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Earth Day is celebrated in Longview, Washington on grocery bags. Jillian Carter from Rose Valley Elementary created this beautiful work of art. Jillian is in the 4th grade. Her teacher’s name is Mrs. Bush.

I needed a wider variety of things than usual on my shopping list, and went to a different grocery store than usual. I don’t know what your local store is, the one that carries milk, avocados, rice, fresh salmon, summer dresses, screwdrivers, packaging tape, hibachis, shower curtains, potting soil, fishing poles, and greeting cards, but the one I use is called Fred Meyer.

The cashier was loading stuff into plastic bags before I noticed. “May I have paper for the rest?” I asked. 1) I grew up in timber families, and that’s a way to show your support for the timber industry, 2) I try to avoid plastic consumption when I can, and 3) ok the real reason: I use paper bags to start the fire in my wood stove.

Portland, Oregon is the nearest big city, and that city has banned the use of plastic bags by retailers. From the City of Portland website on Planning and Sustainability: “Plastic bags are extremely lightweight and can act like balloons blowing out of garbage trucks and landfills. These flyaway bags litter our parks and trees, enter storm drains and can eventually end up in rivers and oceans where they break into small, toxic pieces.  Plastics have found their way into all five of the world’s major ocean current systems and are one of the most common types of litter found in Portland’s rivers and on Oregon’s beaches. Sea animals often mistake plastic particles for food, causing harm to the animals and potentially affecting the seafood we eat.”

Longview, Washington has not banned them, and most cashiers at grocery stores default to them. Perhaps they are more convenient to fill? I do get the sense that customers ask for the plastic bags because they are easier to carry. But I always ask for paper, and the staff is always pleasant about complying. Longview is, after all, a lumber town.

My cashier grabbed a bag with a giant multicoloured Earth on it. I am used to seeing a variety of advertisement and art projects printed onto paper grocery bags for one promotion or another. On this one, I admired the quality of the printing, that made it look like real crayon, right on the side of the bag. The next bag she picked up was also decorated, with a sharp, bold image that was obviously magic marker and not crayon. My eyes followed the bag as she moved it into position to begin filling it. She noticed.

“I like when they do this,” she said, gesturing the bag. “The kids do art work for Earth Day.”

“Are those originals?” I asked, possibly sounding a bit over the top, gushing about original artwork on a paper grocery bag. “Is that real crayon and ink?”

“Yep! The local kids do it in school.”

Oh dear, my face registered. I explained to the cashier that the whole reason I asked for paper is so that I can use the bags to start fires. Now there is all this beautiful artwork on them, and I’ll feel terrible for burning them up. She nodded. I brooded. The counter between us continued to beep! as she scanned my items and filled more bags. Then I had it.

“I’ll blog them!” I told her, triumphantly. “I keep a blog, and I’ll post photos of these bags. That way they will be preserved, and I can then burn them when I need to.”

“That’s a great idea!” she said, obviously impressed with my social standing in the world: A Blogger. (Ok, I’m just wishing she was impressed.)

I got the bags home and emptied them. Inside each, and adding to the treasure of four bags covered in original artwork was the dutiful inclusion of each artist’s name and school on a slip of paper in the bottom of the bag. Fodder for a fitting tribute.

Marie Smith made this one. Marie is in the 2nd grade at Northlake Elementary. Her teacher is Ms. Magnuson.

This piece was done by future typeface designer, Shailia Wild, a Kindergartner at Robert Gray School. Her teacher is Jodi Hanson.

I found this on the back. I would like to believe this piece belongs to Shailia’s little brother Jordi, who wrote “Help Our Earth!”

One bag had a full sheet of paper with lots of information. The Earth Day grocery bag art contest is held in all Kelso and Longview classrooms. During the month of March, they pick up over 5,000 brand new grocery bags from Fred Meyer and decorate them in anticipation of Earth Day in April.

There is an art contest and the winning school districts win $250, which goes to the classroom with the winning artist. This year they have also partnered with City of Longview Parks Department and the Arbor Day Foundation, so the winning classroom from Longview will also have an Arbor Day tree planted on their school grounds the end of April.

The winning bags are kept aside for honors. See the winners on the Longview Parks and Recreation facebook page. The rest are returned to Fred Meyer to be used for bagging groceries for shoppers. Like me.

Jasmine Christopher made this Earth with a knowing smile. Jasmine is a Kindergartner at Robert Gray school, and her teacher is Mrs. Box.

Hey, Jasmine, Shailia, Jordi (I just made him up, by the way), Marie, and Jillian, your Earth Day art is beautiful original art work that inspired me to learn about your communities, your schools, your teachers, your hopes for prizes. I learned more about Earth Day celebrations, Arbor Day Foundation activities, and Fred Meyer. I thought about my personal consumption and the impact it has on the planet. You made me smile and you made the cashier smile. My wood stove fires are ever so much classier now. You gave me a great blog post.

