Introversion and Extroversion

Phillips Farm

The “learning all about what a County Commissioner does” phase of the campaign is rapidly coming to a close. It is now time to sell myself as the better candidate for the job. In the next two months, there are campaign parties, forums, endless door knocking, and public events. Many, if not all, of these require me to speak to the crowd. I knew this would be part of the campaign, indeed part of the eventual job, when I signed up for this effort. Prior to emceeing Jim’s funeral, I had done very little public speaking. A guest lecture or two at the university, being part of a forum at church. All required at least an hour of preparation for a minute in front of the microphone. I have come to peace with it as part of the job, but I have to admit it is not my favorite part.

I really like people. When I see kindness, compassion, and love pass between my fellow human beings, I know that I am in the presence of the divine. I love to hear people’s stories, their joys and their sorrows. I love nothing more than being an “enzyme” that brings one person together with another that then forms a connection. That said, I am way more comfortable with people one on one, or in a small intimate gathering. I tend to shut up at the dinner table and let the conversation flow around me. Large groups are fun if there is dancing involved or a shared focus such as making it down a class IV rapid alive, or honoring the life of a well loved man. I am, according to every personality quiz I have taken, a solid introvert.

We all know solid extroverts. These are the folks that love to dominate the dinner table conversations. They are energized by a crowd and love to be the life of the party. They have a hard time staying within a time constraint during a lecture or public speaking engagement. Many flock to professions such as teaching, public relations, or politics. It is a natural fit. They can think and speak on the fly and are usually quick with a witty comeback or an argument if the discussion is a debate.

I also know that people are complex, and what may fit as a personality type one day, does not fit the next. Circumstances change us, and a life well lived is one of constant growth. Many of us need solid blocks of alone time to then venture back out to face the world. Being out in the world is required to feed our minds and souls with material to chew upon in our solo time. A musician needs quiet creative time to write, compose, and record. He also needs to tour and perform. Not just for the money, but also to feed his soul with ideas for the next set of songs. Perhaps entering the world of politics is a little like that.

I am a solid introvert entering a phase of the campaign that requires me to be an extrovert. There are simply not enough hours in the day to pour an hour into each minute of required public speaking. I will be banking on the hours of learning I have put in so far, my passion for the position, and the awareness, that though large, Latah County is an intimate gathering of people that all care about similar things. I can’t promise I will always have a witty comeback, nor do I love to engage in debate. But I will listen to you, and if you ask me a question, I will respond. I may disappear for a few days of woods work or to float a river, but I will re-energize, and I will be thinking of you.

 

Ch Ch Ch Changes

Sand Village

I just returned from vacation. Greg and I went to the OR coast with a friends, (the coast is WAY more fun when you have someone to build sand castles with) and upon returning home I headed further east for a wedding. Being close enough to spit, I couldn’t resist traveling a couple of hours further to spend a day on the water with my daughter. On the long drive home, on what would have been my 30th wedding anniversary with Jim, I hiked in and had a glorious solo half hour soak in Jerry Johnson Hot Springs. It was bittersweet, as grief filled memories always are. A longing for the past, that can never be again. And gratitude for who and where I am now.

Photo Credit: Marci Stephens

Photo Credit: Marci Stephens

In the course of less than ten years, I’ve lost my husband to brain cancer, my two children have been launched into independent adulthood, my dog died of old age, and I sold the home that we all lived in together as a family. I dated a bit, I met a man. We bought land, built a house, and got married. Yes, in that order. We now have a barn cat that adopted us, 9 chickens, and two horses. I am tapering down from a 35 year career as a physical therapist and I am running for Latah County Commissioner.

When I am out talking to folks at senior meals and standing on their doorsteps, I hear a lot about wanting all the advantages that economic growth will bring to the area. Better infrastructure, increased tax base for education, and new opportunities for employment. I also hear a longing to maintain our rural quality of life, our rich agriculture, and our public lands. Many families have lived here for generations, and there is nostalgia for their childhood memories. Change is bittersweet.

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My opponent in this race is of the same gender and political party as the fine gentleman who will be entering a well deserved retirement from the board of county commissioners. From reading his platform, he is running on “keeping the balance” of the current board, a “no change” ideal. In my last few months of sitting in on commissioner meetings, there is much to be said for “no change.” The current board gets along well, they respect and have the respect of all the county departments, and they genuinely seem to like each other. I certainly don’t want to change this aspect of the role. It is an ideal to strive for.

There is a saying that there is nothing in this life that is assured with the exception of death and taxes. I venture that we should add “change” to that list. Whether incremental or sudden, we all experience change in our lives, in our community, and in our world. I will make a great County Commissioner. I can do change. I’ve had a lot of practice in the last decade.

