Seattle sits on the shores of the beautiful Puget Sound, a body of water connected to the Pacific Ocean. The Sound runs about a hundred miles deep into Western Washington. Because the Sound is part of the Pacific it maintains a constant temperature of about fifty-four degrees year round. It keeps us cool in the summer and relatively warm in the winter.
Because we are warm, we garden year round in the Puget Sound basin despite the fact that we are farther north than many cities in the frozen interior of the country. First let me assure you that it does snow here. When it snows, everything shuts down until the stuff melts in two or three hours. We do have winter storms that coat our trees in ice and bring down the power lines. We comment on these freaks of nature because they are freaks.
Currently, it is December third. I have dahlias and roses blooming. We had a bit of frost a week or so ago, but it wasn’t severe enough at my house to freeze the dahlias or roses. We are expecting an ice storm but it may pass us by. My primroses are getting ready to bloom. Many people plant pansies for winter color. I prefer primroses. I have an apricot abutilon outside the living room window that is covered in flowers. On the north side of the house I have enough blooming fuchsias to satisfy our hummingbirds. I plan to go out and harvest for bouquets soon. I would take flowers to the Farmers Market if I were not so busy with other projects.
The vegetable garden still holds some broccoli, cauliflower, kale, beets, cabbage, leeks, Brussels sprouts, and lettuce. I should bring in the last of the summer squash. Next year’s garlic is coming up nicely. I won’t start picking the garlic greens until spring because we have such short days for the poor dears to try to feed themselves. The artichoke plants are getting huge. We’ll continue to eat from the garden through Christmas. Our lack of daylight hours slows growth until about February.
The down side of the winter garden is that I had to fill the slug traps last week because I found slugs in the kale. Hubby mowed the lawn two weeks ago and it really needs it again. He will need to mow before Christmas. Not only does the grass grow all winter, the weeds love the cool damp weather. Dandelions send their taproots deep into the garden beds while their leaves soak up as much sun as we have. The invasive buttercup invades. I suspect that pests are hibernating comfortably under my fruit trees.
I’m still planting bulbs for spring. Every day I hope to get the last of them into the ground. Perhaps they multiply in the garage where I store them. I don’t seem to be getting to the last bulb. Bulb planting is slow because I weed as I go. I can plant bulbs up until New Years and still have them bloom. After New Years, they might not get enough days of cold in order to bloom.
My neighbors plant their pea seeds in September and get a head start on pea season. I’ve tried fall planting peas but the poor plants get a fungus or mold and wither away.
How much we garden in the winter is subject to microclimates. Storms that come out of the north often don’t come as far south as my garden but may hit friend’s garden four miles up the road. My daughter’s garden is closer to the water than either my friend or myself. She may be out digging in the dirt when we are snowed in. (Snowed-in means I have two inches of very wet snow.)
I am thankful for my temperate garden. I do love flowers and gardening. Still, if the weeds are not to completely control the gardens, I must be out in forty-degree weather digging the things. On the other hand, my winter bouquets are the most beautiful bouquets of the year. I am blessed to live on my island in the middle of the Puget Sound.
Some days I wonder if I’ve lost touch with reality or if my reality really contains more people than are evident in my environment. I’m slightly isolated since I live in the country and run a farm. My home is situated on a quiet island away from the noise and drama of the city.
I can go for days without seeing anyone including the man I married. Yet, I am a person who needs companionship and other people in order to feel energized. Perhaps this is why I write. I started telling myself stories when I was very young. As a child my stories revolved around people taking me to ride a horse or visit the zoo.
As I grew older, my stories reflected my older dreams and experiences. I learned to think out long elaborate stories while driving. My stories have been my companions all my life. They pull in threads of possibilities and what ifs. I explore alternate realities through my imagination.
The day I started writing down one of my “what if” stories my life changed. My characters took on form and became more than shadowy figures that I could change at will. They solidified into strong beings who do as they please. Sometimes I wonder where they come from and like Alice in Wonderland I’m tempted to tell them they are just imaginary.
Okay, I’ve tried telling them they’re imaginary. Maude smiles sweetly and asks if I would like some tea. Jake argues. “No. We live in your head, but we are as real as anybody else. We have thoughts and desires. We work. We pray. It is your notions of reality that do not exist. We exist.”
Well fine. The characters in my books lead out their lives in my head. Occasionally, I check in on them. Jake and Celia smirk and tell me to close the bedroom door on the way out. Maude is likely to tell me to take a casserole to someone and Janette is too busy with her baby to pay much attention to me.
Fay, hugs me and asks when I am going to write about her wedding. Brides can be a bit nervous and demanding, but Fay is the first I’ve known who wants a whole book written about her wedding. Maudy laughs and agrees that I must write about the wedding. Soon all the other characters in my head are planning the reception and clamoring for me to tell their part in the event. I get a little resentful that they want me to write this whole novel just so they can have a party. They don’t see anything wrong with this idea. In fact they are quite excited about it all.
“I plan to make the wedding cake so can I come to the reception and bring Benny?” Janette sounds a little hesitant.
Jake kisses Janette on top of her head. “Of course you must come and bring Benny. It will be good to see him again. He and his friends did a fantastic job for us during our troubles. I’d like to take some time to chat with him as a friend.” Jake kisses Janette on top of her head again and takes her baby out of her arms.
Maude rushes through. “Oh Janette, you can use my kitchen here if you don’t want to transport the cake. Or, you can use the kitchen at the church.”
“I thought I’d do it at my house so I can watch Bennett.” Janette looks around for her baby.
“Jake stole him and Celia is teaching him sign language. She’ll probably have him reading in another fifteen minutes.”
“I can help Janette with the cake.” Maudy’s mother comes in and ties on an apron. “I took cake decorating classes.”
