Once you’ve been sprayed with Malathion, you think twice about your daily dose of pesticides!

I stayed home this weekend and that was a treat…I didn’t even run errands. The only outing was my Saturday morning short drive to pick up the weekly produce box. I thought I’d share a few pictures of the contents of the box while I also tell you more about why I’m personally very interested in purchasing organic fruit and vegetables. I don’t just think of it as a luxury, I consider it very important.

Before the story…the visual aids.

This week’s box included oranges, asparagus, broccoli, chard, chives, collard greens, lambs quarter, lettuce, peas, spinach, and tarragon. The fruit and vegetables are locally grown, which means investing in the community and supporting California farmers. I’m very pleased to participate in that investment, but I’m also very happy to be assured fresh organic produce.

So why is organic important to me? Frankly, I think everyone would be wise to consider the health risks of lifelong exposure to pesticides, but there is so much written on the subject that as much as I love jumping on soap boxes (just ask my friends, they’ll tell you), I really don’t want to use this forum for that. But I will say that when it comes to advocating for safe food sources, I have several places where I feel comfortable wearing my activist hat.

My concerns started in the early 1980’s. California leads all of the others states in farm income, growing over 200 different crops, some grown nowhere else in the nation. So in the early ’80s when farm crops were threatened by the Mediterranean Fruit Fly, the powers-that-be began pelting us with overhead  Malathion spraying.  Determined as an insecticide of “relatively low human toxicity,” weekly aerial spraying of suburban communities, including ours, took place over a period of several months. Wasn’t that special?

Believe me, there was outrage. And fear, so the government’s response was to publicize the Director of the California Conservation Corps publicly swallowing the stuff and mobilizing mental health professionals with public appeals to stay calm. Our only instruction was to stay indoors. I think I remember covering the cars. I also think the fact that it took more than a decade for the bee population to come back was unsettling. With two children under ten years of age I was tremendously bothered by the belief that it was impossible to guarantee we would have absolutely no long-term effects.

In my mind, we’ll never really know. Maybe there was no effect and maybe it was indeed absolutely necessary. But I also think it’s a good idea not to ingest any more pesticide residue than is absolutely necessary. So I buy organic when I can. I don’t consider it a luxury–I’ll eat less if necessary!

These beautiful organic eggs are huge and fresh. They are "add-on" to the weekly box.
Even the rice is California grown.

We don’t all have access to the same amount of locally grown produce, but I do encourage making choices from as close to home as possible. Everyone makes decisions for themselves based on availability and preferences, but for those of us who live quite literally in what has been termed “the bread basket for the world,” I don’t really understand the need to eat imported and out of season fruit and vegetables.

To illustrate my point I’ll share two pictures and then explain!

Season’s Best? Which season would that be? This corn, shipped clear across the country from Florida, was in my local grocery store last week. Before I looked at any labeling I was genuinely confused to see it. We will see wonderfully sweet and very fresh corn in about two months. Can’t we wait? OK…I’m not going to harangue, but I just don’t see the need to transport corn clear across the country.

I am actually concerned that we are quite literally “corn-fed” people, but I would recommend the easily accessed documentary titled “King Corn” and perhaps reading Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” to better understand my concern. These two resources are good jumping off points for learning more about what I believe is a serious problem with the nutritional value of our food supply.

OK. Now that I have that off my chest it’s time for me to shift gears and breathe lighter…so I’m going to go outside and enjoy the last few minutes of Sunday daylight. I’m doing my own part to counteract pesticides in my own garden. Just look at what came home with me yesterday?

I bought a container of 1,500 Ladybugs…I’m releasing them in the rose garden tonight. The funny thing is that I don’t think I have a lot of aphids right now, which may mean they vacate my premises to find an insect meal elsewhere. But that’s fine. They can go wherever they are most needed.

And Monday morning I’ll be taking Pinky with me to see Sophia and Karina. We’ll hit the freeway long before sun-up and I’ll have a good day!

Even Pinky gets good organic baby carrots. I try to be consistent!

Feel free to share your thoughts…I’m not an expert on these topics or concerns, but I’m doing what I can to make educated and informed decisions for my family. And if you have other suggested readings, I’d love to add to my list. I’ve already confessed I rarely need an excuse to buy a new book or two!

