Long-term Help or Right Now Needs?

DSCN0672Are you a person who has experienced poverty and/or trauma and are now living a better life? Were you a first-generation college student? An abuse survivor? I am looking for people willing to share about the things that helped and hindered them the most. If you are interested in a brief, email interview, please send an email to larinamichelle(at)gmail.com with subject line “Interview.” You will have the option to keep your responses anonymous or to identify parts of the interview you don’t want to share. Nothing will be posted publicly without you seeing it first and without your explicit consent.

5 Food Help Tips that Make a Long-Term Difference for People in Poverty

Food is a right-now need, but it has long-term consequences. Undernutrition has significant long-term consequences that can keep someone from moving out of poverty due to chronic health conditions, increased stress on both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, mental health strain (your body is consistently in fight-or-flight mode), cognitive impairment, and other factors. In the U.S., it is also a problem because many people, including physicians, don’t recognize it as a problem. At the height of my physical impairment, I was low on Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, magnesium, and potassium–years after I ceased being “poor.” My early childhood years were relatively stable where food was concerned, but the years that weren’t stable had a long impact. Even now, my body does not process vitamins the way it should.

Here are a few things that you can do to help:

  1. Donations come in fast around Christmas time, but people are hungry year-round. Summers are especially difficult for families because children who might usually get free or reduced lunch at school aren’t getting it. Fall is a hard time of year because families have just paid for school supplies. Add a date to your calendar in the late spring, mid-summer, and early fall to donate.
  2. If you donate food to a food drive, be conscious of the nutritional value of the food you donate. For every 3 food items you donate, donate 1 non-food item (toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, deodorant, toothpaste, etc). Food stamps do not pay for non-food items.
  3. Volunteer for a gleaning organization. Gleaners pick up leftover crops from fields so that people have fresh produce. People with disabilities and many senior citizens rely on volunteers in order for them to participate in these activities.
  4. If you have some garden-able land that you aren’t using, consider allowing some families to set up a community garden on it.
  5. Consider lining your front yard with pick-able produce like string beans.

Have other ideas? Email them to me at larinamichelle(at)gmail.com and I will add them to the list.

How Preparing for TEDxRoseburg Was a Lot Like a Nickelback Song

I have many identities. Some feel truer than others. I used to think I was weird because of this, but my studies and my experiences with a wide variety of people lead me to believe I am nowhere near alone. In fact, I might be weird if I was the same person everywhere, all the time.

We have selves: creative selves, spiritual selves, emotional selves, work selves, academic selves, secret selves and more. Don’t believe me? Think about how much a couple (romantic selves) change when their child walks into the room (to parenting selves). Think about how you answer the phone. It depends on where you are, who is calling, what time of day it is, who is with you, and a host of other factors.

Preparing for my talk, The Other Statistic, at TEDxRoseburg was a journey through past selves and a big question mark for the future self.

Continue reading

Five Reasons to Get REALLY Excited about Gamut

  1. Speculative fiction needs more professional, paying markets. In fact, the literary scene in general could use more professional, paying markets. Too often, writers are writing for free. Gamut will pay professional rates to its writers and artists.
  1. Gamut already has “street cred.” The editor has connections with established writers and artists in the field. This provides the journal with a jump start into the field that other journals have to work their way up to. In short, Gamut has basically overcome years 1-2 in the new business scene before it has published a single word.
  1. Similar to #4, Gamut is using a Kickstarter campaign to get going. When businesses are started through crowdfunding, they start with a level of patronage that doesn’t exist for many other new businesses. Just how much support is this? In the first 13 days of Gamut’s campaign, the Kickstarter campaign has earned over $25,000 toward their $52,000 goal. That support comes from 77 countries.
  1. The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers. Speculative fiction is dominated by men. While the editor of Gamut is a man, Richard Thomas is also dedicated to advancing speculative fiction by women. The Lineup, edited by Thomas, is haunting and thought-provoking. If you haven’t read it yet and you’re a woman, read it. Support work by women. If you haven’t read it yet and you’re a man, read it. Support work by women. And know that you won’t regret the read.
  1. Gamut will be a place for literary speculative fiction, a genre that exists only in bits and pieces right now. Both Thomas’s own writing and the books that he has edited demonstrate that literary quality is of paramount importance to him. Those of us who love speculative fiction that attends not only to the needs of the genre, but also to the craft of writing beautifully will at last have one place to which we can turn to get our fix. No more wading through half a dozen SFF magazines to find the one story that speaks to us!

Are you in yet? Support Gamut’s Kickstarter campaign here. Do it now!

