Wednesday, January 20, 2021


48 months. 

That's how long it takes the average person to graduate college. It's roughly how long it takes before you can safely bring a child to a restaurant and sort of enjoy a meal. It's also the length of a presidential term.

For many of us, 48 months suddenly feels like an eternity.  Also known as 4 years/1460 days/35040 hours/2,102,400 minutes/126,144,000 seconds. Our minds are racing, adjusting, calibrating to a reality that none of us expected.  

We already thought America was pretty great... right?

This is about putting our money, our energy, and our precious time where our mouths are, and making something good out of a bad situation.

What Next?

We (Jacki and Cristy) watched the election results with friends and stared at each other big-eyed and heartbroken as the new reality sunk in.   We cried, commiserated, drank more beer. Woke up, cried some more and stared into the abyss.  Late in the day, Jacki had an idea and messaged it to Cristy.  Cristy immediately said YES and paid $12 for a domain name.  It was a start.

Newton said, "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."

We propose, that for every action resulting from this administration, that defies our value system, there can be a GREATER reaction of generosity, tolerance, love and humanity.  We tip those scales in favor of love, tolerance, and fill our glasses above that halfway line.    We systematically reject the values of the president-elect.   If you agree, we ask you to join us.

The Reaction

Every month for the next 48, beginning on inauguration day, we will present a nonprofit to those who are interested on this website.   We'll offer ideas of ways you can help.   We'll share links on how to contribute money.  Ways to volunteer.  Items to donate.    Whenever you see something on the news or hear something hateful or just wake up feeling gross, you click on and put something amazing out into the universe.   Involve your children, your book club, your friend group, your coworkers, your kid's school.   You negate the bad stuff with your positive action - whatever it is -- and you know it matters. We keep at it. For all 48 months. We do not let up, we don't become complacent, we don't accept any of this, and we work really really hard to let the world know that we do not tolerate hatred or bigotry in our beautiful mountain town, in our diverse state, in our already great country, or on planet earth.

Whatever you have to give... whether it's time, money or in-kind donations... give.  We promise it will make you feel like you are making a difference and combating the malignancy of this administration.

Maybe we're wrong? Maybe America will be even more incredible after 48 months. If so, that's a win-win, and that is more than ok with us.

In the meantime... 48 months = 4 years/1460 days/35040 hours/2,102,400 minutes/126,144,000 seconds.

We have a lot of time ahead, let's not waste one second.   Check back on January 20th for our first call to action!   In the meantime, you'll find us at the Pay 'n' Take drowning our sorrows.   

Jacki Lenners is a mother, step-mother, passionate public transit advocate, and drinks a lot of wine.

Cristy Zeller is a mother, problem-solver, and also drinks a lot of wine.

Cristy and Jacki together like to cook, boss each other around and are interested in possibly changing the world.  They also may move to Vermont one day and open a bed and breakfast.  

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Month 27: Breaking Down Barriers while Building Walls

One of the central campaign promises of Donald Trump was that he would build a wall to “protect” America from illegal immigration. Oh, and Mexico was going to pay for this wall. Fast forward to 2019 and this ridiculous wall has caused government shutdowns, Congressional stalemates, inhumane detention centers, and a stain on the heart of America.  Of course Mexico is not going to pay for this wall, and Trump has engineered a fake emergency to gain funding for a wall or barrier or whatever they are calling it these days.  Meanwhile, asylum seekers are left in limbo, families are separated, and many of us are left scratching our heads about what on earth can be done to get out of this mess. 

The only advice we can give to address the big picture is to put on your activist hat and continue the hard work of replacing those in Congress (as well as State legislatures, particularly in states that border Mexico) who support this wall.  

More immediately, how do we help the actual human beings who have walked through the desert to seek a better life?  How do we support our fellow men, women and children who are fleeing dangerous situations?  How do we use our American privilege (ONLY granted to us on the backs of our ancestors) to help other people?  (Side note:  the ancestral piece is far from simple…. all of us in this country have a complicated history embroiled in some sort of racism, persecution, imperialism, or other dark story. American soil is drenched in stink and to pretend otherwise explains exactly how we got here.  However, that’s another whole dissertation that I’m not qualified to write).  Anyway.

