Why Forgiveness is so damn hard

I’ve been thinking a little about forgiveness lately, particularly when the subject turns towards grudges, and refusing to forgive. 

Maybe we ought to start with what forgiveness  is, lest we get lost in the weeds pointing fingers and moving the proverbial goal posts. 
When I reflect on what it means to forgive, when I blow off the dust and dig way deep down I find that forgiveness is less about the words we say, and much more about our perceptions and the narratives we play for ourselves. Forgiveness can become a sort of book burner, or at least it should be. 
Forgiveness is really about acknowledging that the person who harmed you is, in fact, human. They’ve admitted their failings to you, and they feel remorse. Or Maybe they haven’t gotten to that point. Maybe you’re looking to move past the pain they caused you at somepoint, and so you offer your forgiveness. You accept that they’re human, and that they have failed you in some way.

The act of forgiveness doesn’t erase the past. That misdeed cannot be undone, nor can it be forgotten. Forgiveness acknowledges the fact that the transgression has occurred, it doesn’t attempt to cover it up. So why then is it so hard to forgive? 

We humans love our stories, and we love for things to be black and white, good and bad, Rebel and Galactic Empire. But life is so much more gray than that. When we forgive, we have to admit that the person has done wrong, and we have to move past that. That’s the hard part. We have to write a new story that involves letting ourselves be okay with the person we’ve forgiven, even while we know they’ve done that bad deed. And we don’t like new stories, do we? Because it seems like we may have to admit that we were wrong about the person we’ve forgiven, that they aren’t all bad, they aren’t all evil, that there’s still an Anakin underneath all that Vader. We have to give up a little bit of the reality we’ve created for ourselves in order to forgive. And that’s hard sometimes. 


Voting into the Void

But now, I’m left with a basket of undesirables – but I have to chose. So here’s the part where I weigh my shitty, shitty options.

Thoughts on making my vote count when I know it won’t count…

If you’re reading this you probably already know that I live in Washington State. As such, because of the electoral college system, my exercise in democracy this November matters very little in the Presidential race. Save some natural disaster Hillary Clinton will secure our state’s electoral college votes. So, why bother voting in this race at all? (Note that I’m not talking about avoiding the down ballot contests here).

This is actually a question worth consideration. What are the good reasons to vote, and do they outweigh the reasons to not vote? First, I want to tackle the latter. The sole reason I can imagine possessing for not voting would be for an extreme aversion to all of the candidates on the ballot. However, even the marginal candidates have something to offer, so this line of thinking quickly dissipates.

But are there good reasons to vote? Well, if I don’t vote I’m essentially abdicating my responsibility to my fellow citizens. I would become a “free rider” that would reap the benefits of an institution that I had no part in holding up. Maybe it is the guilt I still carry as a result of an upbringing heavily colored by the Midwestern Protestant work ethic, but to me an abstention from voting seems almost unethical.

So now to my choices at hand. I have six choices on my ballot here in Washington, and not one of which am I excited about. For the first time in my life I registered as a Democrat in order to cast my vote in the Democratic caucus for Senator Bernie Sanders. This was a candidate that I firmly believed in and could actually get excited about. But now, I’m left with a basket of undesirables – but I have to chose. So here’s the part where I weigh my shitty, shitty options.

Donald Trump:

Pros: Seems to understand that our trade deals have left American workers competing against countries that don’t play by the same rules and can undercut labor and environmental costs so severely that our economy keeps moving toward a Walmart economy. Also may have a halfway decent student loan proposal.

Cons: The man is a walking excrement hydrant that brags about sexually assaulting women. He is a racist, a sexist, and is drumming up xenophobic mania among his supporters in a way that must be labeled as fascist, or at least neo-fascist. He has bribed public officials, ran a sham “university”, and will soon be subject of a trial in which he is accused of raping a 13 year old girl. He doesn’t understand why we can’t use our nuclear weapons. Despite decades of evidence to the contrary, he still believes that trickle down economics is a viable model for the country. He mistakenly believes we (he) can negotiate down the national debt. I could go on, but you likely already know the rest. I wouldn’t let this man manage an Arby’s, and it would be incredibly irresponsible for any thinking person to willfully elect a weak, thin-skinned, megalomaniac such as this to our highest office. There is zero chance I vote for Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton:

Pros: Wants to keep our government intact. Thinks things like the EPA and Department of Education are worth keeping around. Wants to fix the ACA by implementing a public option. Wants to put in place training for displaced coal workers. Understands climate change is real and is a threat. Isn’t likely to roll back the civil rights gains made in the last decade. Might be willing to listen to progressives.

