Charity

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This weekend we experienced our first package theft and our first credit card fraud since moving into the house. We’ve been here for seven years, and considering all the griping we hear from NIMBY’s around town, we’ve been long overdue for the package theft. I can mostly describe my feelings on this matter as annoyed and concerned. I wish we hadn’t lost our $40 Amazon package containing a two person large flower pot lifter. I also wish a misplaced credit card of ours hadn’t been used for a trip to a Shoreline sex shop (I’m more forgiving of the charges to Fred Meyer, Walgreens, and Shell.) Not that I wish to sex-shame thieves, but it seems even I hold to some sort of charity-money hierarchy.

There’s the old trope of the person who won’t give to street beggars because they might spend whatever change you throw in their cup on “drugs” or “booze.” Similar is the shaming of those who use their EBT card to pay for a tasty treat that has negligible nutritional value. So why is the sex store in Shoreline a bridge too far?

I laugh when I think to myself the reasons:

1. Fred Meyer has a decent selection of safer-sex products (lube, condoms, etc.) as well as “massagers.”
2. The Fred Meyer they went to is very close to a locally and woman owned sex shop.
3. They went to a chain store that was out of the way!

But really, that’s the thing about charity. When you give to organizations that distribute aid to the poor, it attaches those strings so you can wag your finger and control the lives of others from a distance. The truth is that I look at myself, and many others I know and love, and it is by luck we are as comfortable as we are because without that luck, we would find ourselves ground under the same rules and the same system that devalues the life and labor of so many. To access what little aid there is to the most vulnerable, it still requires so much time, effort, and skill that it’s easy to forget – ABLIST of us to forget – that some do not.

I choose to think of the theft and the fraud we experienced this weekend as an unexpected donation, because really, what is my other choice? To wish the thieves to be apprehended? And then what? The criminal justice system is so punitive and broken that I don’t really wish anyone to become entangled. There is no rehabilitation or treatment within. Best case scenario means you get out and get a case manager and options within the system, but you have to be able and willing to play the game. Check all the boxes, jump through the hoops, and if you’re using drugs, get clean and sober if you want a chance at housing.

Between banks and credit card companies offering protection against fraud, and the likelihood that Amazon will refund our loss, we’ve lost nothing. We are living comfortably in Seattle, a city of increasing wealth disparity. I imagine many of my neighbors could lose $500 of merchandise or credit without them noticing for days, if not weeks, when the same amount of money could make a world of difference to any number of the car-campers.

SOAP BOX: I just wish so many in Seattle weren’t fighting so hard to preserve and increase the wealth disparity. Large companies, like Amazon (who will likely refund us), bring tons of jobs to our city and provide jobs to those in the construction industry through their rapid expansion. However, because they are not paying their fair-share of taxes, the people they bring in 1) displace lower-wage earners as rent prices increase 2) put a greater strain on our transit and road infrastructure. Head Taxes, and other taxes on businesses like Amazon could fund low-income housing and create a more robust transit infrastructure.

Dragging (myself out)

Fitness and Diet, Motherhood

Motherhood is hard. I did not have any idea what I was getting myself into. Mind you, I have no regrets, as that my son is pure awesome. I am, however, tired and finding my equilibrium.

The kiddo and I had a fall at about 6 wks, and that was quite a blow to my body and my mind. Within the next few weeks, my world shrunk. To say the least, I’ve made a lot of excuses as to why I can’t do whatever it is I need to do, including exercise.

I re-committed to WeightWatchers a few weeks ago – and when I say commit, I mean, go to meetings. I’ve been having trouble getting back into exercising for a few reasons, some being physical. Since my fall, my right knee (injured in high school, thanks color guard/marching band!) has been really painful, and my left hip (which went wonky during my pregnancy) is still wonky. And finally, I’m just not the superwoman I was. Mind you, I had a kickass birth, but I couldn’t run a half marathon right now.