Through Together We Will Northern Arizona, we became aware of an underground effort in Phoenix and Tucson that assisting asylum seekers who come across the border.  Churches and activists throughout the state have worked to collect needed items for these families.  Everything from clothing to sleeping bags to food and water is needed.  The activists created an Amazon wish list from which interested people can easily send needed items.  These efforts are mostly anonymous.  Churches are not listed, location drop-offs are passed through networks of trusted individuals.  Threats of violence are real, and those involved are working hard to avoid incidents and keep everyone safe.

Flagstaff is 300-350 miles from the US/Mexico border.  Our community is fairly liberal.  Legal as well as illegal immigrants are woven deeply into the fabric of our town.  I imagine that every citizen in Flagstaff knows a family who has been affected by the immigration issue.  Personally, I know more than a few. I reached out on Facebook to hear stories from some friends.  I had many responses of caring people and the experiences they have had.  There are so many to share, and I hope to do that at some point. 

For now, I want to share the story of the Eckhoff family.  Kelly and Matt Eckhoff fostered unaccompanied minor children in Phoenix in 2015.  Rather than paraphrase, I will share my Q&A with Kelly, in her own words.

Cristy:  Tell me about the work that you did in Phoenix, Kelly.

Kelly:  Over the course of 2015, Matt and I were licensed foster parents for children who had crossed the border without a parent or legal guardian (unaccompanied minors). Some were caught by Border Patrol; others turned themselves in in hopes of being granted asylum. The kiddos we had in our home ranged in age from 3-12; children over age 12 were not eligible for foster care but instead were sent to huge detention centers, namely Southwest Key facilities in Phoenix. With the exception of a set of siblings from Romania, all the kiddos we had were from Mexico or Central America. All had a parent, aunt, or uncle already in the US who the children were coming to reunite with. Therefore, we only had each kid for 1-3 weeks while their relative was being screened for safety, then the children were flown to their family in other states.
 For more info, here's a link to a (super embarrassing) interview we did back in July about the unaccompanied minor foster care program:

Cristy:  Any idea about numbers of children?  I am guessing you were in the pre-Trump era mostly? 

Kelly:  I don't have exact numbers, but in 2014 there was a huge surge in the number of unaccompanied minor children detained at the border. In response to this (and in line with the Obama administration's desire to move away from essentially jailing children), the feds poured resources/funding into programs that employ a foster care model for unaccompanied minors... hence the creation of the Refugio Phoenix program that we fostered through.

Cristy:  What were the biggest needs you saw with these children/families? 

Kelly:  As cliche as it sounds, the children who came through our doors (as well as their families) were extremely resilient. Having little ones of my own, I can not even imagine them making the journey these kids made to try to reunite with their loved ones. They were so nonchalant as they told us about their dangerous journeys, about being robbed at knife point, about having not eaten for 3 days, or about how they hadn't seen their mom in 8 years because she came to the US before them.  And yet they were such "normal" kiddos.... they loved to be read to, to cook food from their countries, to swing on our backyard tree swing, and to plan surprises for me for Mother's Day. Mind-blowing.

Every single kid we had told us they fled because it was too dangerous in their country and their families feared for their safety OR their relative left because they were no economic opportunities in their country and now the kids were coming here to reunite with them. So meeting high level needs would mean investing not in a longer/taller border wall but rather in the economies and security of the countries people are fleeing from.

Cristy: Personally how did this work affect you?  What called you to this work?

Kelly:  Since undergrad my interest and focus of study has been on migration around the world (stateless populations, refugees, asylum seekers, etc).  As a couple, Matt and I have always enjoyed traveling, studying Spanish, and learning about new cultures. When we heard about the opportunity to foster unaccompanied minors, Charlie [Matt and Kelly’s son] was one, so our travel adventures had come to a screeching stop, but this felt like a meaningful way to be able to use our Spanish and continue learning about other cultures- all from the comfort of our Phoenix home. Fostering unaccompanied minors broke our hearts, filled us with unimaginable joy, made us angry at the policies that created these children's reality, and made us squeeze our little Charlie a little tighter each night. If there was a similar program here in Flagstaff, we would absolutely do it all over again... in a heartbeat!

Thank you to Kelly for sharing her story, and to her entire family for making the world a better place. The Eckhoffs continue to foster children in Flagstaff, although their path has taken them to a more traditional foster care route these days.  