Good Monday to you all! Debra

After a long work-week, a return to Mae-be and Ruffles, my furry tokens of affection

How was your week? Our employment can really stretch our resilience, can’t it? But I admit that a good job can also be a source of delight and pride.  I have often mentioned to beginning therapists, “You are part of the good fight. You are helping others deal and go beyond survivorship of a mental trauma or disorder, and you’re in a country that still isn’t sure how best to do that.” In this current economy most cannot agree how or where to best cut budgets, but we all know there have been cuts, and in my experience, I can say that I’ve experienced brutal budgetary cuts to services supporting the needs of teens.

And that’s unfortunate. Teens already start out with major stressors: too many hormones, too many moods, too many free hours, too many peers who think it’s cool to skip classes and try weird and dangerous concoctions. Many have parents who are working around the clock or are otherwise unavailable—and all of these factors contribute to the challenges of just the average teen.

Then there are the youth that I work with! Sadly they have ALL of these issues PLUS a family history of exposure to drug and/or alcohol use, major issues stemming from families dealing with poverty, mental disorders and/or genetics for a variety of severe symptoms, as well as simply being guilty of just hanging out in the wrong places at the wrong times—and, no surprise, landing in the criminal justice system. As well there are the struggles in school with teens at least three to five years developmentally delayed. Very sadly, these are just a few of the issues these kids face every day.

This is heavy stuff!

So in mental health care units you will often find some evidence of attempts to relieve the tension with displays of humor: stuffed animals, a funny t-shirt or whimsical decorations–even computers decorated with touches from home. Some offices go all out with displays of personality complete with posted affirmations and positive statements—“Live, Laugh, & Love” or “Dream & Achieve,” –encouragement!

Then, of course, many people enjoy keeping photos of their families in the workplace.

As you can see, every time my computer boots up I am reminded of my two kids, and don’t you know I think of the responsibility I have towards their well-being and care. I have never been comfortable with personal photos of my loved ones in my workplace. I have good reason to keep my personal life separate. It’s not unusual for mental health clients to take notice and begin to comment on their curiosity about my personal life. This is almost never a good idea. The session is for the client and for it to be effective it’s a requirement that a client’s attention stay directed to his or her own life.  Similarly, a mental health worker needs to stay grounded; we need to be connected to our own heart and life energies.

How to do this? I realized I could do this with my dogs. Yes! Computer wallpaper!

To fight the good fight well, I certainly need to stay in touch with my personal core values and beliefs. It may seem an odd stretch to believe that seeing photos of my two furry girls helps keep me grounded, but you’ll just have to believe me that Ruffles & Mae-be do just that! They are important to me.

They are wholeheartedly loving and energetic–unquestioning and with zero hesitation. They are completely loyal, yet they are still interested in their own goals. That’s clear to me as I watch them both give and accept tokens of affection.

These are the tokens of affection they have shared with me this week. They’ve also shared with each other. They even manage to put their own tokens of affection on display next to their feeding places—their own version of what I do in my workplace!

Maybe this weekend as you recharge your batteries you can take some time to think about your own workplace. Have you thought about why, or who you dedicate your work to? I promise you the reasons are much deeper than simply for financial security. There are usually many ways you could find work simply to provide an income.

Think about refreshing your work-self with a token from home—perhaps computer wallpaper or a personal photo of those that you provide for or share with from your earnings—you know, from your labor.

And maybe when you get back to work on Monday you’ll find a way to grab hold of it and give it a good bite! I know that each day as I leave home and Ruffles & Mae-be, headed to that desk and office I say to them, “Okay Girls- Have a good day! Play nice with each other. Mom has to go make money for the treats!”  They understand. We all smile at that!

Blessings for a good weekend, leading to a good Monday, Beth & the girls

Confessions from a possibly out-of-control bibliophile…who doesn’t want to change.

I’ve previously mentioned my penchant for book collecting. I think it’s fair to say that at this juncture in my life I continue to bring more books into my home than I ever release. I can’t even read them at the rate I once did. I often say, “I live on hope,” and I do hope to one day have the time to read a lot more than I seem able to do just now. In the meantime, though, I can easily turn off the little voice in my head that signals perhaps we’re getting a little close to an unreasonable attachment. Or is it a compulsion? I don’t know. Better yet, I don’t care.

