“Suits Us”–Bodega Bay

The casual life style and nonchalance of Bodega Bay is evidenced by this enchanting–if deteriorated–cottage near the coast in Northern California.  “Suits Us” suggests the relaxed lifestyle of the people who live there.  It is the goal of many who travel there. Who needs elegance when you are minutes from one the world’s beautiful beaches?

May the quality of our lives be determined by the beauty, joy and meaning we find around us rather than the number of dollars we have to spend.


Kansas City Lights–Light up the Holiday Season

Every city celebrates the holidays differently. For Kansas City, the Christmas season “officially” begins when the Plaza lights are turned on Thanksgiving night. The crowds pack the Plaza for the ceremony to switch on the lights. Traffic backs up for blocks around waiting for their chance to see the lights. I do not remember a time when my family did not make at least one trip to see the lights. Now I live only blocks away and can see them every night as I drive home from work.

There are other lovely holiday displays. Nativity scenes remind us of the religious focus of Christmas, houses and neighborhood shopping areas decorated with lights, wreaths, community Christmas trees and other holiday displays remind us that the season is also shared with other religious and non-religious groups who celebrate their own religious traditions and simply celebrate the joy of the season.

Have a happy holiday, wherever you are.

Petaluma’s Lighted Boats

Meg has a J.D. in Urban, Land Use and Environmental Law. She focuses on maintaining the balance of community and environmental health, healthy lifestyles, and encouraging sustainable living.

As new locals to Petaluma, my husband and I have been trying to explore as much of our new surroundings as possible. It is truly an amazing experience to move from Kansas City to California, and every weekend we find something new and fun to “research.” Sometimes it’s a vineyard in the wine country, or a beach in Point Reyes National Park. This past weekend we decided to explore Petaluma’s “old town” (downtown), where we watched to annual Petaluma Lighted Boats on the river.

The boats were supposed to come up the river and into the turning basin (which is basically located in the middle of downtown) around 6:00 or 6:30pm on Saturday. We thought we would go downtown around 5:00pm, walk around a little bit, visit my new favorite furniture store, Roe & Co., and then wander over to the river walk to see the boats. Little did we know, it was going to be packed! We barely found a parking spot, and when we made our way to the river walk, we were fighting for a space to actually see the river. There must have been several thousand people wandering around. It was amazing!

Our next adventure will be to take the driving tour of Petaluma’s Lighted Houses and Businesses. I have to say, for a community without snow, Petaluma sure knows how to reign in the holiday spirit. It’s a wonderful place to be for our first Christmas season away from our hometown.

Ode To Niecie’s

Terry and I have a breakfast date every weekend. We have a few places we go regularly but are always looking for new and interesting destinations. Not long ago he met a friend for lunch at Niecie’s. I’d heard about it but had never been there. But as they say, the rest is history. Terry suggested the next weekend that we have breakfast there. We went there once and now we include it as a favorite.

Why? When we walk in the restaurant we are greeted warmly as though they are excited to see us. The servers are friendly and the food is fast. When we leave the restaurant someone inevitably says something like “have a blessed day”. We almost always run into someone we know. It doesn’t matter though, because we have also found ourselves talking with strangers. When we leave we feel good about breakfast, good about Niecie’s and good about ourselves.

This is not a sales pitch for a restaurant. There are probably lots of restaurants like Niecie’s. This is a sales pitch for a life style. It is great to be with people who are nice to each other. It is great to chat about the K.C. Chiefs, even when they are having a bad season, just because the Chiefs are the hometown team. It is just part of being neighborly and being nice.

I’m not saying that being nice would solve the problems of the world. But I’m also not saying that it wouldn’t. If people are nicer to each other then maybe politicians can be nicer. If politicians can be nicer to each other then maybe nations can be nicer to each other. Maybe we could have world peace. Being nice has to start somewhere.


Global warming and the need for leadership – Meg’s research from 2008

Meg has a J.D. in Urban, Land Use and Environmental Law. She focuses on maintaining the balance of community and environmental health, healthy lifestyles, and encouraging sustainable living.

I wrote this as part of my senior thesis at the University of Kansas in May 2008. The class was about the history of accidents, both natural and human-induced. I looked at a place in Greenland dubbed “Warming Island” that was visited by a U.S. delegation led by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a group of representatives.

Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, the representative from the 5th District of Missouri (Kansas City area), was a part of the delegation to Greenland. In the two summers following his trip, I was able to intern in his DC and Kansas City offices. His ideas about global warming and the environment in many ways sparked my current interest in environmental health. He is so unbelievably passionate about bettering the world, it just naturally rubs off on anyone he meets. During his initial campaign for Congress, my granddad Mesle met him and worked on his campaign. Granddad still talks about how nice Rep. Cleaver was to be around, how he wears his love for his community on his sleeve, and always asks me to tell him hello.

I don’t necessarily mean to sound like I’m putting in my plug for Cleaver, I just think it’s important to understand where the inspiration comes from. He really has been a significant influence in my growing interest of balancing community needs with environmental needs, all while juggling the various issues of the world. I’d like to share an excerpt from my 2008 thesis about Warming Island in Greenland, and Rep. Cleaver’s commitment to community and environmental health. Please note, the following information is current as of May 2008.

Here you go.

 “Warming Island” in Greenland

The Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) is the second largest ice sheet in the world next to the Antarctic Ice Sheet. During Speaker Pelosi’s delegation to Greenland in May 2007, she noticed the rapid speed at which the ice is breaking off and melting. She learned the amount of ice breaking off in two days time would provide enough fresh water for all of New York City for an entire year. The delegation inspired other political officials to travel to the island, including several Senators, in July 2007.

