Better, Pickles

While most people are wrapping up presents, wrapping up the year, I have found myself a good way off-cycle. Having already started my new start in October, I missed the thankfulness kick-off. With Christmas racing up, I’m far-behind in spiritual matters.

Charity in passing has been this season’s theme. My regular yearly list is lacking check boxes, but I’ve been catching opportunities here and there. Food Gatherers were in the right place at the right time last Saturday. A $10.00 donation seemed just about right. I planned to get cash at check-out, but as I walked the aisles with my coupons and sales flyer, I decided to get personal.

I’m not actually sure how the organization prefers to receive their donations, but I choose to shop. I shopped as budget-follower, as if I were shopping for my own holiday table. I shopped as if I were the one who longed to set a celebration table, as if I would be beaming at the gathered, providing the feast.

$10.00 wasn’t going to make that happen. Doubled, there was possibility. There are foods that always speak to me of holidays. They’re not the normal ones, or the big ones; they’re the indulgent ones. Mini gherkins, black olives, pickled beets, marinated mushrooms; specialties passed over in favor of basics. I settled on smaller versions of olives and pickles, at 99 cents and $1.50. Per placard, the cost-per-ounce for less was more. It did not make economic sense, but spending less meant buying more.

The canned vegetable aisle required study. Each brand featured a special; none of them seemed to be the same kind. Fiesta corn, red beans, sweet peas with pearl onions, green beans made it into my cart. $7.00 in, around the corner pasta and tuna were pulled. 2 bags of macaroni at 50 cents each and one can at $1.00. Tomato sauce was 1.75. Just under $10.00, I had nothing like a feast.

Pre-made, shelf-stable pie crust and a can of fruit filling won over dough mixes and pumpkin, which would have required eggs and oil, milk and spices. I chose cherry for its festive red. Those two items took up as nearly much of my budget as the first ten, but I wasn’t going to put them back.

Packaged potatoes, the just-add-water type were a compromise. Fresh fruits and vegetables spoil. It’s as simple as that. One envelope seemed so small, so I started to reach for a second. A different brand’s ‘buy two, get one free’ caught my eye. I took in three traditionally butter flavored packets at $2.00 total.

$1.63 shy of my budget, I realize I was off-cycle again. Meat and poultry, fresh or frozen, are also a short-lived, requiring refrigeration. Ham in a can would do. Don’t think for a second that I was able to find a $1.63 ham in a can. The smallest and lowest priced was $5.49. I scanned the package knowing the ingredient list would be the same as the other higher priced offerings. Debating with my self is practically a sport, these days. I pulled out my contractor estimate philosophy, and decided a ham is a ham much as a fuse box is a fuse box. Don’t need the fanciest, just need it to perform.

$3.86 over budget. I could have re-shelved the un-holiday-like tuna, one bag of pasta, and the fiesta corn. I could have slid the gherkins back into the display. But, I couldn’t bring myself to. Instead I grabbed another can of indulgent olives, thinking, “why not?” Closer to $25.00 isn’t going to break me any more than $20.00.

I imagine the volunteer sorter wondering what kind of person buys frivolities for a food pantry. It’s one who doesn’t think giving involves only basics; one who believes special is important, too. I realize the likelihood of my festive planning unit materializing in one home as a romanticized Norman Rockwell feast is slim.

I just hope that little-bitty jar of pickles makes someone really smile.

Quote for the Week:

To call it charity 12 09 2014

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

1 Carrot Way: http://www.foodgatherers.org/

Pickle Timeline: http://www.nyfoodmuseum.org/_ptime.htm

Giving is Good, and Good for you: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/5_ways_giving_is_good_for_you

Amazon Platform

I may have mentioned this once or twice, or a few times more than that.

That’s how it goes when I get excited, entrenched, enthusiastic. I’ve found an organization that needs me, even when I can’t get to many of the many events scheduled during the dark months of Michigan winter.

