Friday, April 30, 2010

Louisiana oil spill

Words don't even begin to describe what I'm feeling right now. From the first mention of the BP oil rig exploding on the news, my anxiety level started rising. I've personally known people who worked on oil rigs, and even worked in a job at an environmental lab in Southern Louisiana, testing effluent from these places. I've been on chartered fishing trips that anchored near them to fish, drove along stretches of coastline where they stretched from horizon to horizon. I've been to Port Sulfur, and Venice, LA. My husband and I were even married in the swamp at the Louisiana Nature and Science Center, a place that was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. I worked at the Audubon Zoo's Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center. Some of the beaches and barrier islands that I've spent youthful summer afternoons on no longer exist as they once did. For me, it's so personal! The oil coming ashore right now will have an enormous impact. It'll impact the wildlife and fisheries, plants and ecosystems and the people who depend on them for their livelihood. Most importantly, there are 11 families who lost loved ones during the explosion. My heart is aching.
I grew up learning about the environmental impacts of canals being dug through the marshland and swamps of Southern Louisiana, the impact of putting levies around the Mississippi river, introduced Nutria eating away the marsh, the oil rigs, refineries, pollution from agricultural chemical run-off from half the country traveling through the Mississippi River and being spilled out into the Gulf of Mexico. I knew when Hurricane Katrina hit that it wasn't only the storm to be concerned about. I'd seen first hand how easy it was to overwhelm the pump system in New Orleans, which siphons off excess rain water from its below-sea-level neighborhoods.

As a Louisiana native I feel a pull to the place I spent most of my childhood. After 3 years in Kentucky, I responded, to attend college and stay another 5 years. I still feel it's pull, and at times like these I want to be there helping. All of the horrible emotions I felt during Hurricane Katrina are starting to surface again. As before, I'm thousands of miles away. I'll do what I can. Write a blog, send money, try to connect with others here who understand my pain. But it just doesn't ever seem to be enough...

In my grief and anxiety, I must remember the positive lessons I learned from Hurricane Katrina. Namely, that there is hope. The people and the land that is Louisiana have an incredible mystifying way of recovering... a zeal for life and a strength that defies all odds.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Going Solar

My husband and I have been thinking about this for many years... figuring out a way to go solar or wind power, or? Finally, I think the stars have aligned and the combination of a local city program, and tax credits available right now, and a South-facing house roof in a city with lots of sun has got us moving forward at last. We're not quite sure if we can do it, but we've taken the first steps.

We attended a local information system, through the city of Pendleton, Oregon. Solarize Pendleton is an amazing program that has been put together with the help of many different people and agencies. I encourage you to look at their program, and copy it in your own communities. We feel that we can not afford to miss out on this opportunity. And in this day and age, it even makes sense to pull money out of retirement funds to invest in solar energy for our house, instead of Wall Street. We're hoping we can get one of the no-interest loans that the city is offering. Wish us luck!!

We have the Oregon Energy Trust coming out next week to do an energy audit of our house to see how we can improve how we use and save energy. They'll look at the insulation, appliances, heat, AC, hot water etc... At the same time, we will be getting an assessment as to whether or not our house is situated to be a good candidate for solar. They'll look at how much shade we get (almost none), and the orientation of our roof (almost due South). The panels need to face South for the best energy generation. The size of our roof will also determine the size of array we can get. At this time, there is no program to buy back excess energy that we generate, but it will be credited back to our electric account to use when the sun is not out. Excess energy will go to our neighbors to use, keeping it all local.

I thought it'd be fun to bring you along on the journey as we try to "go greener".

It's a cause we both feel very strongly about, and want to teach our boys, by example that it needs to be a priority, both for the environment, and for our fellow citizens who have sacrificed their lives drilling for oil in the Gulf Coast, or mining for coal in West Virginia. Not everyone can go solar, but we can all make steps to use less gas and electricity.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. Also, I'd love to hear any other stories and experiences of others who have gone solar!!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I was uploading some recent pictures I took during Spring Break to another site, and decided to share a few here. My mom came out to visit us and we did our best to show her a good time here in Pendlton. We enjoyed the outdoors at McNary Dam, Hat Rock State Park and The North Fork Umatilla Wilderness. Trips to the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute Museum, the Pendleton Underground Tours and Bluegrass Night at the Great Pacific Wine and Coffee Company gave her a taste of the local culture. Of course we all got to spend time together as a family too :-). We were all sad to see her leave, but hope that we'll get to see her again this summer!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Tri-Cities Quilt Show 2010

Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm addicted to sewing, and lately quilts have been my passion. But I'm rather new to quilting, and have been living in more rural areas for the last 20 years. So even though I'm a quilt fanatic, until this past week-end, I had never been to a quilt show. Yes, it's true. Well, all of that was remedied when a friend of mine, whom I'd met on-line a year ago, and in person a few months ago, invited me to her quilting guild's (Tri-Cities Quilt Guild) quilt show in Kennewick, Washington. So I cashed in some kid-free time from my husband, and spent 27 blissful, inspiring, relaxing and fun hours in Tri-Cities visiting my friend and the quilt show.

There were over 400 quilts displayed, and over 50 fabric and quilt supply vendors to shop at. We spent over 5 hours there admiring, and shopping. I must say it was an amazing experience. How did I not do this sooner? I'm already eager to go to another quilt show. We have one coming up here in Pendleton in May (Krazy Horse Quilt Show), and Sisters, Oregon has one of the largest, well-known quilt shows in the country in July, The Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. They're both penciled in on my calendar.

The featured quilt artist was McKenna Ryan, who uses mostly applique to create absolutely gorgeous nature-inspired scenes on her quilts. The detail of her work is phenomenal. Here are a few pictures of her quilts, including one with me in front:

There were also quilts displayed from Barbara Sherrill, a local quilt guild member and artist. I LOVED the embellishments on her quilts, and her style of artistry. Here are a few of my favorites from her wonderful collection:

Also on exhibit were some of the quilts from the "Hoffman Fabric Challenge", a national quilt contest where participants must all use a recognizable piece of a certain chosen fabric in their quilt. Here's a few of these to admire too:

There were so many beautiful quilts there! I wish a had pictures of all of them, and apologize at the not-so-great pictures I did take. But here are a few of my favorites, starting with one from a Pendleton friend and fellow quilter/artist/teacher, Collen Blackwood: