Dear National Health Care Reform,

We don’t know each other well. I’m quite aware you have depths I will learn more about in the coming years as we mature together. As in any relationship, I will find things I’m not so crazy about. 

You may find out about some of my weaknesses and problems too—some of which will cost you money. 

We will have to weather these storms together and there may be some need for flexibility, adaptation and evolution along the way.

In our first days together, though, I must thank you for what you did for my oldest daughter. You made it possible for me to put her back on my family health insurance coverage after she went off.

She would have stayed on the insurance had she still been in college. After her first year, though, the family financial situation meant she needed to work for a while and save money in order to continue her education. 

She is responsible and hard-working but without a college degree, naturally she can’t find a job that comes with health insurance.

She needs the insurance too. She has a couple of chronic conditions that require some attention and prescriptions. With health insurance she can get medical care and medications. With these she can stay healthy, work, and pay taxes to help cover the cost of coverage she would not otherwise have.

In the future these chronic conditions (which aren't life-threatening, thankfully) could have been a bar to changing insurance providers. But again, thanks to you, that won't be the case. She can stay insured continuously, which will help prevent the stop/start medical care that could make life difficult.

There may be a few things about you I won’t entirely love. But you have made a real difference for our family and our ability to contribute to the economy and stay healthy. Nobody's perfect so let's agree to give each other credit for doing the best we can within our limitations.

Thanks, National Health Care Reform.

P.S. Oh, and your nickname--"Obamacare"? I'm fine with that. I'll use it affectionately since I'm so happy about what you've done for us.

Who Represents Me? The County Commissioners, That’s Who

The Spokesman-Review coverage about state Senate nominee Roy Murry and his arrest early Monday in Las Vegas suggests that the 4th Legislative District Republican precinct committee officers (PCOs) put at least one ringer on the list for appointment to the Senate seat vacated by retired Sen. Bob McCaslin.

McCaslin himself and others have said so publicly. Better-qualified candidates were passed over when the short list was developed. 

The implication—which I have heard from more than one source and which is spelled out in the Spokesman piece—is that the PCO thumbs were on the scale in an attempt to box in the county commissioners so they would “have” to appoint State Rep. Matt Shea.

Let me be clear—this piece isn’t about Rep. Shea’s qualifications for the Senate seat. This is about the process, the Constitution, and what voters deserve.

I don’t live in the 4th Legislative District, and for the record I’m not a Republican. So you might say that on two levels this really isn’t my issue. But it really is—and it’s yours, too, if you live in Spokane County or in the State of Washington.

I live in Spokane County, in the commissioner district represented by Mark Richard. When the Board of County Commissioners acts to appoint someone to an open legislative seat they represent every voter in the county, and ultimately in the state.

They do so in two ways. First, they are the elected officials charged under the state constitution with this responsibility. The County Commissioners—not the PCOs.

Had the Populist-oriented framers of the Washington state constitution wanted to empower political parties directly to make their own appointments to vacancies they could have done so. But they didn’t.

Instead they created a system with checks and balances (remember that concept from Civics 101?). 

Party officials—typically elected with minuscule vote counts that get smaller with each election cycle*—take the first step. They presumably screen candidates to make sure they are in fact forwarding names of candidates who are members of the party that currently holds that particular seat.

One would hope they would also choose candidates who would do a good job as a state senator. Heaven knows we have enough examples of embarrassing and downright illegal actions by elected officials in both parties that responsible people don’t want to add to the mess, right?

The next step in this system of checks and balances is for the county commissioners to evaluate the three people put forward and to choose the person they collectively believe will do the best job in the seat.

When they make this selection they are not working for the Republican Party. They are fulfilling their constitutional role and are answerable to all the voters—not just Republicans. (And if this were about a vacant seat held by a Democrat, I certainly hope and expect they would choose the most qualified candidate--not someone weak who could easily be beaten by a Republican in the next election.)

Whoever they choose ends up in the state senate. He (in this case the 4th District saw fit to forward only men) will then vote on laws that affect every single voter and taxpayer in the entire State of Washington.

This is the second way in which the county commissioners have to represent me along with every other voter in Spokane County and in the entire state—not just the PCOs of the 4th District. They are putting a voice and a vote into the process that decides everything from rates of taxation to possible constitutional amendments.

It’s a weighty responsibility. I’m glad elected officials who got more than a handful of votes are there to think about the bigger picture, not just partisanship. 

We need elected officials who take this responsibility seriously, not ones who act as a rubber stamp out of fear for their own re-election prospects.

*In the August 2010 primary Roy Murry was elected PCO with 80 votes to his opponent's 72. Jeff Baxter, the other nominee for the Senate seat, was elected with 213 votes, running unopposed. On the November general election Al French won the only county commissioner race with 87,971 votes. The district boundaries are obviously quite different, but the point remains that county commissioners represent a far larger constituency.

Don't Ask Your Kids What Kind of Parent You Are. They'll Tell You.

We’re in a discussion about how my interest in mothering tends to go in spurts. Prone to attacks of guilt about my free range parenting, which instills independence or insubordination depending on who’s looking (judging), I occasionally have these moments where I fix one of my daughters with an earnest stare and say in a hushed voice, “Am I a good mother?”

Sometimes the answer is a semi-patronizing, "We know you try to do your best" or "You mean well" or the more painful "You are what you are. We know that and we love you" (you can hear the "anyway" at the end of that one, can't you?).

More often it's "What have you been reading, Mom?" because I told them a story once about an episode in my high school years.

My mom came out onto the back deck where I was sunbathing, fixed me with an earnest stare and said, "Do we pressure you into getting good grades?"

I looked at her and said, "What magazine article have you been reading?" Her face told me I had hit the mark.

"Don't worry," I said. "I pressure myself." She went back inside, much relieved.

In this particular discussion on my parenting "skills" a while back with Eldest Daughter she quoted the author of Teen-Proofing: Fostering Responsible Decision Making in Your Teenager—one of the many parenting books purchased by me, read by her, so that at least one of us knows how to raise children.

