Camping and Night Sounds

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Eddie listened to the owls hooting, and to the little creatures scuffling in the grass outside. He pretended he was a boy living in the stone age, a bold and fearless boy, safe in his cave.

-Eddie’s Tent and How to go Camping by Sarah Garland

Bragging Rights: My Tiny Garden

When I moved into this duplex, the landlord gave me permission to do a little gardening. It was one of the many questions I had before moving in and the representative from the company that manages this building assured me it was ok. Of course, this is a place I rent, not a place I own, so I have been both cautious and careful about what I plant and how much money I spend.

We’ve had an unusually large amount of rain this year, and most of the plants in my little garden plots are doing extremely well – therefore, I have decided to brag about my garden.

Herbs In The Front Yard

I removed the weeds, put down mulch, and planted (from left to right) Swiss Chard, Cilantro, purple Sage and Chives (purple flowering). The Hosta (in the center) was already there.

All of these plants are doing really well except the chives. For some reason, the chives are struggling.

Pretty Flowers Beside The Door

I’d taken the time to give this bush a much-needed trim before putting down mulch and planting some pretty purple and pink flowers for mother’s day (a family tradition). I’m glad we chose the flowers we did because, soon after, the bush burst into bloom with pretty pink (bright pink!) flowers in the spring. Sadly, I did not take a picture before the flowers were all gone – they are rather short-lived.

For some reason, this house has two doors, and two sets of cement steps leading up to those doors, on the same side of the house. The bush in this picture is the same bush in the previous picture. Since this second door is never used (it even has a ‘do not use’ sign), I played around with using this stoop as a home for plants in pots.

This flower is the only thing that really took to this location (and survived the squirrels). It’s such a pretty flower! I wish I’d thought to take a picture when the whole thing was in bloom. I’ll have to try to remember to snap a photo with my phone the next chance I get.

Strawberry Patch

I pulled all the weeds out of this area along the side of the house, put down mulch and planted strawberry plants. They have not started to produce strawberries, but they have been growing strong. A few are starting to send out little vines, so they should spread out nicely.

The large leafy flowering plants behind the strawberries were already there. They produce pretty orange flowers when they are in bloom. The low leafy flowering plants (tiny purple flowers when in bloom) around the edges are all over the yard. There isn’t much grass on this property because these plants cover everything, so the grass grows up around them. It’s actually kind of nice because they are just as soft as grass, so it doesn’t get in the way of lounging/playing in the backyard.

I allowed some of the purple flowers to remain around the strawberries because they were pretty when they were in bloom but they spread aggressively, so I have to weed them away from the strawberries from time to time.

Old Laundry Line Pole

When I did the walk-through on this place, this old metal pole in the backyard stood out like a sore thumb. It’s left over from a time when people did laundry outside. There’s nowhere to attach a laundry line/rope, so it has no purpose except to just stand there looking like…well, like this.

I was trying to find a way to make it less ugly when I noticed that it was both extremely solid/sturdy and it had holes drilled into the arms. So, I went out and bought some hanging baskets, planted some flowers and decorated with a wind chime. Much better! (Not perfect, but BETTER!)

If I owned this place…or if I had the tools, time and skills…I would seriously look at turning this thing into some kind of hanging garden with several tiers of wide (the width of the arms) garden boxes. Another option is to plant a flowering vine (of some sort) at the base and let it consume the entire pole.

Hmmm…

This is an excellent example of one of the primary reasons why I find renting so frustrating – I just want to get out into the yard and fix it!

Former Wood Pile Is Now A Garden

When I moved in, I noticed a wood pile in the back of the yard. Throughout the Midwest, burning wood in your yard is extremely common. Even in the middle of the city, on rented property, people will have city-approved fire pits. So, the wood pile wasn’t unusual.

When spring arrived (I moved in during the winter) I realised it was a wood and trash pile, filled with all sorts of rotting things that needed to be dealt with (somehow). There were also lots of broken glass, beer bottle tops and cigarette butts all over the yard – I guess the former tenants had many gatherings (or something). When you rent, this sort of problem is common. People just don’t take care of places they don’t own.

So, I sorted out the wood pile, got the trash hauled away (including the glass and cigarettes, when I found them), put everything into the yard-waste garbage can that was allowed and used the former wood-and-trash-pile space to create a tiny vegetable garden.

I had several pots full of dirt that I’d attempted to use for gardening-from-seed, but the squirrels kept digging in the dirt. Every single time little shoots of plants would appear, I would come home to find the entire pot dug up – it was as if the squirrels had decided to stir it up (like a soup).

I finally decided to just dump all of the dirt into the former-wood-pile location, use some of the large wood pieces (not allowed in the yard waste bin) to create a garden border, and planted some already-grown plants purchased at local garden centers.

