Food Insecurity & the Edible Landscape

I saw on the news this morning that Americans waste 40% of their food each year. That’s a lot. Now think of this: as of 2017 (according to Feeding America) 41 million people in the Untied States were dealing with food insecurity. That’s 12.3% of households or 1 in 8 families. Yet we’re throwing food away at an alarming rate. 

It seems like there should be more effective ways to deal with this. I had a thought— which I’m sure many others have thought of before me— why don’t we spend less money & effort growing manicured lawns and spend a bit of effort planting vegetables and fruit in our yards? While many of us have small vegetable gardens, or grow herbs & such, these are only a small fraction of our yard space. We could all be so much more independent and helpful to our neighbors if we used the bulk of our ‘lawn space’ to grow food instead. Think about that for a minute.

You say that not everyone can do this. You’re right. Some folks have physical limitations and can’t do it. So if you’re their neighbor can you help them? Or can you share with them in exchange for something else? Maybe a group of neighbors can get together and all help with planting and weeding, etc, and then all share in the bounty. Now think about that. You can imagine any amount of various scenarios that would work right in your own neighborhood.

For every roadblock or limitation there is a way to work around it or overcome it.

Apartment dwellers. Do you have a porch? Or a communal yard space? You can grow vegetables in pots. Or on rooftops. No land, no space? What if cities and towns set aside parcels of land for folks to have communal gardens? Or along sidewalks? In front of businesses?

In my mind’s eye I can picture all of this in place. I can see people helping each other and interacting, building friendships. Real people dealing with each other in real time. People outside working side by side without having their faces bent into their cellphones. I miss seeing people actually looking at each other and having conversations.

I’m a bit old school. I remember life before cell phones. I remember the phones attached to the wall with a limited amount of cord coming out of them. You had to get up and run to the other room to answer it. When your parents wanted you to come home they yelled for you out the window or called your friend’s mother.  The point being that people interacted more and knew how to have actual relationships. I miss seeing that when I drive through a neighborhood. So what if we began building our human relationships again? Beginning with growing food is an obvious choice. People would compare notes on growing techniques, swap plants and food overabundance with each other. We would be doing something proactive about our food insecurity. My theory is this: if we spend time & effort growing some of our food we will appreciate that food more and waste less. All while growing our relationships and strengthening our society. Instead of reminiscing about the ‘good old days’ we could be living them! 

I watched a Ted talk a few years ago and it has stuck with me ever since. It’s the inspiration which allows me to envision the bounty in each yard and public space that I pass. Given by Pam Warhurst from England (https://www.ted.com/talks/pam_warhurst_how_we_can_eat_our_landscapes#t-765782 ) it  showed me how they made this work in England. A simple group of volunteers made such wonderful things happen. It made incredibly perfect sense. There were places everywhere where people grew vegetable plants in front of businesses, by the sidewalk, and anyone walking by was free to weed around them and take a share in the harvest if they wished. This is the kind of community I’d like to see. How awesome would it be to finally read a news report that showed us our efforts had eliminated hunger in America?

We have the power and we CAN.

We live in a world where we feel powerless every time we watch the news. The latest political outrage, mass shooting, drugs, disasters, etc. We can make a difference in our world in spite of all this. We can teach the next generation that changes can be made by individuals. We can show that when those individuals come together they are a very powerful force for good. We can all learn about this and be on the same page. We can come together and just do it. Talking about things and then letting them fade away is not the answer. The most powerful phrase that Pam used in her Ted talk, “we are all part of the solution” should inspire each and every one of us to do something. Watch the video and see if it inspires you.    👩🏻‍💻

Small Stream Fishing

It takes but a moment next to the burbling, rushing water to be immersed in the sound and mesmerized by the sight of it. The scent of the water, the soil, and the forest completes the immersion. It wraps around my body, invading every cell, obliterating everything except this moment. The rest of the world falls away, disappears, and I’m absorbed into the earth and water as if I were always there, with no thought of ever leaving or being anything else.

I could let go of my body, emotions, and the earth itself and fall into the river, softly, soundlessly, instantly absorbed by the rushing current, welcomed as if coming home at last. Overwhelming— enveloping— peace and comfort. I could be the water, rushing over the rocks, my laughter splashing and catching the sunlight and throwing it around as reflections.

Instead, I continue to cast my line upstream and let it float down past me, over the rocks, in hopes that a trout will bite. I walk downstream to each likely looking spot thinking that there must be a fish next to that rock or in that eddy. I cast as close as I can without getting tangled in the low branches that hang over the giggling water. No fish bite today. I reel in my line and lean the pole against the rock I’m sitting on. A slight breeze makes the branches whisper and the sunlight dance in patches. I breathe the fresh air, bat the mosquitoes, and get lost in my thoughts.  It will be time to leave soon enough. 

