Plastic, Time, Cooperation

Healthcare is an industry that uses a lot of plastic. That use is necessary to save lives, prevent the spread of illness, and make it possible to provide better care. Plastic cups are an exception as there are other options that are equally safe and less toxic to the environment. There is little I can do about the amount of plastic used in a hospital, but it serves as a reminder to do all I can in my personal life and that as a society, we could do to reduce the use of plastics. The grocery store is a prime example. It might be the first step in saving our environment and all beings.

However innumerable beings are, I vow to save them.

I shop at three grocery stores on a regular basis. Krogers is a big corporation that caters to all manner of shopper and is highly unlikely to make any changes without a massive community effort. Earth Fare attempts to be conscious of their impact on the earth but does a poor job with all manner of plastic containers.  Three Reivers Coop is much better but still falls short on plastics, but is the most likely to be willing to make changes.

Step 1: Do What is Easy

I would like to imagine a world where when I go to buy a bicycle lock it isn’t packaged in plastic and where all plastic is recycled. When I examined all the single-use plastics in my house it was easy to figure out that the majority of them actually came from the grocery store.Plastic_objects

Plastics Easy to Avoid

  • Milk in plastic bottles
  • Soft drinks in plastic bottles
  • Water bottles
  • Drink cups (except at sporting events or concerts)
  • Plastic forks for lunch
  • Plastic tubs of lettuce
  • Plastic produce bags
  • Plastic grocery bags (though I grab these for kitty litter and don’t know an alternative)

There are things that we can all do to help, but we must remember to help within our means and not expect all people can do the same. I buy milk in glass bottles and then return the bottle for a deposit. Without the deposit 64 ounces of milk cost me $6. A half gallon in a carton is about $2.89. However, I realize that a family of four with an income at or slightly above the poverty line would never be able to afford the milk in glass bottles and it would be a poor use of their money. God help them if they had four teenage boys. They could, however, avoid plastic by using a carton.

I buy my ginger ale in cans. I haven’t bought a bottle of water in almost a year and carry my Hydro Flask with me everywhere. The $20 for the hydro flask seems expensive until you count how much one spends on bottled water. I actually prefer my mesh reusable bags for fresh produce to the plastic ones. I suspect if everyone used mesh bags the cost savings to the stores would be enough they could lower prices though it isn’t clear they would. 

Step 2: Work on What is Hard

There are things that I haven’t figured out where to buy without the plastic or how to avoid without taking a considerable amount of my time. Time is a valuable commodity to me. I’m much more stingy with my time than my money and probably because I feel like I have less of it.

Plastics Hard to Avoid

  • Plastic containers for prepared foods (yogurt is the biggest one, pimento cheese 2nd)
  • Things wrapped in plastic like cheese, veggie burgers, veggie sausage, etc.
  • Pill bottles
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Laundry detergent
  • Shampoo and Conditioner
  • Condiments almost all now come in plastic
  • Bread

Today I bought a yogurt maker. It is one step to reduce my use of plastic and at the same time reduces sugar. Unfortunately, it is time-consuming though appears it will be cheaper than buying the yogurt. I make my own bread at times, but it is also time-consuming and so unrealistic to do it all the time. I love to buy crumbled goat, feta, and blue cheese, but it comes in plastic containers. Even if I buy it in a block it is still wrapped in plastic.

Step 3: Work Local

I think that the local coop could do more to promote reduced plastic use. Why can’t I bring containers for prepared products the same as I do for produce? Rather than putting the deli product in a plastic container, they could put the portion in my reusable container. How hard would it be to bring a shampoo bottle to refill or refillable laundry detergent?

I have neither the time or knowledge to make all of the things I use on a regular basis, but it seems like the coop could do more to make options available. If I can bring a spice jar to refill why not laundry detergent bottles? There must be like-minded people that want to significantly reduce the use of plastic in my community and think that we are losing the battle fight the government so maybe we start local and grow.

“It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.”
― Ansel Adams


How Do You Feel About Evaluations?

I have copies of every evaluation I ever had as an officer and none as an academic. I took them seriously. I set goals and worked hard, too hard, to excel. It wasn’t enough just to do my job, or be above average I wanted to walk on water. Then one day I realized I can’t work harder and I have never been told anything I didn’t already know either good or bad.

