Tuesday, April 22

Conflicted (part III)

I am continually inspired to "try" by those like Michael Pollan. In Sunday's New York Times article he writes:
"If you do bother, you will set an example for other people. If enough other people bother, each one influencing yet another in a chain reaction of behavioral change, markets for all manner of green products and alternative technologies will prosper and expand. (Just look at the market for hybrid cars.) Consciousness will be raised, perhaps even changed: new moral imperatives and new taboos might take root in the culture. Driving an S.U.V. or eating a 24-ounce steak or illuminating your McMansion like an airport runway at night might come to be regarded as outrages to human conscience. Not having things might become cooler than having them. And those who did change the way they live would acquire the moral standing to demand changes in behavior from others — from other people, other corporations, even other countries."
Related to my "true cost" mission, I found this fabulous documentary abut the company Icebreaker. It helped me to understand and justify their prices. I love this company. I love their products. The question is can I afford it?

I have observed skyrocketing food prices over the past few years, but I didn't think others were noticing. Finally it has captured media attention and everyone seems to be feeling the sting. I have become seriously concerned about our economy. The gallon of milk that I buy has increased from $3.00 a gallon to $4.50 a gallon in the past year. Eco-friendly products have me paying $12 for a box of laundry detergent. In 2004 gas reached a record high of $2 per gallon, today we are facing the possibility of $4 per gallon by summer.

I make about 60% less than I made in 2004, as I work part-time now to be with our son. Our household income remains lower than it did in 2004, yet we are faced with new expenses every day. I started this blog almost a year ago as my husband and I observed our spending was exceeding our income. We decided to move to a cash payment system. For a while we successfully lived on our alloted weekly cash stipend of $400 for food, gas, toiletries, haircuts, gifts, toys, clothes, dry cleaning, entertainment, etc. (home-related expenses, utilities, insurance premiums and childcare were not included). I'd like to tell you that it is working, but I would be lying. We are constantly being confronted with exceptions and special cases, but we continue to "try".

So how do we do it? How do we pay the "true cost" of sustainable goods and feel good about it? How do we know this is the best way to "invest" our money? Clearly it comes down to consuming less, but that isn't the easiest thing to do. Is it?

Happy Earth Day!

Saturday, April 19

Conflicted (Part II)

Okay... did you watch The Story of Stuff video? I'd like to discuss the part where she talks about "true cost" (The $4.99 radio at Radio Shack). I understand this concept and try my best to support local agriculture, support businesses with sustainable practices, etc. I can tell you it is REALLY EXPENSIVE... thus my conflicted feelings.

One of the things I enjoy doing is shopping at the local farmer's market. Isn't it a lovely notion to think that you can develop a relationship with the people who grow your food?! On Saturday mornings my son and I will often walk over to Portland State to enjoy the market. We enjoy people watching, the entertainment and the yummy treats. Of course, I also try to support the vendors and make a few purchases. Unfortunately my last two experiences have left me feeling a bit bitter. Here are the stories of my last two farmer's market purchases.

Last November my son was making "stone soup" at his preschool. My son needed to bring in potatoes as his contribution to the soup. "Lovely", I thought to myself... we will go to the farmer's market and buy directly from the farmer. We ventured out on a very cold and rainy Saturday. I spot a man in a tent with a pile of dirty potatoes on a table. This man had dirty overalls and looked like he collected the potatoes that very morning. I had images of him driving his old pick-up truck into a muddy field and loading up with this crop of potatoes. These were not fancy potatoes. They were not displayed beautifully like some of the other farm stands. I had my son select 4 potatoes and we handed them to the farmer to be weighed. He responded, "eight dollars". I silently thought, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME... 8 DOLLARS for 4 potatoes? How? Why?". I wanted to walk away, but it would have been very difficult to explain this to my 3 year old son. I paid the man the $8, but I didn't feel good about. I felt rather exploited.

Winter passed and so did my potato related frustration. I was excited to go to the opening market in April. Farm fresh eggs were on my list. I immediately spied a lovely egg vendor with a clever name, Square Peg Farm. "Perfect", I thought... I approached the woman and asked for one dozen eggs. She replied, "That will be $5.50." HOW CAN THIS BE? Since when has shopping at a farmer's market become exclusive and elite? It used to be about cutting out the middle-man and buying direct from the farmer. It used to be about buying what is plentiful and in season (for a great price). Not anymore! Yes... I am ashamed to admit that I actually paid $5.50 for a dozen eggs. Am I stupid or a good steward and supporter of local agriculture?

As you can tell, I am feeling very conflicted about this. I understand that we have to pay more for sustainable practices. I really want to, but too often, I feel like a chump.

