Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nourishing Wednesdays – Building Community From the Ground Up

Photo Credit: New York Times Teresa Fasolino

Wednesday is the day that newspapers traditionally run their food sections. Me too. I share what I learn about food, farming, cooking, gardening and community. Because people brought together over a shared meal can solve anything.

Next week is that most quintessential of American holidays, Thanksgiving. While you plan your own meal with family and friends, running around to stores, farmers markets, making stock for gravy and dough for apple, pumpkin or pecan pie, I’ve rounded up some articles for when you feel like putting your feet up, grabbing a hot beverage and taking a break before the hordes descend on the house and the holiday season officially begins. Gobble, gobble to you and yours.

Bay Area food banks and charity groups are being overwhelmed by huge jumps in requests for help this year — at the same time that donations have dropped off dramatically, including a 50 percent drop in corporate donations to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.

"That made up a quarter of our operating budget, so we're very worried about that," said Lynn Crocker, spokeswoman for the agency that helps 176,000 people a month in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, a big slice of the fabled Silicon Valley best known for technology and quick wealth. "If things don't get better, we'll have to reduce the amount of food we give to clients, maybe a half dozen eggs instead of a dozen, a half gallon of milk instead of a gallon."

Other food banks have the same problems — and fears. They're seeing more first-timers than ever before, getting larger requests for help from people they've assisted for years and fewer donors able or willing to help as much as they have in the past.

"We're serving 4,000 more families this year than last," said Christine Woodard, spokeswoman for Second Harvest Foodbank of Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties.

Consumers Union & Eat Well Guide® Launch Thanksgiving Local & Organic Food Challenge: Buy & Prepare One Local/Organic Dish for Thanksgiving and Share a Recipe

Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, and Eat Well Guide®, North America’s premier free online directory for finding local, sustainable food, have partnered to launch the Thanksgiving Local and Organic Food Challenge. The Thanksgiving Challenge aims to inspire Americans to learn more about local, sustainable or organic food by using Eat Well Guide’s comprehensive online tool for finding local ingredients for at least one dish they will prepare as part of their holiday meal.

“For Americans, Thanksgiving is the year’s peak travel weekend, but there’s no reason the food for our feasts has to travel thousands of miles as well,” said Eat Well Guide Director Destin Joy Layne. “With the holidays around the corner, and fuel-inflated food costs soaring, this is the perfect time to use our interactive Eat Well Guide to find locally produced turkey, fruit, vegetables, baked goods, dairy, meat and more, wherever you live.”

If you have heard about heritage turkeys, the old-fashioned birds with names like Bronze and Bourbon Red, then you know about the work at the Good Shepherd Turkey Ranch in Lindsborg, Kan.

The owner of the ranch, Frank Reese, is one of only a handful of people dedicated to preserving the genetic lines of poultry that meet the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection.

Together with Brian Anselmo, a young man from Kansas City, Mo., Mr. Reese developed plans for the Standard-Bred Poultry Institute, which would provide training to farmers who want to preserve the genetic pool of heritage breeds of turkeys, chickens and other birds.

In what is becoming an annual Thanksgiving rite, an animal rights group on Tuesday released undercover videotapes taken at the nation’s premier poultry-breeding operation, showing turkeys being stomped to death and punched by workers.

The group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, known as PETA, is asking for prosecution of workers at the Aviagen Turkeys plant in Lewisburg, W.Va., in a complaint filed with the local sheriff’s office under state laws regarding cruelty to animals.

Cranberry Orange Cornmeal Cake

A little something different to do with cranberries. I’ve made it twice so far and it disappears. And if you want to learn more about cranberries, along with blueberries and Concord grapes that are fruits native to North America, here’s an article from last week’s New York Times – The Zing Starts Here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Saw the fires -- R U OK -- you can come to our house if you need a place -- dogs are welcome too!

That’s the email I received on Saturday from a colleague. It wasn’t until we’d exchanged a string of emails yesterday that I realized how close she was to the Diamond Bar fires shortly after she offered up her place.

I’m in Ventura County; she’s in the OC. But as I looked up at a gray sky all weekend and smelled the air, when it comes to Santa Ana winds and the fire season, we’re all in it together.

I’m tired of the Southern California fire season. I’ve lived here for decades and I know that global warming isn’t a joke. Saturday was November 15th for goodness sakes!

I don’t need to watch You Tube clips from VIP global warming seminars with factoid-fanatic experts droning over their PowerPoint slides showing 30 years worth of rising temps. I can feel it on my arms and legs still clothed in short-sleeved tee-shirts and cropped cotton pants, sans a sweater even at night.

Last weekend the temperature was in the 90’s. Friday I thought I was going to scream with humidity in the single digits. Not only has driving become impossible, don’t get me started on that, but the weather has pushed me round the bend.

Today I heard a weather person report with joy that it’s going to get cooler. Today will be 90 degrees. Cool and 90 do not belong in the same sentence.

Here’s an article from Huffington Post by a fellow Californian that shares my sentiments. If you like your posts filled with factoids rather than crazed rants, check it out.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Tikkun Olam Fridays – Repairing the World One Step at a Time

Another Friday, another post on tikkun olam – to repair the world. Remember, you don’t have to finish the job, but it is your responsibility to start.

What action did you take this week, big or little, to make a difference?

I voted, like millions of other Americans. The turnout was huge, the civic involvement was great. I shed tears of joy. Now what? I looked around and said ‘where can I focus my energies?’ What did I want to see happen, other than world peace, a thriving economy and the end of global warming?

I was not on any short list for President Elect Obama’s cabinet, so I surfed the Internet and checked out the HaveFunDoGood post for Nov 5th. It discussed How You Can Make An Impact, laying out some steps to channel the activist urges that I must be sharing with many of my fellow Americans.

Blogger Britt Bravo said “To figure out how you can make an impact, try this exercise based on a similar one from Carol Lloyd's book Creating a Life Worth Living” describing how to find what interests you and how to break it down into bite size/doable pieces.

What issues are important to you, what are your skills, find the areas you’re most interested in, list 3 bite size, doable steps that could be accomplished in 30 minutes-2 hours, mark your calendar for when you’ll complete them, do it, pick 3 more. Repeat with same idea or another. Find a group to report in to.

Sounds like a plan. And this weekend I’ll try it.

In the meantime I wanted instant gratification. I like food and California is not only an aggie state, I have real farms near me. Only their produce is not as close as I would like. But it could be within walking distance if the farmers market that’s been scheduled to go in about 1 ½ miles from home even happens.

So I wrote a letter to my local weekly newspaper, The Acorn, about how I’m in favor of having a farmers market in our neighborhood. Supposedly all the ducks were in line. Is it bureaucratic red tape? More on that later. But if the letter gets published, I’ll let you know. I missed the deadline for this week’s issue and it was filled with election recaps anyway.

After the letter, I called a government office. Oak Park is unincorporated and the County of Ventura Board of Supervisors looks out for us. So I called our Supervisor’s office and spoke with a staffer. I asked about the hold-up on getting this market going. She was pleasant and said the delay wasn’t from their end. The owners of the mall, where the market will be located, have to send in certain forms for a minor modification to the permit.

Hmmm was my response to myself. I sniffed the air. Fish. After 8 years of Bush, all I could think was that somebody was sitting on something for some reason.

The staffer emailed some material to me right away so I guess you can say we’ve started a dialogue. I’ve calendared the next Oak Park Municipal Advisory Council meeting for later this month where I plan to ask how we can make this market, the closest thing Oak Park can get to a public square, happen.

And I just made a call to the company that puts on these farmers markets. Of course, the person in charge wasn’t in – duh, it was 4:45pm on Friday afternoon - but I did catch someone who said call back on Monday. And mentioning the market didn't scare her off. A good sign.

