The Good Fight

Where Trains Go To Die

Where Trains Go To Die

I’ve been thinking about the current worldview of the earth and the concept of “progress.” For eons, humans have built cities to organize together for survival as a species. We see this mostly from glimpses of archaic cultures buried beneath modern cities and underneath the deepest parts of the ocean. Humans have brought their creativity and genius and successfully thrived.

Our population is now increasing by the billions. By 2050, it’s projected to reach 9.5 billion bodies, a 32% increase in less than 4 decades. If the human beings that live and work in the year 2050 were to behave as their (even most recent) ancestors, the earth will quickly become uninhabitable. The belief that there’s enough viable land, clean water, safe food, and healthy air to support this number is a fantasy. There will simply not be enough to go around and the resulting health crises will be too expensive to measure in dollars alone. How will we measure progress once we’ve used up all of our natural resources?

What if the people of the earth valued healthy soil, water, air, and food more highly than money? Why do smart people allow such concepts to become footnotes or completely overlooked? We’ve all heard the debates that environmentalism cripples commercial progress. This shortsighted view will be the death of us all. We can no longer see the world as infinitely able to provide our needs. In our lifetime, we are likely to see wars waged fighting for basic resources such as air and water.

The Industrial Revolution brought an end to the Agrarian society, but that wasn’t the beginning of the lack of concern for our impact on the earth. Our human societies have allowed the trashing of our natural resources for quite some time. We’ve dammed up rivers, cut down or burned complete forests, making our mark in the world, replacing vast open spaces with manmade buildings (once made of raw earth and now of concrete and steel) since the beginning of written history. To our collective horror, man has cavalierly dared to cross into the dangerous realm of genetic modification.

We are all appalled at the news of a floating island of plastic in the Pacific Ocean that is larger than the state of Texas. We are shocked that there is more than one. A brave few step up and try to make changes while the rest of us watch and wait. But, yet, we still buy our water in little plastic bottles and carry our groceries in little plastic bags. It’s estimated that a trillion plastic bags are used each year across the globe. 10% of these will end up in the ocean.

As humans, we are born with the amazing ability to dream and innovate, our brains filled with ideas brimming with the glistening genius. Isn’t there another way? How do we change our behavior? Where is our tipping point?

Our way of life is dying along with our earth. The only way to make a real difference is to collaborate in a different way. Our companies were built from the roots of Frederick Taylor and his motion studies, which reduced the average manufacturing worker to one step above a robot. Increased efficiency didn’t translate to job satisfaction. It may have contributed to the success of the corporate profit margin, but did little to create an environment that valued human creativity and built sustainable systems.

There are plenty of opportunities wrapped up as problems. The idea of building a new workforce based on contribution, engagement, collaboration, and constant learning is long overdue. With the right leadership, these sustaining principles could bring a different type of profitability and create meaningful work, and not simply providing a paycheck while polluting our way of life. Would this not be true progress?

Maintaining the status quo cannot be considered “progress.” Building a different kind of company, organized around what makes sense instead of what has always been done the same way, is an evolution worth working toward.  This kind of out-of-the box thinking is often reduced to a type of insanity or, worse, completely ignored. It would mean the changes would have to come from deep within the hearts and minds of each human being who joins such a company and lends their time to its benefit. It would mean that the people in this type of organization truly believe that life within a company can be different, exciting, successful, and worthwhile. The values of the individual rooted in an alignment of values within the company could truly create a place where each person’s contribution is valued and a profound trust could be built among groups of people working for a common purpose. Guiding such a profound shift in perception and locating the resources to sustain such a shift would be a joyful and worthwhile endeavor.

The notion that business can be done differently, with the focus on a collection of individuals working together to effect changes in the world, as we know it, is a fresh view of modern companies. Can corporations evolve into human driven machines focused on creating worthwhile products and services instead of acting as profit-driven beasts that suck the soul out of all of us? I’d like to think so.

As for me, I’ve decided to take a look at my behavior and make the necessary adjustments. One person may not turn the tide, but if each of us were to look at how we contribute to the situation, and make a sincere effort to change our behavior, we could make a difference.

I’d like to try.

Related Article: Rethinking Our Food System

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25 Things

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I wrote this 4 years ago (2009) and in honor of my Blog-aversary, decided to repost it. 25 Things most people don’t know about me…

1) I’m a sap. I love happy stories. For instance, my Favorite Story of the Year has got to be  Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landing that airplane on the Hudson River. It makes me all goose-pimply and teary-eyed every time I hear about it. Thankfully, we’re getting coverage of this happy story in the news which seems to be full of bad news every single day.

2) I am actually a cat. I like stalking and pouncing, freedom and fish. Sometimes, I feel like I’ve lived several lives already within this one and that there are several more to come…our cat, Harley Moon, is my guru.