I purchased the WeightWatchers PointsPlus Fitness Series with Jennifer Cohen 5 DVD set. It comes with (on each disk) a 10 minute beginner, 15 minute express and 30 minute full workout, and a plan to get started. This week, I’m doing 5 days of 10 minutes. I’m writing this because I just finished my first 10 minutes, which included a warmup and cooldown. I’m hoping that this may be a start of getting back on track.

We’ll see how it goes!

Fall Update

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Where did summer go?

Seattle’s summer seemed so brief. It was only really warm a few days, and those days often turned to cool nights, meaning I wasn’t really parted from my hoodie during the entire time. It was also a very busy summer. I took a class on Unix during the summer, and spent the rest of the time interning at a local tech company doing helpdesk. It’s not that there weren’t good times. There was diving, vacation book ending both spring and fall, good friends, and tattoos! As of this past week, I have a tattoo on my shoulder that memorializes my dad (using Japanese maples) and from this past Spring, cherry blossoms on my other shoulder in rememberance of my son, Ezra.

It’s taken a couple years, but I would say at this point I’ve stepped sure-footed on a new route. I’ve successfully entered into a career change (leading to better health, if not wealth), and done a lot of personal growth from the wake of last year’s tragic circumstances.

It’s been an interesting adjustment, especially finding myself in a field that is more casual than I am accustomed to. Over the summer, I got in the practice of sewing dresses, which were far from practical for both weather and vocation. This fall I have looked in vain for appropriate workwear (or even jeans for casual fridays) and have found that most retailers are still mired in the Recession, offering clothing that at a distance, looks good, but is poorly made, and at the same price as previous years offerings with less quality. Today I may end up buying some patterns, fabric and notions, and go to town on some new clothing of my own manufacture.

Looking forward, I can say I have a mild excitement for the winter. If one can choose their own disposition, perhaps I’ll start with this one in the hopes that, come February, I will be less surly and angst-ridden than I am customarily.

As for this blog – who knows what’s coming next! I’m wanting to work on more creative ventures, but don’t ever have the time. I’m trying to keep up my running blog, especially in light of my training for the Seattle Half Marathon for my birthday. Then there’s diving, which I have neglected over the past couple years, which I should be doing more, what with the purchase of a new dry suit.

I’ll go back to something I said years ago, which I likely stole from a friend. Life is meant to be lived, not written. If I’m blogging, Tweeting, emailing, whatever – odds are I’m spending that time outside of the present moment, and definitely outside of the company of friends. The digital medium is no replacement for real life. Maybe my silence is evidence of the life I’ve successfully been living.

Ceramic Work So Far

Arts and Crafts

[portfolio_slideshow]

I’ve been taking ceramics classes at a local community college and thought I would take some pictures of some of the work I’ve done this past week. I’ve hit a bit of a breakthrough lately, and have learned to successfully “throw off the hump.” It’s pretty exciting, and I ended up putting more hours in the studio this past week than I have in a long time. I look forward to see how these fire and glaze.

Making a Difference

Deliberate Consumption

On Tuesday I signed up with the Team in Training for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Despite what my official fundraising page says, my actual fundraising goal is $3200 for the race I’m likely to be switching to, which is the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco. I was optimistic – and frankly, the info meeting was extremely pursuasive. I mean, one of the guys raised $10,000! Another guy has friends begging him to hold more charity events for them to give money!

It began to sink in. I don’t have a lot of local friends that have a lot of money to spend. They’re mostly artists, self-employed types, unemployed or incurable do-gooders who make little money, if any. While a charity pub crawl might be fun (and they’d probably all get behind it), being able to front the cash is another story. Looking through the fundraising tips, I don’t see a lot that fit my personality or style (or would work with people I know.) It all starts being a little deflating.

The LLS offers a lot of incentives to raise money, including a most-expenses paid trip to awesome locales. Not to mention the schwag.

But that’s just stuff. I don’t need stuff. I want to make a difference.

Then I talked to friend of mine who does my hair. A friend of hers is going through his second bout with a cancer that the LLS offers support. He’s a person of little means, and will likely be losing insurance soon. A former employer has actually kept him on the insurance rolls through his remission, even though he’s employed elsewhere. His former employer also held a benefit night that got him over $10,000 in assistance.