Well, my community organizing has begun.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Nourishing Wednesdays – Building Community From the Ground Up

When I started really cooking and not just defrosting, it was easier to drag myself out of bed on Wednesdays. That was the day when the food section came tucked into the Los Angeles Times. Imagine how I felt when we started getting the New York Times with its sophisticated discussion of all things culinary. When I took to surfing the Internet, I found a cornucopia of food sections from around the country where I could learn about regional cuisines.

My interest in the best way to measure flour, whip up a batch of pesto and create my own curry blend has since expanded to issues like soil depletion, fresh water, heritage seeds, family farms and the humane treatment of animals. (California’s Prop 2 passed! See my Nov 3rd post.)

So it’s appropriate that I launch Nourishing Wednesdays. I hope to share what I learn about food, farming, cooking, gardening and community. Because people brought together over a shared meal can solve anything.

Today I want to tell you about a little neighborhood store tucked in an unassuming strip mall. My daughter and her high school pals discovered Tifa Chocolate during their weekend quests to celebrate the newfound freedom that the automobile can still provide.

I’m not a big chocolate fan. (mon dieu!) So it barely registered on my brain until I needed to get a present for a friend’s birthday party. I figured it was the perfect excuse to check out the shop.

Tifa is family owned and operated and Denise happily jumped out from behind the counter to explain chocolate facts to me. We discussed the soil where the beans are grown, and its effect on flavor. She plied me with samples and questions about the birthday girl, the better to divine the perfect chocolate. My friend was deemed a dark chocolate connoisseur and a package was created. I hadn’t had such great service since I discovered a wonderful bra lady at Macy’s. Exceptional chocolate and a good fitting bra. Is there anything else in life?

Denise spent a lot of time with me and I left promising to come back the next week for another birthday gift. It seems I have many chocoholic friends.

And of course I did return; it wasn’t an idle comment. I’d found a local merchant, one of my community building goals. When I told Denise I liked to cook and enjoyed learning about the ingredients I used, she shared a salad recipe that used nibs and offered to send me home with some next time.

So what about the samples, you’re asking. Well, the caramel milk chocolate with salt was very good, all the flavors were balanced. Then there was a white chocolate that was much better than the supermarket wax chips in a bag. And one with a hint of floral, another with citrus and I can’t leave out the pepper infused one that would go great with a Syrah … well come on, I didn’t say I hated chocolate.

But the point isn’t the candy, at least not for me and my thighs. Here was a storeowner who knew her merchandise and what it took to sell to someone from the neighborhood. This wasn’t a national chain with cashiers who knew nothing and cared less. I’d played crazed mama bear and whipped out a photo of my daughter, and Denise had remembered her and her buddies. Try doing that with a big box clerk.

I’ll be back. Tifa serves hot chocolate and has two little tables and chairs where you can enjoy your sipping and check out the world map that shows where chocolate is grown. Perfect for pre/post movie evenings.

And by coincidence today’s New York Times Dining & Wine section has an article on this magical bean, “When chocolate is a way of life”. It’s about a family and village in Ecuador and how they’ve become real entrepreneurs, making and marketing their own chocolate. I guess I’m fated to learn more about cacao beans. I sense more tastings in my future.

Yes We Could

I have some friends who don’t share my political beliefs and some who do. We’ve been emailing articles back and forth during this divisive campaign season. I’m sure the rest of you have been going through the same experience. While I’m not ready to pretend the last eight years never existed (how can I? we’ll be living with the damage forever.) But as the Thanksgiving season approaches, I want to reach across the table with an image of a barn. It’s time to join hands and rebuild. Here is the email I sent round today.

We did it. OMG. Our oldest called twice from Germany, on the land line! There were lectures at some university building all day Tue/Wed AM about the American political system. She said McDonald's was giving out free hamburgers. Virtually no one was for McCain. She phoned just as Wolf Blitzer was calling PA. They were watching CNN too and cheering as the states were called for Obama. We were watching CNN and talking to her at the same time. Is that too cool for school? Her second call was after 8pm our time so it was 6am their time and she was heading back home, all screamed out.

I don't know what makes me happier, having an African-American president, first lady and first family, or getting rid of the Republicans and installing the Democrats once again. I have hope that we can move forward to rebuild and repair our country - the economy, the health care system, the environment and our image in the world. I pray that we can reverse the harm that Reaganism has done to this country.

True, I wanted Hillary, partly because I thought she was the right person for the job, partly because she was a woman and I wanted to see that in my lifetime and truth be told, partly because she was a boomer and I'm not ready to pass the torch. But if this is what it takes to make change happen, so be it. We need a new New Deal. Besides, now she can go off and channel Eleanor to her heart's content and become the new Teddy Kennedy in the Senate.

We stayed home to watch the returns so we could be with our youngest. She cried during Obama's speech and told us she was so inspired. When I made calls and drove to Nevada I remembered why I was doing this. It's not easy making cold calls. But as I cradled my cell phone and hesitated over punching the buttons, I pictured my two girls and the future I wanted for them.

About six years ago I was driving down Kanan and Thousand Oaks Blvd. with them in the car and the Simon & Garfunkel song about going off to look for America came on. I started to cry. They asked me why and I said I wanted my country back. Now, after years of fear about how much worse it could get, I can be proud of my country again.

With love and respect and to a future where we all work together once again.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Birth of a Community Activist

This morning I made calls at an Obama house call center just like I’ve done the past few days. All ages, colors, ethnic groups, people I’ve never seen before sitting on living rooms couches, patio chairs, kitchen benches hunched over their cell phones and scripts. It was such a moving, spirited feeling to be surrounded by others committed to the same efforts as me. The conversations swirling around me spurred me on. All of us calling because we knew this was the moment to take our country back.

I learned that our district has made the most calls in California and that California has made the most in the nation for Obama. I am so proud of my state. We are not a bunch of nuts that have rolled to the coast. We are proud Americans working for what we believe in, a country that will return to the principles of democracy and opportunity that I was taught in school.

My daughter is in college in Germany for her junior year. She sent an email saying the university is putting on lectures today and tomorrow about the American political system. Virtually everyone she meets is for Obama. The whole world is watching.

I’ve been glued to the TV as I work as best as I can on a day like no other. I write an email pitch as I click back and forth from CNN to MSNBC. At the last minute I remember to join a client conference call. I mute the set and watch during the call, checking Huffington Post as I take notes. We’ll start hearing some results soon because it's now after 6pm in the East and Wolf Blitzer says some polls in Indiana have closed. At MSNBC, 30 Rockefeller Plaza is partying like it’s the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Can two years of kitchen table politics really be ending?

The long lines and energy for this election makes me hope that we will all work to undo the damage of the last 8 years, really since 1980, and repair our economy, our healthcare system, and our environment. No matter what happens I know that the seeds of community activism have been sown. For me and for others I’ve spoken with at meetings and driving to Nevada, there’s no going back.

My high school daughter told me she was proud of my efforts. I'm proud of me for walking the walk, not just talking the talk. I decided we should stay home with her to watch all the returns instead of going to a neighborhood election party. And we’ll Skype her sister at midnight to celebrate.

We are the change, the infrastructure, the community we have been waiting for. I just can't believe it. Where are the tissues?

Monday, November 3, 2008

California Proposition 2


  • Requires that calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely.

  • Exceptions made for transportation, rodeos, fairs, 4-H programs, lawful slaughter, research and veterinary purposes.

  • Provides misdemeanor penalties, including a fine not to exceed $1,000 and/or imprisonment in jail for up to 180 days.

