Monday, November 25, 2013

Going Meatless


When our family pulled away from processed food, it was a slow venture.  A few foods here, a few there.  A lower grocery bill pulling us on, but still splurging a bit on junk fast foods occasionally.   With the exception of our hike, we don't eat that junk food anymore.  It actually makes us a bit sick when we eat it, now.  The Barracuda and I are now venturing into meatlessness, and potential vegan-ness. 

Flesh and I have never been all that great of friends.  I mean, we get along and all, but I'm definitely a much stronger herbivore.  It's not like my relationship with lactose or eggs....even writing eggs makes me slightly uncomfortable internally.  It isn't some massive ethical debate for me.  I'm mainly just put off by the texture and how they make me feel.

Jules is the exact opposite.  He has actually been hospitalized for eating a steak so rapidly it endangered his ability to breathe.  Yeah...He's not giving up any meat, anytime soon.  We aren't even going there with him.

The Barracuda is a true omnivore.  He's got a thing for BBQed muscle tissue, or marinaded, or stir fried, or roasted, or dry rubbed...Even if his stomach doesn't whole-heartedly agree with him, it is mainly on board and so is he.  Veggies are awesome too, fruits are a total score, hook him up with some cheese, he'll eat anything.  Until he heard about this, this, this, and lastly this.

Oh First World Problems.  Talk about an issue.  Does he give up meat and save the planet?  Does he enjoy meat as the planet crumbles around him?  Does he listen to Jules who will never give up meat?  Does he go with Mom who can totally turn her back on it with no issue?  Does he crumple into fetal position in the corner crying?

Google came to the rescue.  Google usually rescues him.  There was a whole lot of reading, and talking, and thinking. 

After much deliberation, the consensus has become that the only meal which will contain meat is dinner.  That means 2/3rds of the week will be meat free and mostly dairy free.  Fish eating can happen sporadically since he can't quite decide if fish is considered a planet-damaging meat or not.  Dairy sparingly and so with eggs as well.  We'll have to see how it goes.

 "Obedience to the standard culture is what got the world in this place.  Perhaps it is time we all felt a bit uncomfortable and tried some cultural disobedience. Meat is a luxury most of the world doesn't have.  I have a whole lot of luxuries in my life and I don't need this one anymore." ~ The Barracuda

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Plant for the Planet?

 "What is a coalition?"  The Barracuda asked earlier this year to another passenger in our carpooling cargo van as it traveled to coal train hearings.  We were all wearing our "Power Past Coal" coalition T-shirts, criss-crossing the state to speak out about tons of coal being shipped through our backyard.  I smiled; he was starting to openly discuss with the other faces he saw so regularly.

"It is a bunch of people, companies, or groups that are working together for some thing they all want.  Most of the time the coalition gets a name that tells you what they want or how they want to sound. Usually it is a politics thing."  Responded a kite-boarder who has had an interesting political past since the Vietnam War.  It was a good answer; far better than I could have provided on the fly.  So very often the other people we travel with have amazing areas of interest and can give so much more information than I can.  We have both learned a lot.

And that was it...for months.  I thought nothing of such a question other than noting it away in the "self-directed-project-based-homeschool-is-working-so-you-can-stop-worrying-mom" folder that I keep in my head.

Photo by Trip Jennings

Then last month we spent an epic day traveling to the last of this round of coal train hearings.  In our carpool a National Geographic Explorer (his actual job title) explained fracking using cheese as a metaphor, and talked about how we need to balance personal activity with group organizing to create the large scale change.  The Barracuda listened intently, thoroughly star-struck.

And that was it...for a couple of hours.  I was once again happy at my son's interactions, and quite happy to have met an attractive National Geographic Explore (because that still seems incredibly cool).

But there was a kid at the hearings.  A kid who spoke at the rallies, and worked with environmental groups.  The Barracuda basked in the other kid, spending hours playing impromptu games and discussing their various work.

"I want to start a coalition," came out while sipping celebratory Sprite at the bar for the after party. (The Barracuda learned how to talk his way into bars on the PCT.  He's become quite good at it now. I nod and smile.)  "Um...yeah," was my very intelligent reply. "I want to create a Plant for the Planet chapter in Portland, but we would work through the entire Gorge," The Barracuda continued, "We can do that.  I'll start networking."

He's now moved on to fighting Big Oil.
Photo by Trip Jennings
And so he did.  And it appears to be going quite well.  I am often surprised by the people which show up in my email asking to work with him, and the friend requests I'm getting on Facebook.  He told me today that he needs to order business cards, because "they are easier to hand out than making you write contact information.  I need legitimacy and having to write my mom's contact information doesn't help."

I'm still back at, "Um...okay...yeah."  But that mental "homeschool works" folder is getting bigger.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Clocking Off

The doors have been opened to flush out the heat of an oppressive afternoon, and it is definitely time to wind down.  It is time for some tea, and snuggly pants, and my book.  It is time to breathe out the fullness of a day of harvesting - firewood, food, knowledge, family.  It is time for the evening schoolwork to begin for The Barracuda, once he is all washed up and ready for bed.  It is time to be grateful for very packed days, and remember the smiles what passed quickly - or irritably - earlier.