Bottom line, what can we do to help?
  • Again, put your activist hat on. Let your elected representatives know how you feel about the Trump administration’s policies around immigration.  Let them know that you do NOT support the wasteful and ridiculous wall.  Resistbot is a great way to communicate quickly and easily with your representatives.
  • Consider making a donation through the Amazon wish list to support asylum-seeking families.
  • Do you know a family that feels isolated, scared or alone?  Reach out to them in some way.  Let them know that they are a vibrant and important part of your community.
  • Remind yourself daily of the values of America, and don’t be afraid to speak out and remind those who may have forgotten. Use your privilege as you have it to help other people.

We hope to have more stories to share soon.  Feel free to comment and share your own.

-Cristy Zeller

Monday, February 11, 2019

Month 26: WENA (Women Empowering Northern Arizona)

In 2014, Katie Woodard, a local Flagstaff photographer, was scrolling through her Facebook feed. A post from a friend living in her home state of North Carolina caught her eye. The friend posted about an organization she was involved with that was a "Giving Circle."  The basic idea was that 100 people come together and each donate $100 to a local nonprofit agency.  Within two hours, a small group of people can make an enormous impact with a $10,000 donation. 

From this seed of an idea spotted on social media, WENA (Women Empowering Northern Arizona) was born.  With her friend, Susan Beaupre, Katie developed a model for Flagstaff that has raised $154,000 (yes, you read that correctly) since their first meeting in May 2014.  Some of our past 48months agencies have been recipients, including Flagstaff Shelter Services, Northland Family Help Center, and the Literacy Center.  A full list of WENA beneficiaries can be found here.

The next WENA meeting is Tuesday, February 12, 2019 from 5:30-7:30pm at the east side Toasted Owl (5200 E. Cortland Blvd, 86004).  The owner of Toasted Owl generously donates food and the bar is open so the WENA members can relax with a glass of wine or a beer.  

How does WENA work?  Here are the nuts and bolts:

  • Members nominate charities.  In order to be deemed eligible, charities must have held 501(c)(3) nonprofit status for at least two years.  
  • Nominations are submitted online and must be approved before the meeting (note... this is a recent change if you are an older WENA member and haven't been to a meeting in awhile).
  • Organizations must serve northern Arizona.
  • WENA seeks to avoid potentially polarizing organizations such as churches and schools (let's face it, not everyone agrees on church, and we all have our favorite schools. It's prudent to avoid a scenario where moms come to blows over school choice).
  • During the meeting, a WENA member will draw three of the nominated charities from the bowl. Nominators will then have five minutes to present their charities using the guidelines found on the website. 
  • After the presentations, the 100+ WENA members will vote, and the winning organization will receive hopefully at least $10,000.
  • Your charity that you nominated might not win.  Your favorite of the three charities might not win.  That's the deal.  You write your check for $100 regardless of who wins. 
  • All of the specific rules for nominating, membership, etc. can be found on the website!

WENA is not its own charity, and they keep no money.  They basically serve as a vetting organization and mechanism for very quick distribution.  The winning charity provides members with a receipt for their taxes.

A common question... "what if I don't have $100 to spare?" Well, do you have $50?  You and a friend can attend and split your vote.  If you aren't in a place to make financial contributions, we encourage you to visit the WENA website and educate yourselves about the worthy organizations that they support.  Find ways that you can volunteer your time or goods for these agencies that have already received the stamp of approval of at least 100 women in your community!  Also make sure you follow them on Facebook and Instagram.  

Future goals for WENA:
  • Advertise and coordinate more volunteer opportunities.
  • Develop a "kid" WENA,  (Katie and I had an awesome conversation over Mother Road beers about getting this started, and I see so much potential for this idea.  Anyone want to help us get it off the ground?)
Sadly, Jacki and I can't attend the February 12 WENA meeting (we are going to Phoenix to hear Michelle Obama speak!!!), but we are planning to attend the May meeting.  Go check it out, and let us know what you think!

Thank you Katie, Susan, and all of the amazing Women Empowering Northern Arizona.  As the Proverb tells us, "Many hands make light work."  Won't you consider lending your hand?  

For more information about WENA, please visit their website or email

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Month 25: Flagstaff Family Food Center: Food Bank and Kitchen


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to a meeting that involves the Flagstaff Family Food Center (FFFC) and someone (usually me) just assumes it’s located at the Kitchen on Second St. in Sunnyside. That’s where the public can get a hot meal 365 days a year, and it’s often thought that all things FFFC just automatically happen at this well-known location.