The quote: “There comes a point at which you just have to give up on that one and focus on the next kid.”

“So you’re the practice one and she’s perfect?” (referring to Second Daughter, beside me on the sofa).

“Well of course,” says Eldest. “Just look at her—she’s awesome!”

“You’re both awesome,” I say.

“Damn straight!” she agrees.

I go on: “I especially love the way in which I instilled” (Eldest chimes in simultaneously) “modesty.”

“No shit,” she says.

Everyday Inclusion: Showing up for a Parade Once a Year Isn’t Enough

I’m white. In fact, I’m very white—all the ancestry I’m aware of is from the British Isles and northern Europe (Germany, Holland). My daughters are so white I make jokes about buying clown make-up in order to find a base that’s pale enough to match their lily-white complexions. (They are not amused, particularly Eldest Daughter who harbors a long-time fear of clowns.)

As a result I experience a fair amount of privilege in my life that I may not even notice unless I’m paying attention.

That’s the definition of privilege, more or less: unearned advantages that you don’t request and that arise out of historical and societal forces such that you view your own status as the default setting.

It isn’t just a concept related to skin color; men have male privilege over women and thus may not hear the sexism in a phrase (or recognize it in hiring practices), for example.

It’s not my “fault” that I’m white (blame my parents) and I don’t need to feel guilty for that. But I do need to be aware of the ways in which I benefit and work to balance the system around me so that everyone gets a fair crack at advantages and opportunities that just fall into my lily-white middle-class lap.

I didn’t know this was called privilege as I was growing up but I did learn about the concept thanks to my mom.

Long before it became the subject of diversity training workshops, the notion of privilege was at the heart of what she told me when I was a little girl: “You’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of advantages other people don’t have. You need to use those advantages to help other people, not just yourself.”

She also told me a story about the summer she and Dad took the four older kids to live in Chicago in a corporate exchange of some kind.

Mom determined to take full advantage of the cultural opportunities Chicago offered. Each day she set out, four kids in tow, with a map to explore the city via bus.

One day, she told me, she was standing at a corner waiting for the light to change and realized something felt . . . different. Looking around, she realized she was the only adult white person in sight. The only other white people in sight were her four children.

Let me stop here and say that Mom grew up in Lewiston, Idaho. Just about the only non-whites in sight for the vast majority of her life up to that point would have been members of the Nez Perce tribe, and not too many of those would have crossed her path unless she had a kid in her classroom during her teaching years.

What did she feel in that moment of being the white face in a dark crowd? It makes me so proud to say that she told me, “I realized what it’s like to be in the minority.” She had a moment of realization of what it means to be unconscious of your majority status most of your life, and she shared that realization as a mother.

While I’m sure I don’t recognize and counteract my privilege 100 percent of the time, I work to be mindful and aware so that I don’t take advantage of it directly and so that I use my privilege to speak out for people who don’t have the same access I do.

This has nothing to do with showing up for a Martin Luther King, Jr. parade or making speeches about human rights. It has everything to do with trying to make our world a more just society for everyone, every day.

Your Turn

Have you ever had an “aha” moment in which you recognized your privilege? What reaction do you get from others in that particular class of privilege if you raise the question?

Related Reading
Note about the Amazon Affiliates book purchase link: As always you should buy local and support your local independent bookstore if you are lucky enough to have one like the wonderful Auntie's in Spokane.

What Do Women Bike Bloggers Have to Say? The Search Engine

I've been compiling a list of bike blogs written by women similar to the Spokane blogs list I put together a while back.

I'm setting up feeds to post links from these blogs to the Twitter account @womenbikeblogs and to the Facebook page (which you can give a big ol' thumbs-up right here).

I thought a custom search engine would provide a cool tool. Et voila, thanks to Google Custom Search here it is. I'll replicate this over on my bike blog, Bike Style, with a bigger set of blogs--this one doesn't search everything I've found but I didn't want to take the page down.


Awesome Bike Graphic

The title says it all. This keeps popping up on various bike-ish blogs and here it is on yet another because it is so cool everyone should see it.

See for more cool graphics.

If You Really Love Your Neighbor, You’ll Eat Local Food

It’s not often I riff on the Ten Commandments (it's much more likely to be the Eightfold Path). But a while back a friend of mine posted a “Suggested Addenda” on his Facebook page with things like “Thou shalt not use thy neighbor” and “Honor thy children.” The ensuing dialogue (boy, does he have an interesting mix of Facebook friends!) got me thinking a bit.

When it says to love your neighbor "as yourself" what does that mean in a society full of people who appear not to think all that highly of themselves based on what we accept and what we subsidize through our private expenditures and public policy priorities? 

This idea that we don’t think highly of ourselves might not seem obvious, since the people of the U.S. certainly appear to have a healthy sense of entitlement in many ways.

That may be true on an individual level, but look at our food as an example of how we so often fail to love ourselves.

We accept and in fact subsidize a food distribution system that brings us unhealthy, low-quality, synthesized food that doesn't nourish our bodies (think high-fructose corn syrup) and that is often grown far away--sometimes so far away that we disrupt local food production in another country so they can grow out-of-season (and tasteless) vegetables to ship to us. 

If I'm taking care of myself I make sure I eat healthy food. I buy it locally and in season so it has amazing flavor and all the vitamins and minerals it can possibly have. I lovingly prepare and preserve it so I can feed myself and my family.

If I love my neighbor as myself then I want my neighbor (and by extension the kids eating school lunches and poor folks on food stamps) to get the same kind of food value. I don’t want his labor exploited or her land and water poisoned with overuse of chemicals just to grow uniformly large, cardboard tomatoes that don’t have as many nutrients as foods used to have.

Cooking up a batch of jam with raspberries
I picked at Green Bluff.

If we loved ourselves, Red Delicious apples would not have turned into the hard and tasteless rocks you can now purchase at any grocery store. They would still have the juicy deliciousness of the less “popular” (but more authentic) varieties I pick at Green Bluff in the fall.