If we ever reach a point in our lives when we choose (or need–yikes!) to downsize and relocate, I am completely grounded in the reality that most of my little treasures will have to go. Until then, I’ll enjoy something that is earthquake-proof. And I do have earthquake stories to share with you sometime…don’t forget I live on shaky ground.

My collection is everything from the ordinary—books I just wanted to have because they sounded interesting to me—to editions that probably do have some value. I have been intentional with collecting signed first editions for many years now. The value in those books varies somewhat, with none being all that valuable. I don’t own a Hemingway or Fitzgerald, but I do have a signed Isabel Allende, John Irving and Tom Wolfe, among many others, but it’s nothing more than a fun hobby. I sometimes consider collecting like a treasure hunt.

I previously wrote about meeting Elizabeth Edwards at a local signing and a picture of that encounter is here. Given the way things turned…I am so glad I had that moment and her signed books are special to me.

And then I have little editions that give me pleasure whether they are valuable or not. I have an 1889 volume, “Louisa May Alcott: Life, Letters and Journals,” published one year after her death. The first edition book was published by the Alcott family. One of the key features of this edition is a frontispiece photograph of Alcott and a short greeting in her handwriting. When I first saw it my heart jumped…I thought at first I might have an authentic signature.

I don’t collect for specific value, but for fun. Maybe it’s the hunt! And then this past week I added one more signed first edition!

Many of you share with me the absolute pleasure of following the many adventures of Accidental Cootchie Mama Andra Watkins. If somehow you haven’t yet had the pleasure of being introduced, let me do that now! Andra is far from being a “one note” artist. I think she was born with a little recorder in her brain that somehow collected all of her life events for future recall—she can tell a story!

Andra and her husband, Michael (or MTM), just moved to a new home this week, and Andra’s sense of fun came through even in the middle of a stressful packing and relocation schedule. She offered a verbal auction, proffering personal items that weren’t going to make the cut to the new home, and all we had to do to place our bid and throw our names into the hat was give a reason we might like to receive the chosen gift.

Her first item came with the accompanying story of how she attended a Philipa Gregory book signing for the newly released “The Other Queen.” Prolific historical novelist Gregory spent a good portion of her book signing time answering questions about her previous book-turned-movie, “The Other Boleyn Girl” and vociferously lamented the quality of the movie. Andra’s observations about the event are very humorous.

Thanks to others who read of my interest in a signed book, the deck was stacked, and I DID indeed receive the book in the mail where it now resides next to other treasured volumes. Beyond my interest in the book itself, I have a very happy association with it because it came by way of Andra’s generosity. What a fun blogging community, and a lovely connection between two book lovers—one in South Carolina, and the other all the way across the country in California. Thank you, Andra!

I’ll conclude the week with a few photos from last weekend’s book adventure. I tend to stay away from places like this…for obvious reasons. I was surprised that Jay was so accommodating. He didn’t resist even once!

We took advantage of a sunny Saturday to spend the afternoon at the 17th Annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books—the “mother ship” for a bibliophile. Hundreds of author notables were present for signings and forum discussions. I found it totally overwhelming. I do understand what happens to a child’s brain in a candy store!

We didn’t prearrange line tickets or make a plan…we just wandered and hand fun. Maybe next year I’ll have more self-control and can be trusted with a specific agenda and a roadmap to even more booths and interviews!

A beautiful setting for book sightings and signings, don't you think? How could I resist?
I witnessed a young woman purchase a first-edition Emily Dickinson for $1,000.00. It was nice just to see it!
Many authors had booths promoting their new releases. I had to take a picture of the name.
I'd love to join...if I had a spare five minutes! Maybe someday.
This is Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. He was absolutely mobbed by interested children with great questions for him. It was thrilling to see how many young readers attended this event. All is not lost...

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Indulge in whatever pastimes give you a pause that refreshes! I’ll look forward to hearing about whatever you do…and then maybe I’ll even spend some time reading one of the books I bought at the festival…oops! I wasn’t going to admit that. Oh well…I say it’s good for my well-being. Please don’t argue with me.

…Debra