After Cristy and I toured their warehouse facility on Huntington Dr., we discovered FFFC is so much more than the amazing Kitchen. The Fundraising and Volunteer Specialist, Kristine Pavlik, gave us a tour, and every time we thought she was done, we’d go around another corner and she’d talk about another program, or another service they provide to feed and care for the hungry in our community.

What struck me most was FFFC’s ability and willingness to jump in and come up with creative solutions to some of the biggest problems facing our community. For
  • Many families at Killip Elementary School rely on FFFC’s services, so the two organizations are working together to bring a mobile pantry with fresh produce to the school.
  • FFFC works with Frank Branham, the former owner and chef of the Cottage Place, one of Flagstaff’s best restaurants. Frank helps volunteers understand how to decrease waste with produce, and how to salvage produce where parts might be spoiled, but other parts are completely viable. He also provides recipes to FFFC clients, instructing them how to best use produce that is not at its peak, but still full of nutrients.
  • FFFC deals with A LOT of cardboard, and so do other business in town. When their drivers are picking up food from the grocery stores, they swing by W.L. Gore to pick up excess cardboard. Back at the shelter, it’s baled and sold, generating about $1,000/month!
  • Many people in need of FFFC’s services don’t have access to a kitchen, so they prepare overnight bags with items that don’t need to be heated.
  • FFFC is committed to having as much waste as possible. Sometimes, they get produce that is far too past its prime to share with clients. Turns out, this is perfect for farmers to feed their animals. And sometimes, they’ll give FFFC eggs in return. Win-win.
FFFC’s warehouse and kitchen locations both provide vital services to the community. Here’s a breakdown of what happens at each location (hint….awesome things happen at both locations):

Warehouse (3805 E. Huntington Dr.)
  • Food Box Distribution: Cristy and I saw firsthand the army of volunteers loading food boxes into cars during pick-up time. Families can get up to five food boxes a month (one from the government, and others from FFFC that serve a variety of purposes. Plus, there’s usually extra items on-hand for clients to grab. On the day we visited it was bread! When we met with Kristine on Jan. 9 she told us they had already distributed 90,000 lbs of food in 2019.
  • Flagstaff Shelter Services Partnership: The shelter is located right down the road, and FFFC delivers dinner and breakfast to the shelter each day. Plus, shelter clients can stop by as they head back into town to pick up a snack bag.
  • Agency Partnerships: Area non-profits can access a certain area of the warehouse to “shop” on a weekly basis for their clients. FFFC distributes about 500,000 lbs of food a year through this program. In addition, Sharon Manor clients have access to a special area with household and hygiene items.
Kitchen (1903 N. 2nd St.)

  • Hot Meal Program: FFFC feeds a hot meal every day at 4:30 to anywhere from 150-280 people.
  • Sack Lunch Program: Anyone can stop by the kitchen from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and pick up a sack lunch to take on the go.
  • Reading Room: This is one of the gems of the FFFC operation. Children who have their evening meal at the kitchen can head into the Reading Room to work on homework, reading, educational games, etc. Volunteers help with literacy programs, and there are shelves of books for children to take home. 

How to Help:

Cash Donations: FFFC is part of the Flagstaff Tax Credit Coalition, so your donation can be matched dollar-for-dollar on your taxes. And, it’s not too late for your 2018 taxes if you donate before April! FFFC is continually trying to meet the needs of northern Arizona, and they’ve added a monthly mobile pantry in Leupp on the Navajo Reservation. There is a greater need than monthly service, and FFFC currently has a grant that covers 50 percent of the cost of a truck to better serve the reservation and other rural communities. Your cash donations will help cover the remaining 50 percent.

Stuff: There is a year-round need for food donations. As Kristine told us, “Hunger lasts all year long.” Many people are inspired to give around the holidays, but that drops off sharply after the new year. FFFC had some scary months from March-May 2018 with empty shelves, and an increasing demand from households. They are committed to being smarter about storing food, but as a community, let’s be committed to helping during those “off months” (even though hunger doesn’t take an off month). Could you work with your school, neighborhood, church group, etc. to organize a spring food drive? Also, the Reading Room is always in need of book and “trinket” donations to give out as prizes for reading.