3) I like cemeteries. A lot. They’ve always enchanted me.

4) Insects don’t “bug” me. I’ve been the official “Spider Extractor” ever since Girl Scout camp when the latrines were held hostage by a roaming band of Daddy Long-legs. Now rats are another story. I’ve held a grudge against those creatures since reading Stephen King’s short story, “Night Shift” on a Greyhound bus while in college a couple of decades ago.

5) I don’t have the “shoe gene” that most women claim to have. I own relatively few shoes. I really didn’t get the whole shoe-thing until my daughter enlightened me a few years ago. I’ve become something of a voyeur since then. I love looking at them, but have trouble wearing anything with a high heel due to excrutiating pain that seems to penetrate my whole body. I like my cowboy boots better.

6) Birds fascinate me. If I could come back to earth in another life, it would be as a bird. Most fascinating bird: hummingbirds, amazing creatures that defy all natural laws of physics.

7) The first car I ever drove was an Alfa Romeo at age 13 on a Dallas highway at midnight.

8) I was conceived on my parents’ honeymoon in Mexico after a heavy-duty “Margarita” bender and as Hurricane Carla was making its way to the coast of Texas/Mexico. It was classified as a Cat 5 cyclone which hit land as a Cat 4, and at that time was the second strongest storm to hit the US in the 20th century. Perhaps that accounts for my temperament.

9) I was the First Born Son my father wanted so badly. The story goes that my parents were told by the doctor that I was a boy. They had a name all picked out (hint: I was to be a “junior”). When I finally popped out, my surprised parents took 3 weeks to figure out what to name me. I was told the choices were “Margarita” (see #7 above), and “Deborah” (after Debbie Reynolds, my mom’s favorite actress and the prophetess in the Old Testament, my dad’s favorite book). I think my Southern Baptist grandmother had a hand in the final pick.

10) I am Ambidextrous. I can write with both hands. I can read upside down. I can write backwards. I can also tie a cherry stem with my tongue in less than minute.

11) I deeply regret that I never learned to do cartwheels.

12) I’ve gone skydiving once and only once. It was exhilerating and frightening all at the same time…and on my list of “Things I Have Done and Don’t Need to Do Again.”

13) I am always amazed at my wonderful friends. When I look back at my life (hopefully as a healthy and active centenarian with all my mental faculties), I will still be in awe of the people I have loved and who love me. I have THE most talented, creative, loving, generous, interesting, and fun friends on earth! I would give any of them one of my kidneys if they needed it!

14) The 2 Great Loves in my life are my daughter and my husband. Love is still a surprising phenomenon. It truly has the power to transform lives and people and I’ve been a witness to many miracles. I’ve learned never to second-guess its power. I never thought I would have kids, but my daughter’s birth taught me about true unconditional love. I also thought I had given up on marriage after too many painful and foolish catastrophes, but My Music Man brought me hope and has taught me more about patience and kindness, and how loving another human being with such depth and passion doesn’t have to be painful. He also welcomed us into his family and community with generous and open arms. I hope we continue making our friends sick until we both drop!

15) Music is God’s voice drifting down and touching our human souls. What else can I say? It’s my favorite thing in the world.

16) My second favorite thing is Laughter. A baby’s laughter brings ecstacy to my ears. Of the 2 Faces of Drama, I would rather spend my time on the “Comedy” side of the face…

17) Scariest accident of my life: I was 6 years old and playing “Monsters and Dragonslayers” with my brother and other childhood friends. I vaguely remember I was the Monster (complete with a paper bag over my head) and one of the Dragonslayers (equipped with his trusty magical pencil-sword) poked me in the eye with the sword, I mean pencil. Almost turned me into a Cyclops. Missed my eye by centimeters, but made me aware of the dangers of being the Monster.

18) I adore ice cream, but don’t like cake. And I really don’t like the icing on cake. I scrape it off and leave it on the plate, or try to give it away to the nearest sugar-holic. However, I have a well-known pie fetish. I love all kinds of pie, especially berry pie. But apple pie is pretty darn good too. Whoever invented pie should have something big and important (like a stadium or a city) named after them. Also, I think ice cream would solve all the world’s problems, especially war. Can you imagine sitting across from an enemy eating ice cream and not smiling? It stops people from crying, too.

19) I’m afraid of dying. Not the dying part where you get sick and mumble things to some unseen presence, but the actual end of this lifetime. I think I am afraid that I’ll miss the people and events here on earth when I go on to whatever comes after this, which I’m sure will be wonderful. Plus, I’m so curious to see how it will all turn out. I just don’t think I’ll ever be ready to leave this life, so I want to live to be 100 years old, just so I can have a century of memories. Maybe I’m a “life-aholic.” Is there a 12-Step Program for that?

20) My favorite cartoon character is Pepe Le Pew. I adore his passion and optimism. I also think he is handsome…for a skunk.

