hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bake Sales in a Small Town

Well, I suppose L.A. and New York City and Chicago also have bake sales, but I don't think I was ever involved in one.  The UCLA Hospital, to cite one institution I was closely involved with, never had bake sales.  By contrast, here in Pt. Roberts, it seems I'm regularly involved in bake sales.  Bake sales were a big feature of the first year's Community/Saturday Market.  And then they were not.

And that was because the state sent us news of its laws about how you can't sell food in public if you haven't registered with the state and gotten special certificates for yourself and your kitchen, paid for those certificates and ensured that there was no risk whatsoever of any sort to any one who might buy one of your cookies.  The kids' lemonade stand did not make a reappearance.  Nor the cooky table.  Then word came round that, well, you could sell baked goods if it was for a charitable cause, and a few baked goods reappeared at the market.  But the people who were making lemonade and selling cookies weren't doing it for charities, for the most part, and last year, there was, I think, only one Saturday market that involved selling something to eat.

And that was a considerable shame.  Throughout the state, however, people were getting mighty irritated by this imposition of standards by the state.  One might easily agree that there need to be some standards involved in selling food to the public as a primary occupation.  But cookies at a Saturday Market?  You might as well demand that you provide government-approved certification when you invite friends over for dinner.  After all, something could go bad in the best of all possible worlds, and the best of all possible worlds is not even the one we live in.

Then the state said, well, OK.  We get your objections.  So now they have produced a new standard for 'cottagers.'  It occupies a middle ground between people who are cooking for the public as an occupation and people who are doing a little cooking for the public on the occasion of something like Farmers Markets.  You still have to get a certificate, but it is less burdensome and you need to post warnings, blah, blah, blah.  And it's a big improvement and good for the State.  But it really works only for those who are making a reasonable income for part of the year.  Not for those who are selling lemonade in Point Roberts at a Saturday Market.  And that is because the certificate costs $230.  That's no good, when you've only 8 summer market days and you're making, if you're very lucky, maybe $100 or so on any one of them.  And you are not even there every one of those eight Saturdays.

So thanks, but no cigar for us here in the exclave.  We do still have the charitable bake sale exception, but I read the state regulations for bake sales the other day and was surprised to find they include such restrictions as these.

1.  Items that may not be sold: "Cream filled desserts, lemon meringue pie, home canned foods, whipped cream, cream cheese, pumpkin pie, cheesecakes, and custard desserts."
2.  You need tongs and bakery papers and everything has to be individually wrapped.
3.  And, the ever-popular:  "The consumer should be informed by a clearly visible placard at the sales or service location that the foods are prepared in a kitchen that is not inspected by a regulatory authority."  I, myself, an average consumer, I'd think, of a Saturday Market or any other kind of Bake Sale held in Pt. Roberts would have never thought otherwise, with or without a sign.  [For the complete regulations for bake sales, see here.]

But that's regulation for you; it's always going to irritate somebody. I do wish, though, that somebody would look to regulating guns with as much consideration and caution and real stringency as are applied by the solons and their minions when regulating the sale of chocolate chip cookies.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Today, 76

Today is my 76th birthday, 19 or so of them spent here in Point Roberts.  I wish I knew what I had learned over all these years.  Maybe I've learned too much to squash it down to a few sentences.  Maybe I've forgotten most of what I've learned.  Maybe I've gotten to the point where I suspect most of what I thought I knew is probably wrong.  I've been reading about the French Revolution recently, for example.  I think I thought generally it went well except for that little bad part called the Reign of Terror.  Apparently, there were actually a lot more bad parts and that they went on years before and years after said Reign.

Like those things.

I do know how grateful I am for old and faithful friends.  I spoke for an hour today with my oldest friend and although I have not seen her for several decades, and we don't always write frequently, talking to her now is just like talking to her in 1960 when we were both graduate students at UCLA.  I spoke or wrote with my children who are now and always have been the finest single part of my life.  I did a little quilting, which has sustained me as creative work for over 70 years after my mother and grandmother taught me to sew, embroider, and knit when I was  a small child.  I am sorry it wasn't a day for gardening which my father taught me to do: work for fun and for use.  I had lunch and dinner with Ed who is my truly constant companion in every sense of those two words. I cannot really imagine it would be possible to live with any other person every minute of the day with such a sense of fullness of a life shared.

A Point Roberts neighbor came by and we talked of his current doings and he reminisced about P.R. events long before we were here (he has lived her for about 50 years).  In Los Angeles, where I lived for many years, no neighbor ever came by just to chat.  That is why I am grateful to be back in a small town where you have and need to have neighbors you know: who will help you out, just as you help them out.  I opened a gift from an old friend and another from a new friend and yet another from my sister who is the finest gift giver in all the world.  We hardly need gifts at this point in our lives (or at least I do not: I'm trying to move things out, not in), and yet these carefully chosen gifts will stay with me for a long time (well, not the dried plums...those will be consumed) in the thoughtfulness of the givers.  Even if we don't need gifts, it is reassuring to have them now and then, reminding us over time that we are yet worthy of a gift.