The end result is two tomato plants (in the back) and (from left to right in the front) zucchini, cucumbers and pumpkins.

There’s also a section of those flowering plants that are growing in other parts of the yard. This fence is really ugly, and a portion of the flowers was over-grown (potentially root bound), so I moved a small section out of the overgrown area and replanted it in this tiny garden plot. The thought was, long-term, these flowers would spread and cover up the fence line.

Wish It Were My Own

I really enjoy doing yard work on the weekends and playing around with little gardening projects. Obviously, I’m not a master gardener, but it’s fun.

Sadly, this is an apartment and, sooner or later, we will have to move. I’m going to miss this place when we leave.

Fashion Does Not Equal Power

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Tonglong was wearing the ceremonial white jade armor traditionally reserved for China’s rightful ruler, and holding a white jade sword of similar significance. He glowed like a beacon in the bright moonlight, and seemed to think that his outfit should make the Forbidden City forces bow at his feet. It did not.

The Five Ancestors Book 7: Dragon by Jeff Stone

Empathy Walls

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An empathy wall is an obstacle to deep understanding of another person, one that can make us feel indifferent or even hostile to those who hold different beliefs or whose childhood is rooted in different circumstances. In a period of political tumult, we grasp for quick certainties. We shoehorn new information into ways we already think. We settle for knowing our opposite numbers from the outside. But is it possible, without changing our beliefs, to know others from the inside, to see reality through their eyes, to understand the links between life, feeling, and politics; that is, to cross the empathy wall? I thought it was.

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild

Sing Beautifully for You Are Supper

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‘How shall I put it, to a brain so much smaller and less clever than mine… The thing is, we are all, in a sense, supper. Walking, talking, breathing suppers, that’s what we are. Take you, for instance. YOU are about to be eaten by ME, so that makes you supper. That’s obvious. But even a murderous carnivore like myself will be a supper for worms one day. We’re all snatching precious moments from the peaceful jaws of time,’ said the Dragon cheerfully. ‘That’s why it’s so important,’ he continued, ‘for the supper to sing as beautifully as it can.’

How To Train Your Dragon (Book 1) by Cressida Cowell

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Proper Burial

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Jesse WildShoe died last night and today was the funeral and usually there’s a wake but none of us had the patience or energy to mourn for days so we buried Jesse right away and dug the hole deep because Jesse could fancydance like God had touched his feet. Anyhow we dug the hole all day and since the ground was still a little frozen we kept doing the kerosene trick and melting the ice and frost and when we threw a match into the bottom of the grave it looked like I suppose hell must look and it was scary. There we were ten little Indians making a hell on earth for a fancydancer who already had enough of that shit and probably wouldn’t want to have any more of it and I kept wondering if maybe we should just take his body high up in the mountains and bury him in the snow that never goes away. Maybe we just sort of freeze him so he doesn’t have to feel anything anymore and especially not some crazy ideas of heaven or hell.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

Australian Criminal Code Against Slavery

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Quotes From: The Commonwealth Criminal Code – Criminal Code Act 1995 (‘the Criminal Code’)

Division 270 — Slavery and slavery-like conditions
Subdivision A–Preliminary
Subdivision B–Slavery

270.1 Definition of slavery
For the purposes of this Division, slavery is the condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised, including where such a condition results from a debt or contract made by the person.

270.2 Slavery is unlawful
Slavery remains unlawful and its abolition is maintained, despite the repeal by the Criminal Code Amendment (Slavery and Sexual Servitude) Act 1999 of Imperial Acts relating to slavery.

270.3 Slavery offences
(1) A person who, whether within or outside Australia, intentionally:
(aa) reduces a person to slavery; or
(a) possesses a slave or exercises over a slave any of the other powers attaching to the right of ownership; or
(b) engages in slave trading; or
(c) enters into any commercial transaction involving a slave; or
(d) exercises control or direction over, or provides finance for:
(i) any act of slave trading; or
(ii) any commercial transaction involving a slave;

Commonwealth Consolidated Acts, CRIMINAL CODE ACT 1995 – SCHEDULE The Criminal Code

Australian Legal Framework, Anti-Slavery Australia

All That I Wish For

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“There is water beneath me, and the air smells of salt and sunshine. What more could I wish for?” asked the dragon.

“Nothing. Nothing at all,” agreed Jenna.

Septimus Heap, Book One: Magyk by Angie Sage

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Standing Right Side Up in an Upsidedown World

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Gylfie’s directness shocked Soren. He stopped blinking and looked straight at the Elf Owl. “Look. What did I just tell you? Everything here at St. Aggie’s is upside down and inside out. It’s our job not to get moon blinked and to stand right side up in an upsidedown world. If we don’t do that we’ll never be able to escape. We’ll never be able to think. And thinking is the only way we’ll be able to plan an escape.”