We would eat foods in season because that’s when they’re at the peak of deliciousness. Yes, this means we would—gasp—go without fresh raspberries in the middle of winter. Because fresh raspberries eaten within hours of when they left the plant are amazing. Raspberries shipped thousands of miles are not. The jam I make with raspberries within hours of picking them is pretty tremendous. Jam with high-fructose corn syrup is not. 

We don't love ourselves and we sure don't love our neighbors or we would grow, buy, prepare and eat better food.

Your turn

Do your food buying habits reflect real love of self? How about love of the other people involved in bringing food to your table?

In Search of the Perfect Pair of Pants: Shopping List Part Deux

Back in October 2010 I blogged about the quest I’m on for the perfect pair of pants that carry me from bike saddle (with comfort!) to board meetings (with style!).  I didn’t actually heat up the debit card yet, as I kept finding more possibilities and need help narrowing them down.

As a recap of the faults I find with most of the pants out there, for me the pants fail if:
  • They look like I could go bouldering in them.
  • They make a swishy sound when I walk.
  • The detailing screams “sportswear!” (Ann Taylor and Liz Claiborne do not make me wear their names on my butt).
  • The legs flare too much at the bottom.

Here’s Part Deux of the list—hoping for feedback on ones you’ve worn and liked.

Clever Cycles Stealth Trousers: Unisex. Great review and description by Lovely Bike blogger. Not crazy about the elasticized waistband in back, although I get their reasoning that this keeps you from getting cut by the waistband. Flat seams and apparently some clever tailoring so they don’t bind or cut. Just not sure how much “poof” I’d end up with in a pair that covers my behind and then nips in at my waist. Charcoal only, sizes 2-16. $157.

Terry Kavu Vamos Pant: Pant legs roll up and snap to stay out of the way of the chain. Nothing in description to tell me whether there’s a gusset or at least flat seams. Trouser style, only available in navy, $70.

Isis 5-Star Pant: Looks like comfy fabric; described as “easy care” which may be a good sign (or may mean they look like old-lady polyester when you get up close). Only available in black; sizes run 2-14, $75.

Isis Grand Tour Pant: Another possibility. Black only, $69.

Isis Cassandra Pant: A little sporty but not in an obvious way. Color is “tar” (dark gray), $110.

Athleta Passage Pant: Content is polyester/wool/spandex; described by several reviewers on their site as itchy, which would be a problem for me personally because I really react to anything other than merino. Style a bit on the casual side but cute. Available in sizes 0-16 with petite/regular/tall inseam length options, espresso is only color, $90.

Athleta Skinny Dipper Pant: Fabric described as soft corduroy might be okay. Several color options with artsy names like asphalt and tapenade; you’ll want to look at the swatches. $90.

Athleta Slimline Packable Pant: Anything “packable” typically is a soft, crushable fabric, which bodes well for biking comfort. Slim-cut legs wouldn’t catch; one review mentions them as comfortable for an eight-mile round trip bike commute. They do have ankle zips which puts this a bit on the sporty side, but tucking them into boots would hide this; another review said “think leggings with seams” (referring to a pin tuck on the fronts/backs of the legs). The otherwise usually wonderful product display on the Athleta site doesn’t tell me what my butt would look like though…. Three colors (heather, “falcon” and black), $79. 

Athleta Fusion Pant:  Fairly yoga but with rear pockets. Available in black, grey (“asphalt”) and brown (“falcon”). $79, sizes XXS-XL (an indicator of the yoga market assumptions).

WinterSilks Crepe de Chine Flat Front Pant:  Personally I’m not a fan of side seam pockets. Why I’d want a pair of pants that flares out right where I do, I couldn’t tell you. But if you like those, these might be your deal. I don’t think of silk as an incredibly durable fabric and having to hand wash is a thumbs down but it’s certainly comfortable and beautiful. Available in Seabreeze (kind of a turquoise) and Taupe (a fairly dark brown interpretation of taupe based on the screen swatch). Comes in Misses or Petites, S-XL, $44.95.

Not pants, but a fun option: Cable tights from Isis available in four colors with some matching tops available on the site. Throw on a skirt and boots and you’re good to go. $69

Your turn

Have feedback on any of these? Other brands/styles to recommend? Or have you given up and you're now compromising either style or comfort in order to bike in work clothes?

Related reading

Five Ways Microsoft Word Teaches Buddhist Principles and Practice

Start by opening.

Sit with the possibilities of the blank page. This meditation will help you attain Samadhi, or the mental discipline required to achieve mastery over one’s mind.

All is impermanence. Things change. You have to accept and move on.

When you change words in something with a hanging indent, bullets or other formatting, it looks wrong until you accept that change. Then it falls into line.

You have made a change and the effects will be felt but this does not show immediately.

Let go of attachment(s).

The Buddha taught us that attachment causes suffering. This is certainly true at work, where an email with an attachment almost always brings more work (i.e. suffering) than one without attachment.

Let go of the need to control outcomes. Suffering ends when craving ends.

You can delude yourself into thinking that you have control and drive yourself into negative feelings of anger, even rage. Or you can accept that sometimes things just don’t work the way you expect them to, let go of your attachment (perhaps delete it), and free your mind.

Thus will you attain nirvana and enlightenment.

Biking Quotations

When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments.  Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man.  And (unlike subsequent inventions for man's convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became.  Here, for once, was a product of man's brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others.  Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle.

--Elizabeth West, Hovel in the Hills

Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman on a wheel. It gives a woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.
-Susan B. Anthony, New York World, February 2, 1896

...The future mode of transportation for this weary Western world. Now I'm not gonna make a lot of extravagant claims for this little machine. Sure, it'll change your whole life for the better, but that's all.
--Bicycle salesman, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Why reinvent the wheel when you can tighten the spokes? 