21) I think my biggest pet peeve involves “Consensual Crimes” – those things that are illegal that don’t involve another person, or where there are consenting adults involved. Like prostitution. I know, this is a thorny issue, but I just don’t think it should be illegal. Ever. Anywhere. Regulated, yes. Illegal, no. What business is it of mine what 2 (or more) people do — and for how much – behind closed doors? Also, marijuana shouldn’t be illegal, either. It’s nuts. Tobacco is legal and pot is not. Strange world we live in, indeed. There’s a whole list of these, but you get the picture.

22) On that note, I think I would make a wonderful Global Dictator. If I ruled the world, then every road would have a safe bike lane. Education would be free. Euthanasia would be legal for humans, not just our pets! Criminals would have to repay their crimes by serving mankind in some way. I have many more of these but I have to keep them secret in case I ever actually hold this office.

23) I truly love my home here in Tomales. It is my Heaven on Earth. And if we can create what we want in heaven, then mine will look like this.

24) My mind thinks in pictures and stories, which is really annoying when I have to answer a simple question.

25) I have a horrible fear of enclosed spaces, like caves and crowded busses. Seriously. I don’t like elevators. I don’t like the idea of being in a coffin when I die. My secret fear is being buried alive. When I watch films where this happens, I am truly horrified and have to close my eyes. I feel the fear down into my bones. I also don’t like crowds and the idea of being crushed by the masses makes my skin crawl.

Now, I’d love it if you would share some of yours with me…

 

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Silver Linings

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I’ve decided to stop fighting. I surrender. I give up.

My hair wants to be gray, or it would have succumbed to the barrage of hair dye I’ve injected over the years. Secretly, I pray that hair coloring doesn’t cause cancer, otherwise, I’m a pretty good candidate. I’ve helped to support the hair color industry for over 2 decades. I think I’ve done my time.

Genetics have relentlessly dictated this situation since my late 20s. My mother and grandmother were both prematurely gray. My mother fought it forcefully; my grandmother, Jewell, never tried. She had a glorious platinum white head of hair for most of her life and she wore it proudly.

I never thought having a kid wouldn’t make such a mark, but becoming a mommy just stripped the color right out of my hair. The next thing I knew I was spending hours and dinero each month to retain my youthful pigment. By my calculations, I spend at least 60 hours and $1200 each year keeping up this charade. Let’s face it, I’m a junkie.

To be honest, I started thinking about it 10 years ago, but as my mid-life crisis raged, I wasn’t able to let go of my dark locks. Suddenly, while basking in my after-50 glow, I’ve started to realize how much time I’m wasting, and time has become even more precious than ever. I slowly started to see how my hair has run my life. As I see it, anything with that much power must be silenced.

I’d been procrastinating for some time, continuing to color my hair, letting it grow past my boiling point. It was my daughter who lovingly pointed out that I was beginning to resemble a bag lady. She told me firmly with a loving edge, and just a hint of impatience that I needed to do something about my hair.

And so it began yesterday. My journey was kicked off with a consultation with Gabrielle Dente. Even though I’ve known Gaby for many years, I was impressed that her training was as arduous as that of a nursing professional. I knew I was in good hands. Together we made a plan, after both of us had spent several days imagining how to make the process as painless as possible. She convinced me to slow down and take it one step at a time.

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Stage One – Make the Cut

In a matter of minutes, 10 inches of hair were unceremoniously snipped. This was necessary not only to reduce the amount of hair being colored, but with severely damaged ends and summer approaching, it was time for a major trim.

Now sitting lightly on top of my shoulders, it’s the perfect length. Since my hair grows rather fast, getting a trim every 6 weeks will move the color out quickly.

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Step Two – Color Correction 

My goal was to create a better overall transition. I don’t want to look like a skunk as my hair grows out. In addition, harsh brassy tones were clashing with my natural Irish coloring. As the white grows in, we will add brighter highlights to pull them in and blend together, inviting the gray to take over.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve researched the concept of blending graying hair to skin tones. Sticking with blue undertones, lifting out the brassiness is important to help with the transition. As my gray hair grows out, the highlighted blondes tones will begin to blend with the platinum white. We can also bring in lowlights later as my natural hair grows out with tiny streaks of brown.

Step Three – Patience and Time

My approach to beauty has been more in line with divide and conquer — blast the little buggers into submission. As I’ve explored the idea of transition, I realized that I needed to make my hair more welcoming to the gray. Changing my focus from holding back the tide to allowing the flow will help make this less difficult.

One blogger created several beautiful knitted hats and hair bands. Keeping an eye on the color hues of my clothing will also help liven up the shifting strands of white. Stay away from ivory, they warn, sticking to black, white, and bold colors.

