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Archive for the ‘values’ Category

I live in a really awesome town.

Many of my readers are from Goshen, and know what I’m talking about. For the rest of you, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

I’ve lived in several places in Indiana, Michigan and Tennessee. Goshen is by far my favorite place to live.

Goshen is the right mix of hipsters and homebodies; progressives and conservatives; and ludites and techies. Goshen is home to Amish, Mennonite, Hispanic, and other communities.  Elkhart County is home to creative folks including artists and entrepreneurs. We have a vibrant artist community with guilds for pottery, jewelry, photography, painting, and woodworking. We have a rich culture.

While our economy was in the dumps during the recession, Goshen was growing it’s downtown with tons of new stores opening up on Main Street. How many communities can say that?

My husband likes to say this of Goshen, “We have one of everything you need for a good place to live: one great bookstore, one great bar, one great coffee shop.”

You get the picture.

I am not a rat.

Here’s what I really love about Goshen: We aren’t in a rat race around here.

People always wave you on at four way stops–sometimes to the point of ridiculousness. What’s so great about that?

It’s a symbol of being neighborly, friendly, and kind.

When you wave on another car, you aren’t judging their political position, their race, their religion, their gender, their job, their place in society. You’re just being friendly and putting someone else before yourself.

I like that people around here are okay with losing the five seconds that it takes to let someone else go first.

Bridge the gap.

So, my friend Claudia and I have been talking some about social capital. Claudia explained to me that social capital is the value or benefit that communities gain from cooperating and supporting one another. There are two types of social capital: bonding and bridging.

The way I understand it, is that bonding is within groups that already have something in common. Claudia and I became friends as we carpooled together, ate together, and shared recipes. We are friends and have the bonding type of capital.

The value here is that we know we can count on one another. I watched her dog one day while she was out of town. When she wanted to immediately make up for it, I said don’t sweat it, because friends give and take. Sure enough, we had dinner at their house a few weeks later–social capital.

The other type of capital is bridging capital. Bridging social capital is when groups of unlike people come together, give and take, and find common ground. Goshen has a variety of rich cultures represented, but we are often floating around in our own inner circles.

Bridging capital is waving on stranger and putting them first.

Since Claudia introduced me to the idea of bridging capital, I’ve been intrigued. I keep trying to think of more ways to bridge the communities within our community. Each community has a richness to it. Our community is already pretty great. Imagine what it would be like if our micro-communities started sharing our strengths with one another.

We’ve already proved that we are a resilient community as we continued to grow together through a recession. But there were still people hurting and isolated–and that hurts us all in the end.

What would this community look like if we start reaching outside of our comfort zones?

What if we invite an English as a second language speaking neighbor to dinner? What if we help a neighbor rake his yard even though there was an opposing political sign out front? What if we find questions to ask people when we first meet that don’t depend on their job or status and cut to who they are as a person? What if we take time to listen?

How can we be intentional of expanding our own social groups to include others that aren’t exactly like ourselves?

This way of looking at the world has been kind of fun. In the last few weeks since Claudia and I had our conversation about social capital, I’m finding myself slowing down and listening to others.

What do you think? How can we build social capital in our communities? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Last fall I was going through a lot of soul searching about job stuff that I couldn’t really post publicly.  It was all consuming; which explains why my blog has been dry for so long.  I tried to write some vague posts, but they were bland.  

My friends and family listened to my decision making process, but it wasn’t the type of thing that I could alert my boss or coworkers to at the time.  I’m in a different (and better) spot now, and I’m more free to share some of the struggle from last fall.  The struggle of “what the heck to do with your life” is universal.  I’ll share now what I can, in hopes that it makes someone else feel not as alone.  

This post was written back in November.  

November 11, 2011

The Cylons spent most of the Battlestar series trying to figure out what it means to be human, just like us humans. (This is not a photo of me, just in case you were wondering).

Just like the Cylons in the Battlestar Galactica series, we all wrestle with the question:

What does it mean to be human?

Hmmmmm…

I’m almost 20 years out of high school, and I think I’m finally coming to terms with what it means for me to be human.

It’s not my job, or my hobbies, or my family, or my wealth.

It’s about a balanced life.

About a week ago, I went to the doctor.  She said that I was about 30 pounds overweight and that I should exercise more.  I almost cried in the office.  I feel stretched so thin (that’s a stupid phrase because when I’m stretched and stressed, I get fat) already, how on earth would I find time to go for a walk?

I spend almost 2 hours a day commuting back and forth to work, and another 2-4 hours per week, taking my daughter back and forth to her dad’s house.  There is laundry and cooking and gardening and pets and helping with homework and trying to get a small business up and going.