Conflicted (Part I)

Many countries around the world will celebrate Earth Day (April 22) this week. Earth day was started to inspire awareness of and appreciation for the Earth's environment. It is a time when we are educated or reminded about recycling, sustainability, clean energy, pesticides, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife etc. A friend just e-mailed me an online video presentation entitled, The Story of Stuff. He thought I would like it as it reflects the values of my blog. I encourage you to watch it. It is 20 minutes long, so make sure you have time to watch the entire presentation. There is a lot that I would like to discuss.

Wednesday, April 16

Chipper's Skate Party at Oaks Park

What a morning!
Henry and I ventured to Oaks Park for the preschool skate party.
What a blast! Henry was a great skater. I even ventured out on skates! We participated in a free 15-minute lesson, followed by cookies and milk in the snack bar.

The excitement really got started when we went over to the ICEBREAKER store in the Pearl for their Earth Day promotion. I learned that a seamstress would be there at 11 AM to transform our old t-shirts into a reusable shopping bag on the spot (free). Not only is this service FREE, they also give you a coupon for $10 off a purchase. We brought Henry's Summer Reading shirt. FOX had a camera crew there and they loved getting footage of Henry and the seamstress working on his tiny t-shirt. We may be on TV tonight! Henry even got a free shirt for being so cooperative with the media... Woo-Hoo!!

It is not too late for you... The seamstress will also be in the store from 1-3 PM on Saturday, April 19 & 26.

Friday, April 4

A (very lucky) SUNBREAK!

Tulip Festival 2008, originally uploaded by thewelts.

What fortuitous timing...
After yesterday's glorious sunny and 60+ degree weather, we thought a trip to the Tulip Festival was a brilliant idea. Not so...
We woke up to clouds, quickly followed by sprinkles, followed by rain, following by an all-out downpour as we made our way down the I-5 corridor to Woodburn for the annual Tulip Fest. The weather was hideous!
It was a miracle... As we were approaching Woodburn, I thought I saw some blue skies on the horizon. It was very difficult to see through the pouring rain. We got off the highway and continued driving in the rain, but oddly, I kept seeing a reflection on blue skies in my rear-view mirror. We arrived at the farm and parked. The rain stopped and the sky to the East was glorious, bright and clear.
We spent the next two hours jumping in mud puddles, visiting the farm's four steam tractors, taking photos and enjoying the farm.
It sure pays to persevere in the PNW!

Literary Bliss

It was a proud day...
I love working for Multnomah County Library!
Yesterday, all the libraries in Multnomah County closed so all 550 employees could attend an all day retreat.
We learned all kinds of interesting things, we learned about emerging technology and listened to interesting authors.
The day culminated with this inspiring video. I was moved to tears!
I feel so lucky and grateful to work for an organization that does so much for our community.

To top it off, after our staff day event, I met some friends for dinner downtown followed by a Literary Arts benefit event featuring Elizabeth Gilbert, acclaimed author of Eat, Pray, Love. Gilbert was delightful, charming and very funny.

I'm feeling quite inspired...

Wednesday, April 2

Go, Dog. Go!

Spring 2008, originally uploaded by thewelts.

Henry's preschool took a field trip today to see the play Go, Dog. Go! at the Northwest Children's Theater. It was a delightful, sunny morning. Henry and I decided to walk to the theater. It took about 45 minutes.
The show was a lot of fun... just about right for his age (almost 4). Henry laughed and laughed! It went a bit long... the performance was an hour and a half with a brief intermission.
We spent the sunny afternoon strolling around NW Portland and returned home in time to make Tyler a lovely "welcome home" dinner (he was away since Monday).

Tuesday, April 1

Parle-vous francais?

We have spent many years planning for this sabbatical trip. It is hard to imagine that we leave in 10 weeks. We saved over 325,000 frequent flier miles. We booked our reservations 330 days in advance.
The planning continues:
Every week I spend hours researching and planning for this adventure. We will spend 3-nights in Paris, 10-nights in Burgundy, 7-nights in Paris and then 2-nights in London before returning home. It is all beginning to seem real and we are getting more and more excited! We have found wonderful picture books about Paris and France for our son. For us, we signed up for a FRENCH FOR TRAVELERS class at PCC.
Last night I spent two hours at Lincoln HS where I endured the awkwardness and tension of forced conversations with strangers in a language that feels very unnatural. Of course my brain kept sending me the Spanish words that I have also struggled to learn. Hopefully it will pay off and we will be able to communicate the essentials... Enough to warm the French people up and have them take pity on us for trying.