Another blogger suggested that going gray was a sign of confidence. For me it’s a sign of being fed up. Maybe that’s what confidence is built upon. I’ve noticed that this last year, being 50 has shown me many things that I have suddenly chosen to leave behind, like shedding skin. Suddenly, I don’t care as much as I used to. I don’t worry about those things I used to worry about.

Maybe as I approach 51, I’m finally growing up, accepting myself au naturale. I say bring it on! I’m going to have 60 extra hours this year to fill.

Posted in After 50, Beauty | 2 Comments

Club Secrets

Serenity

My dear friend’s father died this week. I never know what to say when this happens. I meant to say, “I’m thinking of you.” I was. Almost every moment of these past few days, I’m thinking of my friend who has just joined our exclusive club of orphans. What I actually found myself saying was “How are you?”

How do I tell her that you never stop missing them? For me it was especially hard to lose my father to cancer when he was only 65. I was 39. I realized as I heard my girlfriend’s news that this year he’s been dead for 10 years. It’s not an anniversary that I normally count; I prefer to count birthdays instead. I was closest to him, identified more with him, had a deeper, albeit more difficult, relationship than with my mother. My father understood me, while my mother was forever puzzled by my lack of interest in her social scene. Losing my mother was one thing, losing my father was quite another.

I remember someone softly, somberly saying to me when my father died, “You’re now a member of a very exclusive club. You have to lose both your parents to join.”

I spent a rainy day rummaging through old photographs, stumbling upon many fathers along the way, mine included. I found the last photos that were taken of him. I was suddenly surrounded by him, his voice, his distinguished laugh. So many memories, and then the tears. I cried until I didn’t think I could cry any more, and then I cried again. This, even after 10 years have passed.

Looking at my father’s last photos, I remembered all the long intimate moments to which he allowed us access in his final days. Every photo of him was precious, his hair completely gone from chemo, but his eyes and his smile were still very much alive. And he was so very patient with us during those days while he pushed through extreme pain, heavy medication, and very little energy. My final memory of him was at a restaurant, his favorite — BBQ. It was to be his last meal. He died the next day.

Deep within all orphans, there is a quiet longing that never fades. We never get over the loss of a parent, no matter how old we may be, or how sick they may be. This is the great secret of the club. The grief just burrows deep within us, but it never leaves.

I won’t try to soften the blow for her. This thing’s a long term commitment. The only way I’ve found to dull the pain is to walk with them. Play their favorite music. Have coffee with them and discuss the issues of the day. Listen to the stories over and over again. It’s all still there and we can access it whenever we allow ourselves the chance to dream.

I want to tell my friend that the love from our fathers never leaves us, transitioning to something more powerful, more accessible. But, the grief is buried underneath our Everyday Face. It’s easily retrieved, and strangely bubbles up at the oddest times. The longing burns like a hot ember.

Many months after my father died, I had a dream that we were walking together in a park. As we walked, railroad tracks began to divide us and I watched as he faded off on the other track. It was a sad dream, but I realized that as he was transitioning to his new life, I still had access to him in simple ways, such as a walk in the park.

While I scrolled through the stacks of photos, I realized that I am now the carrier of the torch for my family. I hold the stories, the memories, the history of the people who created me and my daughter. It comforts me somehow to spend time with these images and see their smiles. It’s now up to me to pass along what I know about them, and most importantly, what they taught me.

But, it’s no burden to me…I consider that a grand honor.

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Can “Going Local” Save the World?

Locally grown means better food.

Locally grown means better food.
Photo Credit: Deborah Parrish

My friend, John, got a job this week. I know this because from the onset of his unemployment, he’s remained steadily committed to his blog, “The View From the Middle (Class).” In it, he candidly shares his daily struggles – keeping focused on the big picture while seeking gainful employment.

Most remarkable was that he found a local job. He’ll be working in support of his local community as a computer programmer, contributing to the systems foundational to this virtual life. Just more evidence that we are increasingly connected – John’s public announcement reached me almost a thousand miles away in only a matter of minutes.

Technology connects and sustains relationships but how often does it truly pay the bills? How can we simultaneously connect globally while remaining locally inter-dependent? From my perspective, there are some commodities that are best kept local.

I spend a good deal of time each day influenced by the global economy. The news media and my immediate reality are often worlds apart. Quite often I’m left feeling like a hostage of the huge corporations that control our communications, our media, and our food. So, I challenge myself to take small steps every day to shift my focus back to my immediate environment, the place I have the most influence.

Recently, I joined a CSA, a local farm offering Community Supported Agriculture, providing neighbors with fresh, local, and seasonal vegetables. Bloomfield Farms is only a few miles from my home, and they deliver to my town’s new “Food Shed” set up by a neighbor who’s agreed to sponsor the program. I was thrilled to begin eating food grown in my neighborhood. But, I wasn’t prepared for the depth of the journey. Each box is its own adventure.

