Trusting My Own Touch

“…the ability to distinguish between self and others is extremely important. During the first period of life, new-born children develop an understanding of where their own body ends mainly through being touched by those who care for them. Problems with the self-concept, such as the ability to recognise one’s own actions, are common in several psychiatric disorders. Most people cannot tickle themselves, but some patients with schizophrenia can, suggesting that their brain interprets sensory perceptions from their own body differently.”
“We saw a very clear difference between being touched by someone else and self-touch. In the latter case, activity in several parts of the brain was reduced. We can see evidence that this difference arises as early as in the spinal cord, before the perceptions are processed in the brain”
“The researchers showed that the ability to experience simultaneous sensory perceptions was damped when the participants stroked their own arms. Maybe this phenomenon can explain why we, for example, rub our arm when we bump it against a table.”
Fascinating. What I get out of this is that our brains are less scared of our own touch. When it is not us, we’re immediately working harder to understand what is touching us. Is it a bug? A snake? A human touch? Is it safe? Is it welcome? WHAT IS IT.
It seems to me that familiarity with something, knowing what it is, gives a feeling of safety. I think that’s why we so often try to repeat the same experiences with the expectation of the same positive outcome.
I think it’s so beautiful that we can comfort ourselves with our own touch. It’s like one less thing in the world we need to figure out. Except for when our arm falls asleep on our chest in the night and we wake up like WHO’S ARM IS THAT.
I wonder how the brain looks when we are being touched by someone we know and love.
Looking at the study itself and not the article, it says: “It remains unclear how the brain differentiates self- and other-produced slow, light skin-to-skin touch—the kind of touch people use to stroke their loved ones.”
But it goes on to say that even though they don’t know what the brain looks like during this loving touch, behavioral studies suggest that both touch from others, especially the loving kind described above, and/or self-touch “contribute to establishing the bodily self.”
Establishing the bodily self. Amazing. It’s like touch reminds me I’m alive. That’s wild. Firstly, that I need a reminder, and secondly, that touch is a potent reminder. Loving touch from others feels this important to me as it’s happening, but I’ve never included my own touch as something powerful for myself.
I recently went to a meditation workshop about self-compassion that reminded the attendees that we have the option of soothing ourselves by the simplest actions- maybe resting our loving hand on our chest, our belly, or our arm. If a negative emotion comes up, we can be there for ourselves. It’s new and foreign to most of us, and most of us have to get past the obstacle of the fear of judgement. But it was nice to be reminded and to practice in a room of others being that accepting and loving with themselves too.
I think of the brain calmness that comes with self-touch as a natural reassurance, like “If it’s me touching me, I must be safe.”
But then… I think of a person who cuts themselves, or of a person who takes their own life. In those times, there is a lost trust of ourselves, and a false trust in our own touch. In some ways, suicidal people may perceive those last touches as their only form of comfort. Or in the case of cutters, those cuts are in some way a release of or a distraction from the mental pressure and pain being experienced.
Even when those feel like the only options, there are a slew of others. Ones that return us to trusting that we can exist in this world, ones that renew a true trust in our own touch. Often, we haven’t experienced these options enough, or at all, to believe in them or trust them at first. But they’re there.
As I do my own therapeutic work, I’m learning to have a better relationship with myself. And with that comes a trust in myself I never had. I feel like when self-trust is more thorough, addiction, depression, anxiety and harmful habits lessen. That has been my experience.
It’s nice to know my brain and spine already feel comforted by my own touch. I love the idea that before my brain registers who I am, my body intuitively already knows. Somewhere, my heart is starting to listen, to know me too, and to trust me.

Distinction of self-produced touch and social touch at cortical and spinal cord levels | Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

I’m Noticing

The rain is freaking me out. So is the cold in the rest of the country.

The special features of Children of Men in 2006 had a scientist who shared that as the planet gets warmer, the polar ice caps will melt and for some amount of time, we will get colder in response to things getting hotter. This stayed with me because, while I don’t like global warming, I do get distracted by the loveliness of warmth- but I am terrified of the cold. It was motivating to me.

When we first moved to LA, I was a farmer in Silverlake. I learned the patterns of weather in 2011 & 2012 because I was out in it and it affected our job. When the rainy season, winter, came in December and January, we couldn’t always work. We bought seeds and worked on finances over lunches indoors.

But over the last eight years, the rainy season has shifted. Last year, it seemed to rain more in February and then it rained a lot in March, which was noticeably different. The plants bloomed and blossomed bigger than they usually do because the combination of water and spring sun gave them more of a chance to thrive. But then they were too tender too close to the scorching summer and the edges of many plants burned and the extra growth died back.

I went home to Tucson for the holidays and it rained in December. The Tucson desert doesn’t rain in December. It has a monsoon season in the summer where it pours storms. But this was a heavy rain, smack in the middle of the wrong season.