Fay dances through, “Oh and don’t worry about the cake topper. Rose told me that Kathy and Meg found some classy cake toppers when they were in Ireland. She thought they found some from the Waterford factory. Wouldn’t that be lovely?” Fay has been ricocheting between drifting about dreamily and bouts of industry. Perhaps if I write about her wedding she will settle down to complacent domesticity.
I still need to attend to the business of all my other characters. The story of when Jake and Celia were lovers is traveling the world and selling nicely. Jake’s autobiography needs lots of promotion. Maudy’s story is starting to take off and sell well. As for Janette, Rose, Kathy and Meg, their stories are still being corrected and edited and proofed. They remember a detail they want included and I must rewrite a section. Every rewrite causes at least two errors only one of which I catch.
Thus, though I live on a small farm in the woods in the middle of the Puget Sound, I have whole villages of people living in my head so I am never alone.
Today I have a guest author-my husband Loren. After forty-five years as a Certified Public Accountant, he's seen many successful businesses and many failures. He has consented to share some of his observations on what makes a successful business. - Delinda
One of the truly hard disciplines of life that is very important in business is the practice of not having “attitude”. When we have been hurt in some way that we feel is unjust, we are inclined to interact with that person in the future with a degree of righteous indignation. While that may make us feel somewhat better in the short run, the long run effect is usually detrimental to our business dealings and to our mental health. If our detractor is a customer, supplier, or employee our attitude may sour our relationship so that we lose that valuable relationship. We are better off to let the hurt run off our backs and move on, preserving our relationship.
If you agree with me, and you may not, the question is how we let the hurt run off our backs without being offended. The most straight forward way is to practice not being offended in the first place. It has been said that no one can offend you; you have to choose to allow yourself to be offended. When someone is saying something that hurts you, you can see it as a challenge to discover where the person’s attitude is coming from and addressing it, rather than letting it offend you. I can vouch for the fact that this is not easy. However, as you get better and better at not being offended you will find life much smoother and business more profitable. If you are not very successful at not being offended in the first place, the next best way to handle a hurt is to keep quiet for awhile and let yourself simmer down. Think about the perpetrator’s motives and see if you can address them without anger and without being dishonest with either him or yourself. Sometimes, when the person is just being unreasonable, you may have to just emphasize how you would like to keep the business relationship and not address those issues that you know you do not agree about.
Your choices are to react with attitude and perhaps have a feeling of righteous justification, or you can take a more studied approach and perhaps keep a valuable business relationship; you choose.
Loren L McCann, CPA, MS (Tax)
If you would like to read more of his articles, you can visit the Sutton-McCann blog at http://www.sutton-mccann.blogspot.com/
Once many years ago, a resentful young boy terrorized his village. His mama loved him and tried to teach him the things mothers teach their children so that they will grow up to find love. He kicked his mama in the shins and a surge of joy at his power flowed through his veins. His papa saw him and swept the lad off of his feet with one arm. He turned his son upside down and gave him two swift swats on his behind and admonished him, “Never, ever hurt anybody--least of all a woman.”
The boy felt resentment and hot anger at his papa’s words. He remembered how glad he felt when he kicked his mama. When his papa set him on his feet the boy ran away into the woods behind his house. He ran deep into the darkest part of the forest where he was forbidden to go. Branches clawed at his clothes and tore them. He brushed aside great swaths of spider web and felt powerful that he’d destroyed the spider’s nests. He crawled under limbs and kicked at the leaves and branches on the forest floor. He stomped on sickly black toadstools and felt his lip curl as he killed the foul smelling things.
Finally, the boy realized that the sun no longer shone through the branches of the thick trees overhead. In the darkness the toadstools grew thicker giving off a rank dead odor. He felt movement in his hair and danced as he brushed a bloated spider from his head. Somewhere high overhead a bird screeched. The boy began to wonder if he was lost, but thoughts of home reminded him of how his papa scolded him and how his mama was so mean. He grew hot and angry again vowing to stay in the forest all night so his parents would be frightened and all the people in the village would come looking for him. His lip curled into a sneer and he plunged into a wall of hanging moss that caressed his cheeks like cold slippery fingers.
Eventually, the boy found himself descending a slight slope. The thorn bushes grew so thick that he couldn’t push through them so he got down on his belly and wiggled his way between their trunks like a snake. The ground felt cold under his hands and he felt the damp seeping through the knees of his trousers. He pushed himself through a mass of thick vines and found that he could stand. He looked around and discovered he was in a clearing where the trees met overhead blocking out the sunlight. In the middle of the clearing he found a pool of black oily water with a scum of green slime on the surface. He still felt angry and wanted to hurt someone so he threw a stick into the water as hard as he could. The water rippled and the stick floated away while the water rippled and gurgled faster and faster. The boy watched as the pond scum wavered and parted revealing a face floating just under the surface of the water. He thought he heard a gurgle that turned into a laugh
“Who are you?” He asked as he started to turn and flee into the woods
“I’m Kim Sach the necromancer of this pond. Indeed all this part of the forest is under my power. Why have you come to disturb my peace?”
“Papa spanked me because I kicked my mama, but she deserved it because she wouldn’t let me do as I wished.”
“What did you wish to do?” The face wavered under the water, while the rotten smell grew to a stench as the face spoke
The boy longed for a breath of fresh air, but Mama had forbidden him to talk to strangers so he stayed and answered the question. “I wanted the cake the old woman gave to her granddaughter. The granddaughter is sickly and crippled. She doesn’t deserve the cake, and I do because I’m strong.”
“But not as strong as your papa?”
Anger surged in the boy’s heart and coursed through his veins again because Kim Sach told the truth.