This week, I picked up my veggie box for the first time. Taking it home, after opening it, inspecting it, and washing every single leaf, the variety and the novelty of the included heirloom vegetables surprised me. I instantly researched the different varieties and investigated new recipes.

Then, I got the email enclosed with a rich commentary and mini-lesson on heirloom vegetable varieties and links to ideas for preparation, along with a sincere invitation to come to the farm and have a more intimate experience with locally grown food.

As a lover of good food, I was immediately charmed and sent an email thanking these wonderful neighbors for what they are doing to bring good food to my little corner of the world. My reward was a swift personal response filled with more information and another invitation.

I’ve committed to my new CSA for many reasons:

New Foods New Recipes

This week I discovered several simple new recipes to use for new chard and kale varieties. I learned that cooking kale slowly brings out an earthy sweetness. Given the health benefits of these winter vegetables, by combining the dark leafy greens with lively quinoa, our meals were richer and more flavorful.

Know Who Grows Your Food

My brief introduction to the faces of Bloomfield Farms has left me wanting more. Taking the time to understand their philosophies on heirloom farming gave me a greater appreciation of their commitment and passion, which seeps into the food they grow. I plan to take a tour of the farms in the next couple of weeks and meet my farmers face to face.

Harmonize With the Seasons

Our modern grocery stores bring us food from all seasons on demand. There’s a theory that eating food in season helps regulate the body’s natural immune system, as well as deliver nutrients necessary for a balanced life.

Pass to Future Generations 

Preserving heirloom foods for our children and those beyond is essential to our long-term survival. Our choices of food varieties are dwindling, which is actually creating a frightening trend of food extinction. Seed banks are now popping up everywhere, and with an approaching GMO crisis, we have every right to be concerned. Heirloom foods generally taste better and of the heirloom tomatoes, I’ve yet to find a favorite. I’ve all but abandoned the hybridized, round, and gooey tomatoes from the grocery store. They just have no flavor. Besides, have you ever heard of a German Pink Tomato?

Sitting here in my kitchen, I discover that small actions have the potential to make big impacts. What would life be like if I lived completely local, channeling most of my money into my local economy? How would my life and those around me be affected? I’m determined to find out and embark on a journey to uncover the opportunities to affect change within my little corner of the world.

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Live Pies Served Up Fresh

Homegrown Pie Auction
Photo Credit: Deborah Parrish

There are Pie People and there are Cake People. My Music Man and I are confirmed Pie People. I simply love pie. I’d rather have pie than cake. It’s not just a matter of taste, it’s a matter of substance. Pies are efficient, pies are practical. Cakes are fanciful. All that icing seems like such a waste. I know there are those who would argue this point, but I’m solidly sure of where I stand.

Number 27
Photo Credit: Deborah Parrish

Tonight in our little corner of the world, the “Academy Awards of Pie” went off without a hitch. The Annual Live Pie Auction served up thick with slices of cheesy Americana. It just doesn’t get any better than this. In our small town, homemade pies are treasures born of hands in dough, fresh fruit from back yards, baked with love, and decorated for those of us who understand the fine art of pies.

Yummy Pies
Photo Credit: Deborah Parrish

27 precious pies were auctioned off to raise money for the local Valley Ford Volunteer Fire Department. Even though it was our neighboring town, Valley Ford, that hosted the event, in our neck of the woods, anything within 10 miles is local. The little schoolhouse filled to the brim, shook with such a ruckus in the back that the auctioneer had to tell us to “Shush” so he could hear the bids. Unaware of all the back room deals, he only sensed the behind the scenes cahootin’. Those of us standing in the back like vultures were eying the pies on the back table, strategizing, how to get our prized pie, knowing there was competition, knowing they were strategizing, too.

This will be gone by morning.
Photo Credit: Deborah Parrish

Picture Perfect Pie
Photo Credit: Deborah Parrish

 

We had chosen two pies. Each with its own unique winning strategy.

Pie Presenter and Hostess Anna “Vanna”
Photo Credit: Deborah Parrish

The first pie was ours. Strike fast, strike early. The bidding had yet to really get heated up so we were thrilled when the pumpkin pie went for a mere $17.50. What a deal. We had won The Stolen Pumpkin Pie. The pie maker confessed that the pumpkin used for this pie had been stolen from her neighbors yard…”Well,” she said coyly, “It was almost in my yard, so I took it and decided to use it for a pies.” The neighbor, sitting patiently on the long bench, didn’t seem to mind, seemed to say with his quiet smile, “Yeah, it’s okay, I had enough pumpkins, anyway…” I suspect he received his own pie in exchange for his silence.

Pie Fans
Photo Credit: Deborah Parrish

As the pies rolled by, the bidding became heated reaching a feverish pitch. At one point, the auctioneer sold a very special ginger pumpkin pie for $115.