Activated in October 2011, One Brick Detroit is part of a larger, nation-wide 501(c)3 non-profit organization headquartered in San Francisco, California. In June 2014, I made a long-term commitment to an organization that doesn’t require one.

Listing over 229 calendar events since 2011, One Brick Detroit has been successfully serving Detroit and the Metropolitan Area by scheduling an average of 6 events per month.

One Brick provides support to local non-profit and community organizations by creating a unique, social and flexible volunteer environment for those interested in making a concrete difference in the community. We enable people to get involved, have an impact and have fun, without the requirements of individual long-term commitments.

‘Commitment-free volunteering’ allows One Brick members to choose when to volunteer, rather than having to make commitments for a certain number of volunteer hours, or agreeing to be available every week at a specific time.

We create a friendly and social atmosphere around volunteering, and after each volunteer event — which typically lasts only 3 to 4 hours — we invite volunteers to gather at a local restaurant or café where they can get to know one another in a relaxed social setting.

One Brick chapters are 100% volunteer-run! We have no employees…we don’t even maintain offices! But we do have a lot of dedicated volunteers who make it all happen. We’re very proud of that and thankful for the wonderful, caring individuals who arrive at each One Brick Detroit event ready to step-up to whatever tasks are needed.

Having been given the creative freedom to be the representative voice behind the One Brick Detroit weekly newsletter, a contributor to the One Brick Detroit Facebook page, and as Marketing and Publicity Director for One Brick Detroit, I’d like to point out the one little thing that makes what I am going to suggest matter.

Southeastern Michigan is not much different than the rest of the country. We’ve had hard times, we’ve had large needs. The thing is, need is always there. Before the holidays, during the holidays, after the holidays, One Brick Detroit will be helping.

As we enter the giving season, giving thanks and gifts, there is simple way to help us do what we love to do: volunteer, help others, meet like-minded people, and make our little corner of the world a friendlier place.

So, here it is: my first blog platform pitch:

Amazon Loves One Brick!  When you shop using our special link Amazon donates 7% of the total to support our work.

Please bookmark this link: onebrick.org/amazon, and use it each time you shop.

Click here for more details.

_________________________________________________________________

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Visit my chapter, and see for yourself what’s so awesome about One Brick and One Brick Detroit:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/One-Brick-Detroit/108983815861413?fref=photo

Website: http://detroit.onebrick.org/

If you don’t usually shop Amazon on line, there is another easy donation avenue open: http://www.onebrick.org/IL1B

Quote for the Week:

It’s so much easier to commit 11 25 2014

Owe and Own

I own and owe; for the next 30 years.

The last time I made a long-term commitment , it turned out to not be so long. Still, the fact that I was prepared to honor that commitment is mighty considering my track record of temporariness.

My un-commitments have been more a more solid bet: jobs, towns, hair color. Not only have I never been bothered by change, I’ve looked forward to it, craved it. The forward-to part hasn’t always panned out positive. When you’re beginning an adventure, and everyone else has already been stuck there for years, your point of view isn’t always appreciated. I’ve found myself an unwelcome short-term outsider who only now can appreciate how my just being there could upset a hierarchical apple-cart, especially one of the preppy-kind. Doesn’t make me feel any better about that year, but I can teeter-totter rationalize forgiveness; some days more than others.

I’ve only recently concluded there are more minutia commitments than grand-scale. We commit every day. Sometimes it’s a job, or a promise to study harder, or play harder, or practice harder. We commit and recommit to exercise, intelligent eating, saving money.

We commit to brushing our teeth in the evening, showering in the morning, and something doesn’t feel right if we don’t. Rote is solid; solidity is commitment. I’ve moved so many times, I don’t despise it. It’s a habit. I might miss that moving feeling in short-time, weigh-in will come later.

This is long-term true. I want to get it right. Once. I don’t want to have to go back and rework. I don’t want to be paralyzed by having to get it exactly right, either. These days define as ups and downs. Some sway longer than others.