How Driving led to an Unexpected Perspective

Let’s take a break from the Wellness series this week. Today I want to take you for a Mothers Day drive and share an enjoyable encounter I had last summer. C’mon, hop in, let’s drive:

I’ve noticed that sometimes when I’m on a long drive that my mind wanders off while my body continues driving. It’s amazing how the mind can be perfectly aware and in tune with the physical environment and also be working in the background in an entirely different place. I can go for miles (driving safely mind you) but not remember the scenery going past. I think that is because my focus is on the road and driving conditions only, and the portion of my brain that normally passively notices the scenery was actually galloping off in another direction. Might this be an example of the multitasking that we have all become so adept at? 

With most things I find that multitasking is tiring, at least when it’s physical tasks that I’m trying to do simultaneously. But who among us can control where our mind goes traipsing off to? Sometimes it’s anxiety related, like when you have pressing issues or situations that you’re worried about. Other times it’s much more pleasurable, such as daydreaming or looking forward to an upcoming event. 

It all came together one day when driving home from camp, on the very last leg of the journey on the Indian Point Road, I came up behind a man on a motorcycle. He seemed to be a middle aged or older man, in no hurry.  At first I thought he was lost, perhaps looking for a certain driveway or road. He was going slowly and looking around.  As I hung back and trailed along behind him I came to realize that he was just enjoying the ride and looking around in wonder at the scenery he was passing. I watched him for quite a few miles and his pure delight at all he passed was infectious. Observing him as he so clearly took pleasure from his slow comfortable ride made me forget that I had been driving for several hours and I ached all over.

I was reminded that I should take the time to see my everyday environment through fresh eyes. I didn’t care that we were going so slowly. It was well worth it. Thank you Mr. Motorcycle Man for unknowingly sharing your peaceful, beautiful ride with me.

Thinking about how this one person affected my mood, my perspective, and my awareness made me wonder if I have ever affected someone else in a similar way. Has anyone ever been inspired by me? I would feel blessed to have impacted even one life in such a way. Just one moment in time. Have you had a moment when you observed a stranger and had a change of perspective? Would you change anything about your everyday behavior if you knew your actions could have a positive impact? We all have an effect on each other every single day, in every moment. But we forget. In the busyness of our days and the stresses of our world we forget that we have this incredible power. Let’s use it.

Let’s spread it around and see what changes we can make. 👩🏻‍💻

I see you, and so does everyone else.

You are surrounded by glass windows and a glass windshield. Everyone can see you. You must know that. Apparently some folks believe they are invisible when they are behind the wheel of their car. I’ve seen drivers doing a lot of stuff as they pass by going in the opposite direction. And I’ve seen some funky things happening in cars behind me when I glance in the mirror.

Don’t misunderstand. Most of the time when I’m driving I don’t bother to look at people in other vehicles. I’m more concerned with the vehicle itself and our spatial relation as we pass on the road.  But as you and I well know, sometimes actions catch your attention.

Like the gentleman traveling behind me one day while vigorously brushing his teeth. I had to keep glancing in the mirror because he had his windows rolled up tight and I wondered where he was going to spit it. Yuk. I never did see the outcome of that. And that’s okay with me!  

Then there was the lady styling her hair with both hands. How do you steer with no hands on the wheel?

How about the man who was texting with both hands? He had his wrists resting on top of the steering wheel and that was how he kept it on the road.

I like to catch a glimpse of people who are singing and obviously enjoying themselves. That’s a bright spot in my day and lifts my spirits. I always smile to myself. And those who are laughing with a friend bring a smile as well. It’s nice to see random moments of happiness as I pass through the world. Especially in this age of tension. 

Sights I can well do without, but unfortunately see more often than anything else, are people mining for gold in their nose. I’m always astounded by the length of finger that can fit up there!

These things can be a bit distracting, but you really do need to keep an eye on the vehicles around you in case you have to do some defensive driving. Part of that is gauging how you should react to other drivers’ actions and whether they are paying attention. 

I would love to hear what you’ve seen in passing. Share your observations with me?  👩🏻‍💻

Notes From a Knitter

For years I wanted to knit socks and mittens but after growling my way through one sock or one mitten on double pointed needles I gave up. It was little more than an exercise in pain and frustration. Then I heard about knitting two socks at once on two long circular needles wrapped in circles and so I bought a book about it hoping that was the answer. Nope, that’s not happening either. It’s just too much for me. I like things simple and quick. Often I would wish that there were tiny circular needles. It never made sense to me that circular needles weren’t made smaller. I looked at every craft store I went to for the longest time and even mounted a search on the web with no success. 

Scrolling around on Pinterest one day, I discovered that there were tiny circular needles called Addi Turbo! I don’t know how long they have been available but I sure wish I had known about these great little needles years ago. No more fumbling with four misbehaved double pointed needles. No more ladders, loose stitches, needles slipping out of the work, etc. These tiny things are fantastic!

A few years ago I changed from straight needles to circular needles for all of my knitting projects. No more dropping one needle down into the couch cushions, prompting a head-in-the-sand type of hunt where I shove my entire arm down into whatever lives under there. What does live down there in the dark with the crumbs and cat hair? Will it bite me? I never expect to get my arm back! (For the record, I keep a very clean house. Crumbs and cat hair are notorious for climbing out of the vac at night and hiding under the furniture.)