Pie People
Photo Credit: Deborah Parrish

This development brought me to the edge of my seat. I had my eye on a three berry pie, a gorgeous “peek-a-boo” cut crust, sprinkled with sugar. This beautiful pie had been saved for the final round. It was one of the only berry pies, rare among all the apple, pear, and pumpkin pies. We were sure to be outbid.

Berry Happy Smile
Photo Credit: Chick Petersen

The bidding commenced and after some active volleying, we won the prized berry pie for $50. I don’t think I’ve ever paid that much for a pie before, but it was going for a good cause…and it was beautiful. I was happy, I had won my pie and was looking forward to eating it.

Birthday Boy
Photo Credit: Venta Leon

Earlier in the evening, as the auction began, my Music Man met a couple from Alaska on a cross-continental bicycle trip heading for Argentina. They’d just happened upon the Live Pie Auction while on their journey. It turns out they had also been eyeing the triple berry pie. After we won, my Music Man informed me that not only did they have designs on that pie, had lost the bid on it, but the day before had been the guy’s birthday…so, what could we do? We cut the pie in half and presented it to him unflinchingly. We couldn’t let him go without some pie for his birthday. The look on his face was priceless, and it felt good in our hearts, too. Pies are made for sharing.

Photo Credit: Deborah Parrish

It’s not about the food, although the food is wonderful – fresh ingredients, together with a priceless home-made, lusciousness. We didn’t come to compete for the pies, provided through the generosity of our neighbors and friends. We came for the sport, for the warmth and to support our local folks, and we came away with so much more – precious moments overflowing with laughter. For some, it was the pumpkin, others, the apples or the pears, a few craved the berries, but we gathered tonight to pay homage to the pies of the season, to celebrate that which is better than cake, an abundance that only pie can deliver. With this year’s Live Pie Auction behind us, there was no doubt it was a huge success. We never figured out what a Dead Pie Auction would look like, but we were all relieved they decided to auction off the Live Ones.

Beer & Pie: Some folks didn’t make it very far before they devoured their pie. This little group chose to squat right outside the front door and dig in…
Photo Credit: Deborah Parrish

“Let them eat cake” only means that they get what’s left over…cake can never compete with a well made pie. For me, I’d eat a pie, crust and all, lick the plate clean and leave the cake behind. I’m deliberate like that.

Live Pie Parties always need Live Music…
Photo Credit: Deborah Parrish

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Ground Zero

Sometimes nature inspires me beyond words.
Photo Credit: Deborah Parrish

Today I’m grateful for my wandering spirit. I’ve been an explorer all my life. Countless trees climbed, tunnels discovered, and forts built from salvaged Christmas trees. From this life I will take many rewards for my curious streak. I’ve witnessed some magnificent things. Images of nature’s miracles fill my memory. Last night’s sunset was no exception.

I confess I’ve been avoiding my blog. I have no excuse except that I’m a stubborn perfectionist with hedonistic tendencies, which makes for a marvelous procrastinator’s soup.

It had rained intermittently all day, with slices of  blue sky teasing us as we drove south to Santa Cruz. Our waning Indian Summer bellowed its last gasps while autumn tiptoed in softly, announcing itself with gentle sprinkles and gray skies. As the sun began to set, I noticed waterfalls of light coming from folds in the clouds. It was one of those priceless moments and without hesitation we pulled the car over to watch the spectacle.

I often seem to miss having my good camera with me when I need it, so I was relieved to find the pocket one I carry around to capture the unfolding moments of beauty. I knew my camera’s eye could never compare to my own, but I was moved to try to capture even one glorious photograph, even if it could never be perfect.

Time stood still and we were in the perfect spot. With no time crunches to challenge us, and Friday afternoon traffic holding us to the well-known back roads, we were free to stand in awe of the sun’s glorious light and its evening dance with the clouds.

As I stood there, I promised to let go of my self-serving perfectionism and allow my flaws to help create my art. The sun’s stunning beam answered with warm compassion. Heavy clouds and the dull gray hue of the sky threatened to destroy a perfectly good sunset, but the sun prevailed, using only what it had – a simple crack, a slice, a sliver. Through that opening, an amazing sky was born with light. My mind relaxed a bit and I loosened the binding expectations long enough to feel lighter and warmer, kinder to myself. At that moment, joy crept in and sat down smiling.

Inspiration comes from moments of clarity as nature unfolds itself and offers up treasures uncounted. Tonight’s sunset reminded me that there is beauty in everything, even a rain storm.

Posted in Photography, Travel | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Life in the Slow Lane

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I’m feeling lighthearted today. Not only because it’s a National Holiday and most folks aren’t working, but because I got some much needed sleep last night. It’s amazing how bright and sweet mornings are when you feel rested.