If that isn’t winning, I don’t know what is. Thank you! And congratulations.

my vote waiting to be collected

I FINALLY made a decision on a presidential candidate, and marked that damn oval. Shit.

I moved on to fill in some other ovals, and aaalllllmmoossstttt went back and erased it. That’s why I did it in pencil: just in case. But this morning I ceased further agonizing and sealed the envelope and stuck it outside for the mail lady to pick it up and take it away.

I’ve been working on my ballot for a week; studying, considering, watching ads, reading ads, perusing the countless endorsement that show up in the mail. You don’t know HOW close I came to writing in Hillary Clinton. Or HOW close I came to writing in Mickey Mouse. Or HOW close I came to making the realistic, reasonable, sane decision of blowing off that section entirely. How can a person choose between a series of bad choices?

Halloween porch, with the ballot signed, sealed, and at the mailbox, ready to go

I’ve always said the person that I would want as my President would never stoop so low as to enter the contest.

Funny, at work, where we get the stupid Hatch Act pop-up every morning when we boot up, we’ve been talking a lot of politics. A couple of my friends at work have proudly impressed how vital it is to vote; how we must take action to get the right person elected. I was reminded by one co-worker how in a recent election there were only 700 votes between the person who was elected and the person who came up second place. “Your vote makes a difference!” she said.

No it doesn’t! Grrrrr!!

If we’re talking Presidents, you understand, if we’re talking the Big One, our votes really and truly do mean diddly squat. Nothing. Na da. Come on, people. Don’t lecture me about how important my support for one presidential candidate or another is, because my vote means nothing. And, I’m sorry to say it, but your vote means nothing too. Not unless you’re a member of the Electoral College.

In the year 2008 with technology so astonishing, unstable, convention-shattering… we are reduced to having others vote for us. And, as we saw in 2000, reduced to watching helplessly as they failed to vote along with the popular vote as we were assured they would do because they said they would. Oh, didn’t you know? Unlike every other country in the world throughout history, today in America, people in government keep their word.

But even if popular vote did elect a President, my vote would still not matter. Yours wouldn’t either. Not unless you’re a lobbyist with some exceptional skills. Not unless you’re filthy rich and powerful, or have the last name of Kennedy. Not unless you head some ragtag little committee like AFL-CIO, or CBS, or FOX, ExxonMobil, or Shell, or NEA.

As my brother commented in an email, elections today are all about winning. The question is no longer what can we do to fulfill this office, but How Can I Win Today? That’s what every major campaign is about. He’s right. And that’s sad. It explains why heads of gigantic corporations do have a say, because those are the people who have the money to back a relentless campaign, and they have the power to “encourage” others to cast their votes in a particular direction.

My buddy Earnest knows how I feel, but he tries to talk me out of my negativity. I showed him my workbooks and flyers and my ballot on Monday. They rested on my desk, waiting patiently for more attention. Oregon’s got all these measures that really require some studying up on (hint: you’re better off to ignore the flyers). Earnest realized that despite my consistent bashing of the system, I’m putting my full effort into a conscientious vote. He took a step backward and rearranged his Yankees cap over his dreads.

“So why do you vote?” he asked.

“I vote because I can,” I answered with no hesitation. “I am so grateful that I live where I have the opportunity to vote. A lot of people went to a lot of effort to make it so that I have the freedom to vote, and I respect that and I don’t want to waste it or disrespect the honor. So I vote.”

And, like I’ve said before, I’m an incorrigible optimist. Maybe, maybe, there’s something to it all. I know I can make a difference on measures at a state level, I believe my vote can influence the outcome of the Sheriff elections, and that possibly even an Oregon state senator will have help or hindrance from my tiny voice. So … perhaps my effort will make a difference in the outcome of President as well.

Sadly, I can’t affect the quality of the contenders though. Not this year. But with hope, perseverance, and the drive to share my thoughts with others, I’d like to believe that some day my voice will join those of others. I’d like to believe that with enough of us, we’ll change the climate of our world, and maybe we’ll stop responding like mechanical puppet consumers and send the message that we are the rightful leaders of the country and those we elect are our servants. Maybe then we can bring people of quality into that office again.

Comments from the old blog:


wow i completely follow here. and i too am torn, knowing full well that my vote is nothing compared to the power of dollar bills and corporate backings i still vote because it’s my right and even more because if i believe it makes the difference then others will believe too and one day as a collective we will reach the same goal of actually making the difference we want to see. politics is exhausting. all it is, is using language in war instead of bombs. (you should read my blog “more fuel for your fire?”) i totally agree with your idea that my ideal president would not enter into such a conflict. with all it’s corruption, my ideal president wouldn’t have a chance.  thank you for sharing. and i’m glad you cast your vote.


Thanks for your thoughts Ladybug. Thanks for your blog too. Ha ha, I like your comment that politics is exhausting. Yes! I think that means you’re doing it right. Love to you…

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