And I bought myself an 80-LED rechargeable worklight in case the power goes off.  Worthy or not, when there is no light, there must be light.

My thanks to all who wrote, called, and wished me more birthdays.  I hope to have them and use them well.  There's 77 ahead, already beckoning me on.

Monday, January 21, 2013

What About the Ides of January?

It's a bleak time here in Point Roberts; or at least it is outdoors.  And maybe inside our heads, as well, those of us who are still here.  Lots of the permanent residents turn a little less permanent in the wintertime.  Our quilt group, e.g., is down from a dozen or so members to about six.  The market is apparently patronized almost exclusively by Canadians, who continue to pour over the border to participate in our under-$4-dollar a gallon gas.  No bargain for us, but a big one for them.

I went over to the local printers in Tsawassen today and found, as I went through to Canada, a very, very long line heading into the U.S.  It was the kind of line we used to see only in the summer.  But the strong Canadian dollar combined with expensive Canadian gas (much higher taxes than the U.S. has) leads to a year round crowd down Tyee and a short distance down Gulf (to the package/mailing places) and then back the other way.

Things still go on here other than Canadian shopping: Saturday night was 'Game Night' at the library.  The Church continues to have services every Sunday.  Someone is sponsoring a Valentine Making workshop to raise money for Africa causes (specifically, the slave trade in Sudan).  But it seems very slow when nothing is visibly growing.  And when the fog obscures the landscape.  And when the frost is on the ground.  Usually, the crocus bloom by Valentine's Day.  We'll see.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Volunteer Fundraising

I wouldn't want anyone to think that I just go to Fire District and Community Advisory Committee Meetings.  There are many other meetings to go to here in Point Roberts.  You can, if you're a pretty accomplished quilter, go to the Quilt Group meetings (if you aren't pretty accomplished or at least very ambitious, you may get discouraged about the gap between what you can do now and what you'd like to be able to do).  There's a book club.  There are other Districts that hold meetings and I've been urged to start attending the Water District meetings.

But you can't go to them all or you will become a crazy person because they all have some of the dysfunctionality that is endemic to small town activities, even as they are a good way to meet your neighbors and accomplish some good work, or at least some work.

I've probably come to the over-the-edge with the New Library Fundraising group which meets only once a month, but is threatening, at least for me, to become a non-stop meeting as long as I'm awake.  When I joined the group, about 18 months ago at its inception, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I'd never done any serious fundraising before, as long as I didn't count my door-to-door Girl Scout Cookie Days.  At the beginning, I imagined I would help to keep records or some such thing.  I've done some bookkeeping now and then; I worked as a professional writer for decades; I imagined that I had some skills other than actually asking people for money that would be useful.

And, as Little Red Riding Hood sings in "Into the Woods":  "I know things now, many valuable things, that I hadn't known before."  For example, if you are not willing to ask people for money, you're unlikely to get any money, no matter how noble your goal.

So, I've spent the last year, especially, learning how to ask people for money.  And it turns out that they will give you money, or at least many of them will, if you ask.  Sometimes you have to ask more than once.  Sometimes you even have to ask your family to help you out.  Your friends are often ready to help.  Sometimes you have to listen to people say, "NO" or "No, thank you," and you have to learn to smile and walk away.  You can't just treat the donors like ATM machines, so the asking has at least occasionally to have some kind of built-in variety, some thing for the donors to enjoy about the experience in addition to the idea that virtue is its own reward.

This year, we are starting off with a Fun Run/Walk at the Golf Course in February, and a Fiber Arts Festival in March that will include a quilt show and a giant raffle for four different quilts, and a romance writers workshop in late March.  And more.

I don't want to use this blog to write too much about the New Library Building Fundraising.  But it's an important thing that is happening on the Point.  In the past year, the members of this community have donated around $100,000.  We need five times that much, and this year the community will be working on that.  We really need a new library with enough space for the people who use it to spend some time in it.

If you haven't donated (or if you have) and have some charitable giving funds in your bank account, here's how to donate:

To donate, make your check payable to:
Whatcom County Library Foundation,
and add, on the memo line,  ‘Point Roberts Library Fund’

Drop your check off at the Point Roberts Library during its open hours,
or mail it to Friends of the P.R. Library, PO Box 970, Pt. Roberts, WA 98281.  All donations made by check are eligible for IRS charitable deduction status.