She has a good chance of getting elected, which means that the type of reforms I’d like to see take place have a slightly better chance of being enacted.

Cons: Her position on the Dakota pipeline is a complete joke. She will continue to implement neo-liberal policies as she has for decades. I don’t believe she will fight for real progress towards mitigating climate change.I don’t believe she understands the Black Lives Matter movement, nor does she see the problems the movement is so clearly articulating. She unequivocally supports Israel and will look the other way when it commits war crimes because she refuses to take a moral stand against countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia because of the “enemy of my enemy” policy we seem all too eager to cling to. She was endorsed by Henry Kissinger, a man who will never (though he should) stand trial for his own war crimes.

I also believe that she helped cover up her husband’s first rape accuser (though most if not all of the others don’t seem credible). I still don’t understand why she has stuck by such a sleazeball.

Voting for Hillary is essentially voting for 4 more years of the Obama administration, though I have a feeling it will be a much more hawkish one. It would also send the message to Donald Trump and his supporters that a large majority of Americans reject his brand of deplorable demagoguery. But would anyone notice my one vote?

Gary Johnson

Pros: He’s neither a Democrat nor a Republican is what you might expect me to say but that’s a statement with no weight behind it. There’s nothing inherently wrong with identifying with either of those two parties as plenty of capable and responsible politicians do.

I will say that his desire to see the US as less of a work police is enticing. We could use a dramatic cut back in our military spending (while still being responsible for the defense of our country) and its influence around the world which often fuels the flames of terrorism that it is supposed to extinguish.

Also, I generally hate the GOP. Today’s Republican party is absolutely a reflection of people like Trump and Ted Cruz. And by voting for Johnson, I could help get their party to the 5% needed to qualify for federal matching funds. Meaning that a vote for Johnson might mean even fewer votes for the GOP candidate in 2020. That’s a long-game spoiler but given the options…

Cons: He’s a libertarian (I can’t wait till some jackass tells me he isn’t a “real” libertarian because a he thinks driver’s licenses are a good idea) which means a host of awful things if put into practice. And as John Oliver recently showed, his fixation with reducing the size of government leaves all sorts of practical implications up in the air (such as his wanting to close the Dept. of Commerce but not realizing that includes the patent office). He doesn’t seem to understand the government he rails against. And can’t convince even 10% of voters that he’s the right guy for the job.

Jill Stein

Pros: She would fight hard for a stronger minimum wage. She would fight hard for climate policy. She would fight hard for a number of causes that I do believe in. And like voting for Gary Johnson, my one vote would get the Green Party closer to the 5% needed to help them in future elections.

Cons: Her foreign policy is kind of a disaster. Her stance on Syria is extremely troubling. She doesn’t seem to have concrete plans for her proposals. Also, we live in America where there is a Senate and House of Representatives where she would have exactly ZERO members of her own party to support her. Democrats might be on her side, but do we really think she could get her plans through Congress somehow, even if by some miracle she was elected?

The Green Party has had some minor success in getting down ballot candidates elected. But that’s where their focus needs to be at this point. They need a coalition and strong Congressional support in order to help a green POTUS enact the type of legislation they desire.

Yes, there are a couple of other alternatives, but none of which have even the slightest chance of making it to 2% of the popular vote. And yes, I already understand the duopoly and how our lawmakers and media have rigged the system against outside voices. I get all of that. But my one vote only has so much opportunity to do anything, to mean anything in a country of 300+ million.

And this post isn’t to tell you who to vote for. That’s up to you (but really please don’t vote for that fucking asshole Trump). Maybe you live in a swing state and your vote might really help decide if we do or don’t end up with an orange toddler for a president. You have your own choice to make, as do I. These aren’t the options I had hoped for, but they’re the options I have. And I feel that not voting just isn’t a choice that I can willfully make.