The Barracuda will trade out Prince Caspian (a current personal book choice) for The Fellowship of the Ring (a current schoolbook) and spend his last hour of the evening knocking out the rest of another action packed chapter.  Jules will click away at the computer watching goodness-knows-what on Netflix and 'trolin around eBay.  The dog will flop down on the porch, and then flop down on the living room floor, and then back out on the porch. 

Each of us retreat into our quiet spaces for a bit before Jules and I find ourselves folded up on the couches talking into the night.  What once seemed like an impossible jumble of activities and endlessly busy, chaotic days has drifted almost effortlessly into a routine of bodies moving about in a loving dance of fading light.

With tomorrow's morning will come a Latin test, grammar work, and dishes.  In the heat of the afternoon, laundry will dry and bread will rise. The neighbor's dog will come and visit like always, and the boy will get dirtier/stickier/sillier than I even thought he could, like always.  But for now it is a time for crickets and frogs, stillness and stars.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 or John Lennon, however you roll.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


The morning schoolwork is done, and the evening work has yet to begin.  Tonight there will be novels to read and study guides to fill out, and I'll be creating PowerPoints for curriculum as Jules grades papers or gets all the administrative work for his classes done.  But not now.

Now, I'm pulling the blue elderberries off their stems into the dutch oven for this winter's cold syrup, and just breathing in the silence.  The phone hasn't rung all morning and the boys have gone fishing, so I am left with the soft breeze blowing through the open doors of the house. The soft plink - plink, the low metronome of the dogs panting, and the occasional thump of a happy tail hitting the floor as they are splayed out in the middle of the living room, the trees are rustling, the clothes on the line are flapping about, and all the muffled sounds remind me of just how alive the quiet can be.

 No one thought to tell the weather it has become September, and we're not telling either.  

We are in the blissful lull of late summer days.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Flour, Flour Everywhere

There are little, flour footprints all over the floor even though I have swept three times today.  There's flour on the countertops in big splotches and small tufts.  It's on my shirt, and in his hair, and I'm pretty sure if I looked, the dog might even be sporting a bit on her back.  There is pretty much flour everywhere, and I'm starting to wonder just what I have gotten myself into with making these supposedly "quick rolls."  Something tells me that clean up might be twice as long as the making.

But he specifically wanted to help.  He rearranged his playtime and asked about it twice. These stolen moments where I'm still requested need to be cherished.  As The Barracuda has gotten bigger, the desire for direct interactions with Mom is diminishing.  He still wants me to be there, and to enthusiastically watch, but participating is limited to the sidelines.

So maybe the house looks like a Franz factory blew up, and maybe the dog isn't too thrilled about the taste of flour as she cleans her fur.  But the boy can bathe, laundry can be done, and we still have a hour or so before Dad gets home for me to wipe down the kitchen.

Afterall, those little flour footprints aren't nearly as little as I remember them being.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Ordinary Moments

 About 60 miles north of the Mexican border a man approached me carrying an assault rifle across his chest and a Glock in his thigh holster.  He wore giant boots, and mirrored sun glasses, and for a moment I was struck by just how much the scene was that of a movie: sun beating down, his stern face and short hair, the confident way he brandished his firearm as though he could have cared less about blowing you away in the middle of the desert and no one even knowing.  It was all oddly amusing until his chest was puffed out in my direction.

 "What kind of ethnic are you?" he spat out. 

I had no idea what to say and was quite appalled at his tone.  This must have come across all too well in my body language.  "¿QuĂ© tipo de etnia eres?" he shouted visibly annoyed at my lack of answer.  My hand instinctively went to my Spyderco as I came around to understanding his feelings of authority. I could have cared less if I only had a 5 inch blade and he had rounds of bullets.  If we were going to have it out in the desert, we were both going to walk away in severe pain. He was the border patrol.  This was how he treated people whom he couldn't readily identify as American.  My disgust grew immeasurably.  The Barracuda was sent off to use the bathroom with a look that told him to go regardless of whether it was necessary.

"I'm the American citizen kind of ethnic, Thank You. 
 Soy un ciudadano Americano, Gracias."

I silently praised my two years of college Spanish and what I thought was a worthless chapter on travel.

 He told me my skin was dark, my hair was weird, and I had a dark-skinned child with me.  "Those sorts of people don't normally hike the Pacific Crest Trail." Both The Barracuda and I were IDed, but I refused to empty our backpacks.  I cited my rights and told him I was going to keep walking if he didn't have cause.

"Piel morena no es motivo (Dark skin isn't cause)," I reminded him sternly.

More praise went out to chapter about describing people where I thought "dark skin" seemed like a very outdated descriptor, and the woman at the DMV who worked with me to get my young child government certified picture ID.  

It was the first of many experiences people would call brave.  But I don't feel very brave here at home.  I never thought I would need bravery in the small, ordinary moments of my life.  Turns out, I do.