My first duty station as a nurse was at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC. The first day my supervisor ask me for my ID, slapped it on her desk face down with her hand over it and ask me for my ID number. Fortunately, the one thing I don’t forget is numbers. It is stored in the part of my brain that has my first home phone number, my credit card number, and all sorts of other numbers I no longer need. We were immediately on the same page.

I worked 30 days before asking for a day off. As a person who has now supervised for 25 years, I don’t know how that is allowed to happen, but when the Chief Nurse found out she immediately sent me home. When I returned I went back to showing up early, staying late, and never taking leave. By the time I had reached 3 years of active duty I had maxed out the amount of leave I could carry over and started losing leave every year.

I carried the same drive into my off duty time volunteering at shelters, working on special projects, and being involved in my professional organizations. My evaluations reflected my efforts and so did the three below the zone/exceptional capability promotions to LT, CDR, and CAPT. Then one day I met a man that didn’t give me an evaluation that said I walked on water. It was an above average evaluation, but not perfect. When I quested it he replied, “I’ve evaluated people that won Nobel Prizes and they didn’t get perfect evaluations. When you get one let’s talk.” He was smiling and so did I. I realized that I was now competing in a different league. I was fine with it but realized that a Chief of Staff will never get a Nobel Prize and so the evaluation really didn’t matter.  My motivation needed to be intrinsic. I had to stop competing.

I’ve never had a bad or even average evaluations so why do I hate them? I think they are anxiety producing. I would have worked hard with or without evaluations. I worked hard because I cared for my patients and loved my country. I volunteered because I wanted my community to be for others what it was for me. I didn’t need a piece of paper to tell me what was a good or bad performance. I knew when I succeeded and when I screwed up. Yet for about a month a year, I had to spend time documenting what I had done all year. It took time away from my patients and job. It also made me obsess about what else I could have done. It felt like shameless self-promotion and the harshest examination of conscience every. It didn’t make me a better nurse. It just made me obsess. The only thing worse was evaluating others.

I’ve evaluated some amazing people and few that fell short of expectations and a few others that were not good people. I had one person threaten violence with a knife for waking him up when the person should have been caring for patients, another that was ordering supplies and then selling them, and another that didn’t know the liver from the spleen. I’ve also had people that changed national policy and made the world better for all of us.

When I do evaluations I’m still a good officer. I will follow orders, but I no longer pretend that I agree with the process or think it makes the organization or the employee better. I think they are harmful to moral. That is not to say I don’t think employees need feedback. We all do. If someone needs feedback I will give it to them at the time it will be helpful, not a year later. I think praise should be offered freely and correction only when it is something the person doesn’t recognize. If a nurse made a medication error and reported it I don’t need to call that person in and lecture them on the error. I need to make the necessary reports, but in most cases, the person is already chastising themselves. When we made a huge mistake on a grant award the Secretary didn’t call us all in or write it on an evaluation. We were all horrified by the error and he knew it and worked with us to fix it.

I could tell you horror stories of good, excellent, and exceptional evaluation that people grieved because the comments weren’t glowing enough or there was one area for improvement. As much as I have tried to make them useful most people come into my office looking nervous and I know that I am about to give them something that may make them feel valued, but may also make them question their worth.

Is there evidence that evaluations improve outcomes? The growing body of literature is that they do not. According to Ryan Williams, “There is compelling new research that shows performance reviews actually don’t improve performance, and may actually cause a decline in performance.” Knowing that, why do we continue to do them? When I ask I almost always get the same answer about the need to document poor performance. Rephrased that says we do harm to the majority who do a job so we can fire the few that do bad jobs. That just seems wrong.

I’m willing to admit the staff member that threatened violence with a knife when I was still in my twenties may have forever skewed how I feel about evaluations and negative feedback. It could also be twenty-five years of supervising brought me to the realization that most people don’t need a supervisor. They need to be trusted to do a good job. It is simply not true that the only one that cares about success, outcomes, and the mission is the person in the administration. Maybe we would be better off to have quarterly meetings to discuss as a team what we are doing well, what we could do better, and what we should stop doing because it is ineffective. It seems more collaborative than one person evaluating many others.