Tales from an amateur handy-dad Vol. 1: Building raised garden beds.

First of all- this blog isn’t dead yet! I’ve been way too busy with school to write anything that didn’t have a prescribed word count to think about this blog but as my last semester winds down I’m hoping to find more time to post here. Now onto the post.

So I decided that it would be a good idea to build some raised garden beds this year. Last year I half-assed tilled up a patch of my yard and got some corn, peas, beans, and…squash(?) out of it but it was messy and a pain. So I got a bug up my ass on Saturday and ran to my local co-op for the black stuff and then to a big box hardware for the lumber.

This was pretty easy to do. And you can do it on the cheap. When it comes to lumber, here’s a few things I learned:

*Don’t get treated lumber.
*Use reclaimed wood if you can.
*If you can’t use reclaimed wood, go with cedar or juniper.

I chose to go with cedar fence boards for the walls of my beds. I could have bought some cedar 2x6x8s but those are about $15 a pop. The 8′ cedar fence boards are $2.35 a pop. Doesn’t make much sense to spend a ton of money for something that will just hold dirt.

As for the dirt, pro tip: use as much o your own compost as you can. Don’t have any yet? Start a pile now and you’ll have black gold this time next year. Mine consists of veggie scraps, chicken  crap, wood shavings, grass, and leaves. Seems to be the right mixture as I had a lot of really rich, dark soil at the bottom of my pile.

So on to the instructions. I’ll start with the materials I use for two 4’x8′ beds:

Two 2x4s
Two 2x3s
Twelve 8′ cedar boards (about 5.5″ wide)
Screws (shown below)
Paper bags (or cardboard, you’ll see in a minute).
Dirt & compost.

First, I measured out 8 14″ sections of the 2×4. These will be the corner posts.

Swanson speed square is a *must have* item, and keep the book that comes with it!!

Then I cut them of course. And did the same for the 2x3s (8 in total for supports)

Yeah I'm know there's no safety guard on there but the miter saw was free...

Then I cut the ends of the 2x4s on an angle to make stakes.

If the garlic bulbs don't keep the vampires away...

Okay next I ripped four of the fence boards in half, giving me eight 4′ sections. The lumber pile looks like thus:


Okay, time to screw! I like these star headed screws because they seem to strip less easily, but maybe that’s just me..

There's stars upon thars...

So the reason I cut the 2x4s to 14″ was to leave an inch over the top and another two inches for the stake end below. So that’s why I lined it all up like this. These are the 8′ sections here.


Then I screwed in the 2×3 supports 3′ in from both sides of the fence boards. This will prevent the boards from bowing out because they are on the thin side. It’s also really easy to sink your screws too far since the wood is so soft. (Go ahead and make the joke, you know you want to…)


I repeated this until I had four long sections. Then I lined them up in my yard where I wanted them. Remember to have the long sides facing south if you can to maximize sun exposure.


The next part is where we prepped the grass. And by “prep” I mean “murder”. If you have access to a tiller, use that!! If not, you can do what I did. I set my mower to the lowest setting and mower, then went over that area with a weed whacker to get as much as I could. Then we sprayed the area with vinegar (yeah, it kills grass. Use it in your driveway instead of roundup, only takes a few minutes to work and WAY better for the environment). Then I hand tilled the area to break it all up. When I say ” I” , I mean my wife. I had to bail and she took over this part for bit.

When that was all done the grass looked deader. So then we attached the 4′ sections to either end and pounded down the stakes to try and hold it down and in place.

See! Grass is deader!

Next, we lined the bottom with paper bags. I grabbed these lawn bags at aforementioned big box store because we didn’t have any on hand. This will ensure that grass stays even deader than before.

Suffocate the grass!

Next, I started to fill it in with compost from our compost pile. This is a terrible photo of our compost pile and the black gold found underneath.

Terrible photo of rotting things.