When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.
--H.G. Wells

Nothing compares with the simple pleasure of a bike ride.
-John F. Kennedy

When I go biking, I repeat a mantra of the day's sensations:  bright sun, blue sky, warm breeze, blue jay's call, ice melting and so on.  This helps me transcend the traffic, ignore the clamorings of work, leave all the mind theaters behind and focus on nature instead.  I still must abide by the rules of the road, of biking, of gravity.  But I am mentally far away from civilization.  The world is breaking someone else's heart. 
--Diane Ackerman

... the bicycle is the most efficient machine ever created:  Converting calories into gas, a bicycle gets the equivalent of three thousand miles per gallon.
--Bill Strickland, The Quotable Cyclist

I suppose that was what attracted me to the bicycle right from the start. It is not so much a way of getting somewhere as it is a setting for randomness; it makes every journey an unorganized tour.
--Daniel Behrman, The Man Who Loved Bicycles

A bicycle ride is a flight from sadness.
--James E. Starrs, The Literary Cyclist

The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles. A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom. The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard.
--Sloan Wilson

Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring. –Desmond Tutu

I'm lazy. But it's the lazy people who invented the wheel and the bicycle because they didn't like walking or carrying things.
--Lech Walesa

Life is like riding a bicycle -- in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.
--Albert Einstein

For more quotes on bikes, see these pages from which most of these quotes were taken:

How Procrastination Is Related to Productivity

I have this theory that you need to have a very special family tree in order to have productivity.

Mama Meditation secretly—or not so secretly—just wants to lie on the sofa in a plushy robe with coffee and a good book. Irish cream smoothes the coffee, the intense effort of reading coupled with the prone position might lead to downward fluttering of eyelids, and a nap ensues.

Each generation has to reject something about the previous generation, so one descendant of Mama Meditation is Brother Action.

This fellow figures that if it weren’t for the last minute a lot of things wouldn’t get done. There are so many things in line in front of that particular project that there’s no reason to feel guilty or unproductive. You’re not postponing, you’re prioritizing.

He has a fraternal twin, Sister Acquiescence, who helps put things on the list.

Their younger brother Justification has many reasons to explain why that particular project on the list can’t get going right now, but perhaps next quarter or before the end of the fiscal year if it’s actually still a priority by the time you get there.

Then there’s Cousin Adrenalin, your favorite visitor as you approach a deadline. In fact, sometimes you invite Cousin Adrenalin in a very special way: By first bringing in Aunt Procrastination, who in fact gives birth to Cousin Adrenalin just before or on the due date.  

This sometimes involves a little assisted reproduction, as it were—without Aunt Procrastination there would be no Cousin Adrenalin, and you’re the one who helps Aunt Procrastination get to those doctor’s appointments.

You know how families are. Once Aunt Procrastination and Cousin Adrenalin are invited to the party there’s no way Sister-in-Law Perfection dare show up, to everyone’s secret relief.

After all, when she’s there no one has a really good time. They’re all trying to be on their best behavior because she’s such a nag. And if Sister-in-Law Perfection isn’t there then Niece Productivity will show up.

Mama Meditation is everyone's favorite but they all know that if she were left in charge there would be no cake for dessert because she’d never even get around to cooking dinner.

If you have too much Action and Acquiescence they ramp up a lot of effort but sometimes create so much activity they can’t actually get things done in time.

No one wants to listen to Justification because they do want dinner.

So they rely on Adrenalin to carry the day yet again, thankful that with Procrastination around there’s no time for Perfection but they’ll get Productivity.

Representing the Aryans: Political Speech, Violence, and Living Without Fear

Aryan Nations logo.
Later when I served on the
North Idaho College Board of Trustees 1996-2001,
I asked that we cease use of one of the
NIC logo variations that strongly resembled this layout.
The Aryan Nations compound was located in the Idaho state legislative districts I represented from 1990-1994.

Make that “the Church of Jesus Christ Christian Aryan Nations,” their full name.

Needless to say, I didn’t doorbell that particular precinct. I was young and cocky and made a bit of a joke of that when I told people my district boundaries. “I represent the Aryan Nations, but, y’know, I don’t doorbell there.”

The first time I ran, for a state House seat, I was also pregnant. That was another joke: “The baby was planned, the campaign was an accident.”

By which I meant my then-husband and I had decided to start our family, then I attended a women’s political conference and talked about wanting to run for office “someday,” then the week of the filing deadline I got persuaded to file against an incumbent who had no challenger, then—the very next day after I filed—I found out the “starting our family” part of our agenda was under way.

I did a lot of doorbelling. They tell you to walk for exercise when you’re pregnant. Boy, did I! I got asked a lot of questions about my political views and answered honestly while also trying to find common ground with people who might not share my position on a given topic.

