The Simple (?) Life of a Pencil

It’s just a simple pencil . . .

Have you ever thought about how buying a simple pencil does for you? Obviously it is something you can use to write with, or perhaps do math or other things with. But is that the whole story?

Let’s think about how a pencil is made. OK, we know it has lead, wood, a metal ring that holds a rubber eraser. So what?

Let’s start with the lead. Galena, also called lead sulfite, comes from underground mines all over the world. The lead ore seams are blasted out of the ground and then brought to the surface for refining. How many people do you suppose are employed for this purpose, and then what about the means to refine it?

Lead ores are mined at a rate close to 5 million tons a year and the world market for refined lead stands at about US $15 billion. While lead has a high economic value, it is economical to produce. As with all metals, there are two main production routes: Primary production from mined lead ore is the original source of all lead, but secondary production, where it can be recovered from recycled products or from residues arising from the production process is of enormous importance. How many people do you suppose are employed for this purpose?

While it has a high economic value, lead is relatively economical to produce. As with all metals, there are two main production routes. Primary production from mined lead ore is of course the original source of all lead, but secondary production, where it is recovered from recycled products or from residues arising from the production process is of enormous importance.

Lead ores are mined at a rate close to 5 million tons a year and the world market for refined lead stands at about US $15 billion.

Secondary lead production now accounts for more than half of all lead produced throughout the world. More than 80% of lead in the U.S. comes from secondary production. And how many people do you suppose are employed by this process? Don’t forget the drivers of trucks and perhaps ships used to transport the lead.

So without giving away all the really cool facts involved in the production of a simple pencil, I am certain that if you find any of this interesting, you will do some research into the wood, the painting, the metal used for holding the eraser, and the eraser itself. That is an incredible number of people employed that YOU enable by buying a simple five or ten cent pencil!

There are so many things in this world that we all take for granted as being simple products, that we have no clue how many people we enable to be employed every time we buy a simple product. Think of how many products you believe are very simple things, and what must go into bringing them to you and how many people you help every time you buy one of those things. Thank you to the many people of this world.

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Of Tears and Smiles of Joy

angel blur branches cemetery
Photo courtesy freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Although I am normally of a cheerful spirit and am always trying to provide inspiration for others, today is a truly difficult day.

I have been working with physically/developmentally/emotionally challenged children and adults perhaps since the 1970’s when my younger brother came home from Vietnam, 100% disabled with a TBI, a spinal injury, and permanent PTSD.  It gave me the heart for this work and I have done it ever since.

It has been a good journey, and I am glad that sometimes in the face of tragedy, we are led to do things to help our communities and to help others who are going through challenges.

Yesterday morning very early, I got a call from one of my best friends who helped me to create and run our tiny, but successful nonprofit for some 15 years, providing exposure and professional development for physically challenged artists. Barbara Williamson is a paraplegic lady I met more than 15 years ago when she was looking for help to become a professional with her own business selling her fiber arts work.  It was natural that we came together to do the work we did with virtually no money for all these years.

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Barbara Williamson, “Buddha’s Garden,”

one of three pieces left because they are in an exhibit in another town

Barbara was shot point blank by a felon when she was in her mid 20’s; the bullet missing her heart by one inch, and leaving her permanently physically challenged.  She was approximately four months pregnant at the time, and miraculously, the baby was born early, but survived, so today she is a mother and grandmother.  All these years, Barbara has been a productive fiber artist, a writer, and she has contributed so many things for her community and for others in need.

The phone call was short; she, her caregiver, and her dog had to evacuate their town.  There was a huge fire coming up the mountain in the valley below her home.  As we tried to hear the news throughout the day yesterday and today, we heard that the hospital has been destroyed (all patients evacuated) two blocks from her home and the fire is blazing through the entire town.  My friend is presumably safe for they got out early, but all of her artwork and her sewing machine and everything else had to be left behind.  This is some 15+ years of art quilts that have been in many exhibits including international ones, and which we were preparing to sell on a website we were creating for her.

But they were more than just that.  They were the reason she has survived cancer, a burst artery, a stroke, and any number of other physical challenges through these many years.  There are tears in my eyes, but there is joy in my heart, for what is taken from us today will live on in our memories over the many years.  Perhaps I have impacted her life in a positive way, but she has brought so much more to mine.

 

 

Ravioli, Ravioli . . .

 

Baby Annie reading a book

This photo is a baby girl named Anne, and it is some 76 years old approximately. Oh how she loved to be read to aloud, or how she loved to “read” her own little books.  There were never enough books, and her favorite person to read to her was her Grandma.  She was still sitting on the floor next to her Grandma in her rocking chair.  And Grandma would tell little Anne stories to capture her memory and to make her days memorable.

I dedicate this story to my friend Jennie, who teaches preschoolers at a private school back East.  Her favorite way of teaching is reading aloud to the students, something they all love so much.  She combines it with so much creativity.  One day, she was asking the children if they wanted to have a new story, and instead of telling one child who was talking a lot, she told the children if they wanted a story to say “Ravioli, Ravioli.”  It changed the climate immediately and all the children began to say that.

I am so glad I grew up loving to read.  To this day, it is perhaps one of my most wonderful adventures in life.  I hope any of you who have children will take the time to read to them as much as possible.  Let them pick out books from the library.  And teach them to ask in funny ways such as “Ravioli, Ravioli!”

More of Who Will I Be Today

lady in funky clothes like Anne

I am not a fashion maven.  I do not care for new clothes.  New clothes are tabula raza; they have no life story, and for me, that is the most important thing I look for in life.  Everything has a story, and if it doesn’t I will make one, but how can you make a story from something that is brand new and has not lived anywhere except on a clothes rack.

I have always loved thrift stores, garage sales, and swap meets of all kinds. There is such a sense of adventure, and what I like especially is that when you go to these types of places, all racial, all political, religious or spiritual or cultural differences seem to disappear.  Everyone seems to blend into a wonderful mixture that looks like the clothes in this photo; there is a little of everything.  And people sit down at the tables to eat their preferred foods – sometimes things from their own cultures, and sometimes people are just plain adventuresome with what they eat.  But the key thing is that they all sit together at the tables, talking often in their native languages, and people doing their best to communicate with others who don’t speak the languages, everyone laughing at the antics of children, or pointing excitedly to a booth that might have extra good items.

And there we all are.  One could not paint a more beautiful and sacred photo I believe.  there is such a great feeling at the end of our time at these magical events.  People are quick to show you their “treasures,” be they the find of heirloom tomatoes, or perhaps a new variety of plant, or a huge watermelon that is going to bring a treat to a big family and friends.

I often use my background in archaeology/anthropology to do a study of a thrift store if I go into a new area, and I can tell so much about the people who live in the area by their “living” artifacts with the stories I mentioned.  I can tell if they are primarily seniors who live in the area, business people, or if they are a poor area or an ultra-wealthy one, and I can tell about the children too by the clothes, as well as the cultures represented.  And the books and other living artifacts are great clues too.  This is such a fun way to spend time discovering history’s mysteries!

I will never be “old” as long as I can find things to have fun with such as these things.  I will always be a hippy sort of person in the way I love to think of other people and our society as a whole.  The way I choose to dress is sort of a statement about all of that, and I am glad to be who I am because, as the photo says, I have never been this age before, and in one second, I will never be this age again.