I was able to grab about 4-5 wheelbarrow loads of the stuff per each bed. Given a 4 yard Barrow, and it was about 82% full each time and the beds were 4×8…I dunno…math…

Although the quality is generally terrible, child labor is free.

After I scooped as much worm poop as I could, we then filled in the beds with top soil that I bought from our local co-op/feed store. You can probably get it cheaper another way but I didn’t feel like trolling Craigslist for dirt on a Saturday.

Dirt was sourced locally and creep-free.

And voilà! Raised garden beds! I left the supports and corner posts higher in case I ever wanted to attach something there. Next year I’ll use flexible PVC and turn these into mini greenhouses. I might also add a trellis or something for beans to grow on.

The only thing I might do over is to leave the supports an corner posts one inch higher, and the stake ends of the corner posts one inch lower.

So, that’s that. I’ll post photos when we have vegetables in there, and we’ll see what we end up with this year. It’s already looking like we’ll have more cherries than last year, and hopefully some pears, apples and plums to go along with those.

Let me know if you have any questions or extra tips in the comments.


Of course we won’t forget

Starting late last night I saw a lot of people changing their Facebook profile pictures to some sort of 9/11 commemorative logo, and lots of the “Never Forget” images have started appearing. I have to wonder why anyone needs this reminder.
You never see people of the WW2 generation carrying signs asking us to never forget D-Day. Our history books have not erased Lexington and Concord, Wounded Knee, the Iranian hostage crisis, or Waco from their pages, nor has time allowed them to slip from our collective memories even as the generations that lived through these events have long since passed. You don’t need to carry a sign saying “Never forget D-Day!!!!” because….

IT WAS FUCKING D-DAY. Holy shit, it was a terrible, terrible tragedy that altered the course of world history, geography, and touched hundreds of millions of lives. Just like 9/11. It was one of those events where people will always remember where they were. We don’t need t-shirts or commemorative plates or coffee mugs made in China to recall what happened that day. Thirteen years later and you can’t go a full week without someone invoking 9/11 on the news or in popular culture.

So, maybe instead of “don’t forget” we go with “don’t abuse”.

Don’t abuse the memory of that day in order to show me how “patriotic” you are. Waving a bigger flag and yelling ‘MERICA!!! at the top of your lungs doesn’t make you more patriotic. (There’s also not *one* way to show your patriotism).

Don’t abuse the memory of that day by invoking 9/11 as a way to end a conversation.

Don’t abuse the memory of that day by using what happened as political fodder. You are not a better politician or contributor to the national dialogue because you show concern for the victims of 9/11 and their families. Everyone does. That you do so with a bullhorn just makes you look like an asshole.

Don’t abuse the memory of that day to sell your message/merchandise/self/network or for a promotion.

Don’t abuse the memory of that day to try to sell the public on an unnecessary and unjustifiable war.

Don’t abuse the memory of that day for an applause line or to get facebook likes. It makes you a grade-A asshole.

Don’t abuse the memory of that day by removing it from its historical and global context.

It is impossible for anyone that lived through that day to forget about 9/11. It’s one of those events that we will never outlive and will never disappear from our collective lexicon. There are ways to honor the memory without trying to be the loudest asshole in the room, shoving your fake patriotism in everyone’s face. You might start with placing the day’s events in their proper historical context, or by drowning out those idiots following Alex Jones that still claim it was a false flag attack or the New World Order or other similar bullshit. Just please save me your holier-than-thou faux patriotic nonsense. It belittles what occurred and relegates what should be a greater conversation into the bargain bin of slogans, catch phrases and knee-jerk reactions.


Not much of a choice

We like to pretend like there is a real choice in politics, but there isn’t. Because of decades of gerrymandering safe districts, the two-parties have infected national politics with the old stereotypes of entrenched ward bosses with near lifetime appointments in both houses of Congress.

Our Presidential choices aren’t much better either. In the primary races, candidates pathetically pander to a small fraction of their party’s base that is ideologically driven and has the loudest bullhorn, no matter how much of the party they truly represent. After a candidate is chosen, they then spend the next few months and hundreds of millions of dollars pandering to just 4-6 million “undecided/swing” voters. These people largely vote with their pocketbooks in mind and are far less independent than they would have you believe.