Last Sunday the New York Times Magazine ran an article about Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, “The Barnyard Strategist by Maggie Jones. As the article says, he’s been “campaigning to unite vegans and meat-eaters in support of California’s Proposition 2, the country’s most sweeping ballot initiative on animal welfare.”

By coincidence, I just finished reading Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds about Animals and Food by Gene Bauer, about how he started an animal rescue for farmed animals and the whole back story about industrial animal agriculture.

Now, I’m not not interested in how we get the chicken I make soup with; but I can’t call myself an activist - yet. I thought I knew what I was getting into when I started it. Wrong. I’ll review the book in another post. Right now I just want to say that it made me think about a question which I’ll pose here:

What do you do when you learn about an injustice? Can you turn away or are you called upon to do something?

Reading about the way agribusiness treats animals and the disease that’s introduced to the food system makes me want to consider becoming a vegetarian. Just consider at this point, not make a complete about face.

I like meat. Should I just eat a little bit? Should it be organic from animals living like they’re supposed to, not in factories? That will cost more so should I give it up altogether? Does it matter at my age that I’ve got unnecessary hormones in my body? My girls are 20 and almost 17. What did I do to them and what should I tell them to do as they move out on their own? And what about my husband? He’s all for composting, cloth napkins and beans but can he give up smoking brisket in his R2D2-shaped smoker?

And once again, what can one person do about The System, no matter which industry we’re trying to change?

So as my brain wandered around, I realized there was one first step I could take. We’re trying to get a farmers market into our unincorporated city. There’s the usual red tape that’s frustrating the process. I wrote a letter to our local newspaper supporting the market and sent a copy to our county supervisor.

Small step for sure. For now, I know I’ll cut back on the size of the meat portions, make a few more veggie meals, check prices on milk and meat, read up on it, and of course vote for Prop 2.

Dear Editor:
As a 15 year resident of Oak Park, I believe that a farmers market would be a good thing for the city. Whatever we can do to strengthen the ties between people and build a viable local community, we should consider.

I’ve visited other cities like Seattle with its Pike Market Place and Vancouver with its Granville Island and the value in a public square is immeasurable. Sure, those centers are permanent and include numerous shops and galleries along with the farmers market. But if you’ve ever sipped a coffee and watched the human parade go by at an outdoor café, you know what I mean by the joy of spending a few hours at a real public gathering place.

It’s not like we don’t have ongoing examples nearby with the Calabasas and Thousand Oaks Farmers Markets. What a lovely way to spend the morning walking among the vegetable displays, lingering over the olive oil samples and schmoozing with the farmers. When you ask a merchant what to do with some strange looking beets, you’re likely to get a friendly, impromptu recipe from the customer standing next to you.

I know we have to be careful about parking, noise and all the other worries that the permit people have to deal with. But why not consider the spirit, rather than the letter of the law.

As we move into that most quintessential of American holidays, Thanksgiving, it’s time to think about the public good. Let’s save our family farms and our communities and put up a farmers market in Oak Park. If we’re ever going to pull this country back together, we have to start somewhere and over a ripe tomato is as good a place as any.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain

See what I woke up to. Is this beautiful weather or what? My husband couldn’t play tennis this morning. Why? One word - wet!

Yesterday, November 1st, like clockwork, the weather changed. I turned on my windshield wipers. I took care driving on street surfaces mixed with oil, dirt and just a dollop or two of water. The recipe for skids.

For those of you who live in four seasons and think I’m nuts, SoCal has finally moved, like the clock, into another zone and some of us who long for cable knits rather than cut-offs are praising the gods. My sunscreen tube sacrifice must have paid off.

My eyes have been bathed in cool moisture and gray clouds. My sun-parched soul is refreshed. Ye, though I walk through the valley of the sun later in the day, my brain knows I can wear my long sleeved shirts once again.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What will I do when the election is over?

Liz O. Baylen Los Angeles Times

Where will my obsessions turn next? How about next summer’s heat level and electricity rates in California?

A true neurotic will always find something to worry about. Never fear. As we wait to see who will be president and if it will ever rain again, I wonder how I’ll deal with a return of this summer’s no AC policy. Who cares if we saved tons of money and shrunk our carbon footprint? My personal thermostat is ruined forever.

I was hanging on by my sweaty fingernails (yes, mine were sweating, that’s how bad it was) until those first few leaves of pale gold and cranberry. Heck, it’s almost November. I think I heard a Christmas commercial last night. Where’s my humidity? Can’t I have a cloud or two? Have we gone from semi-arid to full blown desert?

Alright, I’ll step back from the computer. The rant is done for now. I can’t stand the heat, that’s all, okay?

I’ve lived in Southern California for lots of decades. I’ve seen the summer snaking its way beyond the autumnal equinox. But it turns out I was not imagining that October has been way too crispy. Seems like we had some kind of record going on. Just sign me up for the climate change ‘canary in the mine’.

According to a recent article by Hector Becerra in the Los Angeles Times, “Sultry October shaping up as our lost summer”, this October has been the second-hottest one since 1877. The average downtown LA temperature was 84.3 degrees. Which means at least 10 degrees more where I am. We’ve had 8 months of no rain and one of the driest falls. I was right. Overheated but right.

But that still leaves those future summer months of no AC usage lurking. And if they don’t go away soon, they’ll be back before I’ve had a chance to complain about freezing as I run from the movie theatre to the car in my cotton sweater.

I need to sneak away to Seattle to detox from too much sun. Better yet, is there a rain drenched fellow canary who wants to house swap?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Read Up On It

My answer for everything is – read up on it! Hey, I was one of those kids who curled up on the couch with the World Book encyclopedia for fun, not a homework assignment. So it’s natural that my way into the green world is through the written word. The issues are many and each is complex. As I find a blog, website or a retro hold-in-your-hand book that offers information, understanding and community, I’ll share my finds with you.

I’ve just finished a memoir entitled “Epitaph for a Peach, Four Seasons on My Family Farm” by David Mas Masumoto and winner of the 1995 Julian Child Cookbook Award in the literary food writing category.

That’s right. It’s not a recent book and he’s written numerous other books before and since. Check out his website. But I am in a frugal/eco mode, as I get up-to-speed, reading what’s available on the library shelf or through the library system when I can. Plus I would consider this a classic-in-the-making, or as the LA Times said, “Masumoto uses his farm as Thoreau did his Walden Pond.”

The author, a Japanese-American, has returned to his family’s farm in the San Joaquin Valley, the Central Valley as we also call it, in California. So for me, reading the book is different than someone in say, Minnesota. I can picture the fields and the surrounding mountains. I can feel the oven-like heat and low humidity on my skin as I read. And I can bone up on my California history as well.

Masumoto, an organic peach and grape farmer, wants to continue growing Sun Crest peaches, a variety that tastes like the essence of peach but doesn’t travel well, which of course is the essence of produce marketing. Should he give up on the peach and bulldoze the trees down? Or should he give it a go for one more year?

This primer on a year of growing the quintessential summer fruit is also the story of Japanese-American family farming in California in the 20th century. Masumoto explains the importance of tradition, of families working the land and chores together, of communities where kids grow up on the farm, leave for college returning only like a visitor before the final move to the big city. Some never come back, while some, like Masumoto, return because these few acres are where home and the meaning of life truly is.

How do you prune a fruit tree so it will live a full productive life, how do you manage a crew that knows more about harvesting than you, if all farming is wrestling with nature, how can you win without ultimately damaging the land. These are a few questions Masumoto, the poet-farmer, attempts to answer. I say ‘attempts’ because for this farmer, everything is about the journey, not the arrival.

I call the book an ‘ode to an orchard’ because it’s not a how-to, rather it’s a why. Why salvage old machinery parts rather than purchasing shiny new ones, why plant cover crops, why walk the farm day after day to get feedback from the land itself. Why breaking even may be enough if the farm and its way of life can be saved.

