Blessing

July 24, 2021

I thought it was appropriate after yesterday’s blog on the despair felt by the working class to end the week on a positive note.  When I visited city hall last week, I noticed they had set up a Blessing Box along the front sidewalk.  I had seen similar boxes in front of several churches and was intrigued that this one was in front of a public facility.  When I asked about the box, I was told the mayor had placed it and that her office primarily keeps it stocked, although others donate as well.  The weatherproof box has a clear plastic front window to allow donors and recipients to see what is available inside. 

When I looked online, I found similar Blessing Boxes have been popping up across America since at least 2016 and have become somewhat of a movement.  These neighborhood boxes contain things like food, soap, diapers, and other necessities.  People who have items to donate fill (and refill) the boxes, while people who need items take them.  Many of the boxes are emblazoned with the slogan, “Take what you need, give what you can . . . above all, be blessed!”  These boxes are another way to provide a blessing to those in need.  

The idea seems to have originated with Jessica McClard of Fayetteville, Arizona, who started her Little Free Pantry in March 2016.  She often passed, and borrowed from, the Little Free Library in her neighborhood.  She realized addressing the social issue of literacy was only secondary to allowing people to practice neighborliness.  That is when she decided to use the idea to address another social issue, food insecurity.  Later that year the idea was picked up by a church in Oklahoma and the women who organized the project dubbed it a “Blessing Box.”  The church created the Blessing Box Facebook page a few weeks later and the concept spread, with more than 150 Blessing Boxes being erected that first year.  It is estimated that as many as one thousand boxes have been erected by churches and neighborhoods under various names. 

Thoughts:  The Blessing Boxes have become a tangible way for communities to practice neighborliness.  While the unrest of 2020 brought fear to some, it also brought a feeling of togetherness to those who marched arm in arm in the streets.  While the pandemic brought nations to a standstill, it also forged innovative ways to come together.    The evening singing in Italy and the repeated displays of thanks to first responders and hospital workers are representative of more community acts than can be counted.  All of these are ways of serving as a blessing and giving back to our communities.  While it often takes a tragedy to bring people together, we need to always count the blessings we both give and receive.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Despair

July 23, 2021

Several days ago, my NY Times feed reported covid-19 has caused the largest decline in US life expectancy since World War II.  However, the virus is not the only reason life expectancy fell to its lowest level in almost two decades.  The US was already struggling with rising mortality resulting from what is called “deaths of despair” (from drugs, alcohol, and suicide).  This despair results in other health problems like diabetes and strokes as well, and it is especially hitting the working class.  During the second half of the 2010’s, life expectancy fell on a sustained basis for the first time since World War II (1941 to 1945).  From 2019 to 2020, Hispanics experienced the greatest drop in life expectancy (3 years), while Blacks decreased 2.9 years, and White Americans 1.2 years.

The recent increases in mortality are concentrated among working-class Americans, especially those without a four-year college degree.  Princeton University economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton blamed the deaths on the sense of despair felt by the working class.  For many, daily life lacks the structure, status, and meaning that it once had.   People feel less connected to an employer, a labor union, a church, or to community groups.  They are less likely to be married.  They are more likely to endure chronic pain and to report being unhappy.  The class gap in life expectancy seems starker in the US than in most wealthy countries.  We are indeed caught in the grip of despair.

Case and Deaton also noted that covid has killed more men than women.  This has increased the mortality gap between the sexes that had been shrinking.  Life expectancy was 5.7 years longer for women last year, up from 5.1 years in 2019, while the gap had fallen to a low of 4.8 years in the early 2010’s.  There are many reasons for the working class being affected greater by covid.  At first, the working class were more likely to contract severe versions of covid, in part because they were not able to work from home.  The working class also tended to receive lower-quality medical care after getting sick.  Now that vaccines are readily available, vaccine skepticism is the dominant explanation for getting sick.  Overall life expectancy was at 78.7 years in 2015.  By 2020 it had fallen 1.4 years to 77.3 years.

Thoughts:  The sense of despair felt by the working class has been aggravated by covid and the health inequalities that pervade the US.  This has created a one-two punch that brought life expectancy down by 1 ½ to three years over the last half decade.  This in turn leads to more despair.  The US has a systemic problem that devalues workers, provides abundant access to drugs that contribute to more depression, and then gives messages saying it is your fault.  We have created a vicious cycle of spiraling depression.  We need to send a message that all work is valuable, find ways to provide adequate compensation, and support efforts to improve mental health services.  Do the work.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Snake

July 22, 2021

When Melissa walked into our garage last night to get more ice, she was surprised by a snake stretched out on the floor.  I mentioned the earlier false scare caused by the long earth worms and I assumed we had an even bigger one in the garage.  When I looked at the “snake”, I realized this was not a worm.  This was a 2 ½ foot long snake with a black dorsal and a yellow belly.  Since I did not recognize what it was, I decided to take the safe route, and got the reach assist tool Melissa’s dad had used to pick things up from the floor from his wheelchair.  The snake coiled and even struck at the stick as it got near it.  I was glad I had not just picked it up.

After the immediate “crisis” was passed, I went online to find out what type of snake it was.  While the various images of Arkansas snakes illustrate their color variation in nature, I finally decided this must have been a non-venomous water snake.  The yellow-bellied water snake (Nerodia erythrogaster yellow) is found throughout east Texas and eastward throughout much of Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama.  It is an aquatic species generally found near larger and more permanent bodies of water, such as marshes, swamps, and the edges of lakes or ponds.  It is also found in floodplains, swamps, marshes, ponds, and other quiet waters.  With all the rain we are having it was apparently on the move.

The yellow-bellied water snake is found to occasionally travel far overland in search of a new home or a mate.  Tadpoles, frogs, and fish are the principal food items (i.e., my pool?).  It made me wonder if this was the “snake” (that I never saw) that Melissa believed was pestering the frogs in our pond several days ago.  Regardless of whether it was venomous or where it came from, I was glad I no longer had a snake waiting in my garage to pop out and see what I was up to when I walked in.  Just saying.

Thoughts:  I remember having a clog in our sewer line when I was a boy.  When the plumber came, he found a four-foot rattlesnake curled up in the pipe to the septic tank.  While I have heard of snakes coming in through the plumbing and poking up through the toilet, I have never seen it happen.  Still, I do sometimes check at night.  While snakes are beneficial to control rodents and amphibians, many see them with trepidation and assume they are poisonous.  Even when they are not venomous, they are unwelcome house guests.  There are many beneficial plants and animals found in nature that humans prefer to exclude from our daily life.  I pull the weeds from my garden and occasionally scoop the frogs out of our pool.  The problem arises when we encroach on previously used habitat and these nuisances are forced to cohabitate with us.  Being the top of the food chain has perks, but also responsibility.  We need to find innovative ways to create space.  If we do not, we can expect the critters to come into our house.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Senior

July 21, 2021

I had a meeting with the mayor and the city offices are in the same building as the community center.  The community center holds around 40 people with different groups using the building throughout the week.  The Senior Center operates in the building during the mornings, Monday through Friday, and ends with lunch.   There are usually anywhere from 15 to 30 people who eat at the senior center, and another 200 in the surrounding community who have lunch brought to them.  Since I was seeing the mayor at 11:30, she invited me to join her for lunch.  These centers are one of the many lifelines that have been created to make sure older adults receive the nutrition, activity, and interaction they need. 

The impetus for the creation for both the National Retired Teachers Association in 1947 (NRTA) and the Association of American Retired Persons in 1958 (AARP) came from a meeting between a retired teacher and Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus.  The teacher had lost her dream during the depression and was living in a chicken coop on her $40 a month retirement.  Andrus believed people deserved better.  According to the website, the goal of AARP is to help older Americans lead lives of independence, dignity, and purpose.  The organization has been active in elder rights and has achieved significant legislation supporting the rights of older Americans.  The AARP expanded its reach in 1984 when it lowered the membership age from 55 to 50.  You can join whether you are retired or not.  If you are younger, the quarterly invitations to join is something you can look forward to receiving in the mail.

