Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dirty Laundry

Which do you want first, the good news or the bad news? You may have heard the bad news already. Redding's dirty laundry was aired around the globe this week when USA Today ran a piece about the results of a Gallup Poll and accompanying Healthways report on the best (and worst) cities in the nation for its citizen's overall well-being. Redding didn't fare so well in the study of the State of American Well Being. The good news - which I admit, I'm reaching for - is that Redding didn't come in dead last. That unfortunate ranking goes to the merged cities of Huntington, West Virginia & Ashland, Kentucky (which spills over into Ohio). But our somewhat less than fair city came in at 187 out of 189, and that's pretty bad.

If you're wondering what factors were involved in coming up with Redding's lousy well-being rating, they took into account the following:
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Access to Services (Food, Housing, Healthcare)
  • Emotional Health
  • Physical Health
  • How Safe We Feel Walking At Night
When the poll was conducted, 500-thousand people were interviewed nationwide. Close to 500 of those were in Redding. I wasn't one of them, but if I'd been asked, I would've said that:

  • I adore my job, although I'm paid about half of what most of my friends think I should be making. I tell them that the perks make up for it. They pretty much believe me. But still think I should be paid more. That's why I love my friends!
  • If anyone thinks housing, food & healthcare is hard to find in Redding, they should try living in a village on an island in Alaska. I still recall the panic when the landlord raised the rent 50%, because with no other available houses on the island at the time, she could. And if you want a bottle of truffle oil, plan to mail order it and wait 6 weeks. With that said, I do have a lot of difficulty finding health specialists in Redding, but that's because I'm employed by an Oregon institution, and have Oregon insurance. It's my major complaint.
  • I'm a little crazy, doesn't bother me. 
  • I'm fat, hope it doesn't bother you. I know who's fault it is, and I'd be in this condition no matter where I lived. So Redding, it's not your fault.
  • Do I feel safe walking at night? Hell no. I don't even feel safe walking around during the day. 

The one really good point this survey has made is how unsafe we feel in our own neighborhoods. I don't even let my teenage daughter walk home from school alone. She's been approached by hoodlums trying to sell or buy drugs, gotten very uncomfortable when men riding bicycles intended for 6 year olds ride by, and then go around the block for a second pass. I've had my car broken into twice in the past 6 months, gone to work to find the Christmas lights (and the entire electrical unit) ripped off the tree in front of my office by someone probably hoping to cash in on the cooper wiring, come home after work to find the fountain in my front yard pushed over and broken into pieces, and personally (with the help of a few neighbors) removed squatters from a vacant home next door who were running what looked to be an enterprising drug & sex business out of the place for a short time. I should've called the police, you say? We did. The 911 dispatcher said they didn't have enough police on duty to bother showing up, so they purposefully left it in our hands. So the long and short of my personal feelings about my well-being in Redding is that there's a lot of great things about Redding, but I've noticed a drastic change in how I feel about my own safety in this city. I notice that I'm more on edge just going to the grocery store, because I know there's a good chance I'll be accosted by someone who wants to relieve me of some of my money. Even at work I have to deal with people who randomly walk in off the street, with the telltale hurky jerky motions of a meth addict, looking around the lobby in the search for something to steal, trying quickly to think of some excuse for why they're there. It's why I bring my dog to work.

OK, so back to the lousy results of the poll for a minute, and then I'll shut up and play the music.

The researchers who put the whole thing together say they're not intentionally trying to make us feel bad about having shitty lives, but rather trying to get our "city leaders thinking about how they can enhance well-being" in the community. It's a little ironic that the most recent newsworthy discussion our elected city leaders have had revolved around a councilman's proposal to allow city employees to carry loaded guns to work.  I also recall slapping my forehead a few months ago when another council member suggested coming up with some standards of polite conduct during council meetings, only to be shot down by other councilors who couldn't even have a polite discussion about the concept of having polite discussions. Because rudeness is, of course, the standard we should always be striving for. If we want to stay at the bottom of the list.

How did our city leaders respond to the news of this poll? Mayor Rick Bosetti sent a letter to the heads of Gallup & Healthways and invited them to come see Redding for themselves! Seriously, I'm not kidding. Even invited to pay for their lodging, and introduce them to the other 99,506 people that weren't interviewed in the poll. He told them about all the wonderful things our city has to offer that makes the quality of life here in Shasta County so wonderful, even if it means making a little less money (so the mayor knows about my paycheck?). I like his spunky attitude. Maybe if we make some good choices at the polling place later this year, we might find ourselves with a city council that can play well with others, and they can roll up their shirtsleeves and get to work helping us all fall in love with Redding again.

Anyway, it'll be interesting to see how, or if, the pollsters respond.

In the meantime, I have been thinking a lot about how to enhance my own well being. When I go to the supermarket, I've started trying to engage in polite conversation with some of the people that previously I was pretty sure were waiting for me to turn around for a moment in the produce aisle so they could steal my purse. So far, so good. I figure that if we're communicating, smiling, having a little conversation, that we can exist on the same level for a few minutes instead of sizing each other up.

The other thing I've been working on is a major backyard renovation project with my husband. He demolished the deck, and over the past month, with the help of my incredible sister and brother-in-law, we built a new one. Got the hot tub working again. Found a new fountain, and it's making beautiful gurgling sounds just a few feet away from where I currently sit. I got my herb & veggie garden going again. Basil, oregano, tomatoes, cucumber, and 4 different kinds of peppers. Replaced every single plant that died over the winter and added a few hundred dollars worth of lavender, pansies, lilies and an azalea bush. Pressure washed the bricks on my back porch. Painted the back door a deep cabernet. Got a new barbecue, filled up all my tiki torches, and cut down some branches that really needed to go.

I may not feel safe enough to walk around my neighborhood, but we've worked really hard to make our own backyard a beautiful sanctuary. And lemme tell ya, it's already improving my personal well being. It's like falling a love a little bit with Redding all over again, through my backyard.

I haven't forgotten about the music. I was actually working on today's playlist long before I started writing today's column. It may start off by airing some dirty laundry, but then I get out the hammer and start building a testament to all the hard work that went into creating the beautiful backyard sanctuary that makes me smile every time I look out my sliding glass door, right down to the tiki torches. I hope our city is ready for the hard work that it's gonna take to move Redding a few notches up that list.

Listen to today's streaming Backyard Playlist, or just click on the play arrow below.
Backyard by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark
  1. Dirty Laundry - Don Henley
  2. Dirty Laundry - Bitter:Sweet
  3. Adventures In Your Own Backyard - Patrick Watson
  4. If I Were A Carpenter - Sheryl Crow & Willie Nelson
  5. If I Had A Hammer - Nicky Thomas
  6. New Coat of Paint - Southside JOhnny & THe Jukes
  7. The First Garden - Stevie Wonder
  8. Big Backyard - Soulhat
  9. Flower - Moby
  10. Herbs In My Garden - Langfinger
  11. Back Porch - Sister Hazel
  12. Pretty Flowers In Your Backyard - Lead Belly
  13. Backyard Lovin' Man - Edwin Starr
  14. Back Porch - Dierks Bentley
  15. Flower - Eels
  16. Reel Around The Fountain - The Smiths
  17. Lavender Blue - The Fleetwoods
  18. 3 Coins In The Fountain - Frank Sinatra
  19. Tiki Torches At Twilight - David Lindley & El Rayo-X
  20. Struttin' With Some Barbecue - Louis Armstrong
  21. Backyard Lovin' - Donna & The Pool Cleaners