Welcome, 2014!

Jake, Meg, Katy and Scott at Alamere Falls

I started my morning similar to many others….I went for a run as the sun came up, gearing myself up for the day. Of course, it’s the start of a new year, so I spent most of my run reflecting on the many happenings of 2013, and looking forward to all that 2014 has to offer.

Granddad Mesle and Mum

It’s definitely been a busy year. I turned 30 (shh!), met Joe Boden, started doing my own consulting; Mum retired from the bench and  is now busy with her many boards; we went to Europe for Thanksgiving with Mum and Terry, where I FINALLY visited my sister’s new apartment in Amsterdam; my Granddad Mesle turned a whopping 99 years young; Aunt Sherry won a seat on the Lamoni City Council; Jane visited Petaluma; Derek and Travis visited for a week over the summer …. the list goes on.

Meg, Travis, Derek & Jake near Jenner, CA

There is much to be thankful for, and much to be proud of. Our family is healthy (puppies included), work is great, we have wonderful friends, and life is generally…well…amazing! Funny how living in California makes you feel about the world, especially when you have a beautiful place like Kansas City to go back to over the holidays.

Meg, Jane and Auntie

I hope you had a wonderful 2013, and that 2014 is merry and bright for you and yours.

Happy Holidays!

It’s been a wonderful visit in Kansas City, filled with friends, family, and many good times. We hope you are enjoying the season, and that you have a very Merry Christmas with those you love.

Mesle Christmas

Have a wonderful holiday!

Ann and Meg

The Green Tractor: John Deere

John Deere mailboxLong before Jason Aldean’s hit single “My Big Green Tractor”, farmer’s had a love affair with John Deere.  John Deere has it all.  Founded in 1868, Deere & Company has grown for over 175 years while continually expanding its products, its markets and its core values.  It serves farmers, ranchers, landowners, home owners,  and builders in the U.S. and throughout the world by providing a broad range of high quality products, large and small.  A worldwide leader in agricultural and building machinery, it has roots deep in the community. Simultaneously, it looks to the future by continuing to provide innovative products for its customers.

ALL BUSINESS IS LOCAL–  Wow.  I love it.  With world headquarters in Moline, Illinois, Deere manufactures products throughout the U.S. at plants in Iowa, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Dakota and California. It’s marketing, design and distribution sites are even more extensive.  In addition, it manufactures its products in Canada, Central and South America, Europe, USA FlagAsia and Africa.  The Deere philosophy espouses conducting business and manufacturing operations at home in the U.S., as wells as in the nations it serves.

WORKING THE LAND-PROTECTING THE PLANET–  John Deere’s long-standing commitment to safeguarding the environment is reflected in its goal to reduce its carbon footprint in its physical plant and in its product lines.  It has adopted 2018 Enterprise Eco-Efficiency Goals.  Deere’s goals include reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and its water consumption by 15% between 2012-2018 and recycling 75% of its waste by 2013.   Deere introduces its first diesel-electric hybrid wheel loader in 2013.

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EMPLOYEES ARE A TOP PRIORITY– Deere also recognizes the value of its employees.  Deere offers base pay, bonuses, stock options and other long-term cash awards. Consistent with its recognition as “among the best places to work”, it encourages employees to continue their educations.  In a partnership between John Deere, its deals, and select community colleges, Deere’s C & F Tech initiative offers job training through a two-year associate degree focused on an Ag & Turf Technician program and a Diesel Technology program.

Deere’s Supplier Code of Conduct requires suppliers to comply with restrictions on child labor, prohibits forced labor, supports diversity and equal opportunity, requires treatment of all workers with respect and dignity, and protects the right of workers to report concerns without fear of retaliation.

9,500 Deere employees are represented by the American Auto Workers.

DEERE’S PHILANTHROPIC COMMITMENT

Deere’s philanthropic activities include support for education, for the development of sustainable food supplies and economic growth, and community enrichment. These activities also include efforts alleviating hunger, while advancing education and supporting community development.

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John Deere:  A best buy!

The challenge: my pickup for today

The challenge: my pickup for today

Last week I challenged my friends and family to pick up at least one piece of trash a day. I took the kids for a walk this morning around our neighborhood. I picked up this plastic spoon and rusted nail from the sidewalk. Have you picked up a piece of trash today?

A challenge for my friends and family– Pick up one piece of trash every day

It’s not hard. Just one piece! Well, today I picked up several pieces of glass I found along my running trail on the eastern edge of Petaluma, but the point is, just a little bit at a time will make a big difference.