Kim Sach laughed, “I like you. Yes, you are a comely child. I will help you grow strong so that you can have whatever you want.” Kim Sach smiled a cold pale smile.
The boy liked the cold smile. It made his heart beat faster and the blood course through his veins.
“Come. Drink of the water from my pool then you will grow strong, and I will tell you how to get the cake you want. Come closer and drink.”
The boy crept nearer to the edge of the pool. The water looked foul and smelled of dead things, but he wanted to be strong. He looked at the green slime and his stomach recoiled. He thought of having all the cake he wanted. Finally, he crawled to the water’s edge and lay down on his belly to drink a handful of water. He cupped some water in his hand. It felt like quicksilver on his skin. He brought his hand to his mouth and drank quickly. The water seemed to parch his throat as it slid all the way to his stomach where it landed with a heavy thud.
Kim Sach smiled up at him out of the water. “Now, when you go home you must tell your papa that you are sorry you kicked your mama.”
The boy scowled. “I don’t want to. I’m not sorry.”
“Good. This is very good. Still, you must tell your papa that you are sorry. It will make you stronger. Then in the night you will know what you must do to have the little girl’s cake.” Kim Sach dismissed him telling him to go home.
The boy returned to his home to find his mama crying and the men of the village preparing to enter the woods with axes, ropes and lanterns. His heart sang when he saw his mama’s tears and the worried faces all around him. He hung his head in front of everybody and told his papa that he was sorry he’d been naughty. He felt power and joy sweep through his body. He knew that in the lie he was stronger than his papa.
He went to bed that night thinking about the cake he wanted. In his dreams he saw the face of Kim Sach again. This time the face spoke to him in tones that reminded him of honey. “Oh dearest boy. You have made my heart happy. See how strong you’ve become by telling your father what wasn’t true. You are a smart pupil. You shall be rewarded richly. Now, you are stronger than the girl. Push her down and take her cake. Tell her that if she tattles on you, you will throw acid on her grandmother.”
The next day the boy waited until he saw the little girl sitting alone with her cake. He went to her and demanded that she give him her cake. At first she refused, but when he threatened to throw acid on her grandmother the little girl gave him her cake.
The boy walked away with the cake and the thrill of his power again filled his heart and mind. Sweeter to him than the cake had been the girl’s tears. He looked at the other children with new eyes. All they possessed would be his. By the end of the day, he owned a slingshot, a pretty stone, a string of blue beads and a wooden whistle. His new possessions did not delight him as much as the tears and helplessness of the other children.
As the boy grew, he didn’t have any friends, but he had something better. He had power over the other children. When they played games, the children always allowed him to be the captain of their team and the other children always allowed his team to win. The boy found that he seldom needed to push someone down or hit them. He could make them cry with his words.
One day when he was ten, the priest took the boy aside and talked to him. “I see how you treat the other children. If you don’t learn to love them, you will surely perish in hell. I cannot let you torment the others. I will give you a week to change your ways. If you do not, I will talk to all the parents in the village and tell them to banish you to the forest.”
The boy now knew fear. He didn’t want to be banished to where he wouldn’t have power over others. He didn’t know how to deal with the priest. His fear of the priest ate at him day and night so that he didn’t find pleasure when he made the girl with the crippled foot cry. He hit her and felt better. He hit her again and made her lip bleed. He tasted her blood on his hand. He liked the taste of blood and felt strong again. He knew he must deal with the priest, but how.
On the third day after talking to the priest the boy finally remembered Kim Sach. He made his way into the forest and fought his way into the darkest woods. He broke limbs that were in his way. He stomped down the tender plants until, once again, he found the thicket of thorns. He hacked them back and ground the black toadstools into the ground beneath his feet. He rent the spider webs with his stick and beat at vines until he came to the black oily pool. Instead of waiting for the necromancer, he called in a loud voice. “Kim Sach!”
The water began to swirl and steam. The steam rose from the pool filling the clearing with a clinging wet fog that reeked of rotting flesh. The head and torso of a hideously deformed man rose up out of the water. The boy could see through the apparition to the trees on the other side of the clearing and felt fear course through his body.
Kim Sach spoke, “Do not be afraid. You have found great favor with me. I have long desired for you to come to visit me again. What do you wish?”
The boy told Kim Sach about the priest and his threats of hell and banishment from the village.
Kim Sach laughed. “Oh no my beloved. You are under my protection. Hell will never touch you. Come, drink the water of the pool.”
The boy crawled to the edge of the pool, cupped his hands and drank two hands full of water. This time the water made his stomach hurt and his head spin so that he fell back in the leaf mold in a sweat. He looked up at the apparition above him and asked, “What have you done? Why does it hurt?”
Kim Sach answered, “Do you feel pain? Knowing pain will make you stronger. You must suffer a little so that you learn never to let someone make you suffer. Go home and in the night you will know what to do about the priest.”
The boy walked home with his stomach in pain, but he told himself the pain would make him stronger. He went to bed and fell asleep. Later, Kim Sach came to him in his dreams and stood beside his bed in the full form of a hunchbacked man with pocked skin. “Get up. Go and watch the priest’s house. You will know what to do.”
The boy silently got up and went to the priest’s cottage. The boy thought, “I will watch to see if the priest goes out and where he goes. Perhaps I can catch him alone and kill him.” He hid behind a thorn bush and watched. He was rewarded by something better than getting the priest alone. The priest left his house within minutes after the boy hid. The boy silently followed the priest to the hut of an old man who lived at the very edge of the village. The hut had no windows, but the boy found a place where he could watch and listen through a large crack.
The old man lay on a palette on the floor with a candle beside him. His fingers were deformed and his body was covered in sores. “Did you bring it?” He rasped.