I’m a suburban girl who loves big cities and can’t wait to leave the exburbs for a walkable, mass transit life. What am I doing reading a book about a Japanese-American peach farmer? I guess the reason I can recommend this book, especially if you want to get up to learn about saving family farms and community building, is because it’s the story of someone who cares about quality over quantity, people over product, authenticity over the consumer-driven life. How much more real can you get than the food you put in your mouth and the soil it comes from.

Or maybe I’m just bone deep tired of multi-tasking amid a mountain of electronic gizmos, skimming websites and calling my emails, even from work colleagues, a community. In any case, “Epitaph for a Peach” is how one man tries to live an attentive life.

Now I’m off to the library website to see which of his other books they have so I can curl up with them.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

News Flash - Report from the Trenches

My uncle and aunt live in South Florida. You know, Sarah Silverman Country, the Big Schlep, bubbie and zayda land. They called to tell me they got the Obama bumper stickers I picked up for them in Nevada. Not that they couldn't get some in Florida. I just wanted to make sure I did my part for getting the word out to the altercockers (look it up on Wikipedia!)

So the news from the front is that the early voting lines are so long that my family couldn't get into the library just to pick up a few books. That's what my uncle told me. So where was my aunt? At Obama headquarters picking up a few buttons. And the stickers? Well my uncle is putting his on his scooter! Is that too cool?! He's going to whiz around the senior citizen complex, to the bank, to the market, canvassing for Obama.

2008 won't be a replay of 2000 if my family hasn't anything to say about it!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Tikkun Olam Fridays – Repairing the World One Step at a Time

Another Friday, another post on tikkun olam – to repair the world. Remember, you don’t have to finish the job, but it is your responsibility to start.

What action did you take this week, big or little, to make a difference?

I met Barbara Grover, an award-winning photographer, several months ago through a friend. She was looking for a college intern to help with her upcoming art exhibit. I suggested one of my daughter’s friends who was going to school at Santa Monica City College, working to ultimately get into UCLA’s Film School. The young woman had the resume and the work ethic. The gallery was in Santa Monica. Better than e-Harmony, I’d made a match.

In talking with Barbara I was fascinated by the political nature of the exhibit, photographs from her 7 weeks spent in a Darfur refugee camp. I’m ashamed to say I had only a passing knowledge of this crisis. But I casually offered some help with the publicity.

A few days later, Barbara called me back and even though I was juggling paying clients, I knew this was something I had to do. And if you live near Los Angeles, it’s something you ought to see.

‘Refuge(e) – Moments with the Darfuri of Iridimi’, is Barbara’s second solo photography exhibition at the Sherry Frumkin Gallery. While previous exhibits about Darfur exposed the genocidal killings in this western part of Sudan, Refuge(e) takes a unique approach. It creates an unforgettable picture of those who live the conflict every day, serving as a wake up call to Americans to not forget the Darfuri who survived.

The show consists of three parts. Refuge(e) is a collection of 25 medium to large-scale color photographs. The photographs show what the Darfuri refugees are doing to reclaim hope and dignity in the confines of an isolated, drought-ridden refugee camp. A six-minute documentary short, The Women of Iridimi – the Story of the Jewish World Watch Solar Cooker Project, tells the story of how solar cooking has transformed the lives of refugee women and girls. Reality Check is a multi-media piece including stories told by several refugees in their own words, focusing on daily realities and juxtaposing our world with theirs.

“I believe art can change the life of the viewer and the life of the people that the art is about,” Barbara told me. “In 2007 I received special permission from the United Nations to spend an unprecedented seven weeks in the Iridimi Refugee Camp. Most people spend, at most, a day or two at a camp like this. What I captured was daily life, the struggle of people fighting to retain their humanity in the midst of a political conflict that the world has pretty much ignored.”

Every person visiting the gallery will be able to design 'Postcards to the President' to send to the next American president. To further create a call to action, Barbara has partnered with Facing History and Ourselves and Jewish World Watch to bring middle school, high school and college classes to the gallery.

“Almost every refugee I met asked me one thing: please tell your President and the American people to bring peace to Darfur,” Barbara said. “They believed in their hearts that we had the power to do that. I am hoping that this exhibit not only helps people to understand this crisis, but also moves them to believe, as the refugees did, in the power of activism.”

So if you live in the general Los Angeles area, you can catch Refuge(e) – Moments with the Darfuri of Iridimi’ at the Sherry Frumkin Gallery, located at 3026 Airport Avenue in the Santa Monica Airport. Regular gallery hours are 12 – 6 pm, Wednesday through Saturday. Admission is free. The exhibit is running now through Jan 11, 2009. In keeping with the show’s theme of political action, proceeds from the sale of the photographs will be donated to Jewish World Watch, benefiting the Solar Cooker Project and other Darfur refugee relief programs. Click here for more information about the Sherry Frumkin Gallery and a sample of photographs from Refuge(e).

Barbara Grover has traveled to over 40 countries, many facing conflict and poverty, to create photographic works that effect social and political change. To learn more about her work you can visit her website.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

To Live Local – First Hand Experience

If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been, it’s been a busy week or so, what with fires and political activity. Yes, I was sort of near those fires that you may have heard about in Los Angeles last week. Our little valley was more ‘in the path’ of the Simi Valley fire via canyons and wind patterns than directly affected. But once you get those embers flying and if the Santa Ana winds kick up, the potential for spreading is enormous. And it goes quickly.

I spent time on the computer trying to figure out exactly where we are in the county and where the Santa Susanna Mountains are, trying rather unsuccessfully to place myself in a geographic sense. I still don’t know if I’m east county or west county.

Note to self: Must get county map to go with the world, California and regional wine tasting maps I’ve got plastered on the office walls.

So last Monday I was glued to the television as I worked. Thank goodness for local news. They were finally serving a purpose other than being trash news wires. Then when our community website folks sent out an e-blast about a fire alert and suggested we pack up important stuff just in case, ever the good little girl, I spent the evening running around grabbing boxes of files that I had previously organized for just such an exhilarating occasion.

And let me rave about our little newsletter staff. Kuddos to Harvey for the e-alert, underlining the importance of community and looking out for each other. And I clicked on the fire department website every little bit as they suggested to check for updates. (a shameless plug from this former poli sci major for why government was invented and just one example of why we pay taxes)

So that was certainly a fun way to spend my time, and of course, what one takes out of the house, one must put back. Thankfully I’ve learned from past near evacuations that the only things you truly need are the papers, the pets and the kids. If you haven’t organized those photos, too late now.

Then the really meaningful part of my week came at the end – The Drive To Nevada For Obama! Yes, this past weekend I jumped in a van with 5 other local political fanatics and schlepped to Las Vegas to walk precincts for That One. What an inspiring, albeit hot and dry, couple of days I had.

Folks from all age and ethnic groups came from everywhere in California to help get out the vote. Nevada has early voting for 2 weeks before the election where people can find a polling place parked in a supermarket or school and do their civic duty.

This was summer camp for grown-ups. I met and talked with people during breakfast at our motel, able to pick them out because we all had our Obama buttons on. And can you imagine the political conversations we had driving there and back? It was a wonderful opportunity to get to know new people in my community and work together for a common cause.

I would be remise if I didn’t mention the Tent City Blocks we saw in North Las Vegas. It’s my understanding that Nevada has the highest foreclosure rate of all the states. Well, I saw evidence of that, or at least the ‘recession we aren’t in yet but really are’. Imagine people camped out, one right after the other, like sleeping on Colorado Blvd the night before the Rose Parade staking out a good view. Now visualize men, women and children in mini tents or just curled up on the sidewalks in sleeping bags.