Turns out the bravery necessary on a grand adventure is so minimal compared to the bravery needed to continue doing the dishes, to fold the laundry, to make dinner...again.  When all you have to do is walk forward, there is nothing but progress.  Every step, every breath, every day, you are progressing forward toward your goals.  Here at home, all there is is faith.  Tiny moments of miraculous faith that tomorrow will turn out okay, that you are doing the right things, that in the end the moments will all fit together into something larger than yourself.  

For quite a few months I'd cook, I'd clean, I'd study, I'd work, I'd laugh, but in the end, when I really looked, it was fear which was really steering everything forward - forward, so I didn't have to realize it was right on my heels threatening to take me alive if I stopped. 

It is a funny thing that happens when you decide to be straight up with yourself about what is going on.  Up until then all you get are glimpses of the problem in the reactions of others.  

So I decided to catch the fear by surprise, pin it underneath my laundry basket, and sit on top until it agreed to leave me alone. 

Faith feels a whole lot better.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sweet Summer Nights

They are laughing on the porch again.  The creative writing lessons Jules has begun to give a couple times a week are over for the evening.  They have shared their stories and life moments each found interesting, critiqued the use of descriptive adjectives to create imagery in the setting, but now the conversation has digressed into just talking.  In many ways, I recognizing this creative writing to be much more a segue into the teenage years.

From the couch in the living room, I do my obligatory email and Facebook checks while I hear them both smiling from ear to ear.  And then quiet.  So quiet all there is, is the dog huffing as she looks longingly at the door.  Then 2 pffh's just seconds apart, a small plink as the BB hits, and more squeals of delight.  The boy is becoming quite a shot and Dad is now having to really try.  As it gets dark, The Barracuda begins to chatter.  He will talk about anything and everything.  Talk, and talk, and TALK.  A word gets fit in edgewise here and there by Jules, a clarifying question or two, but generally the idea is just to listen.  Listen, and laugh, and banter back and forth in a decidedly male way.

I'm inside making tea and trying to figure out just what late night snack I'd like to share with Jules.  The changing of the guard happens when The Barracuda goes to bed.  Then Jules is mine.  We get to sit out on the dock and chatter together (though I must admit, I'm the talker).  By that time, the swallows will have been replaced by the bats as they dance about eating all the insects.  By that time, the stress of the day will have melted off.  By that time, we will be able to just be adults dating again.  He'll have wine; I'll have tea.  He'll be sweating in a T shirt and shorts; I'll be wearing my favorite wool hoodie and snuggly sweats.  He'll have on two pairs of socks and sneakers; my feet will be bare.   It is the same all 77 days of these long, slow summer nights, but it never gets old.

It is on these nights that I remember we live in a land of postcards, in a place that time forgot. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

At It Again!

The usage of trains to cart strip mined coal from Montana and Wyoming is looking less and less likely in Washington State.  The projects are far from dead, but they are wounded quite heavily.  In the fall, we begin working again with high school students, and once again taking trips up to Olympia to talk with Governor Insley.  For now, our attentions have turned to Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality.

With a new proposal to now barge 9 million metric tons of coal down the Columbia River, our household has once again mobilized to take on this impending environmental threat.  As much as coal trains bothered me, coal barges make me borderline nauseous.

A Starbucks cram session to work out timing for his testimony and the inflections.  You only get 2 minutes, and the surroundings are pretty intense.
At this point, The Barracuda knows the drill quite readily.  The speaking isn't his point of focus as much as the organizing which goes in to play.  He actively watches how the various groups interact, the positive aspects of each testimony, the things opponents are doing, the ways the gatherings could be more successful.  He's into the networking now.  I don't exactly know where that is going to take us next, but it is definitely an unexpected turn of events.

The Clean Energy Bike Brigade took to the streets in a parade while people marched with a giant blue fabric river waving in the wind over their heads.  Behind them, a flash mob danced to blaring rock music.  It was a pretty cool production.

The rally was quite enjoyable, even with the extreme heat.  Heavy, bright red T-Shirts aren't normally the chosen attire in high 80's temperatures, but at least everyone was sweating together.  As always, Portland's signature flare came out in style.  There was a clean energy bicycle brigade, loud rock music, and a flash mob.  It has been quite neat to expose The Barracuda to all different types of protest.  I'm enjoying watching him develop his ideas and become stronger in his knowledge of political action.

Since it is the summer, this was the first of The Barracuda's testimony which Jules could attend.  He got to finally watch the process from speech writing, to signing in and practicing, to speaking.  He got to see how many people know our son now, and are proud of him.  As a homeschooling parent, you sometimes get nervous that perhaps your judgements about your children are skewed.  I mean, who isn't just a bit biased about their awesome, gorgeous, hard working, brilliant, fill-in-other-incredible-adjectives kid.  But watching my son grow in his confidence, craft a persuasive argument, deliver the rhetoric, and network with adults of various ages in a field he is interested in shows me that maybe I'm not totally off the mark.

People don't discount The Barracuda now; they get the cameras ready when we walk up to the microphone.  I often times have to help him readjust the height, or the chair, but people watch in anticipation instead of "oh-isnt-that-cute" faces.  I still don't know how he does it, but once he starts to speak, he's got you.  Today was no different.