The priest nodded, “I wish you would not ask this of me. Reconsider what you want me to do.”
The old man answered. “I’ve thought long about this. The pain shows me no mercy. I now must ask mercy of you.”
The priest nodded again. “You were once my teacher. I will do as you ask, but I do not like this.” He reached inside his cloak and pulled out a small gourd such as he sometimes used for wine and with one hand lifted the old man’s head.
The old man cried out in pain so the priest made a move to lower him down again but the old man hissed. “Give me mercy.”
The priest held the gourd to the old man’s lips and tipped it up until it’s scarlet contents spilled out of the old man’s mouth.
The boy watched as the old man drew his last breath and the priest performed the office for the dead. When the priest left the hut, he walked doubled over as if in great pain.
The next day, the boy took his new power and sought out the priest. “Father, I have come to confess.” The boy hung his head to hide the triumph in his eyes. “Last night, I followed you. I saw where you went. I saw what you did. This morning I heard that the old man died in his sleep. I will make a deal with you. I will not tell others what I saw if you do not condemn me before others.” The priest pleaded with the boy to give up his bullying ways, but in the end he agreed not to condemn the boy before others.
The boy rejoiced in his new power. By day, he continued to torment the children. By night he crept around the village listening at windows and following those who went out. He learned that the candle maker cheated by putting tallow in his wax candles. The miller’s scales were unbalanced in his favor. The baker had mice in his kitchen. The clerk in the store shorted a woman on the fabric he sold her. With each new secret the boy grew stronger. He went to each person and demanded money or favors in order to keep their secrets. Years passed and he grew stronger.
One night, when the boy had hid himself in the loft of the livery stable to spy on the blacksmith, he watched as the blacksmith took a whip and hit a horse belonging to the rich man who lived in the manor.
The next day the boy confronted the blacksmith saying that he would tell the rich man how his horse had been treated. The blacksmith stood with his hands on his hips and looked at the youth. “The man gave me that horse to discipline because it is mean. I’ve watched how you treat the other children in the village. I see that some of the men are afraid of you because you are mean. Perhaps I should treat you the same as that horse.”
The boy laughed, “You cannot hurt me because all the people in the village will exile you to the forest if you so much as touch me.” Just as the boy said this, the blacksmith grabbed a leather strap and brought it down across the boy’s face. The boy remembered that pain would make him stronger so he laughed at the blacksmith and the lash fell again. Again and again, the blacksmith hit the boy with the strap. The boy stopped laughing. He tried to run away but the blacksmith used the strap like a whip. It snaked around the boy’s ankles and dragged him back into the stable. The boy began to cry then he begged the blacksmith to stop.
The blacksmith snarled back, “Did you ever stop tormenting the old woman’s crippled granddaughter? Did you ever stop stealing from the other children? Did you ever stop calling the baker’s son stupid or the miller’s daughter ugly?” With each question the lash fell and cut the boy’s skin.
Finally, the blacksmith let the boy go. “I gave you no more than you deserve for bullying the people of this village. You are a disgrace to your parents.”
The boy had long passed the point where he could recognize justice. He felt outrage that he had been caught. He wanted to scream that the blacksmith had been unfair. He wanted to get even. He knew how to get even. He made his way to the forest and sought out the darkest woods. The branches lashed at him as the blacksmith had done. Clumps of turf tripped him as he’d tripped the boys as school. Vines grabbed at his pants and hindered his passage as he’d blocked others going about their business. Thorns ripped at his skin and clothing. Spider webs clung to his hair and stuck to his face. Finally, covered in his own blood, he arrived at the pool.
He called out for Kim Sach to come, but the necromancer’s face did not arise from the black depths to disturb the scum on the pool. Finally, the boy thought that he didn’t need an apparition to tell him to drink the magic water. He crawled forward to the edge of the pool. He cupped his hands and scooped up the oily, putrid water bringing it to his mouth. As he drank the foul tasting liquid a booted foot kicked him rolling him into the pond. The cool, oily water slid over his face and filled his nose. He dared not breathe so he tried to push himself to the surface with his arms and legs, but he couldn’t feel them. He tried to flail against the water, but no movement from his body disturbed the glassy surface of the pool above him. His senses detected nothing more than cold creeping in his ears and numbing his brain. He became aware that the cold carried the sound of laughter into his diminished world so he looked up to see his body healed of its wounds standing beside the pool.
He heard the voice of Kim Sach laughing, “What was yours is now mine. I was conceived to drink the souls of mankind, but the angels cursed me and imprisoned me in this pool to exist without form. I’ve waited since the beginning of time for someone to bring me a body so that I would be free to wander the earth. Fool, you have served me well. You have fed me with the tears and weakness of the villagers. You have fought your way back to me each time you have been in danger of learning compassion. Oh you have been most obedient and helpful. Do not worry about your body. I shall take good care of it and it shall never grow weak or die.” Kim Sach seemed to think this was funny for he laughed a long time with the laugh the boy had nurtured in the presence of the helplessness of others. “But, I see that you are alone. Because you were such a useful tool, I shall send you company. For those who feast on the pain of others make the tastiest of delicacies for such as myself. I shall send you their essence.”
The boy once again tried to flail at the oily water. He thrashed his head back and forth and tried to cry out for his mama and papa to come save him, but no sound escaped the pool. He watched through the surface of the rippling water above him as the trees parted and bowed down toward their master, and Kim Sach strode off into the forest.
To this day, Kim Sach walks the earth looking for those who feast on the pain of others. He hides in the dark places and watches at windows. He is the shadow in the basement or under the front stoop. Like a spider, he hides behind his web of darkness in the alley and waits until his meal is ready. When the soul is ripe from teasing and cruelty, Kim Sach will cast his net around his victim drawing them to him and he dines on their flesh. What is left when the body and soul are devoured is sent to the oily pool in the forest to cry out for a papa and mama who will never come, because no sound or being escapes the pool in the forest.