Dependent, Independent, and Interdependent

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I’m going to give away a little campaign strategy here. Unlike the door knocking that Greg did as a child for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, we do not walk through neighborhoods and cold knock on every door. We are given a selected list, with a minimal amount of data. Registered party, previous voting frequency (not actual voting records, that is still thankfully private), and any answers to previous canvassing efforts. This data is crunched so we know if the voter is a strong democrat, a leaning republican, independent, or there is absolutely no data at all. And, the kind folks that answer their doors can be any combination of the above, as well as being new folks that have just moved in. It is not an exact science. Especially out knocking in the smaller communities of the county, there are a large number of people that identify as independent. I really started thinking about this word, it’s opposite, and the combination or expansion of the two.

Dependent is a person who relies on another, especially a family member, for financial support. As an adjective it means requiring someone or something for financial, emotional, or other support. Unable to do without. I now know for a fact that I could not be running this campaign without support. People have been incredibly generous with their funds, but even more importantly with their time, their talents, and their energy.  When I am tired and running low, someone offers emotional support in the form of just showing up for an event, or door knocking in the heat of the day. My friends meet me in the pool or out on the trail. They caffeinate me in the mornings. They listen and offer their opinions and experiences as I learn policy and procedures. I need them. I am simply unable to do without.

Independent is free from outside control; not depending on another's authority, not influenced or affected by others; impartial. It means not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence, not connected with another or with each other; separate. Prior to this campaign (and in reality, still so), I always considered myself an independent voter and an independent person. I was raised by a strong matriarch to take care of myself, to earn my own living, to manage my own finances, and to never rely on a man to do that which I could do for myself. Old lessons die hard. Even after my dad’s explanation for the divorce “Your mom never needed me, and I need to be needed,” I never really bought into the idea of relying on someone else. As far as my political background, I researched candidates and issues and made the best decision I felt I could with the information I had. I consider myself an independent voter and an impartial listener.

Interdependent means (of two or more people or things) dependent on each other. Fast forward to the last eight years of my life. My husband is diagnosed with and dies from brain cancer. I have one child just off to college, and another still in high school. Jim needs daily radiation, in Couer d’Alene. I have a job where if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. Offers for rides to radiation and meals poured in. At first I resisted, then a wise friend told me, “Kathie, you have to let people do this, they need to be needed.” Dang, same lesson. Now, having years of being able to offer the same in return, I am starting to get it. Human beings are wired for connection and interdependence, it is in our DNA. The most difficult part of this campaign has been in trying to sell myself. I would much rather ask what I can do for you, what I can do for the people in this county. I depend on folks to tell me what they need. They will depend on me to listen to them, and do what I can to meet that need.

When we were on the river last week, my son, Jasper, offered to row the gear boat so I could play in a cataraft. After one longish day, we hit camp and he was parched. He had run out of water. I helped him untie the 6 gallon container from the front of the boat, and poured while he held his liter water bottle. Greg asked why he would have even asked me for help when he could have done it himself. I then realized, I raised my children to be interdependent. I truly believe it is the best way to be in this world.

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Collaboration and Competition

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I’ve just returned from a glorious four days on the Grande Ronde River. The water was low. The ranches and small communities along the tributaries are redirecting the flow for flood irrigation of pastures. It made for long lazy river days but we still managed to put in our miles prior to lunch, allowing for even longer afternoons hanging out in camp. My son, Jasper, came in from Colorado for the trip, and Greg, my husband was able to take some time off of work. Throw in two more extended families and we had a tight fourteen people that all got to know each other in the intimacy that only comes from being on the river together.

On the way home in the truck, Greg and Jasper got into a rather heated exchange. I don’t even remember what exactly they were discussing, but there was a bit of yelling and some almost tears. Jasper is 24 and has beliefs and strong opinions. He just finished his first year of teaching after five years in higher education and has been surrounded with like minded folks. Greg has had many of his beliefs thrown into a blender by divorce and moving across the country away from family and familiar. He has spent his life in the corporate world and loves nothing more than a good debate. Once they both calmed down, they both felt better...and it was me that found it hard to sleep that night. The next morning as I was driving Jasper to the airport, we talked about it. Not the topic, just the style of the communication surrounding it. Jasper stated, “I think, Mom, that certain people are just more wired for collaboration, and others for competition. It affects their world view and how they communicate with the people in it.”

As I was putting up all the berries that ripened during our absence, I thought more about these two words. Competition is striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others who are trying to do the same. Collaboration is the action of working with someone to produce or create something. I am not, by nature, a competitive person. I never liked making finals as a kid in diving, unless my friend Karen made it too. I did not engage in team sports until after college, and my women’s ultimate frisbee team was not tall or big enough to even score at the regional level. I’ve never had to work in a corporate environment nor had any competition when applying for jobs. I’ve spent my entire career as a member of many collaborative teams. I’ve felt the power of what can happen when, using limited resources, we can produce a plan for a child and create a better world for her. I love what happens in that team when we succeed, and I rely on those shoulders when we fail.

A campaign is a competition. I’m running for Latah County Commissioner and I will have an opponent in the general election in November. My entire focus for the next four months needs to be proving that I am superior to him and better qualified. I don’t know him well. I’ve seen him at the primary forum, and we are in the same parades. I haven’t seen him at many events or commissioner meetings, which makes me believe I have more time, energy, and passion for this campaign than he does. But, he could be just attending other events. There will be folks that vote for him out of loyalty, and I will have the same. It is a competition, and the citizens of Latah County get to choose who wins.