Meanwhile, my house is falling in around me.  I don’t have time to clean, take my car in to get fixed, or even time to stop to get a haircut.

Sounds like lots of people you know.  I’m sure.  I’m not alone.

I could cut out some things I suppose.  I could buy some frozen meals or give up gardening.

But those are the things that make me human.  I can’t cut those things out of my life because they strip away who I am.

I want balance.

Listen friends!  I’m stamping my feet now and throwing a mid-life tantrum.  I want…I want…I want my life to be in balance!

I want time to cook and clean; time to garden and freeze the food I harvest.

I want to help with homework and comb my daughter’s hair before school; to take the dog for a walk and sip hot chocolate in the evening with my honey.

I want to find a way to make some money to pay bills, and be home when the kids get off the bus.

My husband says I’m greedy.

But I’m greedy for time with the ones I love.

I’m greedy for wanting time to connect.

I’m greedy for wanting to spend time doing the things that make me human.

The last two weeks, I’ve started living more like a human.  I’ve been making time for some of the most important things.  But, it’s reshaping the way my life is going to look.  This may mean some financial changes, which can be sort of scary.

But I like finding out that this Cylon might just be human afterall.

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All You Need Is Love

I’ve been inspired to write by Single Dad Laughing and his post, “I’m Christian, Unless You’re Gay.”  Go read the post and the follow up responses, and then come on back.

The premise is that it doesn’t matter if you people are different or we disagree with them, that we should just plain love them.  We should stop throwing negativity at them and start loving them.  That’s what Jesus would do.

And I’m guilty.

Not of being unChristian to homosexuals, or the poor, or the disinfranchised.

I’m guilty of hating the haters.

My hackles go up when I hear a snotty tone of voice.

My patience wears thin when I hear biggotted jokes.

I feel like punching a wall when I hear small minded comments.

But, really, all of these people are hurting too.  Or maybe they just don’t understand the power of their words.  Shouldn’t I show them a little bit of kindness?  Be a friend?  Or at least be a good example?

When I was in Junior High, I went to school in a very rich district.  The right clothes and hair were very important, and I was teased a lot.  My only “friends” were the other kids that were also the outcasts.  We had little in common, except that we were all weirdos.

My parents worried about me, and I saw a counselor for a while.  I must have complained that the kids were snobby, because my counselor said to me,  “Maybe they think you are being a snob.”

Those words completely changed my life.

I’ve always been very shy, and I continue to be an introverted person.  But it certainly changed my perspective on other people.  It’s my own fault if I don’t reach out to others.  It’s not their responsibility to reach out to me, it’s mine to reach out to them.  Not only that, it’s my responsibility to be receptive to the love of others.

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I haven’t yet taken any time to talk about some of my favorite blogs.  I mention them from time-to-time, but I’d like to do a formal introduction.  That way you don’t miss out on important, useful, or useless but funny information.  I follow several, but we’ll start with these…

Jennifer by a table that Steve made for her (photo from The Common Milkweed)

The Common Milkweed

This is a great site for gorgeous photos of nature and gardening, for getting ideas of how to repurpose your junk, and to watch the transformation of a little rundown country house into a dream homestead.  The posts are simple, full of great ideas for living simply and green, and for inspiration.  They’ve linked back to my site, and I get daily traffic from them.  If you enjoy my blog, then you definitely need to head over to check out theirs.

I met Jennifer and Steve exactly one time at a teeny craft sale where we were selling our wares.  We became facebook friends, checked out one another’s etsy sites, and started following one another’s blogs.  Even though we only know one another through the blogs, I’m pretty sure they’re part of my tribe.

Photo from Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty - Visit this site for a smile 🙂

Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty

This is a blog that features the artwork of children.  Their dad is an artist that encourages his kids to be creative, and creative they are.  I was introduced to this blog through the friendly rock street art his kids were doing.  It’s a joyful little blog that makes me happy.

My daughter also likes the shadow puppet theatre that his kids performed for the book, When the Mountain Meets the Moon.

The Marvelous In Nature

If you love nerdy nature notes, then this is the blog for you.  Seabrooke Leckie is an author and illustrator for Peterson Field Guides.  She just finished a new guide on moths. Her blog documents her daily walks.  Her curiosity leads the reader into new discoveries.  Recently, she has shortened her blog posts, but still worth reading if you are a nature nut like me.

Stay tuned for more blogs that I love!

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“If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Pastured Pig © Jenny Frech 2010

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that sustainable agriculture is an important issue to me.  I worry about the state of our food systems, not just in the U.S., but all over the world.

