”

Bilal asked if we wanted to see a leather factory where they make shoes. He happens to know the owner, although he was unable to reach him on his phone. We had a discussion about the leather. Since cows hold a special status in Hindu culture (more on that in another blog), we wondered if they used cowhide, and yes, they do. Also, goatskin and camel leather.

Up to this point our SmartTour visits to factories were showrooms of high quality where we were served tea or something cold to drink, offered the use of the clean toilets and had the craft explained, the better to appreciate the workmanship. For some reason I expected something similar. Instead, we visited a sweatshop.

I don’t know if you remember but it seems that we hear about factory collapses or fires in India or Bangladesh or Pakistan at least once or twice a year, so it did cross my mind. The place was not large, built of concrete and about 4 stories high.

DSCF6174Workers on the ground floor were seated around two large tables putting finishing touches on Bata women’s shoes and sandals.  Each man had a repetitive task which would be automated in a western factory. Benefit here: these men have work.DSCF6175On the upper levels the workers were putting the shoes together in the earlier stages, many sitting on the floor. DSCF6179

I noticed the ceiling fans were keeping the inside temperature about what the outside was-about 90 degrees. I also noticed no heating source for the winter.DSCF6185

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Although I thought I recognized the Bata name, the website indicates no stores in the US. Perhaps some shoes make it into outlets. The company has world wide distribution and this sweatshop is only one of many that have contracts to supply finished shoes.  Bilal made a comment that his friend, the factory owner, had a beautiful house as nice as the hotel lobby where he picked us up. I questioned him about the wages earned by the workers and was assured they made enough.  There is no pension plan, no insurance options, no vacation package.

In our desire to purchase clothes and other goods at the “best” price, we have long overlooked the need to support our own economy by purchasing American made goods. Here our workers make more money because we have laws to provide safe working environments, and other protections.  Our products cost more because of it.

I often read comments on Facebook about how people don’t like the way some of the big box stores limit their workers to less than full time work to avoid paying benefits and thereby cause them to require participation in public assistance programs to live. But I still see lots and lots of cars in those WalMart parking lots. People complain that they are on tight budgets and Walmart prices offers them a chance to buy the latest doodad advertised on tv.  but until each one of us curbs our own consumerism to purchase only quality American made products, we are culpable in the decline of jobs in this country as the factory owners take their work to the lowest paid people elsewhere in the world. Greed on their part to make huge profits and yes, greed on our part to buy buy buy within our budgets instead of looking at the bigger picture.