But who needs a New New Deal and social safety nets and a civic will to pull together? If you can’t make it on your own, the heck with you. Where did I hear that? Oh yes, the last 8 years. No, make that since Reagan and the rise of the GOP Nation.

This weekend I did a little something to take my country back and strengthen the community muscle. What did you do while I was gone?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

APLS October Carnival - Education

The APLS (Affluent Persons Living Sustainably) Carnival for October is about education. How do you educate yourself about sustainable living? How do you pass that knowledge on to others? Do you educate your family members and friends? Are you a member of environmental organizations? Do you do volunteer work? After reading my entry, why not check out the others at the APLS site. We’re a great basket of thoughtful people.

Education is my middle name. My mother must have given birth to me in a library. And I bet I came out hugging a book.

My answer for everything is – read up on it! So it’s natural that my way into the green world is through the written word. Almost everything I’m reading right now is about the many facets of sustainability.

My daily morning websurfing gives me the opportunity to research who the authentic leaders are. What’s global warming, what’s the big deal about weather and CO, what grows in my zone. My information base grows exponentially. What are the issues, the key words, and then what do I think about it all.

But woman does not grow by words alone. Eventually it’s time to move into the action stage – cloth napkins, composting, shutting off the lights/AC, growing herbs and veggies, baking bread. I started a blog and then pulled out the family digital camera, which I had been deliberately avoiding, and learned how to use it so I could put photos into the blog.

Then I start looking for others who are on the same path. We joined a synagogue that has a strong social action element. So when I heard that they were ramping up their green team, well, I couldn’t call the office fast enough to connect with the rabbi in charge of the committee. We met and schmoozed about community building. Now the green team is set to gear up next month after the summer recess. What will we do? I don’t know but I’m so excited anticipating that first meeting. I welcome finding a group because there’s strength and hope in numbers. Plus it’s more fun.

With my eyes open, I notice things like classes and speakers. This girl loves a good lecture. So next week I’m going to hear Ed Begley, Jr. speak about Energy Efficiency for the New Millennium, an event I read about in our local weekly newspaper. Last weekend I took a 2-day class on permaculture that I found while browsing the website of a county-wide sustainability organization.

I don’t go out of my way to educate my family. Pronouncements usually don’t work. So I guess I use role modeling and talking about what I’ve learned at the dinner table. It does work. My younger (16 yr old) daughter wants to join me at a Habitat for Humanity event. Does that not set your parental heart aflutter?

Right after Hurricane Katrina, my older daughter, a high school senior at the time, organized her friends in a collection drive of much needed emergency items. Maybe her efforts came from watching me write checks to the Red Cross whenever there was an earthquake absolutely anywhere in the world. (We live in earthquake country. I shudder whenever I read about fellow earthquake survivors and need to send help.)

To nudge my husband in a more eco direction, I set up a big plastic container for the kitchen recycling. I sewed up cloth napkins and put them out in a basket on the counter. I brought home documentaries like King Corn and made him watch them for our weekly movie night. Well, that one might have been a tad pushy. But he did enjoy it a lot.

I don’t try to convert friends. I just schlep my monster stainless steel water bottle around. When you slam one of those suckers on the table it gets attention and discussions seem to come up naturally.

For me, education is how I interact with the world. Learning is why we’re here. Nothing makes me feel happier or richer than coming home from the library with a stack of books. Free, legal and nonfattening. Such a deal.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Tikkun Olam Fridays – Repairing the World One Step at a Time

Another Friday, another post on tikkun olam – to repair the world. Remember, you don’t have to finish the job, but it is your responsibility to start.

What action did you take this week, big or little, to make a difference?

I spent several days over the last two weeks in religious services for the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. These holidays mark the beginning of the Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement.

I sat or stood, for hours at a time, sometimes praying, most times going off on my own. I wondered where the year went and how I could make both the coming year and me a better one. In short, how I could make a difference.

Like in all religious services, I imagine, we were a captive audience for rousing sermons by a chorus of passionate clergy. And if you’re a perpetual student like me, you relish those opportunities, when the sermon givers are good, to engage deeply in challenging intellectual ideas.

This season virtually all the rabbis talked about community. How our country, and the world, is going through a difficult, frightening time. How we have to remember that we have a home in our faith community and that with a little effort and involvement we can find friends and a place in the group. How we need to reach out to each other in ‘real time’ interaction and to understand that there’s no FaceBook or LinkedIn or MySpace that can take the place of real people.

Or as one rabbi put it, “There’s no such thing as casual community in Judaism.” Stick in your city’s name, your religion/spiritual choice, your country, your world. Same thing.

So here’s my offering for the week: an article from the food section of the New York Times, ‘Uniting Around Food to Save an Ailing Town’ by Marian Burros. It’s the story of a Vermont town where “young artisans and agricultural entrepreneurs are expanding aggressively, reaching out to investors and working together to create a collective strength never before seen in this seedbed of Yankee individualism.” The last sentence in the article states “So many things are possible with collaboration.”

Now go read the complete article and imagine a whole country pulling together like that and you’ll see where I want to put my efforts in this new year of 5769 (2008-2009). Or to paraphrase one of the rabbis yesterday as the late afternoon sun lit up the stained glass windows behind the pulpit – we need a new generation of community builders.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Tikkun Olam Fridays – Repairing the World One Step at a Time

Another Friday, another post on tikkun olam – to repair the world. Remember, you don’t have to finish the job, but it is your responsibility to start.

What action did you take this week, big or little, to make a difference?

A month ago we started composting. I love it. We recycled some wood to build a container, placed a spare plastic shoe box above the kitchen sink to hold the carrot peelings, stale bagels and constant supply of coffee grounds and raked up a huge mass of brown leaves from the yard. Brown and green, I know the drill. Then we watered the whole mess down, good and soppy like a rung out towel. We keep the pitch fork nearby, so we can turn the mound and cover the food. I’m hospitable and enjoy inviting in a few friends for a bite, but I don’t want any creeping night crawlers, like coyotes, to be tempted by our leftovers.

For anyone who loves order and efficiency, these ‘nothing goes to waste’ activities will bring a smile to your face. It focuses me on how much food gets wasted so I think before I buy. Knowing that I’m building compost that will improve our little patch of soil is so fulfilling. Soil is basic; it’s our food’s lifeblood. That we’re letting it blow away or poisoning it is crazy.

Oh, and that compost bin in the photo. Not mine, too bad. I found it outside a restaurant on Granville Island, Vancouver. It’s my visual aid for encouragement.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Read Up On It

When I don't know something about a subject, my first action is to turn to a book. So I've been filling my brain with as much green, sustainability, community building, political action information as I can. I've written a review of a wonderful book by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. "A Crime Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking our Democracy". Here's a taste...

With President Bush deep into what I, as the mother of teenagers, call ‘senioritus’, you might ask why you should read “Crimes Against Nature” now, a book about what Bush and his oil buddies did. Even I asked myself that question, other than that the book was free (at the library) and small (my patience for tomes not what it once was).

But it’s clear to me that I need a foundation to my growing political action. I need to understand about endangered species, the effects of strip mining in West Virginia, and the nuclear power plant meltdown just miles from my parents’ home in the West San Fernando Valley and the cancer it caused so many neighbors, including my parents and sister. How did the Republican administrations hack away at our freedoms through the rape and pillage of our resources?