Perched up on his knees to be able to reach the audio equipment he began:

Hi, my name is [The Barracuda].  I am here to ask for your help.  I need you to stop the coal barges. 
I have no power.  I can't vote.  I'm not the governor.  I don't sit on a fancy board or commission.  I am only 8.  I am just a kid. 
But I do matter.  I am a human being.  I live on this planet too, and you are deciding my future. 
Coal barges will change the dynamics of the Columbia River.  Coal and coal dust will fall off the barges into the river, killing the fish.  Both wildlife and people depend on the fish.  The osprey, eagles, heron, and many other of the birds our area is known for require the fish to live.  Coal dust in the water will become coal dust in the fish.  The precious salmon who are currently fighting to come back from extinction will be threatened again.  Their eggs and spawning grounds will be disrupted by the coal causing the populations to drop again. 
Native people have built their lives around the salmon.  As a culture, we haven't been very nice to Native Americans.  We tell them they are in the way.  We move them and kill their ways of life.  Isn't it time we stop that?  They are human beings.  Just like me.  Just like you. 
I recognize people need money to live.  It is important.  But the paradise of our Gorge is also important.  The water is important.  The fish and birds are important.  A future for kids like me is important. 
So, I need your help now.  I need you to stop this.  Thank You. 
Please be responsible with my future.  My generation trusts you.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Winding Down

Right now is a rather giant time of transition for our family. 

Jules is finishing out his school year, looking back at what worked and what didn't.  He is trying to figure out a way to find balance between state test prep and teaching actual content.  (In theory those things are supposed to go together, but let's be real.)  As much as he enjoys watching his students anxiety go down and their first feelings of quantifiable success, (very few of these students would consider themselves good testers, and almost none would call themselves academic), it can be a difficult place for a person who greatly loves teaching.  Moreover, mitigating the sheer amount of paperwork which test prep tends to bring home is quite a challenge.   

On the home front, I have now officially ended our homeschool year as far as the State of Washington is concerned.  Schooling doesn't really stop; The Barracuda is way too routine neurotic for that.  However, we are leaving our umbrella charter school this year, and homeschooling solo as of August.  I get to jump head first into "organizing" our homeschool life to meet state requirements.  I'm anxious about that because this sort of administrative organization is difficult for me to stick with, but an important place for me to stretch myself.  Moreover, is a giant leap of faith for Jules.  He believes in me, and has frequently gone above and beyond in his support.

The Barracuda is somewhere between 2-4 years ahead in school and will be entering middle school next year in subjects he dislikes, and high school in subjects he loves.  That's hard when you are 8.  It is even harder living in a rural community where peer groups aren't rampant.  Add to this the fact your mom is an extreme INTJ, and you don't really have a great mix.

I am an INTJ according to Myers-Briggs and a rather strong one.  As an introverted thinker who lives most of her life inside her head, I tend to plan rather compulsively.  I am extremely process oriented, detest surprises, and loves the clear lines of logical routine.  However, I live with two rather intense feelers.  Jules is an INFJ and The Barracuda is almost my complete opposite, ENFP.  This isn't unheard of.  In fact, it is exceptionally common since INTJ women are estimated at less than 0.8% of the population.  It merely means that I find my self quite frequently losing my crap taking a series of deep breaths.

It is extremely difficult for me to find the logic behind a feeler's actions.  It is equally difficult to have a conversation with someone who feels all the time.  To those who tend to see my analysis as somehow exhausting, I often wonder how on earth people can feel so much without being exhausted to the point of insanity.

That said, I'm very glad they have each other.  I would be a rather terrible parent without Jules (and The Barracuda would be walking all over him if I wasn't fairly immune to cuteness).  What I used to think of as "gender gu-gu," I now see as the ability to negotiate feelings.  Jules commiserates, snuggles, and somehow knows just what to say and how to read people.  I, on the other hand, know exactly how to plan and enact a strategy to fit most any situation if you give me the access to the Internet and enough information to create contingency plans.  Give me the problem and I will solve it.  I can't tell you how you feel about it, or mitigate your emotional meltdown, but I can get the problem fixed.

Right now, planning isn't needed.  My little ENFP is quite a perfectionist and has his life pretty darn planned.  We have figured all those things out.  My INFJ doesn't need me to "fix" anything in his classroom, he needs to feel like he is imparting more than high marks on standardized testing.  What is needed are Dad's hugs, silly games they play together, a rite of passage or two, and some time out on the front porch together. 

Together, they can lean on each other.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

T. S. Elliot is my Homeboy

The emotional difficulties which arose from our hike weren't anything I could have foreseen.  Moreover, the reactions of both the trail community and our local community threw me for a complete loop.  It has taken a full year, but as a family we're over it.  The hike was ours, and somewhere I along the line I forgot that.  I don't know if any other hikes are going to be posted up for the world to see, or if I'm going to take the route The Barracuda has and just don't talk about it.

               I am no prophet–and here's no great matter;
              I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
             And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
            And in short, I was afraid.