Volunteer: There are SO many opportunities to volunteer with FFFC. Their biggest need is in emergency food box distribution at the warehouse, and these shifts are harder to fill because they are during the workday (9 a.m. – 1 p.m. for distribution or 9-11 a.m. for packing) and the warehouse location isn’t as family friendly (think: large forklifts buzzing around). Kristine said many employers in town will allow employees to volunteer a certain number of hours per month or year, and this is a great opportunity to fill those hours. Talk to your employer about starting a program! Cristy and I have both volunteered at the Kitchen to serve the nightly meal or in the Reading Room, which is such a rewarding experience. My company also recently did a group volunteer activity where we made sandwiches for the sack lunches at the kitchen. The opportunities for individuals or groups are endless – just find the one that works with your schedule!

For more information about any of these opportunities, visit or contact Kristine Pavlik at  Like their Facebook page for frequent updates!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Month 21/22 of 48: VOTE!

“How do we truly affect change” is the headline looping the Times Square electronic billboard of my mind.  Each month when Jacki or I sit down to write this, there’s a theme of “oh boy the headlines just get worse” and “we are reeling from the news” and “this can’t be real.”

Well it is getting worse, we are definitely reeling, and it is more real than ever.

As I stare at the computer screen in the Philadelphia airport, after 3 hours of sleep on a red eye flight, CNN and FoxNews blare from the TVs, travelers are short-tempered, weary, and so am I.  There’s a woman sitting too close to me on this bench (I hope she reads this and scoots over).  She is inexplicably sighing, slurping coffee and blowing her nose all while she acts supremely annoyed for God knows what reason. I know that the sleep deprivation is playing tricks on my brain a little, but the oppressive feeling in this airport and throughout America is real.  Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford is about to testify, and it feels like everything that matters to so many of us hangs in the balance.  

So back to that opening question.  Change.  How do individuals participate in the political process that has powered the engine that brought us to this unthinkable destination of chaos?  

Dr. Lori Poloni-Staudinger, Associate Dean of the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences and Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University, shared this with us:

 Voting is your greatest responsibility as a citizen in a democracy. In order for democracies to function, they by definition require the active participation of their citizens.  Some citizens may think their votes or their voices doesn’t matter. Every vote matters. There are ample cases where politicians have been elected with less than one percent of the vote. Your participation matters in other ways as well. Steady pressure from Arizona activists is credited with helping to save the Affordable Care Act in 2017and impacting Flake’s 11th hour call for a one week pause on the Kavanaugh vote.  As Churchill explained ‘Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all others.’  It is our responsibility to engage in this democracy if we want it to continue.”


EDUCATION.  Take the time to read and learn about the issues and the candidates.  Obviously, you want to be making the choices that fit your values and priorities.  You also want to be able to talk intelligently to those around you, especially individuals who WON’T do the reading.  This is an opportunity to change hearts and minds with the information that you learn.  Combat ignorance with facts.  There are still people out there who will hear you.  

Be sure that your news sources are legitimate (see image below courtesy of MediaBiasChart.Com 2018).  Whether it is left- or right-leaning there is an immense amount of inflammatory and false material on the Internet. Consider yourself a Woodward or Bernstein and verify your source before you take a piece of information as gospel and re-post it.

ACTIVISM:  Find your local activist group. These organizations exist under many banners throughout the United States (Together We Will, Indivisible, etc).  In Flagstaff, check out Together We Will, Northern Arizona  (note, Dr. Poloni-Staudinger is also the President of this organization).  TWWNAZ stands for equality and against sexism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia and environmental destruction. This group works to advance these goals through an intersectional approach toward activism, fundraising, dialogue and community. Participation can be as low commitment as joining a Facebook group and reading what is posted.  There are also usually rallies, specific daily/weekly actions (writing letters, making phone calls, ResistBot, etc) and other targeted to-dos that will help you find ways to get involved.  One really important thing that our local TWW is doing is creating score cards for all candidates on our ballots (see below).  Most activist groups are going through this exercise.  If you want to see the other candidates’ score cards that we will be voting on in N. Arizona, join the TWWNAZ Facebook group.  Not in Flagstaff?  Find your activist group (see above).

SCORECARD EXAMPLES (Tom O’Halleran, incumbent Democratic candidate for Arizona’s First Congressional District, and Republican challenger Wendy Rogers).