There are, of course, the “3rd” party candidates that run too. Occasionally they are successful but usually at city-council and state legislative levels. People will tell you that you’re throwing your vote away when you vote for them, and that the mere fact that they dare to challenge the status quo of the 2 party duopoly makes them a potential “spoiler”, which is like labeling someone as being a leper.

It isn’t any wonder that people are generally fed up with politics today.

I heard this one today: “Romney and Obama are both stranded in the middle of the ocean. Who gets saved? America.”

But is it really just an either-or, two sides to the same coin choice? Looking at my options, I really don’t think so. I stand firm that I’m a limited-government type of guy, but not in a rigid Ron Paulite type of way. I’d much rather the government left me alone to make my own choices and didn’t tax me to pay for land wars in Asia to feed the coffers of plutocrats. But when asked to vote Republican, 9.9 times out of 10 I have to say no.

You can chose to blame some of what I’m about to say as one-off crazies or individual lunacy that doesn’t reflect the party as a whole. But I call bullshit. While I’m all for smaller, more efficient government, voting for a Republican on the federal level means that I support the following:

Trickle-down economics – this is of course the theory that if the already wealthy just had a bit more money and were burdened with taxes less, that they would just hire all of the unemployed people out there and the economy would have room to grow. We know this doesn’t work having tried it on more than once occasion in the last century. Currently we’re in a demand-slump. Meaning that it is weak consumer demand that is slowing down the economic recovery. The rich spend less of their income, while the middle and lower class tends to spend more of it. Until those people are spending more, we won’t see continued growth. And if wages continue to be stagnant, we’re going to be living in a Walmart economy for decades.

Science denial – Only 6% of scientists associate with the GOP. Why? Maybe because a plurality believe that the world is less than 10,000 years old and that we came about from the literal garden and a magical talking snake that told us knowledge was a bad thing. Or that they deny the very well established science on global climate change.

Crazy – The GOP has enacted or tried to enact laws that force a women to have a vaginal probe stuck in her if she’s considering an abortion. One of their reps thought that women couldn’t get pregnant if she was “legitimately raped”. A one time front-runner for POTUS claimed that the HPV vaccine made people retarded. A majority of republicans believe that the current President of the US was either born outside of the US or is a Muslim.

Imperialism – Many want to go to war with Iran preemptively, ignoring a decade of a similar failed policy in the US. Paul Ryan calls for an annual increase in military spending – indefinitely (with seemingly no way to pay for it).

Destroying the Environment – Republicans have even included it in some of their official platforms that the dissolution of the EPA is one of their priorities, as well as repealing the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. A vast majority don’t accept the overwhelming evidence that humans are the primary cause of global climate change.


I could go on, but I won’t. I could also point out stupid shit democrats do like react to everything bad that happens with a ban, such as the large soda ban that has taken place in New York. Their constant lip service to responsible spending while never (on their own) tackling the long-term problems we will face when it comes to entitlement spending and the growing national debt. Yes, I know exactly how we got to the mess we’re in now, but dealing with it is a whole other issue.

So, when given the choice between someone that understands science and someone that thinks rape babies don’t happen, or given the choice between someone that understands that unions have been a positive impact on the middle class for the last century versus someone that still believes in the myth of trickle-down economics, I generally, reluctantly, raise a blue flag.



*I’m drafting a post on alternative choices, as well as a sort of meta-post on where I personally stand on the important issues of the day. As always, constructive comments and suggestions more than welcome. Cheers.

Making a dent

For the past year or so, I’ve been volunteering with a local non-profit, Sound Salmon Solutions. It’s an organization that works on salmon habitat restoration in the river basin where I live here in Snohomish County, WA.They work with local volunteers, land owners, local municipalities, Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and the tribes to accomplish all of this. A lot of what they do is removing invasive species like Himalayan Blackberry and Japanese Knotweed, and then planting native plants to restore habitat. They also do lots of educational outreach with schools and at public events. When I go to help out, it’s mostly been planting, but I’ve also volunteered my services as a photographer to snap some photos for their website.