Access to abortion was high on the political radar that season; the Idaho legislature had passed a bill restricting access that Gov. Cecil Andrus had subsequently vetoed. My political activities in Idaho actually launched then when I collected signatures on petitions asking Gov. Andrus for that veto.
As you might imagine, I had particularly interesting discussions about that issue the further along I got in my pregnancy. At the Kootenai County Fair I spent time in the North Idaho Pro-Choice Coalition booth, accompanied sometimes by a woman who was nursing her fairly new baby.
The “other booth”—the one espousing views on the other side of this issue—had a display with jars of plastic fetus models showing physical development during pregnancy. We had a pregnant woman (me, at about six months) and a real live burping, pooping, drooling baby. 
While most people might have trouble calling a mom and soon-to-be mom “baby killers” we did get our share of people who went beyond vociferous in telling us how wrong we were to hold our view. People who shared their political/religious beliefs went on to commit murder in the 1990s, with a rash of clinic bombings and assassination of physicians.
Fast forward. I get elected (winning by 313 votes over that incumbent). Six days later baby Katie is born, conveniently waiting until two days after the North Idaho Legislative Tour at which I meet my new colleagues and keep putting my feet up on chairs because they’re so swollen and my back hurts.
Now I’m a new mother. With a baby. One I will kill to protect, with no hesitation. And I’m a liberal/progressive Democrat who says what she believes, representing the district with the Aryans.
At first I didn’t worry about it (hello, hormones!). Oh, once in a while I thought it was probably good that I had retired one of my other jokes—“I don’t want to doorbell the compound while I’m pregnant because I have blonde hair and blue eyes and I’m proven fertile; they might kidnap me for the breeding program.”
But as Katie grew and I took her places with me, I began to think about whether I endangered my family by having her in the public eye. Another woman who entered the legislature at the same time I did and had her daughter a week after Katie was born chose never to include any family photos in her campaign material for that very reason.
I thought about getting a firearm for personal protection. I grew up in a hunting and fishing Idaho family and received gun safety education as a little girl: Assume all guns are loaded, don’t point a weapon at anything you don’t plan to kill, if you wound an animal it’s your responsibility to find it and put it out of its misery. 
I just didn’t get much gun shooting education—that was for my three big brothers.
If I owned a weapon I’d want to know how to use it properly and I just never got around to finding the time and taking that step. We did have a little .22 rifle my husband occasionally took “plinking” (shooting cans off a fence) and I sometimes went with him. 
But in an emergency I wouldn’t have known where it was, much less how to load it quickly (although I have decent hand-eye coordination, an actual advantage women have over men as shooters).
In 1992 I was elected to the Senate seat for a new district alignment, still with the Aryans. I talked with the senator from the northernmost district, which also had its share of people with views that are, shall we say, out of the mainstream (or at least they were then) and who own plenty of firearms.
His take on it: “There are more FBI agents in downtown Coeur d’Alene than in the whole compound. You don’t need to worry.”
I don’t know if he was right about the FBI numbers. And in light of what happened to Victoria Keenan and her son Jason, whose family I knew, in 1998—being chased and shot at by Aryan Nations members in a terrifying incident that subsequently led to the bankruptcy of the Aryan operations—I’m not so sure he was right to tell me I didn’t need to worry.
The Keenan episode took place four years after I lost my re-election bid in 1994. During my years in office alongside my work on issues such as environmental quality and child care licensure I took a number of positions you might say were antithetical to the views of the Aryans:
  • In my first session I debated and voted against an amendment that would have banned flag-burning, which I viewed as an unconstitutional restriction on the First Amendment right to free speech. (My debate included use of a cloth diaper as a stand-in for a white flag of truce, which I used to make the point that it’s possible to communicate without saying a word.)
  • I worked actively in support of sovereign Indian nations’ rights to manage gaming on the reservation. This was the subject of a special session and constitutional amendment in 1992 when the state moved directly to restrict Indian gaming. I and others weren’t successful in our efforts and gaming was restricted in a way that allowed Class I gaming (which let the state run the lottery) and Class II (bingo, pull tabs, etc.) but didn’t allow tribes to run Class III games such as roulette, craps etc. which are the real money makers. (News flash: The house always wins. And for the record I think gambling is stupid and possibly addictive behavior. For me this was about sovereignty rights.) Despite the restrictions the Coeur d’Alene Tribe opened a casino near Worley and has quite a business operation there.
  • I spoke out publicly against the anti-gay Proposition 1 in 1994 as part of the No on One campaign (as did almost every state legislator, Gov. Andrus and Attorney General Larry EchoHawk, I'm pleased to say). In the end Proposition 1 lost by 3,098 votes out of 450,000 votes cast. Little Katie—who is now all grown up—still wears my lavender T-shirt with the slogan “Idaho is too great to hate.”
What I did not do through all of this:
  • Live in fear.
  • Hide my views.
  • Regret running for office.
  • Believe that the Aryan extremism represented the vast majority of my constituents, most of whom just wanted to be left alone and not told what to do regardless of political party affiliation.
Today, with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the hospital and six people dead after yesterday’s attempted assassination in Arizona, I have to wonder if I could speak out, uphold my views and live without fear if I ran for office again.
How many people who might make good elected officials will never consider running out of fear, and what does that say about the kind of America we live in today?

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. -Martin Luther King Jr.

Related reading

Oddly Addictive Seasoned Flax Seed Crackers

A mash-up of a recipe I can no longer find and this one on a raw food blog that doesn't call for soaking the flax seeds first. I'm going to keep experimenting with this. Next version I plan to cook quinoa and add that, cutting back on the whole flax seed. I'm also going to mess around with a sesame seed version, probably with Asian-inspired seasonings on the sweet side.