Jacki and I chatted with Ann Heitland, the Communications Chair for the Coconino County Democratic party back in August.  The overarching message from Ann and this organization is, you guessed it, get out the vote. The deadline to register to vote for the midterm elections is October 9.  Ann also suggested phone banking, canvassing, and making donations.  If you don’t relish the idea of knocking on doors or making cold calls, there are opportunities to send emails and texts as well.   For more information on opportunities with our local Democratic party visit

There is nothing more important than exercising your most basic right as a citizen of a Democracy, than casting your vote in every election that comes your way.  Our good friends at Pod Save America have provided us with a great resource: Thirty seconds and you can make sure you are registered.  Share this on your Facebook page, send it to your friends, and make sure that everyone knows their vote counts.  

According to the Pew Research Center, “A record 137.5 million Americans voted in the 2016 presidential election, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Overall voter turnout – defined as the share of adult U.S. citizens who cast ballots – was 61.4% in 2016, a share similar to 2012 but below the 63.6% who say they voted in 2008.”  In the 2014 midterm elections, “… only 38.6% of eligible voters cast a ballot… the lowest percentage in a midterm election since World War II” (  Y’all that’s a lot of people who did not vote.  We have to do better.

In addition to researching candidates, make sure you read all the mailers about ballot initiatives in your State and community.  Sometimes these may have the biggest impact on your daily lives. It’s important to educate yourself on the facts.  In Flagstaff, visit

During my three hours in the Philadelphia airport, I’ve gazed upon a giant display for the Eagles, heard the Rocky theme song, and reflected on “Brotherly Love” and the implications of that particular moniker on a day like today.  I’m now on the plane to Charlottesville to spend a few days in the American south.  It’s always an adventure and privilege to visit different parts of our beautiful country and appreciate the diversity. I think it’s important to bear witness and try and understand how we got to where we are. I am still working on opening my mind and heart to truly hear what others have to say and seek the common ground.  I vacillate between that perspective and just wanting to burn it all to the ground in a Beyonce-style feminist blaze of glory.  It’s a big topic and there’s more to come this month. 

Footnote: It’s now 6 days later, and I am back in Flagstaff.  A lot has happened with the Kavanaugh hearings and the buzz continues to get louder.. and louder… and louder.  

… to be continued.


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Month 20 of 48: BACK TO SCHOOL

Last year for Month 8, we highlighted almost every school in Flagstaff with a guest post.  You can go back on the blog and revisit this if you need some bedtime reading or are curious.  This year, we are going to keep it simple.  If you have kids, you have zero time to read a lengthy blog post. If you don’t have kids, you probably have someone in your life who won’t shut up about back to school shopping. Whoever you are, the future of our society depends on the next generation, and we all have an obligation to invest in education and care for the people we have entrusted with our future.  

We present to you….


1. BRING THE SUPPLIES.  We definitely spent a large share of our paychecks at Target and Staples this week. The lists may sound crazy and sometimes it feels like you are trying to hunt down the blood of a unicorn, but we guarantee that if it’s on there, there’s a purpose. If you don’t bring it in, the teacher may have to go without or buy out of his or her own pocket. If you simply can’t afford the supplies, don’t worry.  A kind teacher or administrator will make sure your child has what he or she needs. If you’re able, throw in a few extra vials of unicorn blood for someone who may be in need.  

2. ARIZONA PUBLIC SCHOOL TAX CREDIT.  Go ahead and make your 2018 donation, or  figure out a way to fit it into your budget for this year.  Information on this win-win program that the State of Arizona actually gets right is here.

3. VOLUNTEER. Here’s one immediate opportunity to help with the Teacher Supply Drive which benefits every school in Flagstaff. Sign up and get more information here.  Otherwise watch your school’s website and email for opportunities to share your talents and resources.

4. APPRECIATE THE SCHOOL FACULTY AND STAFF.  Bring in some coffee, bagels, chocolate, a note of gratitude, or really anything that YOU might like to receive as a thank you at your job. It is not very hard to make someone feel special and appreciated.  Find one small way to do that for the folks who care for and educate your children on a daily basis.  

