Stop. Breathe. Listen. Learn.

Like most people my age, I still am using Facebook, and a friend posted one of those occasionally thought-provoking memes saying, “Give your best advice in four words or less.”

I am not really one to give advice.  I have a good life, but no grand successes that people envy enough to ask for advice.  Lately though, as I have tried to grow as a parent, I have had to learn to manage my emotions.

Without judging my parents, I did not have good role models for managing my emotions growing up.  My mother could be hot-tempered, and my dad had little patience for things not going his way.  My mother is deceased, my father has changed a lot, but I still feel I missed some critical lessons in emotional awareness and self-control growing up. I find that my deficiencies are in full view as a parent.  My daughter can be annoying at times, but with practice, I have discovered that if I stop getting emotional, breathe to calm down, listen to what she is telling me both linguistically and emotionally, then I learn what makes her tick.  What makes her upset, angry, and challenging.

It does not mean I can solve her difficulties, but I can react with calm, rather than dismissive annoyance or, worse, anger.  And that makes me a little bit better as a parent.

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$20 More for Farmworkers

My wife has a long history of working with migrant farmworkers., and I often say I have a second-hand education in farm labor issues through her work.  Migrant farmworkers receive among the lowest pay in America for some of the most challenging labor available.

Migrant agricultural workers, it is safe to say, are primarily undocumented workers, although some workers arrive through temporary work authorizations.  In either case, the work is hard, and the pay is minimal.

The growers that own and operate the farms claim that Americans will not do farm work, although they fail to mention that low pay is a significant barrier to American workers entering the farm labor force.  Compensation for agricultural work is below a reasonable living wage for families.  Farmworkers often live in rustic conditions unsuitable for families.  The bulk of migrant labor consists of young, unattached men who are willing to work hard and suffer the indignities of that work.

Farmers also claim that Americans will not pay more for food, and with farmers operating on very slim margins they cannot consider raising wages.

I question those claims.  I believe that Americans would work in agriculture if compensation were commensurate with the difficulty of the work, and I also contend that American consumers would pay more for their food purchases if they had some understanding of what that meant for farmworkers.

My optimism is based on what I have seen happen in my town, where local farmers are supported and celebrated.  I am happy to purchase from local farmers through our the Carrboro Farmer’s Market and Weaver Street Market, a local grocery cooperative.  It costs more to do this, but I do not understand the logic of paying cheap prices for the most important health item we buy – food.  While I have not personally analyzed the numbers for my family’s grocery purchases, National Geographic published an article estimating that the added cost for most families would be about $20 per year.  The article is food for thought.

What do you think?  Would you pay $20 more per year if it meant farmworkers received better pay?  Would it make a difference if you knew that more Americans might work on farms, instead of foreign labor?


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Snow Daze

Our local school system is notorious for closing at the slightest hint of snow.  If you are reading this in Minnesota or some other achingly cold place, you will surely laugh.  We have had to scramble to take care of our daughter at home for less than an inch of snow.  A mere dusting.

But yesterday was different.  Meteorologists predicted two or three inches of the fluffy white stuff.  Instead, we have nine to eleven inches.  For Central North Carolina, this is incredible.  My daughter, like me averse to cold weather, stayed inside and enjoyed watching it fall as we built a LEGO model together, and drank hot chocolate.

And all was well with the world.

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