Alone.  It was a hard word for me to come to terms with.  In fact, I completely buried myself in the act of hiking with the thought that somehow - if I just searched hard enough - it wouldn't be true.  Hundreds of miles later, months back home, I must surrender the fantasy:  it is.  In life, we are all alone.  Our experience is uniquely ours and no one else will ever truly get it.  We cut ourselves open trying to explain - our vulnerabilities strewn out on the table.  We talk and we bleed - grasping at anyone who we think might see our world.  This fact has haunted me for almost a year.  If I didn't let go, it was going to haunt me forever.

            And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
           The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
           And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
          When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
         Then how should I begin
         To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?                    
        And how should I presume?

All the eyes of the world which try to pigeon hole me, pigeon hole us - those who decide their version of reality is somehow better, more holy, more noble - please expound upon how fabulous your life is and how I somehow must just not get it.  Please, let me see how I've missed the point at how great being you is and how small, crazy, profane, insert-your-favorite-detestible-adjective, I must be.

         I should have been a pair of ragged claws
        Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

I've spent quite a few nights sitting up till 3 am running circles in my head.  I've spent a lot of time as an angry basket case.  However, when I look around, I'm still here with Jules on one side and The Barracuda on the other.  They are here not wanting or asking anything more than for me to return to myself.  They want me to remember and know that my little life, our little family, and the small moments which no one else seems to recognize are what make me, me.  It is enough for them, and once it was enough for me too.

                And would it have been worth it, after all,
               After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
              Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
             Would it have been worth while,                                             
            To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
           To have squeezed the universe into a ball
          To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
         To say: "I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
        Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all!"

I'm now learning to be quiet.  I'm learning to not rage against the moon or rail against society.  The Barracuda is my great teacher because knows this already.  Somewhere in him he has already decided to not be boastful, but to strive for his own sake.  Patiently he smiles.  Often he goes along with whatever some one needs to think.  Only later will he inform me that they were wrong, and drop some pearl of wisdom about life.  He has learned how pointless it is to try and please others.  For all too often, they only wish to tear you apart for their own pleasure.
          And indeed there will be time
         To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?" 

         Do I dare
        Disturb the universe?
       In a minute there is time
      For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse. 

And so I begin again.  The PCT was my giant reset button.  I traveled back to the soul murdering days of early high school quite unexpectedly, but thankfully have once again dropped out of the general population.  Our life allows us to be hermits tucked away in our tiny one room cabin way out in the woods. 

         Let us go then, you and I,
        When the evening is spread out against the sky
        Like a patient etherized upon a table;  

        To lead you to an overwhelming question. . .                              
       Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
       Let us go and make our visit. 

I don't know how many of you are still out there which wish to make a visit to quieter places tucked away in the forest, but for the moment, that is where we are residing.  We're thinking of getting bees, the orchard is going to be coming via FedEx any day now to be planted, stacks of books are being plowed through, bread rises most afternoons in the mid-day heat, blankets are on knitting needles and final stitches are being put in quilts, homeschool is kicking into full swing, and we have mountain summits we are eagerly planning.  Our life is ours again...and that feels far better than I ever could have imagined.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Bike

Somewhere around 1800 miles into the PCT, The Barracuda decided that he wanted to triathlon.  Well, okay...

He did 20 mile days on his heavy-as-all-get-out stainless steel little Schwinn Gremlin.  Lord only knows what he will be doing in clipless pedals with his new carbon fiber Felt!  I'm already exhausted.

It has taken months, a whole lot of research, and a bit of help from our tax return, but we finally found a kid's triathlon bike.  After a 3 hour professional fitting, it's now his.  I've called the pediatric sports therapist (whose children I'm putting through Harvard at this point), and training has begun.

We hit the pool for two hour sessions twice a week to work on his freestyle.  We run the other three days. He rides for continuous half hour intervals four times a day to practice form, endurance, and shifting.  We work on breathing technique and meditation for 20 minutes every morning to calm his lungs, his heart rate, and find "flow".  

 At this point I don't think it would be possible for us to stop homeschooling.  There just wouldn't be time.  Luckily, he can peddle while we do English and Latin.  I can speak Spanish to him while we work on swimming form.  We can calculate mileage, heart rate, intervals, and race dynamics for math. 

I remind myself that every day we are training for the summits later this summer, and the Appalachian Trail in a couple years.  I remind myself that top colleges are now focusing on both academics and significant life pursuits.  I remind myself that the primary goal of a parent is to support their children in becoming individuals.  All of these thoughts bombard me as I hear, "Mom?!" and crawl deeper into the warmth of the covers to escape running.  They come back again before I jump into the freezing cold pool water (why can't they just heat that water, I mean seriously!).  On the plus side, my abs are thanking me.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Are You Not Warriors?!

Governor Kitzhaber of Oregon has to make a decision about the Morrow Pacific Coal Terminal on April 1st.  It decides whether coal can be loaded onto giant barges and shipped down the Columbia River.  That means only one thing in our household: A protest.

I'm noticing the choice of wording from my son is becoming increasingly more militant
The Power Past Coal Coalition put together the Sound the Alarm Event.  Where people took to the streets to make a lot of noise with bells, harmonicas, drums and whistles.  We sounded the alarm on climate change in a rather obnoxious way.  It was quite fun, even if a bit over-the-top.

