I’m going to grad school and I need your help! The winner is Portland State University, for a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning. Applications are due in January, and I am using the time to make the best and most amazing application ever. If this comes as a surprise to you, you’re not alone. Some strange events, coupled with crazy in depth planning sessions (complete with color coordination) with Jesse, have led to this decision. I’ve also been flirting with the idea for awhile, just kind of kept it to myself. If you’re still not convinced, or even if you are, please read the below statement of purpose and comment what you think! It’s for my application. Many heads are better than one, and maybe with all your help, I’ll be going back to school in no time.
I have always been obsessed with efficiency. Life was always to big, to bold, to beautiful to be wasted on anything less than the most effective means of living, learning, loving, and making a difference. My middle class, midwest childhood, was filled with stories of making a difference in the 1960’s and 70’s: chasing Robert Nixon down the street with a megaphone, the Equal Rights Amendment, and desks burning in the street to protest the Vietnam War. Service to your community was my family’s dogma, and efficiency was mine. I looked to role models in high school, single teachers, one men/women armies, lifting gang members off the street through art. Hundreds of kids elevated, no support except for one voice, one choice to persevere in a failing school system. I watched in awe and thought, so this is change.
I saw change again at Swarthmore College. Not through the massive protests that clogged our walkways, those shiny eyed teens, running around and chanting for environmental justice. I went along with them to Washington D.C., and painted a polar bear on a banner, a contribution which generated little save space in a trash can the next day. “What are we actually doing?” I asked face after face, getting few answers to satisfy me. I left and joined a local gardening group, co-writing grants and securing over $4000/year in funding to found our campus’s first composting program. There were five of us in the beginning, throwing in hours around the toughest academic challenge we had ever been through. Together, our first year, we handled 27,000 pounds of food and compostable eating utensils. The program continues to this day, over six years after I graduated. I remember looking at those windrows, outsides quiet and insides over 100 degrees, thinking, so this is change.
Graduating with my double major in Physics and English, I looked towards graduate school with disdain. Every program I looked at specialized my interests to the point of stagnation. Each island of academia was just that: apart, separate, with little time or encouragement for the great wide world beyond. Barack Hussein Obama was President, and social change was in the air. I joined the United States Coast Guard, and jumped into positions in the Leadership Diversity Advisory Council, as a Victim Advocate, Crisis Incident Stress Team Management member, and as my station’s only Diversity and Inclusion trainer. I watched Americans from all walks of life and backgrounds interact, communicate, learn, and develop as people. I watched each program, initiative, and training start discussions, and change the very way military members saw the world. I thought of all the people that join the armed services and then got out to join the greater community. I marveled at this unremarked upon social movement and thought, so this is change.
In the past three years, as an air crew member on both the C-130 Hercules and the C-27J Spartan, I have spent over 200 hours in the air above California. I’ve watched the suburbs crawl out into the dessert, apartment complexes rise, traffic start and stop, dams gush water into rice patties, or pour uncontrolled into the spillway during the floods in 2017. From the air, it is incredibly clear that our way of life, combined with our growing population, is unsustainable. The new suburban developments eat land and water like nothing else, huge block houses with green lawns literally next to California gold, dead summer grass. Smog in the air looks like a blanket over the Earth’s surface, curved at the edges, making everything below look distorted and dark. On the ground, I also see signs that the housing crisis in California is real and truly displacing families. Homeless clog our streets and move their trailers around constantly to avoid parking tickets. Posters are stapled on trees, smiling moon faces stating “The Rent is Over the Moon!”
I am 28 years old, and I have never owned a car. I bicycle everywhere, and have only recently purchased a motorcycle. I have chosen cities to get stationed in, based on countless hours of google mapping and looking at pictures and reviews of bike trails and public transportation. My boyfriend and I plan on building a tiny house, and the legal hoops both illuminate and stun. I love cities, I love communities, and I love people. I love how my local natural foods co-op has revitalized an entire diverse community of non English speaking immigrants to retired and wealthy white environmentalists. When people feel a sense of membership, of ownership, communities are bound together and those relationships become more important than separate bathrooms, square footage, or traffic. It was that sense of community, the motorcycle community, that made me pull over when I saw a motorcycle wrecked on the side of the road. It took me a minute to locate the rider. As I applied two tourniquets to his legs, and worked to stabilize his vitals with two garage mechanics and one nail salon technician, I wasn’t thinking anything that I should repeat here. However, AFTER THAT particular moment, and when I discovered that we with the arriving police officers had saved his life, I thought… so this is change. This is change in me.
As I make another big change in my life, my transition from active military to civilian, I want to instill that sense of community in others. I want to change the suburban dream of box houses where no one ever talks to their neighbor into co-housing projects, town homes, and condos. I want the smog layer gone by making public transportation a key in everyone’s life, and bicycle networks to rival Copenhagen. These are not just maters of comfort and beauty, but they are imperative for our very economic and environmental sustainability. A Master’s Degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Portland State is simply the most efficient, effective, and exciting way for me to be part of the change we need. To be part of the solution.
This Week in Updates: A flurry of action
My weekend was short, and guess who spent hours writing her statement of purpose instead of telling you all about the great vegan uses for cashews? This girl! Getting off duty Sunday morning, and having a flat tire on the way back, meant that all my researching and planning came at the cost of a little of my sanity. Still, I made some fantastic falafel with sourdough naan and cashew sour cream with a little dill. The photo even looks kind of nice! My experiments with refrigerator cashew cheesecake are also coming along nicely. It’s the small things in life sometimes, and there is nothing like eating a delicious from scratch dinner that you made yourself.
The Recipe: Sourdough Vegan Naan
Eeek! My first vegan sourdough recipe that actually worked! Half the flour in this recipe I even ground myself. I think there is something about adding just the smallest amount vital wheat gluten when using sourdough. Why? I have no idea. I need to research that for a sourdough specific post.
Sourdough breads are healthier and easier to digest than instant yeast breads, and this sourdough vegan naan is fluffy, delicious, and made even healthier by the addition of freshly ground flour.
- 1 cup sourdough starter
- 1 cup freshly ground whole wheat flour (or just whole wheat flour from the store if you don't have any wheat berries laying around)
- 1 tbs vital wheat gluten
- 1/2 cup vegan milk
- 1-1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tbs sugar
- Let the sourdough starter warm up for about an hour if you are getting it out of the fridge.
- Mix all ingredients together and knead for about 5 minutes.
- Resulting dough should be sticky, but not stick actively to your hands
- Let rise, covered with a damp towel, for 5-6 hours.
- After rising, divide dough into 6-8 equal pieces. Knead each piece, and let rise for 30 minutes, again, covered by a towel.
- Heat a nonstick skillet or griddle.
- Roll out each piece, and cook until light brown on each side.