5. BE A CHEERLEADER.  Listen, no school is perfect.  The first few weeks of school can be hard on kids, parents, and teachers.  Don’t get sucked into a negative vortex about the new teacher who moved to town and doesn’t seem to “get” the vibe at your kid’s school. When you’re at the back-to-school picnic or the first kid birthday party of the year, if you hear parents complaining, don’t engage. Be positive, and if you’re brave enough remind everyone that it’s early days and everyone deserves a fair shake. There are always two or three or four sides to a story, so take the gossip with a huge grain of salt.  The same goes for your kid who may hate her math teacher after two days or is hysterical about not having study hall with his best friend. This positivity may be the most important thing you can do to support your child’s school. 

6. FOR GOD’S SAKE DON’T LET YOUR KID STAY UP ALL NIGHT EATING CRAP FOOD AND PLAYING FORTNIGHT.  That’s really it.  Force some protein and maybe a banana into their bodies and take away their electronics at a reasonable hour.  Zombie kids who can’t focus or wake up in the morning make the classroom a really unpleasant place for everyone.  Remember: children from infancy to adolescents are basically terrorists.  You are going need to look yourself in the mirror and remind yourself that you are good enough, strong enough AND YOU ARE THE PARENT AND IT’S OK TO SAY NO AND ENFORCE RULES.

7. GO AHEAD AND GO BACK TO TARGET AND BRING IN MORE SUPPLIES.  For real, you will make everyone’s day if you bring in a few reams of paper, some paper towels, a pack of pencils, dry erase markers, post-it notes, etc. Really anything you’re willing to throw in your shopping cart a school can put to use.  Also before you take things to Goodwill ask around if the school can use items.  Teachers and administrators also love gift cards to Target, Amazon, pet stores, Staples, bookstores, and so on.   

8. BE KIND to the teachers, administrators, support staff, carpool lady, crossing guard, the other parents, your child (even when they are being horrible), the other children (who may seem MORE horrible than yours), your spouse (even if he/she bought the wrong binder on the 10pm Target run), your best friend (who may be on a different school schedule, who may not have kids, but she still has the wine), the checkout lady at Target, your therapist, your mailman, the bartender, and all the people who might cross your path during what can be a ridiculously stressful time. Most of all.. be kind to yourself.  Often times back to school is a complete set up to feel like a loser of a parent when your kid doesn’t have the right color folder, didn’t have time to get a haircut, or their lunch consists of a box of raisins and $5 for the vending machine.  Yes.  Be kind to yourself.

9. REALLY REALLY TRY TO BE PATIENT.  It’s hard, really hard to be patient with alllll the people that are part of this kid puzzle. Starting with your child who may take 10 minutes to put on his shoes and then may get in the car only to have to go back inside 47 times for forgotten items (only to get to school with unbrushed teeth and missing the homework).  Be patient with the school teachers and staff.  Many of them have their own children they are getting back to school, have been working 15 hours a day to prepare, and are operating on fumes as they head into day one, two, and ten.  Be patient with the parent who is driving the wrong way in the carpool line (no need to channel Mr. Mom and yell out "YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG") or who is blocking the doorway or who can’t stop posting on Facebook about the level of genius of their 5 year old (ok a private eye roll is acceptable, but don't post any snark). Practice patience in your daily life and see how it can lead you to a more peaceful state.  (Also this is probably my biggest challenge so I’m going to try and take my own advice). 

10. VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE.  Get in those primary ballots.  Register to vote.  Do your due diligence, read up, and be ready to vote out those who don’t care about children and education.  Find a way to get involved in the process. If you live in Flagstaff, be ready to support the FUSD budget override.  It’s time to say good-bye to Doug Ducey, Bob Thorpe, Sylvia Allen and all of our state elected officials who have put Arizona’s children last for so many years. Turn your attention to federal elections so we can swing the Washington pendulum back in favor of funding and supporting education in the United States.  Find your local activist group, your teacher union, your local democrats and get involved. If nothing else you need to make sure you vote.  

IN SUMMARY… bring the things, play nice with others, say “please” and ‘thank you” and take every opportunity to learn.  

Happy Back to School week!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Month 19: Plastic is the Devil

Fair warning: This post is not going to be filled with any solid scientific information. Unless you’re the President of the United States, we feel like it’s pretty universally accepted that our planetis drowning in single use plastic. You can Google the terrifying and terrible facts, or you can just decide that there are probably MANY things you can do to reduce your own plastic use. 