NOTE: As my mom would say, these are "good for what ails you." Whole flax seeds are a tremendous aid to digestion. Do not overindulge.
  • 2 cups whole flax seeds (golden, brown or a mixture, which is what I used for the batch in the image)
  • 1 red bell pepper (OK to leave out), diced (or roasted, skin removed & then diced)
  • ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • Juice of 1 lemon and/or 1-2 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 T. soy sauce, tamari or Bragg’s Amino Acids
  • 1 or more cloves of fresh garlic, sliced or minced 
  • ½-1 whole large onion, chopped (sweet, yellow or red--whatever you have on hand--or substitute a bunch or two of green onions for a milder effect)
  • 1 t. salt, preferably kosher (leave this out if you use 2 T. soy)
  • Optional seasonings—use any or all to suit your seasoning preferences, just start on the low end and taste/adjust upwards:
    • Italian: ½-1 t. basil, rosemary (pound in a mortar/pestle so it’s not big twigs), thyme, oregano, sage, black pepper
    • Mexican: chili powder, chipotle, cumin, cilantro and a tiny dash of cloves or cinnamon; maybe substitute jalapeños or some other hotter pepper for part of the red bell pepper
    • Indian: curry, ginger, cardamom, coriander and red pepper
    • Other: Appropriate spice blend for your favorite cuisine
  1. Soak the flax seeds overnight (or for the better part of a day) in 4 c. water. You can use vegetable broth for a tad more flavor, or tomato juice (maybe cut 50/50 with water) if you want really tomato-y crackers. The seeds give up a gooey, gluelike substance that helps hold the crackers together; this is a feature, not a bug.
  2. Pour 1 c. boiling water over the sun-dried tomatoes and let them soak for 20 min. or more.
  3. Optional: Saute red bell pepper (diced), chopped onion and sliced or crushed garlic in a little vegetable broth or olive oil. This makes the flavor both richer and a little milder than if you use raw.
  4. Puree bell pepper, tomatoes, onions, garlic and seasonings in a food processor or blender.
  5. Stir puree into flax seeds and stir all ingredients until well-blended. Do a quick taste test; consistency is simultaneously kind of slimy and chewy (mmmm, yummy!) but you’ll be able to decide if you need more pepper, salt or other seasonings.
  6. If using food dehydrator (which is your best bet!): Press mixture flat onto the smooth sheets, making sure that the mixture is v-e-r-y thin (“one seed deep” but don’t obsess too much). This amount of ingredients will make around 6 trays on the round American Harvest dehydrator.
  7. Score the size of crackers you’d like with a knife or spatula before dehydrating. It will look as though the lines disappear but the traces are there and will be useful for breaking apart the crackers when they’re dry.
  8. Dehydrate around 115°F - 125°F overnight. If you’re able to, flip over once one side is dry but this isn’t essential. Dry to completion.
  9. If using an oven (I have had less success with this because the crackers stick no matter what I do): Line cookie sheets with waxed paper. Spray paper thoroughly with nonstick spray or brush with oil. Spread cracker mix in thin layer and score.
  10. Dry in oven on lowest possible setting several hours. Test occasionally for doneness.
  11. Pop off the sheets and break apart along score lines. Do not expect machinelike perfection; the odd shapes are part of the handmade artisanal charm J.
  12. Store in an airtight container, somewhere close to hand for when the cravings strike.
Your turn

Have any favorite cracker recipes you'd care to share? I'm very interested in making healthier versions than the store-bought kind with their partially hydrogenated this and high-fructose that.

Unmindful Biking by Yours Truly

At times I try to approach biking as a genuine mindfulness meditation. The immersion of self into the experience feels really wonderful when I get there.

At times, though, I'm immersed in something more like dumb-ass-ness. Three stories of times I was not 100% mindful on the bike:

Dumb #1

I'm 3rd in line (taking the lane) behind a car and a pick-up truck at a red light (westbound on Spokane Falls at Bernard, for you Spokanites--in front of FedEx Kinko's).

Light turns green. Car goes. Pick-up goes. I go.

I look down to check what gear I'm in or some such.

Car stops for unknown reason. Pick-up stops.

I run into back of pick-up, fall over, and scrape myself up badly enough that I'm still bleeding when I arrive at the meeting I'm going to.

Good news: The driver stopped to ask if I was okay and if I needed any help.

Dumb #2 (although I give myself lots of latitude on this one because of the cause)

I'm turning left onto the Southeast Boulevard bike lane from our street. As is our ritual whenever one of us leaves and the other is still at home, Sweetest Husband is on the front porch waving to me.

I make sure it's safe to make the left turn but.... in my love for my sweetheart and my desire to wave back, I manage to take the turn a little too wide, clip the curb, and fall over, scraping my knee. (There is a theme here.)

Good news: Sweet Husband didn't see my fall so he didn't have to be all alarmed and rush to my rescue. However, I may hear about this now.

Dumb #3 (could have been life-ending)

Sometimes--for some deeply masochistic reason--I ride at least part of the way up Stevens on the South Hill. It's a heart attack hill with four lanes that split into two two-lane roads, one climbing farther up the hill as Bernard, one swinging left and dropping down to join Grand Boulevard.

As I go more and more slowly up the hill I eventually give up and move to the sidewalk to push my bike up. Someday I'll climb the whole thing again--I used to ride up Bernard on a heavy old big-box special I called the Iron Maiden.

For the record it's a 6.8 percent climb for this particular stretch, from Fourth Avenue up to Ninth. If you search for a Google Maps route on this stretch with the Bike option they don't put you on Washington at all; they quite wisely send you up the much quieter side street Bernard, where your huffing and puffing aren't slowing people on a four-lane arterial.

As the lefthand lanes swing left they also top out. This is a relatively blind corner for drivers who are accelerating up the hill on a major arterial.

View Larger Map

Like an idiot--and I have done this more than once and lived to tell the tale--instead of continuing to push my bike on the sidewalk at this point I get into the lane, clip in and start riding again.

I do always check to make sure no cars are coming. Since there's a traffic light a couple of blocks down it's relatively easy to recognize a burst of traffic and wait for it to pass so you're in a clear zone. But that's no guarantee as traffic can come from side streets out of sight around the corner.

On one particular occasion--the last time I ever did this maneuver--I had trouble getting started pedaling after I'd clipped in and almost fell over before I could get my foot free to catch myself.

My pulse raced beyond anything I've achieved on a hill climb as I realized how easily I could have died if a driver had come whipping uphill around that blind corner just then.

Good news: I learned the lesson without paying the ultimate price. Never again.

Your turn

I've confessed some of my dumb-ass-ness. What near-miss did you have that shook you out of some of your less mindful or more careless/complacent biking habits?

This post inspired by Space Monkey=Me on Kent's Bike Blog.

Related reading

Mindful Driving, Mindful Biking and "Accidents"--Part II

This post is the second half of yesterday's diatribe meditation on use of the word "accident" to describe a preventable negative interaction between a driver and a cyclist or pedestrian.

The conversations I often have after someone on a bike is hit tend to circle around the premise that riding a bike is an inherently risky choice of transportation.

2) If something does happen it's not “caused” by riding your bike! You could be in a vehicle/vehicle collision, a vehicle/pedestrian collision, a lightning strike or an earthquake. Your choice to bike didn't create the situation--the driver's behavior (or yours) did.

When pedestrians get hit by a driver while in a crosswalk no one says, “You know, walking is so dangerous. People really shouldn’t do that.”