Yesterday I went out to a private landowner’s property, and 25 or so of use planted 750 native plants like cedar, ash, alder, pine, willow, and some bushes like salmon berry and rose. It was all along the side of a creek that runs into the Stilly river (pictured below, the spot we were at is by the red star) that had previously been overgrown and choked out with invasive blackberry bushes. This was just part of the process that started a year ago and will continue with more maintenance over the next few years.

The yellow star denotes the area where I live, and it’s also right next to a confluence where the North and South forks of the Stillaguamish River meet before the river winds its way out into the Puget Sound. As you can see, the river feeds quite a bit of local agriculture (including the CSA we subsrcibe to, the Klesikc Family Farm). The river is also home to a large population of bald eagles, which feed upon the coho, chinook, steelhead, and other salmon.

The reason I included this in a post here is because part of adopting a more ecocentric world-view involves a focus on bioregions, and bioregional governance/stewardship. Rather than putting effort into say, protesting the Keystone XL pipeline, it would be more prudent and productive to put real work into improving the river where I live, and protecting the wilderness in the mountains I’m surrounded by. This is deep conservatism in action, because it relies heavily upon the people that live here in these watersheds and have a vested interest in seeing them thrive, as opposed to some far away, centralized entity with no real connection to this land.

It is important to note that much of the work has no direct human benefit. The work done this weekend will create forest to border the landowner’s property on the creek-side. Previous plantings have been for the sole benefit of salmon themselves. Will fishermen benefit? Sure, eventually they will. But at stake here is the reintroduction of the wild into parts of this land that have been manicured, distorted and destroyed for over a century.When planting, I was speaking with the landowner Leon, I believe. He was telling about how the land had been homesteaded as 160 acres in the 1870’s or 1880’s by his great-great grandfather. He talked about how much the land had changed in his 70+ years there due to some of the major floods and logging that takes place across the road from where he is. But he often recalled those childhood memories of running in the streams and creeks on the property and wading with the juvenile salmon by the dozens. That is it right there, the contact with the wild that fills us up and connects us to the world we live in. But, he said he hadn’t but a couple of salmon in the past decade or so swimming in those creeks and streams. Our work there will hopefully change that. I was planting side-by-side with some of his grandsons that were talking about how cool it would be to see the trees all grown up and to have a forest there in a few years. Hopefully the family stewardship of the land there will be a lasting legacy.

Later this year (I believe), in a river not too far south, they will be breaching a levy in order to restore an expanse of estuary that was taken over by agriculture and housing developments decades ago. I’ll post more on that when it happens.


The government which governs best…

Just yesterday I was listening to NPR and they were talking about how President Obama had recommended combining several government agencies into one, thereby reducing government waste, bureaucracy, costs to taxpayers, and government workforce. The agencies involved are all related to the Commerce Department and are all business related. The Commerce Department itself would cease to exist, but this plan actually provides for a practical solution as to what would happen to the department and it’s functions after the re-alignment of agencies, something that libertarian and conservative ideologues like Ron Paul and Rick Perry have yet to provide.

This should be an almost no-brainer, depending upon all of the particulars of course. I’m a huge advocate for these types of moves, and if successful I’d like to see more of it. For instance, we could combine the EPA and Department of Agriculture with the Department of the Interior. We could merge the Departments of Transportation and Energy, and I’m sure there are other agencies out there that we could combine to be more efficient, intrude upon our liberty less, and function as a valuable service for citizens and business owners. (I’d also do away with Homeland Security altogether but that’s another post…)

Maybe this has always been on the President’s agenda, since he did talk about this in his last State of the Union address. Maybe it’s a new idea born of general concern for the behemoth of beaurocracy that our government has become. Or maybe he’s just doing it because it’s good politics in an election year.

Personally, I don’t give a shit why he’s doing it. Just do it. Really, it’s a great idea.

Of course, our Republican friends might not agree. No doubt they’ll use this as another political football, even though we all know if it was a Republican President proposing this, it would have received nearly unanimous approval. I’m eager to see where this actually ends up going, and maybe Washington State could take a page out of this book. I’m looking at you, Departments of Ecology and Department of Natural Resources.