Kennedy’s New York Times best seller meticulously lays down the case for how corporate cronyism got put into place so that government, ‘the problem’ to Reagan era Republicans, could be drowned in the bathtub. Read it and learn exactly how corporate types from the oil, gas, coal and nuclear industries were appointed as regulators to protect their own from ‘We the People.’ Rollbacks out of view from the public, manipulating and suppressing scientific data, intimidating enforcement officials and masking it in Orwellian doublespeak – it’s all here in well written detail. Kennedy has a highly readable style and while you may not be able to retain each reference, the overall effect is compelling.

For the rest of the review, visit Be A Bookworm a site that's will leave you drooling and moaning about 'so many books, too little time.'

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

News Flash – Is Nevada Leaning Blue? Tip It Over!

Democrats are on a roll in Nevada. Yesterday’s LA Times article explains the hopeful trend with maps, pie charts and issues.

Nevada now has more registered Democrats than Republicans – 76,000 more. In 2004 when the state was red, Bush won the state by 21,500 votes. And Nevada has sided with the winner in all but two presidential elections over the last century.

So … you do the extrapolating. We have a chance!!! But every vote will count so this is not the time to sit on your tushes. This is the moment of meaning you’ve been waiting for.

California Democrats, join the carpool caravan to Nevada and our sister districts. Here’s the direct link to our home page on the Obama site. I’m going October 17th. I’ll be the short one with curly brown hair, glasses and a sense of humor. You’ll want to walk with me.

So are you coming along? Or do you know anyone who’ll be going to Nevada? Let me know and I’ll post something; I’ll include your blog.

Off the couch, away from the computer, out of your comfort zone.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Drench Your Apples In Honey

This is what the rabbi ended his sermon with last night for the first service of the High Holiday season, for Rosh Hashana. I actually listened all the way through and didn't just wake up at the end! If you don't know the custom, it's dipping apples into honey for a sweet new year. Sounds good to me. L'Shana Tova, Happy New Year to everyone!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Tikkun Olam Fridays - Repairing the World One Step at a Time

Another Friday, another post on tikkun olam – to repair the world. Remember, you don’t have to finish the job, but it is your responsibility to start.

What action did you take this week, big or little, to make a difference?

Last Saturday a few of us Obama supporters in Ventura County made phone calls to our sister district in Nevada, working to get out the vote. Let me tell you, it was scary, even though I make phone calls all week to editors and reporters I don't know and who would rather not hear from another publicist.

Some of these folks could be angry Republicans. How would they react when they heard I was with the Obama campaign? You know how you react when a telemarketer calls. I had been building up good karma all week, being nice to whoever bothered me, even if they called during dinner.

The campaign was organized. We had our script, our list, our talking points. The host had laid out some nice noshies. We took our cell phones to different rooms, even outside on the front step. I would have called from the bathroom except for the sound bouncing off the tiles.

All went well. I spoke to 2 supporters, one undecided who was anxious to hear the debates and a few Republicans who got off the phone quickly. No one was rude and besides, I realized that I was representing the candidate. I was going to show them that Democrats were polite no matter what.

The six of us made 200 calls. Most of the people weren't home or the numbers were wrong. But our job wasn't just to connect and gauge support. We were culling the bad numbers so teams calling down the road wouldn't be wasting their time.

One of the coordinators gave us some visual help. He said remember why you're doing this. Well, I kept a picture of my kids, 19 and 16, in my mind. It was just a little tool but it worked. And I kept saying to myself, every vote counts, every vote counts. Which meant that each call, each effort I made to dial one more time, counted. I liked the sense of efficiency and accomplishment.

And I liked how we were working with folks from the neighborhood. A few of us had kids in the same grade in school or had worked on the high school's performing arts booster group together. But we didn't really know each other very well.

So the afternoon wasn't spent just reaching out to Nevada or working on a national campaign. We were building community. All those collected emails will come in handy.

Because no matter the outcome on November 4th, on November 5th the fight will continue. Taking back the country, and turning it around, one vote at a time.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Today Let’s Go Positive

Newsflash: ‘Green’ industrial park planned for lot

Los Angeles officials are planning a green industrial park and incubator. They want to generate jobs and ‘turn a tattered pocket of Los Angeles into a hotbed of environmentally sustainable companies,’ according to an article by Marla Dickerson in yesterday’s LA Times.

“We are rolling out the green carpet…for visionary clean-tech companies and sustainable green manufacturers that will call Los Angeles home,” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Tuesday.

Check out the article. And remember, today we’re all going to try to be just a little bit positive, moi included. No cynicism allowed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Economy is Fundamentally Sound

Local furniture store, national brand, that opened about 1 year ago along a road that's been designated as a 'home furnishings' destination. About five miles or so from the Countrywide national headquarters.

I don't have to read the papers, online or off, to know which way the wind blows. I just take a little drive around the neighborhood.

But if you need more convincing, check out the front page of today's LA Times, just above the fold - Long, dark tunnel seen for California's economy.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Tikkun Olam Fridays – Repairing the World One Step at a Time

Another Friday, another post on tikkun olam – to repair the world. Remember, you don’t have to finish the job, but it is your responsibility to start.

What action did you take this week, big or little, to make a difference?

Last weekend I committed to cloth napkins. Actually I’ve been working on this transition for a month or so. I cut up some leftover fabric - the school project, the quilt that never happened, the teenager's project that never happened, those sorts of things - and started hand sewing the hems because I can never get my sewing machine tension to work right. (aka I have no patience to find out what the current glitch is.)

I’d sit and watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report and pin up the hems and stitch a few napkins. I had a basket of nearly 30 little rectangles and squares to plow through, so it’s taken some time.

But I was troubled. It wasn't the thumb pricks that were a problem. I couldn’t get over that it was going to be okay to use a pretty piece of cloth for my breakfast cereal. And everyday no less. It just seemed actually more wasteful than reaching for the paper napkins. Wasn’t cloth for company?

Then last week I went out to Bed, Bath and Beyond with my handy car stash of coupons, determined to find the least expensive napkins they had, no matter what color. Well, they couldn’t be ugly, weird polka dots. Come on. I’m channeling my Sustainable Martha. I still love my kitchen.

So I go immediately to the sale shelves and lo and behold, before my very eyes, are stacks of napkins. Now my favorite color has always been green - olive, lime, hunter - even in my previous wasteful life. And there, unbelievably, were sage green damask napkins. 21 of them.

I scooped them up. Not only were they on some kind of ridiculous sale. But I had a $5 off coupon. Go me! The checker threw in the 21st one for free, because of a packaging mistake, and the price came to about 60¢ each. For that price, I could add a touch of elegance to my life and be frugally chic.

My husband complimented me several times on my purchase. (an added bonus and also a correct move on his part).

So now we have breakfast/lunch/office coffee mug mini napkins and lovely family/company dinner napkins.

And I broke them in with a spaghetti tomato sauce dinner with nary a qualm.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Great Depression II

I just came back from back-to-school night for our daughter who’s a high school junior. She’s taking, among other subjects, AP English and AP History – the American versions of both.

She doesn’t know how lucky she is. To be reading about our great country during the difficult times we’re going through. Of course, she’s only 16 and she isn’t aware of the problems.

I thought if I told her about the financial market debacle this week I could guilt her into cleaning up her room and getting more organized for what should be a most difficult year but I was being selfish and stopped myself before I dumped the problems of the adults on the shoulders of a 16 year old.

But I did want to sit in on her classes for sure, especially if this time around I could bring to it the knowledge and discipline of an adult. Instead, I went to the Internet to find Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s speech about the four freedoms and then I started surfing. I found his first inaugural address from March 4, 1933, the one about fear and read it all the way through. I was guessing that it would be as encouraging a message for our times as it was for my parents and grandparents going through the Great Depression. Damned if I wasn’t right.

Check out this site for the speech. Read through all of it. It will lift your spirits. After a week of financial disaster and head banging BS from the Republican candidates, I needed to know that if we got out of one hell of a pickle, we could once again. You will be amazed at how similar our times are to those of the First Great Depression.