Then it clicked – research and stuff (but mainly research) is a good thing for a foundation to raise money for – caveat being that this research is heavily tainted by the pharmaceutical companies and medical technology industry. Also – pragmatically, there is the question of quality of life – finding a cure is one thing, but enhancing the quality of life for someone who is dying, whose clock is ticking, is there support for that research? Is there something better we can offer people dying of cancer than morphine, benzodiazepines and Benedryl?

At the Team in Training meeting, we were handed a packet of stuff to go over, included being a few profiles of people who are fighting a type of blood cancer. I wonder, did the LLS help these individuals, on a personal level, as much as my friend’s friend’s former employer? Big foundations are one thing, and appreciated – but me? I like working on the personal level.

Perhaps this year’s goal should be, instead, to give of myself charitably to a small organization, to an individual or group, to help increase their ability to enjoy life, and decrease their suffering.

This may mean I drop out of the TnT – I can’t fathom being able to gather together $3200 the same way I became aware last year that MLM companies like Mary Kaye aren’t for me. It’s not dissing on the product – but on the way it syncs with who I am.

And I, above all, am compelled to be true to myself.

Trip to Mexico: American Pride

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I got through 2 weeks in the Yucatan with no illness whatsoever, including a hangover, and it took a trip to New York to get what I can only guess is a norovirus (the kind of virulent stomach ailment known for making cruise ships miserable). I thought that I would take an opportunity, between bed and bath, to list the many reasons I’m relieved (and even proud) to be an American, though my travel in Mexico was amazing and awesome and totally worth doing again!

  1. Potable water (and good plumbing). You’ve heard this one before. Don’t drink the water. This goes for EVERYWHERE, even in the tourist districts where they’ve Americanized the roads and resorts to look more like Las Vegas than impoverished Central America. There are warnings not to drink the water on the sinks in the bathrooms of Cancun airport. You HAVE to drink bottled water if you’re going to drink water. Thankfully, it’s plentiful.

    In America, people choose to drink bottled water, ignoring the fact that we have the amazing gift of potable water out of every single faucet in almost every single place people live in America. We don’t need to drink bottled water in America! In Mexico, even the locals have to because it’s not just a matter of adjusting to the local flora in the water. It’s a matter of sanitation.

    Then, it has to be mentioned – the fact that toilet paper (if available) cannot be flushed down most of the toilets that we came across outside of the resort areas.

  2. Submachine guns. Can I tell you just how nervous it made me every time we passed a police check point where the police were holding submachine or other assault rifles? I don’t speak the language, and even a routine stop, should we have had to make one, is not one I’d have to make when there’s a man with an assault rifle trying to talk to me.

    Not to mention all the high-end jewelry stores in the Riviera Maya have private guards with submachine guns. Seriously.

    ETA: This is not a statement with regard to the heated debate over 2nd amendment rights, but rather the fact that I view guns as tools, I prefer living in a world that doesn’t require an individual to carry a tool that can release a rapid succession of bullets in short order. Where that tool is absolutely necessary is a place I prefer not to be. If it’s not absolutely necessary, then I prefer that tool to be out of sight and out of mind. 🙂

  3. Guilty until proven innocent. The American ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ thing made us very unique in the world, and still makes us unique. Our travel guides warned us to get the full insurance on our rental car, and for good reason – a traffic accident will get you arrested and will necessitate a lawyer, and without insurance, you’ll have to find a way to get one on your own.

    Also, as our travel guides warned us, it’s illegal to take photographs in the airport. This was something I almost violated as that it was so amazing to me that there was a pharmacy in the airport – selling Viagra, benzodiazepines, narcotics and antibiotics (and then some) over the counter, right next to the Hard Rock, Margaritaville, Harley Davidson and Senor Frogs stores.