My first job fresh out of college taught me my first lesson about who is poor. I was working in a pilot project to teach ESL to the children of migrant farm workers. I soon learned that English was not a second language. It was an only language. Why didn’t the children talk? They seemed normal enough—perhaps a little docile.
I soon learned that the base of the children’s language problems arose from the fact that their parents didn’t talk to them at home. These parents were members of the working poor. They worked long hours. Sometimes the men would work all day in the field and half the night in the packinghouse. They didn’t have time or energy to talk to or read to their children. These children were smart. They just didn’t have much experience with language. While I taught language, I learned that people who work hard for long hours will be poor if they don’t make much money at their job. These families were often upwardly mobile—just poor.
Some working poor are immigrants. Others may have a learning disability that shortened their educational career. Others among the working poor come from disrupted families and never had the opportunity to finish school. Also, with a tight job market low-wage jobs are all that is available to those with higher level skills.
I’ve worked with those who have obvious disabilities or mental health conditions. These people I call the visibly disabled. If their disability doesn’t prevent them from earning a livable wage, they face discrimination in the work force. It is possible that the only jobs available to the visibly disabled are for charitable Non-Government Organizations who are exempt from minimum wage so they can lease out disabled workers to for-profit companies looking for cheap labor. In other words the only jobs they can get are where they are exploited—not healthy and they’re still poor.
The elderly comprise a large section of our poor population. Many of the elderly poor come from the working poor or the visibly disabled. Still many were solidly middle class people who saved for retirement and invested in social security, but investments and social security didn’t keep up with inflation. Many widows join the ranks of the poor when their husband dies and they lose a third of their income right when they lose someone who helps with the daily chores.
The fourth and one of the largest sections among the poor are those with invisible—especially cognitive, disabilities. This is another group that I’ve been intensively involved with much of my career. Where do people with invisible disabilities come from? Many of those I work with were prenatally exposed to alcohol. These folks look okay on the outside and even seem smart enough but essential sections of their brains are missing. People with disabilities related to prenatal exposure to alcohol make up a large section of our disability, working poor and prison populations.
Still, alcohol is not the only toxin that causes birth defects. The list of such toxins called teratogens includes prescription medications, PCBs, radiation, rubella virus and many other chemicals or conditions such a hypothermia. Most of these agents cause hidden or cognitive birth defects. Some with those hidden disabilities may have a strong talent that will lift them out of poverty, but the vast majority will continue to need government assistance for life. Note: It is my opinion that companies that produce teratogens should be taxed enough to cover the costs of the problems their industry creates, but that’s not likely to happen.
The fourth group I’ll call the traumatized poor. These are people who have encountered discrimination and abuse at school or work that interfered with their ability to progress toward finishing their education or continuing employment. These people can usually return to the workforce with counseling, education and job training. They need supports in order to be okay.
The last group is the circumstantial poor. These are the IT people who lost their jobs at the beginning of the last recession. They were probably unemployed for up to a year before finding low paying jobs. They will eventually solve their problems independently, but can really benefit from food stamps now.
Another class of circumstantial poor includes those who live in economically disadvantaged regions. The land is too poor to farm and there is no industry to supply jobs. Many people leave these regions, but some cannot for many reasons. Those living in economically disadvantaged regions will need assistance from outside. Here the best help would be to bring in new industry while providing food stamps and other assistance.
This is how I see the structure of poverty after working for forty-seven years in the field of human development. The above populations easily account for all the people who need assistance in our country. As for those who appear to be scamming the systems or are looking for a handout, they probably fit into the invisible disability category. States do have internal auditors who know how to look for those who would cheat the system. There is no reason to think we can save government money by finding cheaters.
The absolutely best way to cut government spending on programs such as WIC, food stamps and head start is to raise the minimum wage high enough to move the working poor into the working class that does not need public assistance.
I hope this clarifies a huge issue in our public discussion about money. If you still believe that there is a huge section of people scamming the system, please, go study about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome then look at the other disabilities related to teratogens. The only people scamming the system are those industries that do not pay for the damage caused by the teratogens they produce and those with high profits that do not pay minimum wage.
Tyranny VS Reason
By Delinda McCann
In order for society to work, I think there must always be a balance that needs to be considered between freedom and oppression. Seeing where that balance might be admittedly is a challenge, but we all recognize that there is a point at which one person’s freedom infringes on the rights of other individuals. Maintaining that balance is what democracy is all about.
The thorny part of the balance comes in recognizing what infringes on the rights of another. Sexual intercourse in a public park is a good example of something that may not impress the couple engaged in the act as infringing upon others. They can argue endlessly in a circle that if you don’t want to see them having sex, you can look away. You are still free to use the park. They can argue that sex should be something conducted out in the open. It is normal and natural. You sputter back that you don’t want to see it and you don’t want your children to see it. Again our amorous couple argues back that you are stifling your child’s education while indoctrinating them with repressive values, and if you don’t want to see their acts, you don’t have to go to the park. You can argue that you should be free to use the park and the lovers assure you that they should be free to enjoy the park also and that you are welcome to do as you please.
These arguments that travel in endless circles are destructive to communities in that they allow the biggest bully to infringe upon the rights of others. Now, both my naked couple and the young mother with her children in the park will call the other the bully. This is why we need government. Somebody needs to arbitrate the endless argument assuring all people have equal access to the park.