I think I came to this conclusion right around the time Justice Kennedy retired. Is there a lot I can do to change the fate of the Supreme Court? Probably not. So why not focus on something where I can actually make a difference. In Month 19, we’re here to bring you some armchair expert (as in, we’re not actually experts and you guys are probably far smarter than us on this topic, so please weigh in!) advice on how you can control your Supreme Court rage by getting your plastic use under control. 

One quick fact before we delve into the opinions. Plastic recycling in Flagstaff (and many other communities around the US) recently took a huge hit, because apparently China doesn’t want our crap any more ( How dare they? Similar to the Supreme Court, I probably can’t convince one of the world’s largest economies to once again take our plastic, so I decided to step up and do what I could in my own house: 

Think Ahead: This is an oldie but a goodie….put reusable bags in your car. It’s really difficult to refuse the dearth of plastic bags you’re offered on a daily basis when your reusable bags are sitting in your garage. Listen, I have dogs who poop. A lot. And sometimes I get the plastic bags to deal with that, but my dog’s poop can’t compete with the abundance of my grocery shopping (note to self: do a post on food waste), and one simply does not need that many plastic bags in their life. Your local school or daycare can also use your excess bags (if you're a parent there's no greater joy than picking up the dreaded poop bag from school).  Cristy will accept them at Haven Montessori any day of the week for the gang of potty-trainers.

Reuse: Sometimes we have to use plastic, but there’s no reason it has to be single use. I’m working on it, but I do love a Ziploc bag. My kitchen has become a giant Ziploc bag drying rack for all of the bags I wash and reuse. Those things are remarkably resilient and there’s no reason to toss them after one use.  Another idea - Cristy and I went to the Flagstaff Community Market together yesterday (listen, we do more than just drink wine together, ok?) and saw people dropping off their plastic "clam" containers (think: strawberry containers) with the various vendors.  So now that's going to be a thing too!

Refuse: I bought two books at a store today, and the clerk asked me if I wanted a bag. First, kudos to her for asking and not assuming. If you work in retail, please make this a policy at your business. Second, I was pretty tired from a rough day at the pool, but I still had the ability to carry two books without the assistance of a plastic bag. Sometimes we just say “yes” because it’s a force of habit, but learn to say no. 

Invest: When I decided to take my plastic reduction to the next level, I turned to my BFF Amazon. For $47.01 I was able to up my plastic elimination game. My favorite purchase thus far has been the mesh produce bags). I busted these out at the Flagstaff Community Market today and felt like I was single-handedly saving the planet, one zucchini at a time. This Bee’s Wrap Paper  is the bee’s knees (get it??). Use it wherever you’d normally use plastic wrap, and pat yourself on the back. Also, if you live in FLG, I recently discovered they sell it at Seasoned Kitchen, so keep that shit local. Have you heard that plastic straws are basically to the planet today what AquaNet was to the ozone layer in the 80’s? Did you know it’s possible to have a drink without a straw? If this sounds like something out of your wheelhouse (or you have kids who can’t fathom not having a straw), stock your purse or car with these stainless steel straws . I’m still figuring out the full potential of this purchase, but these reusable silicone bags have definitely saved some Ziploc bags from dying an unnecessary death in our household. 

Badger: I was so excited when Ahipoki Bowl opened in Flagstaff. Chipotle meets poke was my dream come true, until I realized they serve everything (to-go and eat-in orders) in non-recyclable plastic containers. Whomp whomp. I started low key with emails and Facebook messages. On a visit there (hey, I’m not made of steel), I asked if I could bring in my own container. Negative. But, the manager was there, and I asked him about the plastic use. I’m guessing I wasn’t the first person, but he also had no idea their containers weren’t recyclable. I don’t know if our conversation had any impact, but sometimes it pays to be the squeaky wheel. And it will break my poke-loving heart, but I’ll definitely think twice before I go there, knowing that a plastic container is my only option. 

Be Weird: We had an employee BBQ last week and I was horrified with the plastic situation. Sam’s Club size hot dog buns, in plastic bags, paired with more buns, and put in another plastic bag. So. Much. Plastic. I was the resident BBQ weirdo that gathered all of the bags and saved them for the aforementioned dog feces. Embrace your weird. 

Am I the model of plastic perfection? Absolutely not. Until someone far smarter than me invents a sustainable alternative to plastic (has this already been done??), it’s part of our everyday lives. And plastic is convenient AF. But, if we can pay attention to our usage, we can each make a small impact, and that adds up to a large impact.