“Now” spends a lot of time fighting with “whenever,” which is completely irrelevant because resources are limited. I am uncomfortably staring down a 14-year sprint to retirement savings. “Have-to” is going to win over “want-to,” because I still haven’t ever matched more than one number in the Mega Millions lottery.

I’m spending so much time arguing with myself that I simply don’t have the energy to argue with anyone else.

Some people are liking this new trend; others appear to be loving it.

Quote for the Week:

There’s an art to successfully arguing with yourself 11 18 2014

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Keeping Commitments: http://elitedaily.com/life/stop-breaking-commitments/

Historical Mortgage: http://www.mortgagecalculator.org/helpful-advice/american-mortgage-history.php

Arguing Opposites: http://www.unlearning101.com/fuhgetaboutit_the_art_of_/2009/12/argue-with-yourself-its-not-debatable.html

 

Stression

The Season of Stress Sessions and Shoulder Tension has arrived. As if a late Thanksgiving followed by a quick-moving Christmas and a must-squeeze-the-last-minute-out-of-this-year pre-New Year’s resolution weren’t going to prove challenging enough, just for fun, I’ve thrown a condo, repairs, renovations and moving into the mix.

I’ll be sitting still most of the day a week from now monitoring contractors. Although, I’m still self-arguing that block could be used for bathroom demolishment, I’m also thinking it would be prime  for addressing Thanksgiving and New Address cards. Just so you won’t be disappointed, fair-warning there will be no individually assembled masterpieces this year. I have photographically employed my signature artistic creation, though, so I’ve at least that satisfied a modicum of individuality and a little of my buck-the-norm sensibilities.

By default, my previous no-idea-where-to-begin list from h e double hockey-sticks, has been trashed. I still may grant privy, just to show where my thought wandering comes from.

I may also need to live with the powder blue, sun-bleached, salt-stained, mud-run 35-year-old carpet for a bit in favor of a new electric panel from a company without a class-action lawsuit, re-replace copper or pvc piping replaced with polybutylene, and procure a more efficient furnace than the 1978 needs-so-much-work I should just ease my mind and get a new one which also means re-piping due to previous gas leaks.

There’s an interesting story from The Condo Chronicles. On the second tour, accompanied by and agent and an inspector, I thought I smelled gas. No one else did, but (the story goes) the property had been closed up for a while, it’s not unusual, blah blah blah. An hour and twenty minutes later, we trio-ed the basement. Another thirty-five or so minutes checked out the electric panel, the hack plumbing and for the final assessment, the furnace. There’s this nifty little wand thing that gets waved around the furnace and water heater. It detects gas leaks and sounds an alarm. I really loud alarm, experience has shown. Off with the gas, out with us, utilities notification and that was that.

On my way to researching the cost of a magic peace-of-mind wand, I reviewed the inspection details and realized, replacement was the recommendation.  That worst-case-scenario mentality and I probably wouldn’t have slept well wondering if it was leaking now, or leaking now, or leaking now?

I’ll sign off this week announcing my intention to spend every free moment moving something, unpacking something, possibly painting something, while hosting contractors. I should also probably announce the already creeping overwhelm. Yup; Stression.

Quote for the Week:

magic peace of mind wand

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Bob Vila, Where to Begin: http://www.bobvila.com/articles/2232-home-additions-and-renovation-projects-where-to-begin/#.VGKnLfnF-RE

Don’t Worry: http://www.positivityblog.com/index.php/2014/02/19/stop-worrying/

Be Happy:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oo4OnQpwjkc and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mACqcZZwG0k

Staying

Backward, usually, I am.

It’s pretty much always been that way; out of prescribed order, sometimes on purpose, sometimes not.

I was denied a promotion to a job I was already covering at JC Penney. I was informed there was a new rule just coming into effect requiring a college education for any management position, including assistants.

For a long time, I’ve wondered if Mr. Doucet was in cahoots with my father on this. He didn’t seem all that surprised when I returned from my requested interview complaining, and very disappointed. My re-matriculation to the University of Massachusetts resulted in a college degree, and a position at B. Altman & Co. in New York City. When I announced my acceptance of the management-level job offered, my father nodded and said, “Aren’t you glad you went back to school? I owe Mr. Doucet a debt of gratitude,”

I’ve stumbled across confirmation in the form of an interesting article: “Staying is Settling: Why You Need To Move At Least 5 Times In Your Life.”