My Music Man and I have been hard at work these past couple of weeks. I’m not complaining, though. It’s kind of like harvest-time when the vines are ripe. You have to work day and night to get your fruit off the vine in order to reap the bounty of your toil and get some value out of the blood, sweat, and tears that you put into your business and your life.

Today is all about the red, white, and blue. I’d like to share some yummie patriotic munchies to celebrate our country’s birthday and hope that we have a few hundred more.

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You can really enjoy watermelon even more on July 4th when it’s cut like stars. Put these in a cold fridge for a day or so and serve really cold!

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My personal favorite – this is like a little spark of fireworks in your mouth!

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Be honest…doesn’t this make you want to jump in and try a little taste?

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And this little gem  is on my list of things to make out of our old barn wood….

Enjoy your freedom today. Remember we get to choose it every day.

Posted in Local Food, Recipes, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Breaking Bad – 5 Ways Out of a Corner

SFPD Permanent Welcome Mat
Photo Credit: Deborah Parrish

The world keeps turning, even though we think it’s stopped, and we’re always learning, even when we don’t want to.

Last week, I finally got some relief in my stalemate with the San Francisco Police Department. I got my case number for my recent Identity Theft and have been connected to the SFPD Fraud Department, at least theoretically. No contact as yet, but the promise is hanging out there like a carrot suspended on a string. But, what I learned about this was pretty useful, so I share it with you today.

1. Sometimes you have to go around the system.

Northern Lights
Photo Credit: Deborah Parrish

I followed directions and found myself going in a circle. Each person with whom I spoke had a suggestion, which always led me to the beginning of the circle. Without a case number, I had no law enforcement contact. The backlog at the Southern Station Police Department had created a major clog in my pipes! We set sail for San Francisco last Thursday morning, files in hand, and followed the GPS directions to the intended police station. To our surprise, we ended up at the Northern Station instead. We took this as a sign and marched inside to find the lobby empty, so the nice officer behind the counter could focus on my problem. He took my report, waded through my volumes of data and delivered the goods.

Smiling Works Wonders…
Photo Credit: Chick Petersen

2. It’s all in the delivery.

My mother used to say you can get more flies with honey than with vinegar. My first visit to the Southern Station was scary and confusing. I was alone and there were some creepy characters hanging around. As an added jab, parking was a flat fee of $15. Needless to say, I was pretty grouchy. I got no where. Shut down. My pleas for help got no response except for a blank form and a steely look from the officer at the desk. Phone calls yielded the same result.

My Music Man accompanied me on my second visit and I checked my attitude at the door, optimistic that I could persuade someone to help me. I was prepared to camp out in the lobby until someone helped me. I put on a nice dress, went in with a smile, and the sweetest attitude I could muster. I don’t know if that strategy created the success, but it was certainly better for our psyche. My Music Man gave me added bonus points for the dress.

Paperwork and Bureaucracies Crave Order
Photo Credit: Deborah Parrish

3. Be organized and prepared.

I’ve sorted my situation immaculately. My multiple files are impressive and there are tabs and notes. While providing the report, I could give complete and detailed answers without hesitation. I think the officer was impressed and so were the people who formed in line behind me. I certainly had my act together and given the amount of time invested, it has already significantly reduced my stress.

Returning to the Scene of the Crime
Photo Credit: Deborah Parrish

4. Cover all bases.

I’ve filed a criminal report with several law enforcement agencies – my local sheriff, the police department at the scene of the crime, the Federal Trade Commission, the postal service. I have multiple case numbers and give them to every single person to whom I speak. This way I create a web that connects and intersects. They don’t ask, so I offer. I give the list, even if they don’t want it.

I found this article in Money magazine  that makes some bold suggestions and even provides feedback from other Identity Theft victims that mirror my own. Gee, I guess we’re all feeling a bit abandoned out here in Consumer Land.

A Toast to Heroism, No Matter How Small
Photo Credit: Deborah Parrish

5.  Expect a surprise ending.

Today’s hero award goes out to the Nordstrom’s Fraud Department. A gentle woman named Helene has become my heroine today. She’s decided to take my case and connect all the dots together, including the theft of the rental car. Because my loss is greater than $20,000 she thinks that by binding the activities together we have a decent chance of getting the bad guys. It was a surprise to me that she wanted to get involved, and I could say it’s because the culture of Nordstrom’s is to provide exquisite customer service.

Life is good, no matter what happens. Today I’m grateful for constant learning and folks like Helene who care. She’s an inspiration.

Posted in Financial Safety | Tagged , | Leave a comment

It’s Not the Size of Your “Hand Job” … It’s the Power of Your Network That Matters

The End of the Search Brings Me Home

The End of the Search Brings Me Back Home
Photo Credit: Deborah Parrish

It was a small thing, really. An object that blended into our everyday world. A small titanium hand in a halfway grip that hung from My Music Man’s keys. He’d had it for many years – long before I knew him. It was a gift to him to buy his patience. He tells the story about ordering a special mountain bike years ago. It was a hand-made treasure from a local company called Ibis. The delivery of his precious bike had been delayed and he was salivating, itching to get it, get on it, and get up that mountain. But, instead, he was handed the “Hand Job” as a pacifier and a bribe.