When I lived in Wichita I worked across the street from the Senior Center.  This was outside of the central business district yet was still located near the center of town.  The center offered lunch, drove meals-on-wheels, and provided a variety of interactive classes.  The best attended event was the Thursday pickleball games.  They also held occasional weekend pickleball tournaments.  The center advertised they were there for adults 60+, but I noticed most of the clientele were 70+.  I admit I am a boomer, and one thing boomers refuse to do is admit that we are all getting old.  After I made friends with the director of the Senior Center, I suggested they might consider changing the name.  Getting Boomers to admit they were “seniors” was going to be a hard sell.

Thoughts:  Different generations have different attitudes toward what is right and comfortable.  The Baby Boomers were born during the post-World War II baby boom (1946 to 1964).  This is the generation that experienced the explosive growth as the economy shifted from war time to commercial production.  The earlier generation is called the Silent Generation (1925 to 1945).  This is the generation who experienced the devastation of both the Great Depression and World War II.  The following is the Baby Busters, or Generation X (1965 to 1979).  These have been followed by the Xennials, Millennials,

Gen Z, and finally Gen Alpha (2113 to 2125).  These later generations have shifted from 20-year spans to 10-year spans and include overlaps.  The inconsistencies seem to come from the rapidly changing dynamics of our increasingly globalized society.  It appears it is becoming much harder to tell the US from the THEM, even as some work harder to create a difference.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Blemished

July 20, 2021

After another rough start, my containers are producing fruit.  My Big Boys and Lemon Boys are now producing, as are my Red and Orange Sweet Peppers.  These are even getting large, although some of the fruit is blemished.  My crop began with my two cherry tomatoes (var. Super Sweet 100) about a month ago.  While they are not as large as the varieties found in the local stores (about dime size), they have an amazing taste.  The vines are covered with clusters of tomatoes that I have been picking every day or two.  I am interested to see how long they can continue to provide this amount of fruit.

When I looked online, it confirmed that homegrown tomatoes are more flavorful than store-bought tomatoes.  The store tomatoes (and vegetables) are grown to be uniform in size for pack-ability, durable to ship, and to stay fresh for a long time.  Any blemished produce is excluded from shipment because they do not sell well in the store.  The article mentioned differences you may find in your homegrown varieties.  Your vegetables will not have a consistent appearance, even if they come from the same seed packet.  You can also grow different varieties of vegetables that are not grown commercially.  Your vegetables will not store as long, but you have the advantage of “pick and use.”  While your vegetables may not get as big, they do have more flavor and crunch.  The biggest advantage of home grown is you can decide what plants, how many, and when you want to grow.  I tend to concentrate on tomatoes and peppers because that is what I buy most in the store.  The word is still out on my onions.

When I began my container garden last year I struggled with the proper amount of soil, food, and water to get the best results.  One of my problems was blossom rot.  I discovered there were two causes, either too much water, or too little water.  I seem to have overcome that difficulty this year, in part by rubbing the vestigial blossom off the fruit before it can cause rot.  While my cherry plants are growing well, the intense rain over the last weeks has caused another malady, the fruit has begun to split.  Tomatoes split due to fluctuations in the amount of water they receive.  When tomatoes grow in drought conditions with little supplemental water, a heavy rain can cause the insides of the tomatoes to grow faster than the outer skin, resulting in the tomatoes cracking.  This may also happen with too little water, as the skin may dry out and crack.  Again, this means the plant is getting either too much or too little water.  I need to be vigilant in monitoring my containers.

Thoughts:  I came across an article several weeks ago that touted the advantage of community gardens.  Not only did these gardens provide needed vegetables, but they also illustrated how blemished fruit is a natural occurrence.  When you grow your own, you pick the blemished fruit, perhaps cut around the flaw, and serve it anyway, only to be amazed that the blemished fruit still has the same great taste.  Like vegetables in the store, much of our acceptance of people is based on appearance.  We often choose our friends, co-workers, and even acquaintances based on outward attributes.  When we take the time to look beyond whatever we may define as blemished, we often find people can be amazing as well.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

NO

July 19, 2021

My NY Times news feed this morning lead with an article on the beginnings of a shift in people getting the virus vaccine.  It noted that while a few weeks ago it seemed the virus might be in permanent retreat, the Delta variant has changed the situation, and cases are rising in all 50 states.  While vaccinated people remain almost guaranteed to avoid serious symptoms, the variant has put unvaccinated people at a greater risk of hospitalization and death.  According to the CDC, more than 99 percent of recent deaths and more than 97 percent of recent hospitalizations have occurred among the unvaccinated in the US.  On Friday, Biden commented, “Now, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated.”  Saying no appears to have consequences.