In the case of public sex, our society has agreed that we don’t want to see naked people humping. Actually we don’t want to see people humping that is one of those behaviors that we as a society have allocated to the bedroom or certain closed-door clubs. Sadly, this infringes upon the freedom of the couple that wants to have sex in the fountain at the park at high noon. The reality is that absolute freedom is not an option.
So, we struggle with the balance between individual freedom and oppression. When the balance goes too far toward the individual freedom we experience a form of lawless tyranny that is every bit as bad as the oppression that comes from excessive government suppression.
How do we monitor ourselves to determine if we are maintaining a proper balance or are we the bully ruling through the tyranny of the extreme? John Wesley (1703-1791) gave us some good guidelines that I will paraphrase.
1) How did this conflict come about? Did someone actually get arrested for public sex? Is the amorous couple bringing charges because bystanders threw buckets of cold water on them ruining their amorous outing?
2) Traditionally how has the city dealt with sex in the park? Do officials turn a blind eye after dark, or if the couple is concealed behind shrubbery. Have they ever had a law about public display of conception?
3) What does our body of wisdom literature say about public sex? Aside from some pagan fertility rituals, I can’t think of any time sex in public has been condoned. Note: The fertility rituals were part of worship and were conducted at a specific time and place.
4) Does this make sense? Is it right? This question is the true gift of Wesley. He said after you’ve looked at the history, literature and tradition sit back and use your own brain to question if your understanding is correct. My brain tells me the case for sex in public does not make sense because people can procreate many other places. Sometimes during human history we’ve had to say that history, tradition and literature are wrong. If we are created equal then it is wrong for one human to own another human thus slavery is wrong.
So my friends, as we become embroiled in endless arguments over who’s rights are being suppressed or infringed upon can we step back and apply the rules of reason to our own position?
The pursuit of reason is not as easy as blindly following someone who has something to gain from his position. The pursuit of reason does require study and research. It requires a certain basic level of knowledge. Still, it is worthwhile in itself and necessary for the prosperity of our community.
I just read a blurb on how having positive thoughts will keep you healthy and that positive thoughts are so powerful they may even cure cancer. While I agree that there is probably a strong relationship between positive thoughts and health, I don’t think it is causal. I think it is just easier to have positive thoughts when you are healthy. Remember the saying, “When you have your health, you have everything.” Why not be happy when you are healthy?
Not all of us are healthy. Some of us come into the world with a couple strikes against us and things get rough from there. I consider myself a fairly upbeat positive person. Most people look at me and consider me to be very positive. Once, someone called me a Pollyanna because I was always cheerful.
Having positive thoughts and being cheerful have not prevented a long list of chronic illnesses. I developed my birth defect before I had thoughts. My thought process had no control over what happened in the womb. I may be more pleasant to be around because I’m cheerful and optimistic, but I’m not healthy. I simply choose to be happy.
This leads me to a discussion of depression. When people are sick they get depressed. I got the flu a couple weeks ago and have been fighting the cough coupled with asthma ever since. I’m neither happy nor cheerful. I might go so far as to say I’m not optimistic tonight. Sometimes I take medications to treat the mood disorder, but they don’t do much good.
My thoughts run in circles on issues of abandonment-especially being abandoned by God. As my stomach cramps from coughing, I have fantasies of being sick and injured and being among people who don’t speak English and have no concern for my health, which is a pretty accurate description of my life alone in the house with three dogs. They want me to do things despite the fact that I hurt all over and cough if I move. I have no idea what they want because they don’t speak English and I feel too miserable to speak dog.
It is at times like this that all I can see of my past is pain and fatigue. I know we visited Italy. I remember how my back ached on the flight over. I remember the Italian woman who yelled at me for touching a doll she had on display. I remember having trouble finding food to eat. It was a fantastic trip. I know I was excited and would love to go back, but now it is hard to remember the joys.
I think about other places I’d like to travel and I wonder if I will ever be well enough. Will I ever have enough energy to earn the money to take a trip? Perhaps I should just close my farm stand now instead of struggling to earn enough money to take another trip. I see no hope for being well enough to travel.
This is the view from inside a chronic illness. I am in pain. I cannot imagine a future without pain. I am unbelievably tired. I cannot imagine a future full of energy. I am alone. I cannot imagine a future surrounded by friends and companions. I cannot imagine having energy to engage with friends and companions.
So where does the power of positive thinking leave me now? Will it cure arthritis, restore a damaged immune system, help me remember to call the doctor about blood tests? Is positive thinking a waste of energy and a denial of reality? Would I be better off to say, “I’m sick. I will take my meds and get some extra sleep. Tomorrow I will leave the house and run a few errands and maybe buy myself a pansy to set by the front door to cheer me up.”
This is the point at which I recognize the lie behind the positive thinking propaganda. Some people get sick because of circumstances beyond their control. Happy, positive people get sick. To say that we are sick because we don’t think ourselves well is not only a lie, it creates an aura of blame around the chronically ill and disabled as if we would rather lie on the sofa than go skiing, or dancing or work in the garden. We don’t need lies and we don’t need blame. If we bear the scars of living in a hostile environment so be it.
Some days we might as well face the reality of our own limits and do what we can without the expectation of the joy of good health. The day comes when it is time to say the flower harvest is over. It’s time to bring the flower stand home and let my income be what it is for this year. The flowers will bloom again in the spring and maybe, just maybe, I’ll be well enough to enjoy their beauty.
Of course as an organic gardener I am supporting the labeling of foods containing GMOs. I am not supporting this bill because I want to sell more organic produce. I grow organic produce because I do not want to expose myself to pesticides or foods that will irritate my poor, delicate, damaged digestive system.