I’ve always believed staying is settling. I’ve moved more than that just in my present state. Michigan: 8

Who knew my dream-chasing instability would translate so nicely into achievement?

With that in mind, I direct this note to all; everyone from everywhere I’ve ever landed or launched:

If you thought I was going, I’m not.

If you thought I was coming back, I’m not.

I bought a condo.

I’m staying.

 

Quote for the Week:

dream chasing instability fondest achievements

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Move 5 Times: http://elitedaily.com/life/staying-settling-need-move-5-times-life/751829/

Quotes About Settling: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/settling

When Not To Follow Advice: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-worst-career-advice-do-what-you-love/

Evolution, Part 3: Cut + Weave

There are many shades of innovation. Some are brighter than others.

There are two engaging and admirable industries within Cass Social Services. Both use recycled/reclaimed materials. Sheet glass becomes handmade coasters packaged in boxes hewn from reclaimed wood. Trashed tires become mud mats, and flip-flops.

Riding around Detroit picking up discarded tires for reuse brings tire recycling to a higher level. Repurposing illegally released rubber into colorful mud mats and trendy flip-flops is out-of-the-box inspiring; a home run from Detroit for Detroit. Even the big “D” logo shows up and adds pride to the sandals. How cool is it to tread on treads? Very. Freaking. Cool.

Rotating through various work stations in smaller groups was also engaging. At each interactive stop, we met mentors, ranging from self-conscious to confident, reserved to animated, a bit distrusting to upright happy. All had story to tell: who they were, who they are, who they are trying to be, a timeline of weary challenges and personal successes.

I tried my hand at glass cutting, after almost everyone else had. The basics: run the blade along the ruler at a 45° angle using firm, even pressure. Since all the kids were doing it, I denied my initial reluctance, carefully applying caution and draw. My instinctive “pass” was reinforced when my efforts failed to split evenly. A portion of the jagged piece I created would be salvageable, just not by me.

Our final afternoon assignment wasn’t about footwear, but an underfoot of another kind: mud mats.

Our two-person team’s teacher was reluctant. His nervousness was recognizable; his mannerisms familiar. You know the feeling you get when the last twist of the Rubik Cube nets the results you’ve been struggling with? You know the contented click of slipping in the last puzzle piece? You know the charge you get when you know you can succeed? With 30+ years of personality variation patience building behind me, I knew what to do. This was my right-place useful moment, although, that might not have been his initial impression

I know we were frustrating. Switching back and forth between thick and thin strips of sliced tire creating an unclear pattern while keeping track of non-repetitive rainbow colors was a bit like Suduko, which has never been a strong point of mine. Rework would be required a number of times.

I understand there is a color version of the game. That may indeed be manageable for me. Shapes might work, too. I’ve never viewed the solution as the need to create a single sum on each line. Too busy trying to figure out what doesn’t go to seemingly no purpose. But a puzzle is just that – an exercise in solving a problem. We all solve problems on a daily basis. Some of them are monumental and some of them are minute. All can be resolved; review, reanalyze, rework.

I know we eventually made him a little more comfortable. I know we made him shake his head in bemusement, and later amusement. I know he didn’t understand how we could not understand. Perhaps too bold, I want to believe our failure, could have proved positive self-worth. He was the teacher, doing something we could not. We left him with a smile, and to my great happiness, he smiled back.

Quote for the Week:

ALL can be resolved Sep 16 2014

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Flip-Flops: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flip-flops

Flip-Flops, Mud Mats, Coasters: http://cass-community-store.myshopify.com/

Flip-Flop: sound, reversal, circuit, sandal: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flip-flop

 

 

Evolution, Part 1: Energy + Shred

A Wednesday in July, found me once again at Cass Social Services, Detroit.  I had already decided to say “yes” to any opportunity offered.  As usual, assignments are always vague. Recyclable paper sorting sounded simple enough. Separate white from color, remove staples, clips, rubber bands, metal; cardboard and note pads had their own place, away from the action. Go.