When I checked online, I found that all 50 states reported more covid-19 cases over the last week than the week before.  According to the CDC, this represents a nearly 70% spike overall in the average number of daily cases.  Arkansas continues to be the nation’s top state for new cases per capita.  Only 35% of the state’s population has been fully vaccinated, a number that has remained constant for the last month.  Arkansas has a history of a lax response to the pandemic and was one of only seven states that did not issue a stay-at-home order for nonessential activities in March and April 2020.   As the return to school approaches, Arkansas joined six other states in restricting public schools from requiring coronavirus vaccinations or documentation of vaccination status.  Saying no is now a legal matter.

The focus of the Times article was on a poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in January, which asked whether Adults in America planned to get vaccinated.  The survey found 23% of those polled said no.  When Kaiser recently followed up on the poll, they found about one quarter of those who said no had decided to get the shot.  The article pointed to three main themes for their rethinking.  The first was seeing millions of other Americans safely vaccinated.  This suggests emphasizing the safety of the vaccines, rather than just the danger of Covid, may help persuade more people to get a shot.  The second was hearing pro-vaccine messages from doctors, friends, and relatives.   Many Americans, and especially those without a college degree, do not trust mainstream institutions and hearing from people they know has a greater impact.  The third was learning that not being vaccinated will prevent people from doing some things they want to do.  While mandates may be unpopular, the requirements can influence skeptics to get shots.  Saying no is being reevaluated.

Thoughts:  I developed a habit in High School of saying no whenever my mom asked me to do something.  She understood my passive aggressive nature, but also knew that if I said no, I had heard the request and I would do what she had asked.  I acted the same way with my dad . . . once.  He asked me to do something, and I said no.  His response was, “Excuse Me?”  Apparently, this was not a request, it was a mandate.  I quickly accomplished the task.  The US has tried many ways to get people to take the covid-19 vaccine (lottery tickets, college tuition, million-dollar raffles, and even staying alive).  Still the response of many has been no.  I hope for their sakes they are only being passive aggressive, and they will get the shot.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Service

July 17, 2021

 Sunday’s front page of our local news had an article about service dogs being trained in a small community near where we live.   The owner had been diagnosed at an early age with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder.  She first got a job grooming dogs and realized how they relieved her anxiety.  That led to acquisition and training of their own service dog, and in October of 2020, they opened a training facility to help others find and train service dogs.  The mother-daughter team specialize in service animals and obedience training.  PTSD service dogs, diabetic service dogs, autistic service dogs, and seizure service dogs are all part of what they provide. 

The article made me wonder what the criteria were for classifying your dog as a service animal.  What I learned was there was a difference between a service animal (dog or miniature horse) and an emotional support animal (any animal).  According to Title II and Title III of the American Disabilities Act, a Service Animal is “any dog that is trained to perform tasks for the benefit of any person with a disability.”  The disability may include physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other emotional disability.  Many people train their own service dogs, while others find trainers to work with the dogs.  Once your dog is trained, you can register the dog to be recognized in a national database.  Rather than assisting with a specific disability, emotional support animals ease a variety of mental disorders, like anxiety and depression.  Service animals are granted access wherever their owners go.  The same is true for emotional support animals, but you do require a note from your doctor or health care provider.

When I lived in California there was a group of trainers who asked to use the property where I worked to hold weekly meetings to train service dogs.  We had a large outdoor area for the dogs in addition to a large indoor auditorium, so the group could meet rain or shine.  The organization was accredited and had been training Labrador retrievers to assist with the blind.  This was a pilot program to see if they could get the same results with German shepherds.  Shepherds have a long history of being service dogs, but have a problem of attaching to the handler, making it harder for them to bond with the eventual owner.  The trainers used a staged approach to counter the bonding.  The puppies were raised by one handler, transferred to the discipline trainer, who handed them off for specialized training as a seeing eye dog.  That allowed the dog to finally create a strong bond with the owner.  When I looked online, it said German shepherds were among the four breeds most often used as seeing-eye dogs.  It must have worked.