Compassion Should Guide Our Discussions

This weekend I entered into a twitter conversation with some people that expressed fear of those that are Muslim and spoke in a disparaging way about the Qur’an. It always seems that fear of others leads to the great evils in our society. We then use that fear as justification to attack the other. Some attack physically and other with words. Yet there is something particularly worrisome to me when the words used to attack are from sources meant to be our guides to faith. I’m always struck by people who choose to pick a single verse and interpret it in the most negative possible manner. In truth, Christians also do that with Bible verses. We take them out of the context of the time or the situation and we use them as evidence of our own views most often that the other is wrong.

Rather than approaching  the Bible or the Qu’ran with fear, embrace it with compassion and love.

In my conversations, I always try to remember what imprint I will leave on a person. Even if the person leaves the conversation thinking me a fool, too liberal for my own good, or merely misguided, I hope they also leave the conversation believing me to be compassionate, kind, and patient.  I hope they see my faith and my love for humanity.

Today in Mass we were challenged to remember that the Shephard left his imprint on the sheep and so they will always be able to find him. It is important for us not to fill the air with so much foul discourse that the sheep loose the scent of the Shephard because of our actions.

Can we loose the strident denunciations of the other and be a littler closer to Shephard? – Fr. Brown

I choose not to measure any human being by their neighbor, relative, fellow citizens, or co-religionist. It is your words and your deeds that matter to me. I will always first reach for what is Holy in you.



Sad Divisions Cease

I was reminded in Mass to bid our sad divisions cease and to seek the God of Peace.  Maybe this year we should sing all verses of O Come O Come Emmanuel and meditate on the words.

may-we-always-seek-the-god-of-peace

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!


Self-Potriat

Can a picture reveal one’s spirit as a symbol reveals God? The flowers remind us of the gift of life, the water blesses life, and the fire reminds us of God’s presence.

And then, as fires like jewels germinate

Deep in the stone heart of a Kaffir mountain,

So now our gravity, our new-created deep desire

Burns in our life’s mine like an undiscovered diamond. (Freedom as Experience, Thomas Merton)

 

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My Catholic Faith and Politics

The beauty of the Catholic faith is visible in the love and charity shown by the faithful. It is in our openness to all that seek and share our path that we grow into one body and spirit.

I refuse to buy into the rhetoric that there are good, bad, or nominal Catholics. We are all one, and we are all flawed, yet we seek God and strive to understand our path.  As we enter the final months of the election season, there is one Catholic on the ticket and yet by my count two. One can choose to worship elsewhere, but does that mean the person’s Baptism into the faith is invalid, or his confirmation is null? Our searches for faith, spiritual partners with whom to share our path, and meaning in life should be encouraged and embraced with love.

I left the Baptist faith I embraced as a teenager to become Catholic and in the process grew stronger in faith and love. I sit at a Zen center and as a result am more aware, focused, and able to hear. Life is a spiritual journey. I embrace the joy of the journey and embrace those that are on the path even when they don’t seeing the same things.

One would think that we would celebrate when we share something in common with those that are willing to stand up and lead. However, there are vocal groups that started hate filled attacks on the faith of not only Tim Kane or Mike Pence, but also Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  It is unfortunate when in our musing we even take a moment to consider the validity of the faith of people we do not personally know or worship with, but it is a tragedy when we speak those thoughts and malign the faith of another.

The richness of our faith allows for the exercise of conscience. We need to trust that in the search for God and meaning that people are being led by the Holy Spirit. Your path is not mine, and mine not yours, but we share the path just as we share 99.9% of our DNA. As Pope Francis said, it is boring walking alone. For me, it is the most natural thing in the world to be able to lift up in prayer anyone that seeks to find meaning in faith, spiritual wholeness in God, and enlightenment through understanding. I am happier by looking for the joy in their path and trusting that it is their path inspired for their needs. Our paths are like our DNA. They are 99.9% the same as every other human being and 0.1% different. Let us accept the blur that exists and embrace the reality that at any given moment the path that is clear to us may appear blurred to others.IMG_1551