At first, frantic sorting at the front end resulted in nothing to do down the way. As the loads came faster, the questions rolled.White on one side, printed on the other, which bin? Manila folders – color or cardboard? We’re all uncertain. Nobody wants to make judgment calls. Stop.

Readjustments are necessary, as is accepting redirection from seasoned volunteers. Don’t run the conveyor belt, our advisor advises. Place your bins on the belt, not under the table. Depends on how much ink covers the surface. Logo printed letterhead – white. Full-color picture checks – color. Use the ledges to gather clips and bands. Go.

Out of necessity, voluntary role fulfillment begins. The step-ups absorb additional duties, identifying gaps. One paid particular attention to empty space on the conveyor belt, reacting by a step-away and back with another full box, and another. Our little piles of clips and bands began to overflow the little ledges we set them on. Soon, another volunteer appears collecting our collections and carrying them away. I love the evolution of teams.

Of course, there is confidentiality involved. I doubt there would be any documents to shred if there wasn’t. The pace is steady. Occasionally comments float by. “Handwritten formal correspondence!” “Typewriter carbon-paper copies!” “Pre-rolodex index cards!” “Gregg shorthand!” Oddities and treasures some of us remember; others need further explanation.

“I can’t shred this,” someone says, displaying an ornamental parchment. It is a beautiful baptism certificate. She frets over its importance and sets it aside, before drawing more items from the same folder. “Birth certificates, marriage license, divorce papers, will, death certificate,” she ticks, and we pause.  This is someone’s entire legal life. It doesn’t seem right, destroying a paper life, but the all-inclusiveness suggests that none of these documents are needed anymore. They are sorted into the appropriate bins, headed to the shredder.

In less than an hour, we have conquered the separation. The shredder is still shredding, operated by other volunteers from our group, and we are recruited to a new task. Moving cardboard from the almost-up-to-the-warehouse-ceiling tall pile of broken down boxes closer to the strapper which will compress them into bulk bundles. A line forms at the pile, and for a few minutes, we pardon-me and excuse-me past each other carrying as many as possible.

Someone suggests we split up into pilers and movers. The pilers will position small loads on the outstretched arms of movers, who will move them to their destination. There are still jam-ups, but the mountain is moving faster. A few minutes more, and another solution arrives via a team youth.  With an observant tilted head, she theorizes we could still do better by employing the Fireman’s bucket brigade. She is correct and within another few minutes, another task was complete.

Together, the shredders, strappers, pilers and movers move along to the Green Room. The Green Room may have been the hardest task. At least, it seemed that way to me. We’d already been standing and moving and bending and reaching for two hours. Still, we collectively strapped our tired feet to elliptical machines and stationary bikes, and pedaled. The point of the Green Room is twofold. A way to provide exercise equipment to shelter seekers and temporary residents, each piece is also attached to a power generator. Credits are issued for energy generated here, helping defray operation costs. Following a few rounds of “I’m not generating, anything! Are you generating anything?”

A quartet of young men joined the effort on the other wall, pedaling wildly, competitively announcing wattage as it rose. We balked because our machines still showed no observable results. Slowly, not collectively but individually, not all at once but eventually, each slid from our seats to allow others the opportunity to add to gains that would presumably be more significant than ours.

The Green Room was also where my ideals evoked my internal green Hulk anger.

(* We were actually generating a legitimate watt or two as a group, just not significantly: individually or quartet comparatively.)

Quote for the Week:

There is always room for an improvement 09 02 2014

 

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Power Biking: http://www.doityourself.com/stry/how-to-use-a-bicycle-to-make-renewable-energy#.VAZTicJ0yM8

Shred Stats: http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/paper/faqs.htm

Bucketing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bucket_brigade