As a social psychologist I work with people who need to put everything they have into the chores of communicating, feeding themselves, getting along with family and, with support, working at a job. The common cold leaves my clients in bed unable to talk or care for themselves. The slightest digestive insult catapults them into a trance like state where they stare at the wall and snarl at anyone who interrupts them. Other clients may have raging or weeping melt-downs. Vulnerable people need to know what is in their food.
So today, Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, Grocery Manufacturer Assn., and DuPont sent me a silly flyer about why I should vote no on an Initiative I was eager to support. It is an excellent example of using half-truths and generalization to support a position that does not benefit the health and wellbeing of the people of my state.
The first point on the flyer is that the “law that would impose complicated food labeling regulations in Washington that do not exist in any other state.” Yay!! Yes. We are the second to try to get labeling. We’re pioneers. However, the labeling does exist in other countries if GMO containing products are not banned outright. It exists in Canada, England, Germany, Russia and that bastion of product safety, China. Labeling of GMO’s exists in about 55 other countries.
The anti-GMO labeling forces attempted to answer several questions:
What would I-522 do? Oh dear, the chemical industries’ point is vague and misleading. Yes, the initiative would require foods containing GMOs to be labeled. They mention again that this label would be just for Washington. Companies are free to use the GMO identifying label in any state they wish. They can use the same labels they use in Canada or England. Yes, foods that are not directly genetically modified are exempt. The purpose of the law is to label those things that are genetically modified. Those products like milk and wine that have not been subject to genetic modification are exempt. If the genes of mushrooms have never been messed with in a lab the mushrooms are exempt.
How much would I-522 cost taxpayers? We don’t know. It depends on how compliant food manufacturers are. I participated in the process for adopting warning labels for alcohol products sold in Washington. You see the signs we petitioned for wherever liquor is sold. The process took several hours from several people about half of them were volunteers. I’m certain the liquor industry spend some substantial money fighting the process. Still the labels were implemented with very little cost to the state of WA. The liquor control board monitors the labeling again at little cost. The GMO producers will drive the cost on this process so their statements sound like extortion based on my experience. Vote no or we will bankrupt the state with procedural obstruction. I never give in to extortion.
Who’s behind I-522 I am. I am an organic grower living on Vashon Island in WA. People like me who are concerned about their own health and the health of those in their communities are behind this bill. As I mentioned before I am concerned also for the health of our vulnerable consumers. The anti-labeling people say that I-522 is funded by millions of dollars from out-of-state food manufacturers looking for a competitive edge. The Monsanto company, just one of the corporations fighting this bill controls 40% of our food supply. This is a case of David vs Goliath. I want to thank everybody in this country who is helping Washington State win this battle for the right to know what is in our food. Reality Check: Grocery Manufacturers Assn. DuPont, Monsanto, Dow, and Bayer are listed on the flyer I received as the top five contributors to the vote No effort. All of these are out of state Corporations and they complain that Vote Yes has out of state contributions.
Is there a food labeling system in place? Yes. I personally choose organic foods when available. But Certified Organic is a layer of protection that is not necessary in all products for all people. In the past our food supply was safe. People are still inclined to believe that there are no potentially harmful agents in our food. Labeling addresses that issue. Also, over the years I’ve found that some of my favorite products have been bought out by the big food processors and the recipe is changed without warning. If I’m accustomed to buying Kettle potato chips, I’d hate to see that company taken over by Lays and altered without telling me. I usually figure this out when I get sick. Getting sick is not a substitute for labeling. Also, I’d love to find products that are not organic but may be GMO free.
What’s the bottom line? The anti-labeling people state that I-522 would lead to inaccurate and unreliable information. Um…Oh My…does this mean that they will do their best to be inaccurate and unreliable? I doubt that I-522 is absolutely perfect-only God is perfect. But I-522 is as good as humans can make a piece of legislation. We do have the right to know what is in our food.
FAS*FRI board at a wedding
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) Awareness Day was first observed Sept. 9 1999. That year we rang bells all around the world. Every year since I have participated by publishing an article or speaking at an event. Today I want to spend a few moments describing what FAS is and what it is not.
My understanding of FAS comes from working beside Ann Streisguth and Sterling Clarren from the University of Washington where FAS was first defined for the AMA. I’ve also spent time with Ed Riley and am familiar with his work. In addition to my relationship with these primary researchers I was on the board of the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Family Resource Institute for the fourteen years of its existence. The Washington State Division of Alcohol and Substance abuse provided our primary funding. For special events we received funding from other agencies impacted by the disability.
When talking about research it is appropriate to mention methodology. Over a period of fourteen years, we interviewed over seven thousand (7,000) families who were living with someone with FAS. Seven thousand is a really good base for learning about your subject. We had a standard form we filled out for each person. The form included information about diagnosis and co-occurring conditions. We asked about IQ and success in school. We asked about interventions that work.
We quickly learned that FAS is not about mental retardation. Much of our effort was spent teaching about what FAS looks like in someone with a normal IQ. Because not everybody with FAS has a low IQ and not everybody with FAS has Attention Deficits, we set about finding what everybody with FAS does have. We wanted to answer the question about what made someone with an IQ of 120 behave exactly like someone with an IQ of 63. It became obvious to us that with FAS, IQ is not the measure of success that it is for someone without brain damage.
We eventually defined what we call the core disability characteristics that everybody with FAS has. Dr. Glenna Andrews, a specialist in agenesis of the corpus callosum was able to construct a valid, reliable screening tool for FAS from our definition of the Core Disability Characteristics. We found our list of the Core Disability Characteristics to be spot-on for answering our question about why someone with an IQ of 120 acts just like someone with an IQ of 63.
Impaired Cause and Effect learning: People with FAS make the same mistakes over and over and never will learn from their mistakes without intervention
Moral Chameleon Behavior: People with FAS have problems with following an internal set of values about who they are. One young man summed it up by saying, “I am who I need to be to be with the people I’m with at the moment.”