Glass from the trail

Every little bit helps. So when you’re out for a walk or going to the store, pick up that wrapper that someone neglected to throw in the garbage can, or the empty bag of chips floating across the soccer field. I guarantee a trash can is on your way to wherever you’re going, or at least nearby, and you can always wash your hands!

So I challenge you all to take that extra 10 seconds to pick up one piece of trash a day. You’ll feel great about yourself for doing it!

Sebastopol, CA to require solar power on new homes, buildings

What a cool idea. Solar panels on top of each and every newly constructed home or building! I recently had a discussion with some cohorts here in Petaluma about how great it would be if people would just start using all the rooftops in the city to generate power using solar panels. Well, sounds like Sebastopol has the same idea.

As I read in the Press Democrat’s online article from May 8th [1], Sebastopol City Council recently voted unanimously to require solar power systems on new homes and commercial buildings. Sebastopol is now the second city to make such a move, following Lancaster, CA, which is located in the Greater Los Angeles area.

Nice work, Sebastopol. I’m sure there will be a number of details to work out moving forward, but I’m excited about the idea of using alternative energy in Sonoma County.

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[1] Story covered by Staff Writer Guy Kovner of the Press Democrat. You can go to the website at www.pressdemocrat.com and search under the “Politics” section. Or click on the hyperlink in the body of this post above to go to Kovner’s article.

(Photo courtesy Wiki Commons)

Why you should consider building a Living Roof

When visiting the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco last weekend, we learned about something called the “Heat Island Effect.” This refers to the rise in temperature in densely populated areas, typically cities with lots of buildings and little green space. According to the U.S. EPA, the annual mean air temperature in cities with 1+ million people can be anywhere from 1.8-5.4°F warmer than its surroundings. In the sun of summer, roof and pavement surfaces can be 50-90°F hotter than the air temperatures. Imagine how miserable this temperature increase can feel if you are stuck in the middle of a concrete jungle, with no trees or grass to cool you down.

Placard at the California Academy of Sciences rooftop observation deck describing the "Heat Island Effect"

Placard at the California Academy of Sciences rooftop deck describing the “Heat Island Effect”

Some problems associated with the Heat Island Effect:

Increased Energy Consumption — According to a placard atop the living roof at the California Academy of Sciences, one sixth of all electricity used in the U.S. goes to cooling buildings. As rooftop temperatures increase in urban areas, the buildings inside require additional air conditioning to keep the inside temperatures comfortable. ONE SIXTH….that’s a lot of energy!

Impaired Water Quality — Hotter surfaces in the city increased the temperature of stormwater runoff. According to the EPA, tests have shown that pavements reaching 100°F can increase the temperature of 70° rainwater into 95° runoff as it drains into the sewers, raising sewer water temperatures in the process. This then increases the temperatures of streams, rivers, etc. as runoff works its way back into our groundwater supply. As we’ve seen through many studies around global warming, increased water temperature around the globe can lead to sea level rise and a disruption in the aquatic ecosystems around the planet.

I’m sure there are many more problems, but I like focusing on solutions. How about building a Living Roof!

Living Roof at California Academy of Sciences

Living Roof at California Academy of Sciences

At the Academy of Sciences, we visited the Living Roof on top of the building. This roof is covered in grass, plants, rain filtration systems….you name it. According to another placard at the Academy, living roofs absorb most of their rainfall. In fact, the building at the Academy retains 98% of its rainwater, which saves over 13 million liters from flowing into the city’s stormwater/sewer system.  Living roofs also keep buildings cooler, reducing the need for air conditioning, and thus, reducing the release of resulting air pollutants.

Living Roof at California Academy of Sciences

Living Roof at California Academy of Sciences

I also think the incorporation of rooftop gardens or living roofs can provide a little green paradise in the middle of the big city, all without giving up valuable real estate. It’s basically like taking a backyard garden, and simply building it on the roof! Whether a residential or commercial building, a green space on the roof can provide tenants a little oasis, while reducing the building’s energy consumption and resulting pollution, all at the same time.

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The information in this post was gathered through the following sources: U.S. EPA website, www.epa.gov/hiri, and a visit to the California Academy of Sciences rooftop observation terrace. You can learn more about the Academy’s Living Roof at http://www.calacademy.org/academy/building/the_living_roof/.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It has been a wonderful year and here at Shifting the Balance we have a lot to be thankful for. I’ve had an exciting year working on the campaign. Our kiddos (the dogs) are all in good health. Mum and Terry are happy and healthy. Two of my cousins welcomed healthy baby girls. All of my friends are enjoying their lives…..the list goes on.