We chanted such nerdy renditions as "Lead, Arsenic, Mer-cur-y; keep your poisons off of me!" and "Pre-si-dent Obama, we don't want no cli-mate drama!"  and the ever popular "Hey, Hey! Ho, Ho! Dirty coal has got to go!"

But this wasn't like other protests we have been involved in before.  For this one, The Barracuda was asked to speak.  When members of the Sierra Club ask you to do a call to action address directed at the governor, it isn't polite to say no.

Photo Ops are becoming increasingly prevalent in this child's life.  Many organizations know him as the kid who talks about coal.  He keeps showing up; he keeps speaking out; and now he is beginning to get some serious press.  Two more speaking arrangements were booked before we left.

And so we pulled up every historical call-to-action speech I could think of.  We read them with the fervor of John Calvin in the living room quite a few times before Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death was decided to be the favorite and The Barracuda got to writing.  He'd never spoken to a crowd this size before, nor had he ever been in front of a group quite this exuberant carrying noise-makers.  For the first time, I actually saw him nervous.

When his name was called, he stoically walked up the steps, took the mic, and this is what he said:
We are all gathered here to let the governor know that Climate Change is a problem which must be stopped. It's hard to accept the truth when the lies were exactly what you wanted to hear. But Governor, this is the truth: our world is being destroyed.

If we do not stop it, the world will become a flat, barren island. Our precious river will become a highway for dirty, coal driven money at the expense of your children's quality of life. My quality of life. You have the power to stop this. You are the controller of this state. We have the power to wake you up, to sound the alarm, to let you know that this needs to stop.

They tell us we are weak; and unable to fight the power of the corporate greed. But, when shall we be stronger? Will it be tomorrow? Will it be next week, or in a few years? Will it be when the our sacred river is polluted to the point there are no more salmon? Will it be when the parts per million of carbon in the air is over 400? Will it be when all the coal is ripped off every mountain top and all oil is drug up from every pristine place beneath our feet?

This impacts us now. Not two years from now, not thirty years from now, but now. There is no time for us to wait. For in waiting we will have destroyed our home, our waters, and our Nation. We not really acting for the Gorge alone. We are acting for all of humanity.

We may be weak when separated, but united we are powerful. We may be quiet separated, but united we are forceful. How long are you going to let other people decide the future of your children? Are you not warriors? It is time to stop talking and start doing. Long ago when our ancestors rode into battle, they did not know what the outcome was going to be, but they did it because they knew it was in the best interest of the children and the people. Do not operate from a place of fear. Operate from a place of hope.The beauty of life is, while we cannot undo what is done, we can see it, understand it, learn from it and change.  So that every new moment is spent not in regret, guilt, fear or anger, but in wisdom, understanding, and love.  We cannot undo the damage that has already been done.  The past is gone.  But we an make a new future.

People frequently forget that my son is only just over 4 feet tall and cannot see over a podium or rest his notes on items normally at an adult's height.  He often has to hold a hand mic and try to make it work.  It is awkward, but he is working on it.  He often has to carry around a blue milk crate to put down and then climb up upon so that he can view his audience.  He often gets looks of "oh, isn't he cute" which quickly turn into looks of surprise as he begins his introduction.  This instance was no different.  If you would like to watch the terrible YouTube video I took, here it is.

(YouTube tells me it will be correctly oriented shortly.  If not, just wrench your neck to the side or close your eyes)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fighting the Good Fight

In the last two months, we've visited our state capitol and will soon visit others to rally on their front steps.

The Barracuda and I in Olympia advocating for climate change legislation
 and against coal trains.

We've spoken to Senators and Representatives, ridden in carpools to events, and are currently planning our own.
Speaking with Senator King, a die hard republican
and corporate interest supporter.

We've gone to meetings, written letters, and networked with everyone from the Sierra Club, to Power Past Coal, to Earth Ministries, and Peaceful Uprising.
Listening to Governor Inslee and celebrating his
Carbon Action Plan Bill as it hit the floor that morning.

We've watched movies, discussed civil disobedience, and signed up to list serves about radical acts against climate change.
Watching the documentary Bidder 70 and being informed
repeatedly he cannot get arrested for civil disobedience until 16.

We've watched video after video about the science of carbon emissions, coal trains, and strip mining.
We've built models of wind turbines, solar panels, and read up on the damaging affects of hydro power.

Local high schoolers are now writing letters, The Barracuda is planning an upcoming National Environmental Policy Act training, and has become the chair of a local Kids Against Coal Commission. 

Somewhere in all of this, life has gone on.  But I am soon coming to realize as court cases are won, governors and mayors speak out, permits are stalled, and petitions signed that he might actually win.  All this work might not have been in vain.  There are still years left till we know and many more battles to be fought, but it is possible and looking more likely every day.

So we soldier on.   Martin Luther King almost every other day.  Sometimes with The Barracuda, but mostly just for myself.  More often than not I find myself back at A Letter From Birmingham Jail: 
 "So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . ." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?"