That was April 1998, and mountain bikes were a personal thing, more than any other vehicle like a car or a motorcycle. Truly, mountain biking is like a religion; it gets in your blood. I only understand it from afar as I’ve personally only tried it once and as told by the witnesses, it was an utter failure. It was frightening, and let’s face it, I’m a hiker, preferring to keep my two feet on Mother Earth. I never made it up the mountain, stuck to easy horizontal surfaces with few rocks. But, that’s another story altogether.

He hung it on his keys and there it stayed for over a decade. He loved it, used it to pop off beer caps. It was always a source of commentary to newbies, those who wondered what the heck this thing was…he would tell the story and smile as he popped another cap.

I knew he loved it. And the stories of the Ibis bikes are legendary in the mountain biking circles. Just knowing that would hint that this small object was irreplaceable. It had been made by the company as a tchotchke in its early years and given away at trade shows. He was lucky to still have his after all these years.

The moment I realized that it was among the stolen items from my purse a few weeks ago was visceral for me. I was still recovering from the magnitude of the list of lost personal items, as well as the resulting identity theft. The thought that pushed through my brain carried a heated, searing, shaft of sadness. I didn’t tell him then. I waited. He had been through enough already.

It was over a day later that we were out running errands, trying to repair the damage of the theft together. The weather was beautiful, we had found laughter again, and were treating ourselves to lunch. We were happy, things were light. So, I decided to tell him. “Do you know what else was in my purse?”

He looked at me quietly. His face reflected the question, but not the answer.

I pushed further. “On your keys…”

Oh god. He knew now and his face sunk. I was so sorry and it all came rushing back. We immediately got online to find virtual comfort. Maybe there was a source to replace this? Perhaps there was an underground market for such things. Ebay had one for sale (in retrospect it was probably his), blogs discussed them, there were stories and photos. We somehow felt better.

Then we forgot.

In the midst of the more important aspects of the crisis, a couple of weeks passed before it popped onto my radar again. Late one night I was ready to tackle replacing the Hand Job for My Music Man. It would feel good to find another one for him.

But, it was too late for Ebay; that one was gone. The blogs were interesting and provided more fuel for my fire, but I could find no place to buy the replacement. In fact, the “word on the {virtual} street” was that these things were highly prized and fetched a fine sum, IF you could find one.

Oh Boy, another Challenge!

I woke up earlier than usual the next morning and began to make phone calls. I started with the Ibis Customer Service phone number and told my story. I could hear the smile-laced voice at the other end of the phone. “No,” he said, “We don’t have any. I mean, the people who may have one around here keep them as part of their own personal stash, you know?  No one would part with theirs. Sorry.”

Disappointment. {Sigh} “Okay,” I replied. “Could you give me anyone who might have one, might know of a person who would be willing to sell theirs?”

“Hang On, I’ll ask around real quick…” Upon his return, “Try this guy…”

And so it went for a while. One call led to another as I traversed the country’s telephone lines searching for a little titanium Hand Job.

Finally…”Well, you know, there’s this guy in Lincoln, Nebraska who collects mountain bikes and other trinkets. He’d probably have a few, or could point you in the direction…Good Luck.” And so I was tossed to Nate, at Monkey Wrench Cycles.

The Drive

My Search Ended Right Down the Road
Photo Credit: Deborah Parrish

While Nate didn’t have one himself, he understood my plight and suggested I call his buddy, Mike Varley, at Black Mountain Cycles, in Point Reyes Station, CA. And this is where my search ended, literally 17.4 miles from my front door. I had travelled the country back and forth for about an hour that morning to find myself right down the road again. Mike was kind and extremely helpful. He said he knew the guy who had originally made the little gadgets. He’d reach out to him and see what he could do.

His next communication was in an email. “Good News,” he wrote. That was all I needed to hear. We’ve exchanged emails and arranged pricing, the Hand Job may only be a replacement, but it’s story is powerful: Never Underestimate the Power of your Network. A huge thanks goes out to Mike, and we even stopped into his sweet shop off the main drag in Point Reyes Station to meet him face-to-face. He’s won a customer for life – My Music Man and I are forever fans. You can’t buy that kind of loyalty, you can only earn it. Pay attention, fellow business people. This is one for the books.

And most importantly, My Music Man’s new Hand Job will carry with it this Happy Ending.

It’s not the size of your Hand Job….
Photo Credit: Deborah Parrish

Posted in Happy Endings | Tagged , , | 2 Comments