Last December, Congress passed Bill S. 510 the Food Safety and Modernization Act, and President Obama signed it into law in January as Public Law 111–353.  As a supporter of local agriculture and food choices, I tracked it down online.

It doesn’t sound too bad.

Basically S. 510 gives the USDA the right to inspect, require additional paperwork for traceback purposes, and regulate all farms and hold them to a set of standards.

Luckily, The Tester Amendment passed along with it, which leaves some provisions for small farms that sell directly to the customer.  My biggest concern with this law is some wide open wording which could allow the USDA to regulate seed savers as well if they choose to do this.

It’s very confusing, and I read a lot about this stuff!

There are mixed reviews.  Some say that this regulation will hurt small farmers, some say it will help.  Some say that this regulation will keep people safer, others think we will lose some of our rights to food freedom.

Sure, I want my food that I have to buy at the grocery to be regulated and watched.

I’d love to be able to know if the food I’m going to eat is free from pathogens.  But food is biotic (meaning it comes from a living thing).  Living things have bacteria and pathogens.   Sometimes we forget that not all bacteria is bad.  I’m not sterile on the inside, I’d prefer my food to not be sterilized by bleach or other sterilization techniques.

We stand a better chance of pathogen free food if our food passes through fewer hands, travels a shorter distance, and goes through fewer processing steps.  I’d like to maintain the choice of buying as much of my food locally (from smaller producers) as possible.

This law doesn’t add to my confidence level about the future of our food.

I worry that:

1. big agribusiness will have the upper hand after this law is signed.

It’s easier for corporate farms to swallow the costs associated with the new regulations.

2.biodiversity of our food system is at stake.

Reading between the lines, some food biodiversity advocates are afraid that the USDA will be able to restrict seed savers. In Iraq and some places in Africa, it is illegal for farmers to save the seed they’ve grown for decades because it doesn’t meet the standards set by the government, which forces farmers to buy Big Ag seed.

3. our food choices will be reduced.

I’m not trying to say that everyone needs to run down to the farmer’s market every weekend, but I sure like having the right to do so.  Farmer’s markets are even starting to help lower income individuals eat healthier nutrient dense foods in the form of WIC vouchers, community based garden plots, urban farms, and donations from farmers.

4. the USDA is contradictory.

They give farm subsidies to grow corn for high fructose corn syrup, but yet, we have a generation of obese children.  I’m not sure that I completely trust them in the area of making sure that the food we eat is not detrimental to our health.

5. GMOs are polluting our ecosystems.

Once GMO DNA is out in the environment, there is no cleaning it up.  This has been devestating for Mexico that depends on the wild Maize to cross pollinate its crops.

6. I might lose the right to save seeds from my garden, and buy seeds from my favorite small seed catalogs or from other small growers.

I feel like we are moving to a synthetic food system, one that encourages us to eat tasteless, nutrient-deficient food.  In just a few generations, we have forgotten that chicken really does have it’s own flavor; egg yolks should be bright orange, not yellow; tomatoes come in all shapes and colors, and should not bounce; and baked goods made from wheat should be brownish with texture, not white and fluffy.

Like Thomas Jefferson, I don’t want some stuffed shirt to tell me what I can and can’t grow, buy, or eat.  

I want fresh, unadulterated food, Darn it.

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My mom is planning a memory garden for her new house.

Which got me thinking about the flowers in my garden that remind me of special people.

Montana Blues from Jeanette

Two people feed my flower obsession, my mom and Jeanette. Jeanette is my former neighbor.  I haven’t seen her for several years, but I still consider her to be my flower mentor.

There are oodles of flowers that remind me of Jeanette: cleome, sweet peas, Christmas cacti, giant pink rose bushes, coreopsis, flowering quince…

One time, she came home from church with Easter lillies that she pulled from the trash. She gave me some and told me to plant them. For many years the lilies returned. I moved them from house to house, but they disappeared along the way.

My whole garden style reminds me of Jeanette. Her philosophy is to let flowers reseed themselves and let them come up where ever they may to create a grand surprise for us. I’ve expanded on her love of mixing and matching, by tucking away annuals into nooks and crannies.

I still have a flower that she gave me.   As freely as I give away starts, I don’t share my Montana Blues, a fancy bachelor’s button. I’ll be glad to share some once I’m sure they’ve spread enough and are here to stay.

Lantana reminds me of my artist friend, Jan

This year I bought a yellow and pink lantana and put it in a pot with some petunias.

I can’t see lantana anywhere without thinking about Jan.