Thoughts:  When our dog Bella was young, she was trained as a therapy animal.  This is a specialized service dog to provide affection and comfort in hospitals, schools, and nursing homes.  Bella spent many afternoons in the school library listening to children read.  When I later took Bella to my camp, I got her an official vest and attached her name tag and designation as a therapy animal.  Bella loved to greet visitors, but never forgave my assistant for stepping on her tail.  Bella would hide under my desk every time the woman came into my office (btw:  she’s watching the eclipse).  While we sometimes treat pets as part of the family, service animals are a literal extension of their owner.  While they are given more access than pets, they are also held to strict rules, and misbehavior can result in losing their service status.  They are not to be approached or petted without the expressed permission of the owner.  Follow the science.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Roof

July 16, 2021

I have mentioned the chain of events that began as a vent falling into the attic and ended up with our entire roof being replaced.  While I am grateful to get the new roof, I was not prepared for the havoc the replacement would cause.  It started the day before when I received a text notifying me people would arrive to fix the roof at 5:30 the next morning, and that I needed to move my cars to allow them to park their dumpster in my driveway.  Not being a morning person, I grumbled but did as they asked.  I woke at 6:00 the next morning and checked to see if they had arrived.  They had not so I went back to sleep.  Apparently, they rang the doorbell around 6:20 and asked Melissa to be let into the back fence (I slept through the bell).  By 6:30 they were walking around on the roof.  That did wake me up. 

I was not surprised when I looked online and found that asphalt shingles were the most popular type of roof material across North America.  The shingles are “designed to protect your home through decades of weathering with minimal upkeep and are available in hundreds of colors and styles.”  The best quality asphalt shingles may last for 30 years without needing to be replaced, although their lifespan varies depending on your weather.  The downside is asphalt shingles are lightweight, which means they can easily blow away in strong winds.  While asphalt shingles may come in hundreds of styles and colors, I was given two styles (expensive and more so) and a choice of three colors.  I later found out our subdivision limited the style and color of shingles you can put on your roof.  Luckily, I choose the style and color found on the roof next to our house.

The noise of workers on my roof may have woke me up, but the fun was just beginning.  I have had a roof replaced before, but I went to work, and it was done when I got home.  Now Melissa and I both work from home.  It took a while for the workers to clear the old shingles off the roof, during which time I pointed out they had piled shingles on the succulents in the front succulent bed (they were removed).  The underlayment went on and the process of attaching the shingles to the roof began.  You can imagine what six men nailing shingles above your head would sound like.  Melissa had three zoom meetings during the day and her colleagues all enjoyed the sound.  When they were doing the roof above my office, insulation came out of the air vent and drifted down to my desk.  With the heat and hard work, I was amazed to see them finish the roof in one (12 hour) day. 

Thoughts:  When I was checking the different types of shingles and which was better given my criteria, the answer invariably was, “it depends.”  Apparently, what it depends on is when you want to spend the money.  I also found the “information” was being offered by roof contractors who wanted to contact me.  When I saw how much my standard asphalt roof cost, I knew why everyone was so interested in my roof.  Fixing a roof is labor-intensive and the feels-like temps climbed close to 100F in the morning.  By lunch, the crew was all sleeping on my lawn.  I noted only the foreman of the crew spoke English.  Fixing a roof must be one of the good jobs being taken by immigrants.  I hope they at least had ear protection.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Ramen

July 15, 2021

I received a news feed from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) yesterday about a semitrailer that had crashed into a local lake.  The truck was carrying 20,000 pounds of ramen noodles when it toppled into the lake.  According to the Facebook post the semi was lying on its side in Lake Conway in Faulkner County around 3 pm CDT.  The driver of the truck was not injured, authorities told the television station.  The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality was notified, and a HAZMAT crew was on the scene.  As the wrecker was removing the truck from the lake, the AGFC said there did not appear to be any contamination to the lake. 