Surely FDR’s America, listening around a radio, was no smarter than our America now. Yet Mr. Bush is seemingly AWOL once again. A bad case of senioritis I would say. And McCain/Palin, well, I’m beyond insulted at how stupid they must think I am. Once we had real leaders. I pray that one day we will again. Obama can inspire, but can he lead, can he pull together his own brain trust for the tough days ahead?

When economists throw around phrases like “worst financial disaster since the Great Depression” I can only assume that they know the full impact of what they are saying. I can only hope that they aren’t just reaching for another sound bite, that they actually stayed awake during their American history and English classes. Because I did and those words have resonated in my head all week.

My daughter has to read John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath this year. Perhaps I should offer to be her study buddy.

Shut Up and Drive

Have you signed up yet? Why not? The road map to change starts with us. Find a Travel for Change Weekend in your home state. Go door to door in a sister district. The 24th Congressional District of the Great State of California is going to Nevada. Obama Biden 08

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Good Reads from Today's New York Times

Mr. and Mrs. Local are celebrating 21 years of wedded bliss and kitchen table politics by wine tasting in the breathtaking Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County.

Before we trek up the coast, I needed to pound the keyboard with some scary but important articles in Sunday's New York Times Opinion section.

Check out Frank Rich, "The Palin-Whatshisname Ticket". The question is no longer is Sarah Palin qualified to be vice president and a heartbeat away from the presidency. It's what kind of president would she be.

Then another fave of mine and a greenie, Thomas Friedman, "Making America Stupid" asking how can we elect a president who pushes 19th century technology when we need 21st century innovation.

And for some laughs, because we sure need them, Maureen Dowd, "Bering Straight Talk". She suggests that Palin has the 'power of positive unthinking' like W and the 'same flimsy but tenacious adeptness at saying nothing.'

Now we're off in search of Rhone varietals along Foxen Canyon. Would you like us to bring you back a bottle of Syrah? Only if you sign up for Obama phonebanking.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Tikkun Olam Fridays – Repairing the World One Step at a Time

Another Friday, another post on tikkun olam – to repair the world. Remember, you don’t have to finish the job, but it is your responsibility to start.

What action did you take this week, big or little, to make a difference?

As Hurricane Ike moves towards the Texas coast, Americans have been ordered to evacuate. While working and watching my little TV, I caught a piece of a news segment with the Texas Red Cross.

The Red Cross is running out of funds. How ‘bout we send them some? They’re actually borrowing money so they can still provide food, care and shelter.

As someone who's lived through numerous earthquakes and watched flames highlight the night sky on the mountains near my house, I know that what goes around, comes around.

Come on Americans! Time to rally!!! Check out the news release below...

American Red Cross Launches National Fundraising Campaign

Goal to Raise Initial $100 Million for Disaster Relief Fund

WASHINGTON, Wednesday, September 10, 2008 — As Hurricane Ike continues its path towards the United States, threatening families along the Gulf Coast with potentially damaging winds and torrential rain, the American Red Cross is launching a national fundraising campaign to raise an initial $100 million to fill a Disaster Relief Fund depleted after an active year of disasters.

The Disaster Relief Fund allows the Red Cross to provide emergency assistance to help victims of disasters meet their immediate needs for food, shelter, counseling and other critical services.

The Red Cross responds to 70,000 disasters each year – the majority of them “silent” disasters never making the news. After tragedy strikes, the Red Cross relies on this fund to mobilize volunteers and resources to help communities throughout the United States.

“The Red Cross is always there when disaster strikes, but this year has been an active disaster year and the cost of providing relief has rapidly outpaced contributions,” said Gail McGovern, American Red Cross President and CEO. “We sheltered more people during the first nights of Hurricane Gustav than the first days of Katrina. While the media has packed up and moved on, we are still there helping a large number of people.”

“The American people have always responded generously to support their neighbors during their time of need, and I urge all Americans to join together and make a contribution to the Disaster Relief Fund today. No matter how small, every donation can change a life.”

The Red Cross is taking many steps to reduce its disaster response costs including consolidating warehouse space, using technology to further automate its casework process and placing a greater emphasis on deploying local volunteers and leveraging community partner resources.

Since January 2008, Red Cross volunteers have responded to thousands of house fires and more than 60 large-scale disasters —including a record number of tornadoes, the worst flooding in the Midwest in 15 years, an early wildfire season and an active hurricane season that is not over yet.

Expenses for Hurricane Gustav alone are estimated in the $40M - $70M dollar range for the Red Cross and the organization has only raised a fraction of what is needed to support affected families.

As the Red Cross continues helping individuals and families battered by the 2008 storms and hurricanes: Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gustav and Hanna, it is also actively preparing to respond to Hurricane Ike by mobilizing trained volunteers and pre-positioning disaster supplies.

In the interim, the Red Cross is borrowing money to cover the costs of the hurricanes of 2008. Despite this, the Red Cross has not cut any of its services to disaster victims and does not expect to do so.

While the organization is initially striving to raise $100 million to help those in need, the Red Cross is in the midst of both hurricane and wildfire season and does not know what the future will bring.

You can help the victims of thousands of disasters across the country each year, disasters like the Hurricanes of 2008, by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. You can log-on to or call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish) to make a donation. You can also use your cell phone to donate $5 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund by text messaging the keyword “GIVE” to “2HELP” (24357). You can send multiple donations depending on your carrier. Contributions will appear on monthly bills or be debited from a prepaid account balance. All applicable text rates apply.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mea Hot So Mea Culpa

I couldn’t take it anymore. It was 100°, more or less, on Saturday. We were out most of the day but it was unbearable upstairs when we returned. I knew my daughter wouldn’t be able to handle it. And I really, really wanted her to put her clothes away – in drawers and not draped over the banister, the teenage slumpy chair, her desk, the floor of her room.

And my elderly mom, who visits us every Sunday from the assisted living facility, would be over the top. She’s complained all summer. Was it safe to let her suffer so? Really, wasn’t there some biblical injunction to honor her with weather under 85°?

Last week, everyday by 3 o’clock I wanted to slam down the laptop and give up. Even driving around in the car with the air conditioning cranked up didn’t crank up my spirits.

I prayed for fall, or the Southern California equivalent. I fantasized about treating myself to some new jewel-toned cable knit sweaters in cranberry, hunter green and plum. Corduroy slacks, long sleeved Gap tee-shirts and black blazers to wrap myself in when the thermometer plunged to 50° were my pornographic fantasies.

So friends, I’m sorry. On Sunday, we turned the air conditioning on. All day. Down to somewhere in the low 70’s. I let my husband decide the number. He could take the wrap.

It was like manna from heaven. My skin was cool. My neck was dry. I was energized, not enervated. I’d suffered all summer, banking my brownie points for this one luxurious moment.

This week the mercury has dropped. The evil AC is off. But that 100° weekend was just a wakeup call. I know our monster heat waves will rear their oven-like heads several times more before Thanksgiving. I think we should name them after chili peppers and measure the heat factor in Scoville units like a jalapeño’s burn ability.

I carried my stainless steel water bottle with me everywhere this summer, filled with clanking ice cubes, clutched against my grateful face. I counted sweat drops. I suffered. Oh how I suffered.

But for one reverent moment the perspiration dried from the nape of my neck and I knew the blessed relief of the whirring fan.

Next Sunday the Ice Man cometh again and I will welcome him in. Green guilt be damned.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Gobble Gobble Whine Whine

The September assignment for the Carnival hosted by the APLS bloggers (Affluent Persons Living Sustainably) is to write about affluence and what that means to me.