My friend Jan and I were both part-time traveling teachers at the same schools. She taught art, and I taught science.  At one of the schools we shared a room and exchanged moral support.  In the window, Jan kept giant lantana plants with sandpapery leaves. Guara always reminds me of her too, and how she calls the baby plants, “pups”.

Hollyhocks are part of the childhood memories of my Grandma Frech.

She didn’t bake me cookies or read stories aloud when I was a little lassie, but I recall two fun moments. The first is completely unrelated to flowers.  She babysat us and we played Land of the Lost underneath the dining room table that now resides in my dining room.

This hollyhock is a little bit fancier than the ones Grandma grew

The second is a sweet and simple memory.  Outside of the farmhouse was a patch of dark pink Hollyhocks. When they were in bloom, she would make dolls for me using a bud as the head and an open blossom as the skirt. I wish I knew how to make them like she did.

Bleeding hearts and daylillies remind me of my Aunt Nina who also has a flower obsession. Nina has jam-packed flower beds, which always have something in bloom.  She loves Hostas too, which rubbed off on my mom.

Lots of flowers make me think of Mom.

She has a special fondness for violets because they remind her of her grandmother. Once we visited the wooded lot where her grandmother’s house used to be. We took a few starts home.

My daughter is starting to enjoy flowers.  She claims to not like gardening much, but she spends hours playing in the dirt.  That is the makings of a gardener if you ask me.

She is starting to ask to plant particular flowers, and is claiming favorites.  This summer she declared poppies as her favorite.  How can I argue with that?  We planted several from seed.  When I’m missing her I visit her crab apple tree and the poppies underneath. The memories and joy that flowers carry with them is one of the reasons I love to garden.

When I spend time meditating by pulling weeds and planting seeds, I’m spending time with the people I love.

When I stroll through the aisles at a greenhouse, I’m looking for connections. What flowers are near and dear to your heart?  I bet there’s a link between our favorite flowers and someone we love and admire.

Violets, my mom's favorite

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Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.

Her house is a pigsty.

Where would you like to sit? Let me clear a spot for you.

There is cat hair on the sofa the dog hair in the carpet. Half of a pair of dirty socks is rotting on the coffee table and its mate is on the stairs.

Fruit flies party around a bruised tomato on the counter. A mysterious red goo clings to the floor by the waste basket.

There is a funny ring around the sink in the kitchen, and the shelf in the fridge is sticky.

There is so much stuff on sitting surfaces that you’ll have to pile it up to find a place to plop.

There are kids drawings on the fridge and bulletin board; and games piled up on the table. Stuffed animals are stuck in between the couch cushions. Books pages are marked with old envelopes.

This is my house.

I know. I’m a slob. But there are only so many hours in a day, and I’ve finally stopped beating myself up about my messy house.

Quality time with my daughter and step-kids is more important than shiny floors. After a long day at work, if I come home and clean for an hour, there won’t be enough time to just hang out with the kids: helping with homework, watching Cosby show reruns, reading together and playing games.

Cleaning up before someone comes over to my house is lying.

I spend 95%* of my time in a messy house. I know I should try to put my best foot forward. But when I spend hours scouring the house, I get stressed, and still feel the need to make excuses for the mess that’s left.

My messy house is embarrassing.

But I’ve decided that other than running the vacuum and making sure there’s a place to sit at the table and the couch, I’m not going to stress myself out anymore before people come over.

Since I’ve stopped making a major production of cleaning before company, I’ve actually gotten compliments on my house.

Not, “Oh your house is so lovely,” but “your house is so homey.”

My friends feel pretty comfortable in the clutter, I think.

It takes the pressure off them to feel like they need to clean before I come over.

After all, most of us have messy houses 95% of the time. We either have kids, or dogs, or busy jobs, or occupying hobbies. All are more important than a clean house.

Now, I am in no way slamming anyone with a clean house. Some people are great at cleaning. They are efficient cleaners. They feel better when their living space is organized. Some people find cleaning, meditative.

If you love to clean, go for it.

I’m too A.D.D. to keep a clean house. I spend hours trying to organize a countertop. I am completely inefficient. As much as I love an organized space, it takes so much energy that I spend way more stress trying to maintain the organization, than the stress the clutter causes.

I’ve decided that the best friends are the ones you don’t have to clean up for; the ones that you’re not ashamed to bring into your messy house for coffee.

Typical state of the dining room table

Seriously, do we really want our friends to waste time fretting over their messy house for us?

Nah.

I want to be the friend that you’ll invite into your house when the counter is full, and you have to push your junk onto a pile on the floor for me to sit down.

I don’t care about your clutter.

I care about you.

*all percentages are completely made up, but I think they’re pretty accurate anyway.

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