  4. National security. Let’s just say that there are very few places in Mexico that aren’t experiencing problems with serious violence. All the states that border America, for instance, are heavily embroiled in a drug war where the casualties are extremely high, and not only locals, but especially Americans are in danger of kidnapping and murder. Then there are other states that have other issues with the Mexican government, where there has been periodic violence.

    I can only believe that the lack of national security is the reason we saw the armed check points *everywhere* when we overheard that the President was in the Yucatan.

  5. Poverty. You wouldn’t know it unless you stepped outside of the tour bus traveled roads of the Riviera Maya. Cancun was our last stop, and the most jaw dropping, corn-syrup, deep fried, stomach-churning, three-days-after-a-middle-aged-alcoholics-binge of a place. It’s what Burning Man is to what Burning Man was. It is an authentic siphon of American money into the Mexican economy, done bigger, and better, with all the great hot resort places of America as its guide.

    The roads are wide and well managed, the airport a triumph of bringing all the comforts of your town’s mall with all the access of an international airport. Many of the resorts offer you an all-inclusive option, where you need not even step foot out the door, and can enjoy the comforts of your all-American hamburger, fries and a large Coke (with cane sugar!) It’s a perfect bubble, and most need not leave the Zona Hotelera, the perfect strip of resorts on the most beautiful Caribbean sand and water.

    Sure, you step outside of any American city, and you’re going to see poverty – but not like this. There’s poverty, everywhere. Everywhere, someone’s trying to make a buck off of you, the rich American, and other travelers will talk about it, and it’s definitely evident in Cancun, just with a little less outright desperation and a little more flash. Seeing sometimes how travelers would treat the locals, I couldn’t blame some of them for wanting to cheat them – because frankly, I saw some behavior of Americans that made me really understand how we can be negatively viewed in the world. Having been in the customer service field and experienced these same assholes, I can just imagine the glee that one might get when scamming an extra few pesos out of them. They weren’t going to tip, anyway, after all. But still, boorish travelers aren’t the only reason for the scams. Drive along enough of the back roads and it’s evident. Even impoverished America has it better (in some places, not all.) The roads are not well managed, sanitation is poor, the distances between towns is poor, most people don’t have a means to get around other than bicycle or taxi, and the roads are, to say the least, somewhat challenging to drive on even with a good, new car (such as what we rented).

  6. Roads. I guess this is going to be my last entry, but boy howdy, do I love well maintained roads! I love our grand, American highways. I love the fact that you can bypass little towns (unlike the days of Route 66), fly by at high speeds with convenient off-ramps, gas stations and food establishments you know passed basic health inspections. I love our well-signed roads that clearly let us know what major cities are which way, so you know which way to vaguely drive. I love clear arrows, telling us which way we need to go. I love signs, did I mention that? Signs that tell me more than keep safe distance, where my seat belt or speed bumps. Signs that tell me where I am, how far I am. I also like signs that help me figure out where I am on the map. Those are helpful. I like not having to contend with two-trailer semis barreling down a two lane divided highway at 100+ kph (65+ mph). My only gratitude was that in the Yucatan, it was mostly flat.

It struck me, while in Mexico, that the land that the Tea Partiers are so afraid that America is or is becoming, is not the America I know and love. Despite the Bush-led attacks on our civil liberties that are still in effect, we live in a wealthy, comfortable country that has remarkable freedom. The Tea Partiers that have ever visited Mexico probably only did so within the tourist bubble, and don’t know what life outside that bubble is really like. Tea Partiers, and those like them, take America for granted. It’s true that we need to do something about the encroachment on our civil liberties, that I agree with. We need to be able to check and balance are government’s branches. We need to have accountability. Freedom is a wonderful thing, and we still have an abundance of it.

I seriously believe that a person gets what they expect to get out of a relationship. I believe that if a person expects a person to treat them in a certain way, that there are subtle things they do to create that very reaction. I think the same goes for a person’s relationship to their society. You can create your own worst enemy. You can create the very thing you say you’re against.

Seriously, be grateful for what you have. Others in the world aren’t so lucky.