Some scientists say the melting ice is being offset by the amount of snow accumulation during the winter months, but there is also a highly significant correlation within the last decade of temperatures in Greenland with the Northern Hemisphere. This correlation suggests that global warming may very well be emerging within GrIS in the present day. One man, who is a veteran arctic explorer, made a discovery several years ago that would change the visible perception of global warming.

Dennis Schmidt is an explorer who discovered “Warming Island” in Greenland in September 2005. It is an island on the east side of Greenland, about 400 miles north of the Arctic Circle, which was previously thought to be a peninsula. During an expedition to GrIS in September 2006, Schmidt commented that documenting the island was important because it is, “a very visual, very graphic example of climate change… maybe the best that exists in the world today.” Makers of this video documentary who traveled with Schmidt reflected on how scientists had been warning for years that the warming atmosphere would “wake up” the ice sheet and send hundreds of billions of tons of ice surging into the ocean, raising sea levels and drowning coastal cities. (To see a brief video documenting the island, click here.)

“I think a lot of people that will look at this will be fascinated because of its beauty, but also interested in it because it is a clear example of climate change,” commented Schmidt about the view of the landscape. In the documentary, the visible gap between the mainland and the now island appears to be at least several hundred feet. When Speaker Pelosi’s delegation travelled to the island in May 2007, they witnessed these effects first hand and realized the severity of global warming.

Cleaver’s commitment to the environment

To approach the issues surrounding global warming, Congressman Cleaver uses many different strategies. It is my understanding that neither oil companies nor delegates for non-renewable resource companies financially support Cleaver’s political office. He is therefore more flexible to speak openly about his concerns for the environment and what he believes to be the root causes for those concerns (such as oil companies drilling in the Chukchi).

When he addressed the Progressive National Baptist Convention in August 2007, Cleaver asserted to his listeners to make the earth’s environment a high priority. “There is overwhelming scientific evidence that the sin of materialism and greed are inextricably linked to the alarming rise in greenhouse gas emissions, and that, my friends, demands an urgent response,” he asserted. This comment followed a lunch conversation I had with him while in Washington D.C. during the summer of 2007. Cleaver believes there are many ways to attack the problems of global warming. One of those ways is through politics and legislation, and the other way is through religious promotion of possible solution. “If one Sunday, every preacher in the country said that everyone needs to use less gas, less water, recycle more, and care more about our environment, on Monday morning, everyone would be out buying a hybrid car.” He acknowledges that there is more than one way to approach global warming, and it is important to try to get through to people on multiple levels to ensure that the message about global warming gets across.

Protecting the environment and the vulnerable communities in the world from global warming is an important issue for which few people are up to the task. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver focuses on bringing together communities and protecting them from social and environmental injustice, which makes him a perfect candidate for provoking global unity. Cleaver is a man who is focused on solutions to problems surrounding struggling communities, whether they are black, poor, polar bear, or arctic ice. He believes in a balance within the social and spiritual spheres that keeps the world in harmony. When that balance is shifted, the world struggles, and Cleaver takes it upon himself to help bring the world back into balance.

– Meg McCollister, May 2008

Running into an idea

Meg has a J.D. in Urban, Land Use and Environmental Law. She focuses on maintaining the balance of community and environmental health, healthy lifestyles, and encouraging sustainable living.

I am a runner. I know everyone already knows that. The fun thing about running for me, besides the great exercise, is that I often come up with a lot of new ideas, usually spurred by my surroundings. Two interesting things happened to me on my run today. One, I found a very sweet little chihuahua on a corner as I was crossing the street from the running trail to the sidewalk. Naturally, I went on a search around the neighborhood to see if anyone recognized this cute little fellow. I finally found someone who had picked up the little guy from the same corner many times. She pointed to the house where I could return him, looking equally as annoyed as I was at the idea that someone would let her dog get loose repeatedly. Well, that’s not really the point of my story today, but let’s just say I returned the dog to a woman who gave me dirty looks as I lectured her for the need to both tag and micro-chip her adorable little dog. Needless to say, I’ll be running down that road a lot more often from now on, just in case.

The second interesting thing about my run today is that it finally dawned on me why I find the break-up of land use in Petaluma fascinating. For those of you who are not familiar with Petaluma, let me try a brief explanation of the landscape. Hwy 101 runs north and south straight through the middle of this town, which has about 60,000 people. The west side is the older side of town. Old houses, more established trees, historic buildings, and of course, the wonderful downtown with the quintessential Main Street vibe. The east side of Petaluma is the newer, more “suburban” side.

Growing up in mid-town Kansas City, I have never been able to stand the suburbs, so I haven’t really been able to put my finger on why I don’t mind it here. I think it’s because the way things are spaced out makes it feel different, like you’re in a hybrid zone. And here’s where the idea of balance comes into play. Running down the trail today, I realized I had open fields to my right, and typical suburban-esque homes (small yards, homes stretched nearly to the fence lines) to my left. Every time I wandered down a street that looked like I would fall straight into Leave it to Beaver, I would find a little (or big) sanctuary of open green space tucked in the middle of the neighborhood. And the best part for a runner is the fabulous running trail that weaves its way through the entire east side of town, connecting all of these wonderful spaces.

So my rather long run today helped me see, literally, why I like Petaluma. I think they’re on to something here. This is not leap-frog development, just good planning. They’ve found a balance between a suburban lifestyle with larger homes and smaller yards, and an open space feel with parks, trails, and open fields. Everything mixed together. For some, it’s the best of both worlds.