And I'll write you a personal thank-you letter.  Although, try to remember, too, that Virtue really is its own reward!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Fire Dept., Redux

Last night, Commissioner Meursing accused Commissioner Wilmot of "sneaking an American flag into the Firehall," and of "refusing to play ball," which is "what Commissioners do," when Commissioner Wilmot disagreed with him.  Almost all agenda items were tabled because of one of those disagreements.  Commissioner Riffle, attending via telephone for the second month in a row (this time pretty much in communication, as opposed to last month when the telephone line worked only off and on), made occasional comments.

The District's Insurance Rep was attending and got to witness what government in Point Roberts is at its worst.  One can only wonder what he said to his colleagues this morning.  The Public Comment period, at the end, was abruptly ended when Commissioner Meursing announced he was adjourning the meeting and Commissioner Wilmot noted that there were people who had requested to be heard.  It was adjourned.  A good time was not, as far as I could tell, had by anybody.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Flooded Me Out

Last night, I set out for the Community Advisory Committee meeting, but by the time I got 1/4 of the way down Gulf Road, the roiling waters became too much for me.  I had forgotten how much Gulf floods when we get a rain like yesterday.  There was a sign announcing the road was underwater; and there were great blinking police lights down where the library might have been.  I once drove through a flooded intersection in Los Angeles and was afterwards told what a bad idea that had been.

So, with much backing and turning in the dark, I gave up my meeting and headed home.  Though, with a brief stop at the market, where I was informed that Benson, too, was flooded.  So I headed back to my house in the middle via APA and South Beach, my evening yet intact.

I am informed from a contact who did get to the meeting that the main feature was an extended discussion as to whether it was permissible for the Chair to send round a piece of paper asking everyone in attendance to write his or her name on it.  Well, I'm not feeling too bad about missing it in that case..

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Here's What You Got

Meursing appeared at the Taxpayers Association meeting last night but barely uttered a word leaving virtually all responses to Fire Chief Carleton who, at one point when being questioned about a technology choice, defended his decision with "I'm the expert."  And George Bush was 'the decider,' and we all know how that worked out...

What is the mission of the fire district given its very generous new budget (half million a year)?  That was the central question of the evening.  Carleton's reply was this: "You give us money, we give you service."  He added that he is not the kind of guy who wants to have a lot of money in the bank.  He will spend it to keep us safe.  How will we know whether we are safer?  Well, we must be safer because he is and will be buying stuff that will make us safer.  That's what he is about.

The Fire District is currently running about a $400,000 surplus, with an additional $100,000 expected to be added to that pot in 2013.  The question was posed as to whether any amount of money would be enough to keep us safe and the implicit answer was no.

I'm usually pro-taxes.  Taxes are the price we pay for civilization, in my view.  Most of us have enough that we can afford to make sure that there is a reasonable social safety net.  But this kind of stuff will turn even me into a 'government gone amok' advocate, I'm afraid.

There was a lot of talk about how important it is to have emergency medical services available because 'they save lives.'  (About 70% of the Fire District's calls involve medical emergencies.)  There was no information offered as to how many lives had been saved in Point Roberts in the past year because of EMS services.  Or any data about how successful CPR generally is.  (It is not very successful, actually, despite all the publicity.  Look at the data.) There was no data provided at all.  They're the experts and they save lives.  So be grateful.

Mark Robbins, the head of the Taxpayers Association, concluded that the tax levy was appropriate because it brought P.R. up from lowest level to the middle level.  No information was offered as to why we should be in the middle.  Are we in the middle relative to population? To the number of housing units? To the size of the area being served? I doubt it.  But, perhaps the rule here is that everyone ought to be in the middle regardless.  Sort of like in Lake Wobegon where all the children are above average.  Now that I think of it, why shouldn't we be Number 1 in expenditures for our Fire District.  Don't we value our lives and properties enough to spend more than everyone else?

It was not an evening to inspire anyone who likes to believe that you can trust the people to govern themselves wisely.

Monday, January 7, 2013


Just a reminder of the Taxpayers' Association meeting tonite (7 pm, community center).  To paraphrase the wondrous Zero Mostel in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"...'Comedy, tomorrow; Meursing tonight!"

Friday, January 4, 2013

An Unusual Opportunity

This Monday evening at 7 p.m. at the Community Center, Fire District Commissioner Bill Meursing will be answering questions at the Taxpayers Association Meeting.  This is the first of a series of meetings in which the Taxpayers group invites the various Chairpersons of the various P.R. Districts to offer some description/explanation of what they are doing.

Several years ago, the Taxpayers group endorsed the Fire District's request for a large levy increase.  Today, there are a number of questions that everyone who has an interest in this community might want to ask about how that levy increase is being used.  Because Chairman Meursing of the Fire District has shown remarkable restraint in allowing residents, taxpayers, and voters to ask questions at Fire District meetings, we can appreciate Mr. Meursing's willingness to answer questions at this meeting.

Thus, if you want to ask those questions or if you want only to listen to the answers he offers to others' questions, be there.  Listen and learn.  This is what citizen government is about.