I spent a large amount of time in June listening to the department budget requests at the county. Then there was a week of funding requests from community organizations such as senior meals and veterans groups. Over this next few months, the commissioners will review all of those requests and make decisions about how and where our property taxes are spent. Along side of this, they are hearing appeals of tax appraisals and have ongoing confidential requests for indigent funds. They have hard decisions to make. Tax revenue is a finite resource. Not everyone will get everything they ask for. The commissioners have to be creative. The noxious weeds department may need a new vehicle, but perhaps one that is retired as no longer effective for the sheriff can be used. What impresses me is how well Latah County collaborates. The commissioners work as a team with the county departments and with its citizens to create a plan that keeps Latah County, all of its employees, and its citizens running safely and smoothly. I’m very excited about this job. I like creative problem solving as a team. I like to collaborate.

We played a lot of games during the afternoons in camp on the river. We tried to shoot rocks across the river with Greg’s yoga band...until it broke. We played paddle ball to see how high of a total volley we could get. We played bocce ball and volleyball. One evening, there was a poker game. That was a bit competitive, until one kid just wanted the game to be done, so she bet all of her chips on a losing hand. I could empathize. I found myself more attracted to the collaborative games, but I did enjoy winning one round of bocce with my son on my team. I’m looking forward to serving as the next Latah County Commissioner and being part of that collaborative team. I will also do my best to win the competition that is this campaign. See you at the parades!

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Conservative or Liberal

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This weekend, thinking Greg had killed one of our free ranging chickens for digging up yet another landscaping project, I sleuthed around in the dark corner of our coop. There I discovered our lost hen, patiently sitting on a couple of dozen eggs. Our production had been dropping for the last few weeks. That, combined with landscape mortality, made it a reasonable assumption that Greg had murdered one in a fit of fury.

 

I also went to a campaign party this weekend. Someone told me that the rumor on the street is that my opponent and I are on opposite ends of the political spectrum. They credited him with being very conservative, and me with being extremely liberal. I found this interesting, as I have always considered myself as being pretty conservative. So… I did what I always do in this situation. I looked up the definition of conservative and liberal in my handy dandy online dictionary, and tried to apply the words to my life.

 

Conservative means disposed to preserve existing conditions, or to restore traditional ones, or to limit change. It can also mean cautiously moderate or avoiding novelty and showiness. Having the tendency to preserve or conserve. I have always been fiscally conservative. I like having money in my savings account, I dislike debt of any kind, and live within a balanced budget. Policy wise, I want to preserve our safety net for our most vulnerable citizens, and make sure retirement funds are available for the folks that have paid into them for their entire working careers. I want to conserve our natural resources and make sure our public lands remain in public hands and are accessible to my children and their offspring, even if all I have right now is a grand pup. I am not showy, I don’t like short skirts, and if my jeans are tight, my shirt is long. Public speaking still creates some anxiety. I preserve everything not immediately eaten out of my garden, and am working with the NRCS program to restore our forestland to the healthy state it was in prior to being clear cut 50 years ago. That involved removing about 200 small trees in the last year..which have all been turned into firewood, peeled rails for fencing, and chips for the landscaping projects that the chickens love to dig in. “Limit change” is a tricky phrase. Death, taxes, and change seem to be the inevitables in this life, and trying to limit any of them seems a futile effort.

 

Liberal means favorable to progress or reform. It also means favoring or permitting freedom of action, especially with respect to matters of personal belief or expression. Politically; of or pertaining to representational forms of government rather than aristocracies and monarchies. Also, free from prejudice or bigotry; tolerant. Generous and giving freely is another synonym. I am liberal, too. Given that change is inevitable, I have to be open to ideas of progress and reform. It is because I have extra time, energy and passion to give freely at this time of my life that I am even running for office. I believe strongly in a representational form of government and have spent countless hours listening to the people of Latah County to make sure their voices are heard. I also support individual rights including respect for private property and basic human rights regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, religious belief, and economic status.

 

So, am I conservative or liberal? I guess the simple answer is “yes.” People, me included, are complicated and complex. As I have been telling folks when I knock on their doors, don’t just blindly give me your support. Google me, I am not hard to find out about. I did a lot of writing when Jim was sick, dying, and then as a grieving widow. I am all over the internet.

 

I destroyed the chicken’s nest as we really don’t want to expand our flock at this point. I cleaned out the coop and replaced the litter with freshly shaved pine bark from our trees. Smells great! I fed the eggs to the neighbor’s pigs as they did not smell so wonderful.  We agreed that free range chickens were a great idea, but not compatible with wanting to grow any kind of landscape. I can now set mouse traps since I don’t have to worry about maiming a chicken, and the hens love the extra protein. Our production is back up, and Greg built them a jungle gym in the run. Change in this case was all for the good.

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