They talk about whether the walker or the driver wasn’t paying attention or was somehow at fault, but they don’t blame walking itself. (Nor do they blame driving, you might note.)

So do we all give in and quit riding our bikes and walking? Heck no—we need more people to get out there.
Conflicts between people riding bikes and people driving cars aren’t a new problem. The first automobile crash in the United States occurred in New York City in 1896, when a motor vehicle collided with a bicyclist.

Maybe now—114 years later—we can start to get a handle on this if we all drive, bike and walk more mindfully. Here’s to more fully aware drivers, bikers and walkers on the road and fewer collisions (not "accidents"!) in 2011.

Your turn

Can you honestly say that you drive, bike and walk with full mindfulness and awareness of your surrounding 100 percent of the time?

Related reading

Mindful Driving, Mindful Biking and “Accidents”--Part I

I started this post last fall when two things happened within a few days of each other: Arleigh Jenkins AKA Bike Shop Girl (a blogger whose work I read) was hit by a car, then Matthew Hardie, a young rider in Spokane, was hit. He spent the last few months in a coma, then passed away just before Christmas.

Matthew was heading northbound on a steep downhill with the right-of-way on Lincoln. He collided with a car that pulled out from a stop sign at Fourth Avenue. It's a classic failure-to-yield on the part of the driver but because the initial reports said the cyclist hit the vehicle they made it sound as if it was the rider's fault, to which the biking community reacted quite strongly.

Arleigh put out a comment on Twitter around the end of November that she was still struggling to reconcile the fact that she’d put much of her passion into promoting biking and had been injured riding her bike by a driver who turned left into her when she had the right of way. Her ongoing challenge coming to grips with the collision led to my blog post back in early December trying to help her get rolling.

With each of these events I get more passionate about two things. For the first I need to thank Cindy Green, a bike-commuting former Spokane Bicycle Advisory Board member who works at the Spokane Regional Health District. She got me to pay more attention to my language and usage—ironic since I majored in English and linguistics.

1) The word "accident" often used in these incidents does NOT apply when someone is in error. The someone could be the person on the bike, too, but that wasn’t the case in these two collisions.

"Accident" means "no one could have done anything to prevent this from happening." The Spokesman-Review’s characterization of four fatalities in the last year as “bicycle accidents” is way, way off base.

In two of the cases cited in the Spokesman piece the drivers were drinking. Putting down a few beers and getting into your 2,000-pound vehicle-turned-lethal-weapon car is not an “accident.” It’s a stupid, stupid choice. Those deaths were 100% preventable: no drunk driver, no dead cyclist.

When a driver doesn't see a cyclist, that potential collision is also preventable if the driver:
  • looks again,
  • is one who is aware that bikes are on the road so the “look” isn’t really just a token head turn without eyes focusing and looking for moving objects that aren’t vehicles (admit it—you’ve done that),
  • drives mindfully,
  • doesn't text,
  • isn't reaching for a Big Gulp or fiddling with the radio station or....
Ditto for the person on the bike who is:
  • looking down to adjust the fitting on a shoe,
  • sneaking up on the right side of a car into the driver's blind spot to duck past a long line of stopped cars,
  • riding on the sidewalk and then popping out into the street unexpectedly and unpredictably,
  • assuming that driver sees him/her (since I’m more vulnerable on my bike than you are in your car I tend to figure it’s in my best interests to own more than 50 percent of the prevention planning),
  • blowing a stop sign because he’s too cool to unclip and put his foot down….
Let's all ban the word "accident" from our vocabulary except when it truly applies. It's a collision or a crash or an impact when a driver hits you or you hit a driver or pedestrian but it's not an accident.

The second item speaks to the fear I hear from people who thinking riding a bike is inherently unsafe. I'll post that tomorrow.

Adventures in Eating: Whether Vegan or Omnivore There's a List for You

I first saw the vegan version of this Vegan 100 list on Girl Goes Vegan, who borrowed it from someone who borrowed it from someone.... You know how these things are. 

That sent me in search of the original Omnivore's 100 on the Very Good Taste blog. As Jill and Andrew, the creators of the list, wrote there, "The list includes fine food, strange food, everyday food and even some pretty bad food—but a good omnivore should really try it all."

The vegan list as published left some things on it from the original (like haggis!) so I deleted the stray meat items and made it 100% vegetarian/vegan.

I've been a vegetarian for I don't quite know how long--maybe eight or nine years? Before that I had the chance to try some unusual things at the North Idaho College annual Wild Game Feast and at a dinner prepared by the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association back in my legislative days. So I'm able to score pretty well on both lists thanks to my former life as an omnivore. (In fact, they don't list bear meat on the omnivore's list but I've had it. It's better in years the bears get lots of berries and honey.)

Your mission, should you choose to accept it:
1) Copy this list into your own blog, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) What’s left are things you have not eaten yet that you would try.

(I note that my blog's style sheet makes the links look as if they're in boldface when they're not.)