 

 

The Guardians of Ga’Hoole, Book One: The Capture, by Kathryn N Lasky

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Women’s Empowerment

What is Women’s Empowerment?

Simplified, it is the actions that result in women being able to own and control property. It is primarily financial, but extends into the areas of body autonomy (the ability to chose what is done with your own body), childcare, education and violence against women because they all directly impact a woman’s ability to work, run a business and/or manage property.

Addressing inequality and Human Rights violations are key to resolving poverty. When inequality is high, poverty goes up; when inequality is low (and equality is high), poverty goes down.

It’s an important economic concept that has been thoroughly examined, discussed and researched by academics and activists all over the world (see references below).

My Own Experience

Since I’m just a poverty survivor and not a world-renowned academic expert in economics (or anything else), allow me to provide a ground-zero perspective from life here in the United States of America.

The examples I have collected show how an individual is kept in poverty or under absolute financial control of another individual. Therefore, it is important to understand that placing one person in a family (or community or collection of humans) under the absolute control of another person contributes to poverty overall.

The most simplistic explanation for this statement is this: If the controlling person is wealthy, the person they control is impoverished because they care unable to own property.

However, these human rights violations continue the cycle of poverty in many other ways. If a woman is unable to make decisions, maintain control over her body or well being, is subjected to violence, or is simply trapped in her home, then she is not contributing her full potential to the household or the community. Also, if something happens to the individual who is controlling all finances, leaving him unable to work, then the entire family becomes homeless.

For the purposes of this answer, I will focus on the effect on the women (specifically). Please understand that there are others who are effected, both directly and indirectly, by these issues.

1960s

Image source: Asterisk Gallery: No Moms Allowed: Teen Hangouts Through History

(Note: this is NOT a photo of my mom. Technically, it’s a 1950s photo, but the hairstyles remind me of photos of my mother during her late teens.)

During the late 1970s, my mother told me the story of her first drivers license. She a navy child, so my grandfather was out at sea when it came time to go to the DMV, take the test, and get her license; so, my grandmother took my mother in herself.

The man behind the counter asked one question: “Where’s your father?”

They explained the situation and he flat out refused to allow my mother to get her license without a man present, providing his permission. She was not allowed to drive until my grandfather returned home. You can imagine how infuriating it was for both my mother and my grandmother.

Why this is important

Not being able to drives means being shut out of nearly all forms of employment in the far majority of people in the USA. It also significantly restricts movement and the ability to complete simple daily tasks, like shopping for food and going to the doctor.

Simply making divers licenses available to women (and punishing this sort of discrimination on the part of DMV workers) improves both women’s rights and women (economic) empowerment.

1970s

Images Source: NIH: Domestic Violence in the 1970s

As a kid growing up in the Midwest, I had a stay-at-home-mom and lived in a house surrounded by houses filled with stay-at-home-moms. Some of the women were literally trapped in their homes without a vehicle or access to public transportation (at that time, it did not exist outside of the city). A few were doubly trapped by an abusive spouse.

Domestic violence was also common. Not just in my little town – everywhere.

This was when the women’s movement was picking up steam and making a lot of progress, but deep social and political change always seem to take an extra 5–10 years to reach the deeply rural areas and the states located in landlocked areas between the coasts. It took a while, but it did, finally, arrive.

Why this is important:

Without realistic options for income, these women were unable to escape violence and abuse against themselves and their children. Without employment they could not escape. Employment was not possible until after they managed to escape. It was an impossible situation.

When domestic violence awareness campaigns reached all corners of the USA, and changes to the laws provided all people of all ages protection from violence and abuse, then large numebrs of women were finally able to achieve both physical and financial freedom.

1980s

Image Source: 1985 cover of TIME | Current & Breaking News | National & World Updates

As a teenager in the 1980s I found myself faced with some strange contradictions. There were people who were claiming that women had achieved equality and feminism was dead (sound familiar).

Yet, at the exact same time, many of my classmates were getting pregnant due to many difficult realities. Chief among them were the anti-birth control and anti-abortion sentiments of the local religious and political leaders and the disturbingly common occurrence of date rape.

While the majority of teenage girls simply gave their babies to family members to raise, there was a not-insignificant minority of teenagers who were forced to marry their boyfriend and/or rapist. I listened to more than one story that roughly translated into the following process:

  1. Boy ‘likes’ girls and wants to control her (permanently).
  2. Boy rapes girl.
  3. Boy tells everyone, including girl’s parents, that they had sex and the baby was his. There may not be a baby on the way. This did not appear to matter.
  4. Girl is now socially tied to boy. Other teens and adults perceive her as ‘his.’
  5. Boy continues to rape girl until she gets pregnant.
  6. Boy demands marriage.
  7. Parents force marriage, while trying to absolve themselves of any wrongdoing.
  8. Girl is now physically, socially and financially trapped by boy.