Please Help Corvallis Spartan Robotics FRC Team 997 Get to St. Louis

Below is a letter from Corvallis High School Spartan Robotics – FRC Team 997 requesting donations to help the team get to St. Louis for the World Championships for which they qualified by competing in two district and one regional event. I wanted to give you a parent’s perspective of why this is important. FRC Robotics doesn’t emphasize competition the way athletics generally do. In fact, extra points are assigned in any given event for cooperating. STEM outreach is an important goal of FRC and Corvallis Spartan Robotics does everything they can on a very tight budget, including going to elementary schools to demonstrate science and putting up instructional videos on YouTube. An award is given for gracious professionalism–an award that Corvallis Spartan Robotics FRC Team 997 has won, in large part due to their willingness to reach out and help other teams through lending tools between matches, showing them around unfamiliar territory, and even feeding a Rookie team at the local district event. Girls and guys alike learn science, engineering, animation, graphic design, and other business skills in a supportive environment with mentors, but the students do the work. Corvallis Spartan Robotics is particularly inclusive with a high rate  of girls (37%) on the team, as well as students with disabilities. And they go out of their way to make sure that everyone, no matter their income, is an essential part of the team with all of the same learning opportunities as everyone else. So why does going to World’s matter? Because these kids will have the chance to see Scholarship Alley–a section with the top STEM schools in the country–and to network with some amazing minds in the field. FRC is sponsored by NASA. One of CHS’s own former robotics’ students worked on the Mars rover. One of our students is nominated for Dean’s List–an award for students who show extreme leadership qualities in the area of STEM, both on their team and in their communities. If he wins, it will mean a scholarship. As is, it’s a wonderful recognition and demonstrates the kind of inclusive, student-centered leadership that our own team coach and mentors model. You can see more of what this team has done by visiting their webpage.

Team 997 Roboti

Team 997 playing defense in a match at the Oregon State University district tournament 2014.

While they will be going to a competition, and will certainly put their all into the competition, the experience is not about competition. It’s about learning. They get this opportunity about every 5 years, so for a large part of the team, this is their only chance. The new district system created more expenses than the old system, so while sending the students is a tremendous opportunity, it’s also an expensive one that is creating the need to ask for more funds than usual. I’ll be helping the team put together a solid, and hopefully sustainable, fundraising plan over the next few months, but we need to get them to St. Louis in a little less than a week. The total cost for the trip is around $25,000 with registration fees–and every student gets to go even though we are a large team with a lot of working class members. My daughter has a job and is paying $200 of her own money and paying back money that others’ are lending her so that she can go. It means that much to her. So it means that much to me.

I want to note that our other local high school also qualified, but it’s my understanding that they have enough money to send the students they’ve chosen to send to St. Louis and won’t be fundraising. I’m not forgetting them! We’re very proud of CVHS Robotics FRC Team 955, too!

If you’ve read enough and want to donate now, you can head over to Corvallis Public Schools Foundation to make a donation by credit card. Please designate your donation “Spartan Robotics Team 997” and remember that every little bit helps. If you need more info, please read the student-written letter I’ve included below.

Thank you for your support!


12 April 2014
Dear Corvallis High School Supporters and Business Owners,
We are Corvallis High School Spartan Robotics – FRC Team 997 and are reaching out to you for a donation to support our team in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) World Championship in St. Louis, Missouri that is occurring April 23-26, 2014.
FIRST is an organization founded by Dean Kamen to “inspire young people to be science and technology leaders by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership”. There are multiple competitions and leagues that make up the entirety of FIRST. FRC, considered the “varsity sport of the mind,” focuses on the design, test and building of robots for competitive play at competitions, but also prepares high school students essential skills for use later on in life. Through this program, students gain leadership, communication, social, fiscal, and cooperative skills as well as technical design – electrical, mechanical, programming, and design integration. For more information on FIRST and FRC, please check their website at http://www.usfirst.org.

We are one of four teams in Oregon that have qualified for the FIRST World Championship and are currently fundraising to provide our team with enough money to participate. It is a rare opportunity that will enrich and expand our understanding and involvement in STEM- related fields to pursue in the future (STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). During this competition, 400 FRC teams will gather to showcase their skills in engineering and innovation, and will be given the chance to talk to engineering companies such as Boeing and Autodesk.

With your donation to Team 997, you will be helping an aspiring group of students compete on a global scale and help out students that otherwise would not be able to go. Your donation would be tax deductible, and help us reach our goal. Thank you for taking time to read this letter, and we hope you will consider donating to the team.

You can provide donations in the following manner:
 Send a check to Corvallis High School with Spartan Robotics in the memo area.
 Go to the Corvallis Public School Foundation Donation Page (http://cpsfoundation.org/ways-to-give/) and donate using a credit card, specifying the program CHS

Spartan Robotics. The Schools Foundation is a registered 501(c) 3 with the IRS and State of Oregon. All donations are tax deductible.

Corvallis High School Spartan Robotics – FRC Team 997