Impaired Conceptual reasoning: This impairment begins to show up at about age eight. It manifests in an inability to manipulate concepts. We say people with FAS just don’t “get it.” Many, many parents would start an interview by saying that their child “Just doesn’t get it.” “It” being most of life.
Emotional Volatility: All parents talked about melt-downs and explosions. This seemed to be related to an inability to filter stimuli, which caused fatigue when the individual wasn’t having a rage.
Vulnerable to co-occurring conditions: Individuals with FAS have an alphabet soup of diagnoses including autism, bipolar, health impaired, depression, ADD, ADHD. Not all people with FAS have all those diagnoses so they cannot be used to describe FAS and not all people who have those diagnoses were prenatally exposed to alcohol. We recommended that students with FAS should qualify for Special Ed services under Health Impaired.
I often hear someone say, “I drank with all my children and there is nothing wrong with them.” I heard this from the mother of a juvenile delinquent who was living on the streets, using drugs and participating in gang activity. I’ve heard it from mothers whose children appeared successful except for having been married three times. I’ve heard it from people who admit to always being broke despite making a good wage. Not all failures in life are due to prenatal exposure to alcohol. Still, I have to wonder what would our country look like if we were completely free from the effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol.
For more about FAS*FRI, access to FASTimes online, or Glenna Andrew’s screening tool visit, http://www.fetalalcoholsyndrome.org/index.php/page/fas
FAS*FRI board still gets together for parties. Back row. Vicki McKinney, Jocie DeVries, Ann Waller, Delinda McCann, Seated Linda LaFever.
Note: People in photo at top of page. Back row - Dot Workman, Susan Bradley Front row- Vicki McKinney (mother of the bride Abby) Delinda McCann (holding bride's bouquet from Calico Gardens) Jocie DeVries and Linda LaFever. Fairly typical picture--Vicki talks we listen.
Today is a good day to talk about peace. How do we maintain our sense of peace when the world is at war? How do we maintain peace when we must dig through report after report full of lies before we can find a grain of truth? How do we maintain inner peace when our careful, considered work of a lifetime is swept away by someone else’s enticing lies?
Should we strive for inner peace when we are facing mountains of social injustice before us? Of course we must, or the injustice will kill us. Our inner peace is what keeps the body’s hormones balanced and our bodies in good working order. The trick becomes one of working for social justice while maintaining an appropriate inner balance. It isn’t easy. I admire those who perfect the skill of radiating peace while speaking out for social justice. I’ve also noticed that such people are far more effective at influencing social justice than I am.
I think those who do maintain inner peace while being effective advocates for justice have a sense of perspective that sees the big picture while rejoicing in the details of life. I am more inclined to get sucked into the problems before me and agitate over those problems until I get sick. There are many problems in our human condition that are not just and are sickening. We must do our best to stop the worst of the practices that victimize the innocent. Getting a stress related illness is not the most effective way of addressing those injustices. So, how do we focus on the big picture while rejoicing in the details?
I’m not the best person to answer this question, however, I’m not going to tell you that there is only one way to achieve consciousness of the beauty of your surroundings. I suspect that each of us may have to find the path to peace that suits us. Finding this path is part of our journey.
I’ve seen those who find the path to peace by sitting quietly and focusing on being in the present and being aware of your present surroundings. I tried this approach. It is peaceful. I can hear the quiet. It is very quiet where I live. The only thing I can hear is the refrigerator running. Why is the refrigerator running? It runs constantly. Is it dying? Is it keeping the meat frozen enough? I really need to buy a refrigerator thermometer. Do I have the money to buy a thermometer? I am now in a state of hyper anxiety over whether or not the refrigerator is going to die soon and how am I going to pay for a new one. (The refrigerator is dying-huge anxiety.) Deep meditation doesn’t work for everybody.
Some people run. Running is very good. It stimulates the good neuro-transmitters and gets the blood flowing through the body. For an older woman running may cause her to pee her pants and yes the doctor knows about this problem and says, “with your back you shouldn’t be running anyway.” Running isn’t for everybody, but if you find peace when you run, go for it.
Some people find peace in prayer. Prayer can be a bit like meditation. The opportunity exists to touch the infinite and find peace in the knowledge that human dramas are insignificant in the face of infinite power and love. Then again we may find ourselves ranting, “How long oh Lord…?”
For me, I can find peace in writing about the lives of the characters in my head. I slip into the zone and become totally engrossed in Jake’s world where the problems are just as big and horrid as the problems in my world. Yet, in Jake’s world, I find community among those who work for justice. I find the tender love between a man and woman that makes the world “go away for awhile.” I find the love of a parent for his children. I find those who love truth, mercy and justice. I see my own world from a different perspective.
When I write about the big picture I get in touch with the details of life that give life richness, depth, and a tapestry of adventure and peace. When I write I again focus on the importance of the fact that an adolescent boy has a new girlfriend, that an older woman grew a magnificent squash, that a child’s soccer team won their first game-ever!!!
Once in touch with the reality of the big picture and the details that tell me life is beautiful and people are beautiful, I can get up and tell a frustrated mother that she’s okay. I can explain, yet again, what Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is and why no level of alcohol exposure during pregnancy is safe. I can encourage my fellow organic gardeners and prepare to fight for GMO labeling in my state. I can offer alternatives to education plans that don’t work. I can write to my representatives in Washington DC and express myself clearly without calling them names. As Mr. Wu, Jake’s martial arts master says, “First you must conquer your fear and your anger, then you can learn to fight.” (M’TK Sewer Rat: End of an Empire.)
Peace be with you.