A Thanksgiving [1] memory to share: Keeping with Mum’s recent photo of Greece, I thought I’d share my Thanksgiving memory from 2004. I was studying abroad in Leicester, England, and I didn’t really have anyone to spend Thanksgiving with. So who came to my rescue? Freida, of course. Freida and George are two of our friends from Kansas City growing up. They were both from Greece, moved to the States when they were first married, and then decided to retire back to a beautiful little village about a year or two before I was studying abroad. Well, Freida invited me to stay with them for Thanksgiving, and it was the most wonderful trip. Seeing Freida and George was such a delight, and even more heartwarming was the fact that Freida sought out the makings of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. For me! In Greece! [2] We had turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans. She even found pecans. It was a perfect Thanksgiving, and for that experience, I will always be grateful.

Wherever you’re spending your Thanksgiving, I hope you have a wonderful day, and remember to be thankful for those around you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Meg and Ann

[1]  Photograph thanks to “blogs.citypages.com”

[2]  Terry’s painting by Mike Savage, reminds us of times in Greece, overlooking the Mediterranean

Missing Meg

You remember Meg?  My co-author.  That’s right, that Meg.  As the balance of her life has shifted to what seems to be a 24/7 schedule, she has disappeared from our blog. I found these photographs of Meg I took using the color sketch “effect” on my Nikon.

Just my way of assuring her that her presence is missed and that I am glad that she has only “faded away” temporarily.

Love you Meg. I will see you back on “Shifting the Balance” in November, when the balance of your life shifts back to a schedule giving you more time for Jake, Lily, Cousteau and the blog.  You are missed!

Shifting the Balance–9 months, 146 posts and 82 countries later

Nine months ago today, Meg posted our first post on Shifting the Balance.  Since that time our lives have moved forward.  Meg has developed a rewarding pattern to her life in Petaluma. I particularly enjoy the times we all spend together and with other close family and friends.

If you aren’t a blogger, you will have missed one of the curious aspects of blogging. WordPress keeps track of visitors to our blog on a country by country–not individual–basis.  We are now up to 82 countries.  We haven’t figured out how to get the attention of any one of Greenland’s 56,000 residents, but we are still trying. In addition to keeping a tally of every country with visitors to our blog, WordPress actually includes a map for Meg and me.  Here is the map for our blog.  Red records this highest number of visitors, which are from the United States, and visitors from every other country are highlighted in orange, indicating a slightly lesser number of hits:

It is to really fun to watch to see which of our posts are the most popular.  Our photographs usually get views within minutes or a couple of days.  Our articles may receive very few views the day they are posted.  But they may continue to receive views for months.  The most popular of our posts are Meg’s 4 posts focused on Natasha’s wedding and my post comparing Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice.  It is also really rewarding to receive notification that someone “likes” our blog or has commented on a post.  Most of those who “like” us are individuals who view our photographs.  (They are a fairly tight community).

One of our most faithful readers is a young man from Romania, Cristian Mihai.  Born in 1990, he is already an author and a very active blogger himself.  Christian, thanks for regularly “like”ing our photographs.  We love your stuff!!  Romanian music is pretty cool.  Thanks and good luck.

Blogging has become a part of the rhythm of our lives.  Most of our posts capture the fun times of our lives: weekends Meg and Jake spend learning about Northern California, and visits Terry and I make to points of interest in Kansas City.  Occasionally, we write about our travels.  When time permits we review a book or write about issues that are of particular interest to us.

There is supposed to be an art to blogging. Among the suggestions made for successful bloggers is to have a blog theme: something like marketing, travel, photography or cooking.  We read some wonderful specialized blogs and follow Sheila’s Lifestyle Solutions and PhotoBotos among others.  So we really appreciate the specialized blogs. But we just keep rolling along as we write about a wide variety of subjects and post photographs we like.

Our lives are, in some small ways, focused on our blog.  We talk to each other about what we are doing on the blog and who has a post ready for publication.  We also continue to look at our lives and our worlds with eyes toward potential blog posts.  When we see a beautiful building, a fascinating book or article, or just visit a park, we want to share it.  Our posts are also a way for us to communicate with each other. That is satisfaction enough for me.

Thank you for following our blog. Clotilda Jamcracker, (another author and blogger), thanks for “like”ing this post.  Thanks to you all.