I can only hope that as we continue I will remember.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

One Kid Against Climate Change 

We have always been a politically active family.  The Barracuda's first camping trip was an old growth logging protest along the PCT.   By 4 he could explain global warming and felt a strong desire for our household to be personally active against it.  We always watch the President speaking and regard it as our responsibility as citizens.  The Daily Show and Colbert Report have been household dinner companions frequently since he was 2.  There aren't many car trips which don't involve NPR before music.  These sorts of things.  So, it should come as no surprise to me when earlier in the week The Barracuda announces a desire to go to one of the Scoping hearings occurring for discussion about the coal trains.

Up for proposal is the largest coal production in the United States with direct exportation to China and South Korea.  The coal would come from Montana and be trained through our neighboring town and all along the Columbia River Gorge.  This would increase the current coal trains from somewhere between 4 to 10 a day, to one passing for 30 minutes of every hour, 24 hours a day.  We are talking a whole lot of coal.  Actually, very few people are talking about it and that is kind of scary.  To find out more, go here.

As usual, he was the only kid at the press conference.  By now he is used to that and it doesn't bother him.
The Barracuda feels this is irresponsible.  He doesn't think it is very forward thinking.  He doesn't like that such corporate decisions are being made as quickly as possible during the holiday season where people are busy.  Apparently, he has been thinking about it a lot and decided to go and let important people know about it.

"They don't have to listen to me, but I need to speak."

How exactly does one turn down your child when they say things like that?

This found us traveling by bus for over an hour each way to the local college to attend the press conference and then the hearings.  Along the way, The Barracuda asked me if I would take down what he wanted to say.  From watching others, he knows how easily you can forget what you intend to deliver and how quickly 2 minutes can go.  So I took dictation as stoically as I could as the bus slowly got quieter and quieter when they realized what The Barracuda was doing.  No one expected him to speak.  They just thought I was forcing him to go.  When they realized, they began talking to him like an actual person and preparing him for what he might encounter.

Since this was a formal hearing, The Barracuda had to provide a written statement of his testimony, his full name, address, and agree to allow what he said to be added to both the video record and the official transcript being documented by a stenographer.  No one was allowed to clap, the room had to be incredibly quiet, and the microphone was physically shut down at 2 minutes and 5 seconds.  There was a timer directly in your face so you could see where you were on the time limit.  It was much more intense than we had ever been to before. 

It was also a lottery.  That means anyone who wants to speak is given a ticket and only a certain number of tickets are pulled each hour.  Luckily, we got called.  The Barracuda was number 55 of 60.  So we listened to scientists, teachers, grandparents, business owners and citizens all talk about their concerns.  We listened for over 2 and a half hours until it was his turn.

He was undaunted by the formality and spoke as if somehow this happened every day.  I was a total wreck.

His testimony went as follows:
"Hi.  My name is Dae.  I am here to ask you to stop the coal trains. 
I understand that this is a lot of money.  I understand that people want jobs.  I understand that families in China and Asia want to heat their homes. 
I want that too.  I want my future family to have jobs, money, food and warmth.  I want my future children to have a world they can play in that is beautiful. 
In your generation it might not matter.  But, in my generation it might.  In my generation it will affect climate change.  In my generation it will affect the ecosystem. 
I know that people are worried about having a job.  They are scared because they want their kids to be safe and happy.  I want that for my kids. 
I am scared, too. 
I can't fix this.  I have no power.  No one in my generation does.  I am 8.  I can't be a governor.  I can't sit on a board to decide things.  I can't even vote. 

All I can do is trust you to make the right decision.  To think of me.  To think of my generation.  To think about a future from now where we will be trying desperately to fix a broken planet. 

Thank you.  Please be responsible with my future.
Some people clapped, even though they weren't supposed to.  Some people cried a little, even though they tried to look like they weren't.  Some people gave him hugs and some gave him high fives.

We went into the after-room for some snacks and found the mayor of Vancouver there.  He spoke at the press conference, so The Barracuda knew who he was.  The Barracuda thanked the mayor for standing up against the coal trains even though it could get him fired (not re-elected). He told him it was a brave decision and he was glad someone was standing up for the next generation and the future.  The mayor thanked him for the exact same thing.  They shook hands.  It was pretty cool.  The mayor went on to say, "You aren't really powerless you know.  You have the power to influence people just like me.  Judging from what you just did in there, you're pretty good at it."  The Barracuda smiled and thanked him while they both continued to eat snacks as though they were just two guys hanging out on campus.

The first of many potential political encounters.  I'm very glad this one went well.  Thank You, Mr. Mayor.

As the night turned cold and rainy we all boarded our bus once more and headed home.  There was much talk of where to go from here.  Beer was broken out, hummus passed around, political contacts swapped and strategy debated.  The Barracuda is working on a letter to the editor of the local newspapers.  He wants to hold a NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) training so people better understand how the appeals, scoping, and hearing process works when companies violate or deliberately limit an EIS (Environmental Impact Statements).  He attended NEPA 101 that was held when I worked for an anti-logging organization way back when.  Apparently some of it stuck.