This is not a relic of the past – it continues to happen.

Why This is Important:

Body autonomy is about significantly more than ‘wanting to be a parent.’ It’s about physical safety and freedom – literal freedom.

No human being, regardless of age or gender, should be subjected to rape. Laws are in place to protect the victim, but they are difficult to enforce. The circumstances are also frequently complicated, particularly when it’s ‘date rape.’

The ability to prevent a pregnancy under any circumstance is the last line of defense against this particular kind of predator. Therefore, birth control is absolutely necessary in the fight against rape, domestic violence, and women’s inequality.

The ability to raise a child as a single parent, and still pursue a career and/or life goals is something our entire society MUST support, because it provides freedom to girls facing this kind of abuse,

The ability to address everything that goes along with a teen pregnancy, including medical care, without being forced into a marriage, is also absolutely necessary.

Those who have access to these necessities are also provided access to the possibility of a financially independant and reasonably secure future.

1990s

Image Source: Huffington Post: Why Anita Hill’s 1991 Testimony Is So Haunting Today

I started working full-time after college. Then I went to grad school, and returned to working full time immediately after. That makes the 1990s the decade of my introduction into the regular workforce. Here are somethings that I heard on a regular basis during that decade (said to me directly and to other women):

  • Of course your pay is low, you’re married. Your husband is bringing in the real income.
  • You’re young and married. You’ll be having babies soon. We don’t expect you to stick around.
  • We need someone to take notes. [Name of only female in room], you can be the secretary for the meeting.
  • The best job [a woman] can get is secretary (nurse, teacher, [other stereotypically female position]).
  • You should wear clothes that are tighter (more revealing, more fashionable, etc.). If you want to get ahead, you have to learn to work it. Don’t you want to succeed?

I could go on but you get the idea.

While all of these things were frustrating, uncomfortable and occasionally infuriating; none of them were perceived as harassment. In fact, the possibility of harassment didn’t come up until the Anita Hill hearings brought the topic into the TV sets and living rooms of every American with access to standard news channels. Even then, the focus was on extreme examples of sexual harassment.

Therefore, I will put aside the general atmosphere that was prevalent a few decades ago, and focus on the one specific comment that had real and far-reaching consequences for every working woman in the USA:

  • Of course your pay is low, you’re married. Your husband is bringing in the real income.

This is just one of the many excuses/responses to questions about pay disparity that I, personally, encountered. Attempts to pursue this line of inquiry, or negotiate for a simple pay raise, were usually (invariably?) met with threats (direct or implied) of dismissal.

(Note: Reason it’s important will be explored in 2000s)

2000 to Present

Image Source: Equal Pay For Equal Work (Also see: Equal pay for equal work – Wikipedia)

While being held back in the pay-scale during my 20s was frustrating, I didn’t realize just how important it was until many years later. The problem is this:

  • New employers base their pay-level offering on the amount of money previous employers have already paid you.

Requesting pay history and verifying the amount former employers paid is standard background check process. These are also standard discussion points during the interview process.

When it comes time to talk salary, it’s ALLWAYS based on information the new employer has on what previous employers paid. If you made $30,000 doing the same (or similar) work at your last company, why would the new company pay you significantly more? The fact that the men in the company are getting $90,000 during their first year, is irrelevant.

Bottom line: Your price has been set.

Why this is important:

Women consistently making 70% of the salary earned by men (across all professions) has serious implications for total household income. It reduces a woman’s ability to sustain herself and her children without a roommate or a husband. It significantly reduces her ability to find a job that pays a living wage, if she happens to be an unskilled worker.

However, it also has wider implications that directly affect men. The existence of wage disparity establishes a process by which some people are financially discriminated against. This process can be…and often is…applied to any group of people, as the company sees fit.

This isn’t about finding the best candidate or paying for a stronger skill set. Wage disparity is the act of paying significantly different wages to people who are doing the exact same work.

This perpetuates poverty by systematically restricting select groups of people from accessing key resources.

What the Academics Have Said

There are many highly respected academics and activists who have been saying poverty is reduced when women are economically empowered for a long long time. Here are a few examples of published academic papers that illustrate this fact:

For an excellent speech on the effects of violence (specifically) and unenforced laws (in general) on poverty, please watch this TED talk:

Ted Talk (YouTube.com) Gary Haugen: The hidden reason for poverty the world needs to address now

Originally posted in response to How powerful is female empowerment in resolving world poverty? on Quora.