There are two drawers in my sewing desk full of knitting needles and crochet hooks that I have collected over time from relatives, my grandmother, my mother, and also the ones I’ve purchased. Every time I open the drawer clouds of memories rise up to greet me. I appreciate all the work done on these old needles by family members over the decades and will pass these treasures down to my own daughter one day.  In the meantime I have this great set of circular needles (Takumi by Clover) with various size cords to attach to each. They twist on and never come apart while I’m working with them. This is a very compact and portable set so I always have the right size handy.

I love knitting socks now. It’s the perfect size project to tuck in your purse and take with you for those boring moments in waiting rooms, your lunch break at work, waiting for your car at the garage, or anywhere else you’d like the relaxation that comes with knitting a few stitches. Do you carry any small projects with you? What are you currently working on? Let’s talk patterns. 👩🏻‍💻

Simple Pleasures

After a long and mentally exhausting day at work, a coworker told me today that they were looking forward to going home to make a grilled cheese sandwich for supper. They thought that if that was the highlight of their day they must be pretty pathetic. I have an issue with that. Why does anyone have to feel that anything they do is pathetic? Pathetic to who? And who cares what anyone else thinks?

If your creature comfort is a warm yummy grilled cheese sandwich and it’s the bright spot in your day then what could possibly be wrong with that? In this age of social media we have become ridiculously concerned with appearing admirable to others. We place excessive value on being active to the point of being overextended. We place much lesser value on precious moments and small things that bring us pleasure.

Think about it.

What small things bring you pleasure and make you feel good inside?

Personally, I love a warm grilled cheese sandwich that is a tad bit black around the edges. Mmmmm. Warms my tummy and soul. I always make sure to appreciate the small things in life. Otherwise where is the joy of everyday?

  • I like to bury my face in my cats’ soft fur. Joy.
  • I like the smell of onions being sautéed in butter when my husband is cooking. Heartwarming.
  • How about the smell and feel of fresh sheets after they have hung on the clothesline all day? Fantastic.
  • How do you feel on the first warm day of spring when you roll the windows down in your car and turn up the radio? Freedom.

So why do we beat ourselves up when we indulge in simple pleasures? Where does this pressure come from? I’ll tell you what I think from my own observations. We place way too much value on what other people think. You just worry about enjoying the small pleasures in your life and never mind about anyone else. Try it for a week and see if it makes a difference for you. Let me know. 👩🏻‍💻

Making Peace with the Inner Bully

We hear so much about bullying these days. It’s everywhere. In schools, on playgrounds, at work, out in public, and on the internet. It seems that there is no place left where a bully won’t be found. We think we are safe from bullying in our own home (at least when we’re not being cyber-bullied). But I’ll let you in on something…….

I have an Inner Bully.  Do you? These days it’s called ‘negative self-talk’. You’ve heard the term? It whispers doubts in my ear constantly. It is scathing and negative and tells me that whatever I try will fail.  For decades I’ve scratched and scraped my way in this world in the accepted manner. I worked hard, lived week to week, and focused on staying one step ahead of the bill collectors while pushing my own happiness to the back of the bus, perhaps to enjoy later when there was more time. 

The problem is….. later never arrives. There is always something that comes first. Always something that is more important. You know the drill. You do it too. You work all day then you come home and do housework, yard work, go to appointments, battle your budget, get lost in your dreams for brief moments and then push them aside to get those ‘important’ things done first. 

Every now and then I have an ‘aha!’ moment. Something I hear or read or see will drive an obvious but overlooked truth home. I was watching an old comedy from 1957 called Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (Love those old movies.) At the end of the movie Tony Randall said, “……success is just the art of being happy.”    I felt my inner bully cringe. She didn’t want me to know this truth. She knew it would weaken her, maybe even eliminate her. My bully knows that I’ve always measured my success by being able to keep my head above water. Success to me meant self-sufficiency and independence. Dreams never figured into it.  Happiness was a by-product of success. 

I don’t know that I can really hate my bully though. She has kept me working hard and given me an incredibly strong work ethic. She has prompted me to be competitive and strive for excellence with everything I attempt to do.  She is a hard taskmaster who taught me how to keep my nose to the grindstone. Perhaps she is more of a drill sergeant than a bully. Maybe she has to be hard on me to keep me trying. I think I’ll let my Drill Sergeant hang around and keep her firmly in her place as my motivator. 

Will this knowledge change any of my habits? I hope so. Already I’m carving out  little spots of time to focus on doing things I like while pushing the tasks that can wait to the back of the bus. As I mentioned in an earlier post, when I was a child I didn’t worry about being good at things, I just did them because they made me happy. I’m going to find that little girl again and hold tight to her enthusiasm. Do you have an inner bully that you can turn the tables on and make work for you? 

What’s important to you? What do you always make sure to include in your day? If you could have your ultimate dream life what would it look like? Have you taken any steps in that direction?