As I started to plan my post, I realized I didn’t know which way to go on this one. Guilt, arrogance, denial, indifference? It was clear that even thinking about the subject pushed a lot of buttons.

Then I took that global money test that’s cropping up on frugal blogs including the APLS site. Whoa. Talk about perspective. I certainly had nothing to complain about. I would be affluent with just a smidgen of what I currently have.

So I kept asking myself the question. What does affluence mean to me?

Then – a small epiphany. Thanksgiving Day without the Macy’s Parade as the answer rolled out in my mind.

I have enough money and …

The kids are healthy. My husband and I have jobs. The cars are paid for. The roof has no leaks. The monthly mortgage invoices don’t scare us. The fridge is full. The toilet works. The water is clean. Our country is free, no matter how much we complain. Through most of our history we have had no fighting on our soil. We have wonder drugs and health care technology that cured my mom, dad and sister of cancer. I value my dentist and my eye doctor. I have a college degree and a library card. I have clothes and a machine to wash them in.

Wow. I am truly blessed. And I say that without a drop of smugness. Because to those to whom much is given, much is expected. To me affluence means I have the time, money and moral obligation to give back.

To volunteer in the community – the arts, hunger, literacy, politics, religious community – wherever the need and one’s skills and interest match up. To do otherwise would be selfish in the deepest sense of the word.

Grateful, thankful, humbled and most of all - responsible is what affluence means to me.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Endangered Species Act - Time for Action

I received this email from a thoughtful friend. We only have a week. Click through and then send it around.
Photo by Michael Nichols
National Geographic Website

Endangered Species Act Under Assault: Send Comments to Secretary Kempthorne

To My Friends,

I need your help to prevent Bush from fatally crippling our nation's most successful wildlife law and we only have ONE week left to do it.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced devastating changes to the Endangered Species Act, signaling the end of protection for thousands of imperiled species.

The new regulations would:- Exempt thousands of federal activities from review under the Endangered Species Act:

- Eliminate checks and balances of independent oversight

-Limit which effects can be considered harmful

- Prevent consideration of a project's contribution to global warming

- Set an inadequate 60-day deadline for wildlife experts to evaluate a project in the instances when they are invited to participate -- or else the project gets an automatic green light

- Enable large-scale projects to go unreviewed by dividing them into hundreds of small projects

Send a message to Kempthorne and members of Congress that these changes are unacceptable.


Your friend


Friday, September 5, 2008

Tikkun Olam Friday - Repairing the World One Step at a Time

Another Friday, another post on tikkun olam – to repair the world. Remember, you don’t have to finish the job, but it is your responsibility to start.

The Flag of a Proud Democrat

After two weeks of political conventions, I must ask you to think about who best can repair our nation. Without change at home, I fear we won’t be able to repair the world.

In July my husband and I visited Vancouver and went wine tasting. At one winery we somehow got into a discussion of politics with the hostess. (Somehow? It’s all we talk about.) We assured her we hadn’t voted for Bush. The mess wasn’t our fault. Her compassionately spoken reply: I feel for you.

Just four words reminding me that Canada is a separate country, not America Adjacent, and that the US has problems to solve. Alone.

So this week, before I ask what you did to repair the world, let me ask if you watched the Republican National Convention. Did you like what you saw? Then stop reading now.

But if your heart soared last week as Barack Obama showed us who we can be once again only to break as you watched in horror at the world portrayed by McCain, let me suggest what you can do between now and November.

Donate to Obama's campaign and talk up the issues like energy, health care, the economy, the environment, education, the physical infrastructure and the food supply.

Then help get out the vote. And vote yourself as if your children’s and grandchildren’s lives depended on it. We cannot have another 4 years of the last 8 years.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

APLS are growing in California

APLS are Affluent Persons Living Sustainably. Each of us care about the earth in our own way, define our path and blog about the journey. Check out the main APLS blog, get the full 411 and sample the individual bloggers. We come from all over the country, perhaps even the world.

We're all in the Bushel Basket together but we’ve coordinated ourselves into some regional baskets as well. So far we've got Colorado, the Great Lakes, the Lower Mid-West and me in California. If you want to organize your region, jump in. The plan is to learn, share and build eco-conscious communities. Some of us may even meet up if the distances aren't too far.

August was our first Carnival, a chance to write and share on a specific topic. Last month was sustainability. September is affluence. The deadline for submission is Sept 10th and on Sept 15th all the posts will go up and we can read some thoughtful, personal commentary. Visit the blog for details.

So check us out. The email for the main APLS blog is aplscarnival (at) gmail (dot) com. Golden State APLS can contact me at bobbiwords (at) aol (dot) com.

We’re crunchy and committed. Join the APLS Bushel Basket.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Friday Night Jazz at LACMA

Summer nights in the city, filled with music and art …

While I wish I lived closer to more cultural opportunities, sometimes driving is worth the effort. This past Friday was one of those times. My husband and I drove to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) for one of their Friday Night Jazz sessions.

We had to drop our daughter off at a friend’s house and didn’t want this relatively new driver to brave the LA freeways during rush hour traffic on a Labor Day weekend. So we did it instead. No complaints from me. Here was a chance to use our LACMA membership for some art viewing and the opportunity to hear free jazz.

I used to be a jazz fan but moving further out into the ‘burbs 15 years ago meant fewer concerts and losing some radio reception. KKJZ, 88.1 FM, (KJAZZ) from Cal State University, Long Beach, was one of those lost connections. Online listening didn't grab me, and I just drifted away. So I haven't stayed current with contemporary artists. Friday I found a new one to add to my faves.

Outside in front of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, we were in for a real treat. Bill Cantos, singer/songwriter/pianist was playing. We listened for much of the 2 hour concert. Even my classical leaning husband enjoyed the show and remarked on the uniqueness of Bill's voice, lyrics and ability to connect with the audience. I've never been good at head counts, but I'd estimate at 750 jazz aficionados groovin' to the beat.

Here’s a link for Bill on MySpace. Enjoy yourselves…I bought a CD and I’m reliving this end-of-summer evening under the palm trees. Good bye summer, hello autumn.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Tikkun Olam Fridays – Repairing the world one step at a time

Another Friday, another post on tikkun olam – to repair the world. Remember, you don’t have to finish the job, but it is your responsibility to start.

What action did you take this week, big or little, to make a difference?

Today I made a donation to MANNA, the food bank in the Conejo Valley. To be honest, I’d already written a politically themed post. But driving back from kickboxing, the MANNA truck was in front of me. And last Friday when I took the dog to the groomers, the MANNA truck was in front of me.

Mind you, in 15 years of living in the Conejo Valley, I’ve never seen their trucks. Do you think someone was trying to tell me what today’s post should be about?

MANNA was started in 1971 when many families were affected by layoffs in the aerospace industry. The organization gets help from clubs, churches, temples and businesses along with both public and private schools. My kids’ elementary school ran a donation drive while they attended. With the economy the way it is, I’m sure they need help keeping their pantry filled.

According to the website:
MANNA provides food on a short-term basis to families and individuals who are having difficulty in getting enough food to survive and are unable to get immediate help from other sources.

MANNA asks everyone to fill out a short application form and, based on the information provided, MANNA will refer them to the appropriate agency. Generally, each applicant will receive a week’s supply of food immediately.

MANNA expects each applicant to follow up on the referral. If the agency cannot provide immediate assistance, the applicant will be sent back to MANNA by the social worker and MANNA will help them again.

To receive help, learn how to volunteer or organize a drive for your school, organization or business, you can contact them at (805) 497-4959.

Or visit them at:
MANNA of Conejo Valley
3020 Crescent Way
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360

And the political post? Did you think I’d waste it? Look for that over the weekend!