When I checked online, I found that instant ramen noodles are made with wheat flour that has been fortified with synthetic forms of nutrients like iron and B vitamins to make the noodles more nutritious.  They still lack important nutrients, including protein, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.  Ramen also has a lot of calories without the nutrients of a more balanced meal with a protein, vegetables, and complex carbs.  While one serving (43 grams) of ramen noodles has only 188 calories, most people consume the entire package, or two servings (371 calories).  The ramen can be made more nutritious by adding additional ingredients, but that takes time and effort, something most consumers (myself included) do not have, or they would not be eating ramen in the first place.

Apparently, I was not the only one who found the accident report humorous.  By Wednesday, the story had been picked up by the Miami Herald, which commented on the social media response to the event.  Most comments referred to the inexpensive cost of ramen.  One person wrote on Facebook, “Glad he only lost $120 in cargo.”  Another wrote, “Twenty thousand pounds of Ramen??? The load value of $26 was a total loss.”  Others commented on the heat wave that was buffeting Arkansas on Tuesday (93F).  “In this weather, the noodles should ‘bout be done!!”  I was glad to see I was not the only one with a twisted sense of humor.

Thoughts:  What intrigued me most about the story of ramen noodles was the response of the AGFC to send a HAZMAT team to the site.  I wonder what the HAZMAT team thought they were trying to prevent.  I am always amazed by the response government agencies take toward environmental risks.  While a ramen spill brought an immediate response, corporate water pollution results in decades of litigation to force any change.  In a report on water quality in the US in 2009, 44% of assessed stream miles, 64% of assessed lake acres, and 30% of assessed bays and estuarine square miles were classified as polluted.  Unsafe water kills more people each year than war and other forms of violence combined.  It is estimated that water pollution is the leading worldwide cause of death and diseases, accounting for 1.8 million deaths in 2015.  The extent of our polluted water resources is not humorous and needs to be addressed.  Otherwise, we will have no water for our ramen.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Bloom

With all the attention being given to the crepe myrtle that has appeared a year after I had tried to cut it out of the two front driveway beds, I had not realized what was going on right beside the crepe.  I knew one of the Hen and chick plants had produced a stalk, but I did not know what that meant.  When Melissa saw it, she immediately said, “How cool, it is growing a death bloom!”  While I did think the emerging stalk was cool, I did not like the ominous sound of “death bloom.”  After all the work I have put in trying to keep these plants alive through the freeze of winter and the heat of summer, now it appeared it was going to die anyway.  At least it was doing so on its own terms.

When I looked online, I found Hen and chick (Sempervivum) varieties are not typically known for their flowers, and many are unaware these succulents even produce flowers.  A rosette is the typical form of Hen and chick plant.  When the center of the hen rosette starts to grow upwards you know it is the beginning of the end.  The center of the plant will push up until it turns into a flower stalk.  Finally, the leaves on the end of the stalk will peel back to reveal a cluster of buds, and the buds will bloom into pink flowers.  While these are normally low-growing plants, but the flower stalk can grow from a few inches (7.5 to 10 cm) up to a foot (30.5 cm) in length.  The blooming stalk on the plant is called a “rooster.” 

Hen and chick are one of several types of succulents known as Monocarpic (once-fruiting), that bloom once and then die.  This generally does not happen until the center rosette is at least four years old and many pups (chicks) have been produced.  I noted our plant had already produced 11 pups, even though it had only been the ground for less than a year.  When a monocarpic succulent is throwing out a death bloom, it stretches taller and the lower leaves can start to look shabby, because all the energy is going to making the flower.  A death bloom is recognizable from other succulent blooms, as it comes from the very center (apex) of the plant.  If you see a bloom stalk (inflorescence) coming from somewhere else, it is a normal bloom, and the plant will not die.  Another oddity occurring in our anomalous yard.

Thoughts:  It never ceases to amaze me how much happens in the world of nature to which I had never paid much attention.  That is true for the rooster growing on our Sempervivum, the bird and squirrel battles over my backyard feeders, and the varieties of our perennials that provide a legacy to ancestors.  I have always been interested in nature, but more so in knowing “how it works.”  Identifying birds, growing vegetables, and nurturing succulents are not going to make us rich or make a dent in the ills of the world, but they do make a difference in understanding how to live my life.  Mark Twain is quoted saying, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”  That is an adage on which to base your life.  Do the work.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.