The Vegan 100
  1. Natto
  2. Green Smoothie
  3. Tofu Scramble
  4. Agave nectar
  5. Mangosteen
  6. Creme brulee
  7. Fondue
  8. Marmite/Vegemite
  9. Borscht
  10. Baba ghanoush
  11. Nachos
  12. Authentic soba noodles
  13. PB&J sandwich
  14. Aloo gobi
  15. Taco from a street cart (yes, if they have a vegetarian option)
  16. Boba tea
  17. Black truffle (can't wait!)
  18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
  19. Gyoza
  20. Vanilla ice cream
  21. Heirloom tomatoes
  22. Fresh wild berries
  23. Rice and beans
  24. Knish
  25. Raw scotch bonnet pepper  (because I'm not crazy and I've read about Scoville units)
  26. Dulce de leche
  27. Baklava
  28. Pate (vegetarian, yes; diced fatty liver, no thanks)
  29. Wasabi peas (yum!) 
  30. Chowder in a sourdough bowl
  31. Mango lassi
  32. Sauerkraut
  33. Root beer float
  34. Mulled cider
  35. Scones with buttery spread and jam
  36. Vodka jelly
  37. Gumbo (without meat)
  38. Fast food french fries
  39. Raw brownies
  40. Fresh Garbanzo Beans
  41. Dahl (also spelled dal)
  42. Homemade soymilk
  43. Wine from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
  44. Stroopwafel (these sound delicious!)
  45. Samosas
  46. Vegetable Sushi
  47. Glazed doughnut
  48. Seaweed
  49. Prickly pear
  50. Umeboshi (I haven't had the fruit yet but I've had the vinegar made from it)
  51. Tofurkey
  52. Sheese (I haven't had this particular brand but I've had fake cheese, which is why I'm a vegetarian and not a vegan)
  53. Cotton candy
  54. Gnocchi
  55. Piña colada
  56. Birch beer
  57. Carob chips
  58. S’mores
  59. Soy curls (kind of leathery and not worth it)
  60. Chickpea cutlets
  61. Curry
  62. Durian
  63. Homemade Sausages (vegan/vegetarian)
  64. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
  65. Smoked tofu
  66. Fried plantain
  67. Mochi
  68. Gazpacho
  69. Warm chocolate chip cookies
  70. Absinthe
  71. Corn on the cob
  72. Whipped cream, straight from the can
  73. Pomegranate
  74. Fauxstess cupcake (what a fun recipe! memories of childhood)
  75. Mashed potatoes with gravy (I have a great vegetarian gravy recipe from my 3 Bowls cookbook)
  76. Jerky (vegetarian/vegan)
  77. Croissants
  78. French onion soup (it is entirely possible to make a wonderful, rich French onion soup without meat stock. I've done it.)
  79. Savory crepes (again thanks to the 3 Bowls cookbook, I have a recipe for crepes made with chickpea flour stuffed with garlicky green beans)
  80. Moussaka
  81. Sprouted grains or seeds
  82. Macaroni and “cheese”
  83. Flowers
  84. Matzoh ball soup (vegetarian/vegan)
  85. White chocolate
  86. Seitan
  87. Kimchi
  88. Butterscotch chips
  89. Yellow watermelon
  90. Chili with chocolate
  91. Potato milk
  92. Polenta
  93. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
  94. Raw cookie dough
  95. Portabello mushrooms
  96. Morels
  97. Black rice
  98. Sun-dried tomatoes
  99. Bagels
  100. Capers
The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred
  1. Venison
  2. Nettle tea
  3. Huevos rancheros
  4. Steak tartare
  5. Crocodile
  6. Black pudding (aka blood pudding)
  7. Cheese fondue
  8. Carp
  9. Borscht
  10. Baba ghanoush
  11. Calamari
  12. Pho
  13. PB&J sandwich
  14. Aloo gobi
  15. Hot dog from a street cart
  16. Epoisses
  17. Black truffle
  18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
  19. Steamed pork buns
  20. Pistachio ice cream
  21. Heirloom tomatoes
  22. Fresh wild berries
  23. Foie gras
  24. Rice and beans
  25. Brawn, or head cheese
  26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (see note above about Scoville units!)
  27. Dulce de leche
  28. Oysters
  29. Baklava
  30. Bagna cauda (if they'll leave out the anchovies I'll give it a try)
  31. Wasabi peas
  32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
  33. Salted lassi (I've only had the sweet mango lassi)
  34. Sauerkraut
  35. Root beer float
  36. Cognac with a fat cigar (I've had cognac and I've tried a cigar--just not together)
  37. Clotted cream tea
  38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
  39. Gumbo
  40. Oxtail
  41. Curried goat
  42. Whole insects (my dad told us he'd eaten chocolate-covered ants and grasshoppers while he was overseas during World War II; he said the legs stick in your teeth)
  43. Phaal (although it sounds vegetarian I think I'll pass; see Scoville units reference above)
  44. Goat’s milk
  45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
  46. Fugu (being a vegetarian means not having to eat potentially poisonous fish)
  47. Chicken tikka masala
  48. Eel
  49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
  50. Sea urchin
  51. Prickly pear
  52. Umeboshi
  53. Abalone
  54. Paneer (I had truly fresh homemade paneer, no less, thanks to dear friend Maggie teaching an Indian cooking class in my kitchen for a bunch of girlfriends)
  55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
  56. Spaetzle
  57. Dirty gin martini (just not a big fan of olives)
  58. Beer above 8% ABV
  59. Poutine
  60. Carob chips
  61. S’mores
  62. Sweetbreads
  63. Kaolin (well, as it's an ingredient in Kaopectate I guess in a way I have, but not directly!)
  64. Currywurst
  65. Durian
  66. Frogs’ legs
  67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
  68. Haggis
  69. Fried plantain
  70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
  71. Gazpacho
  72. Caviar and blini
  73. Louche absinthe
  74. Gjetost, or brunost
  75. Roadkill
  76. Baijiu
  77. Hostess Fruit Pie (heck, in those lunches Mom packed I encountered many a Hostess product: Twinkies, Ho Hos, Ding Dongs, cupcakes)
  78. Snail
  79. Lapsang souchong
  80. Bellini
  81. Tom yum (if I can get a vegetarian version, yes)
  82. Eggs Benedict
  83. Pocky
  84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
  85. Kobe beef
  86. Hare (but I've had rabbit)
  87. Goulash
  88. Flowers
  89. Horse
  90. Criollo chocolate
  91. Spam
  92. Soft shell crab
  93. Rose harissa (but watch the Scovilles....)
  94. Catfish
  95. Mole poblano
  96. Bagel and lox
  97. Lobster Thermidor
  98. Polenta
  99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
  100. Snake
Your turn

What isn't on either list that you think a well-rounded palate should experience? Any stories about adventures in eating? 

P.S. Given the number of links to Wikipedia on this page, we all might consider making a donation!