It is an odd feeling to be back on the political lines.  It is even odder to be in a complete role reversal - this time I'm following my child.  Our children are very powerful when we let them be - when we allow them to care about issues, when we support them in their pursuit to be heard, when we provide them the tools to educate themselves and others.  I can only imagine what the next 6 months will look like, but he's pretty fired up.

Watch out world, here comes one kid against climate change!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Becoming A Wild Woman

Today is my exercise deadline.  Do you all do those too?  A moment in time where the exercise must begin.

 No more procrastinating.  No more lounging.  No excuses.  Playtime is over.  

Well, today is my day.  Agility drills and running must commence daily.  So there, Self!

Wild Woman Trail Marathon and Relay
Last year's Wild Women in front of our mountain.  The mountain helped convince me to run. I can run in front of our mountain; it is known, it is comfortable, it makes anything possible.

 On August 10th (tentatively) the Wild Women will race.  The Wild Woman Marathon is a 26.2 mile trail run at the base of Mt. Adams through the local National Forest.  Exclusively run and organized by women, it is designed to push every day limits and release your inner Wild Woman.  The secondary purpose is to unite the women of the community in personal strength and sisterhood.  There is a communal family camp out before the marathon, and the after camp out is set up to watch the Persieds meteor shower. All the food is local, organic, and vegetarian mostly served by the farm folk families of those running.

Running isn't my thing.  I never thought I would run a marathon.  Maybe a half, maybe if zombies were chasing me, maybe if there was a BlendTec blender waiting at the end, but never voluntarily.  I'll climb mountains.  I'll walk across the nation.  I'll swim across the Columbia River in a full wetsuit to protect from hypothermia.  Not running.  Running is my Kryptonite.

But then Jules decided he wanted to become an ultramarathoner.  And then The Barracuda decided he wanted to participate in adult triathalons (the kid ones around here are rather cutesy and no where near enough for him).  And then people started talking about the Wild Woman.  And now it is November 23rd and I actually have to start training!  I'm still mildly baffled at how I talked myself into this.

The Barracuda and I do these agility drills twice a day during school days.  They are total butt kickers, but who can't fit in 4 little minutes?

Currently my goal is just to finish.  I know I can finish.  I can hike 26.2 miles in a day, so I know I can finish.  Moving at 3 to 4 miles an hour it will take me 6 and a half to 8 and a third hours.  It would be pretty neat if I could finish in 5 and a half to 6 hours.  That still won't be a competing time (the average female marathon time is just under 5 hours), but I think it would pretty darn good.  We'll see what happens in a couple months.  I might just decide to attempt to compete.

I have just over 8 and a half months to try and get there, and a whole lot of family to run with.  Here's the current running schedule:  Each run is approximately 30 minutes in duration this month and there are 4 runs a week

Week One:
1st Run: 10 minute warm up walk; 1 minute run, 1 minute walk (x 5); 10 minute cool down walk

2nd Run: 10 minute warm up walk; 1 minute run, 1 minute walk (x 7); 5 minute cool down walk

3rd Run: 10 minute warm up walk; 2 minute run, 1 minute walk (x 5); 5 minute cool down walk

4th Run: 5 minute warm up walk; 2 minute run, 1 minute walk (x 7); 4 minute cool down walk

Week Two: 
1st Run: 5 minute warm up walk; 3 minute run, 1 minute walk (x 5); 5 minute cool down walk

2nd Run: 5 minute warm up walk; 5 minute run, 2 minute walk (x 3); 4 minute cool down walk

3rd Run: 4 minute warm up walk; 5 minute run, 1 minute walk (x 4); 2 minute cool down walk

4th Run: 5 minute warm up walk; 8 minute run, 2 minute walk (x 2); 3 minute cool down walk

Week Three: 
1st Run:  5 minute warm up walk; 10 minute run, 5 minute walk, 5 minute run; 5 minute cool down walk

2nd Run: 5 minute warm up walk; 12 minute run, 3 minute walk, 5 minute run; 5 minute cool down walk

3rd Run: 10 minute warm up walk; 15 minute run; 5 minute cool down walk

4th Run: 6 minute warm up walk; 18 minute run; 6 minute cool down walk

Week Four:
1st Run: 5 minute warm up walk; 20 minute run; 5 minute cool down walk

2nd Run: 5 minute warm up walk; 22 minute run; 3 minute cool down walk

3rd Run: 3 minute warm up walk; 25 minute run; 2 minute cool down walk

4th Run: 2 minute warm up walk; 30 minute run; 2 minute cool down walk

The goal of this first month being to sustain a 30 minute run.  Next month I hope to be able to sustain a 30 minute run at least twice a week and work up to an hour sustained run.

Everything we have achieved as a family began from seemingly impossible goals.  Somewhere in me, I always knew they were possible.  This is the first time I'm really having to leap without much faith.  Running seems rather impossible for me.  A 5k, sure, but not 26 miles.  Not over an hour of sustained running at a time.  Not running solid for 4 or 5 hours.  But here is to self-stretching.  Here is to the impossible.  Here is to becoming a Wild Woman!

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