The rain in Los Angeles this season is also different than I’ve ever seen. It’s colder and longer. I see on the yearly and monthly almanac that there are random years with more rain. But this feels so different to me.

People are excited for the Super Bloom. I was so happy to go to it in 2017 after the drought for so many years. But I feel like it may be a response, this year, to global warming. I don’t know how to feel about it yet. Some part of me wishes I could enjoy it. It seems like it will feel like cake may taste to a diabetic: sweet and daunting.

LA has so many transplant residents that it might be harder for people here to notice the yearly weather patterns. I feel like many humans tend to be in a car or on a phone or computer instead of outside on the ground developing a relationship with the cycle of life happening around them. Without that connection, it seems easy not to take action.

I keep trying to think of ways to start a big-small movement, where, while people are working on political protections for the environment, even more people can do small effective actions together. I understand that big actions are needed. But I think we each have so much power to make small change.

I think our society often looks for fast, complete success and can get impatient with, or not notice, small growth. So we don’t keep on going to let the small growth add up. But if we got excited to believe in our individual capability, and trusted that slow manageable change is very powerful, we could really make a difference!

And I believe the practice of loving ourselves leads to this type of trust and belief.

I dream of hashtags that we all can participate in-

  • #SundrySundays Have one day a week where we don’t use laundry dryers (dryers release a lot of unregulated pollution and use a lot of energy)
  • #WalkingWednesday Take public transportation for a day and don’t drive
  • #OneThirdPlantBased Eat one vegan meal a day (the pollution from raising animals for dairy and meat contributes more to global warming than cars and all transportation combined, and it’s methane from their farts which is 23 times more planet-warming than CO2 from cars)
  • #2HoursADay Spend at least 2 hours outside each day, to get away from the screens, in order to notice what is around us
  • #WhatIDo List each action you take to do your own part
  • #SmallSustainableCommitment Commit to one or two small green actions that can be sustained over a year, without judging the size, with pride for the action
  • #EarthCareIsSelfCare A daily action to be kind to the earth and in turn, to be kind to ourselves
  • #MentalHealthLeadsToRealWealth Take time and space in our lives to learn to love ourselves, through therapy, free group therapy or whatever fluffs our muffins, because when we come from true self-mattering, we value the nourishing world around us and believe we’re worth whatever effort it takes to care for ourselves

My true hope is for a movement to organically happen. (That sounds like a poop metaphor. Poop metaphors and animal farts… It’s the first time they’re not funny to me.) But if you are a teacher or a leader, or a person who hides from the world, or both or any type of person that would want to share these hashtags, or talk about getting together to spread an idea, or who is already part of an environmentally-healing movement that you’d like to share, please let me know.

Writing this out makes me realize what’s really resonating with me:

I’d love to hear the stories of other people who are noticing the weather and world around them. It would help me feel less alone, and safer, because when we all see the same problem, we’re more likely to act in ways that heal it.

What is your connection to the land, sky, wildlife and water around you and have you noticed those things changing?

#imnoticing  #myconnection


Taking My Own Hormone Advice

The Whole Ruth Taking My Own Hormone Advice
Photo by The Whole Ruth | icon: menstruation by Karolina B from the Noun Project

The links below are good summaries of how often we’re exposed to pesticides and how pesticides affect us as endocrine disruptors, which are hormone-disrupting chemicals. Endocrine disruptors can negatively impact any organs affected by hormones, causing imbalances in the thyroid, slow metabolism, sex-hormone related cancers like breast cancer and prostate cancer, infertility, birth defects, developmental disorders and sexual development problems.

Often the small amounts of endocrine-disrupters we’re exposed to add up in different places like our cleaning products, make-up, pesticides and plastic materials that have entered our food chain, etc. And those combinations plus our own levels of stress can accumulate and cause problems for us.

In aquatic animals, who absorb more quickly than humans, studies show when they’re exposed to endocrine disrupting chemicals, they have lower levels of serotonin and the males have increased feminization. Some male frogs in the pesticide-filled run-off water from farms have multiple sets of babies. I watched a special about it on PBS and was shocked. Years later, Amazon’s The New Yorker docu-series did a follow-up on the scientist who was on the PBS special and they shared how the chemical companies were trying to discredit him because he made them look bad. I was so grateful that PBS and later, The New Yorker, were using their platforms to share important truth.

If you’re having any hormone-related problems, or you’re interested in long-term self-care in this way, eating organic gives us a less exposure to these chemicals. Using natural cleaners around the house like baking soda and vinegar and getting rid of chemical cleaners can help too. And learning how to regularly detox our bodies helps to clean out the inevitable intake of endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

I’ve been learning about these things for years, but have had a hard time taking actions and committing to a consistently cleaner lifestyle. I think it’s hard to do without therapy. They may seem unrelated, but I emotionally eat, so whenever I’m overwhelmed, the clean diet goes out the window. I tend to only take care of myself when I get in enough pain. And I seem to be able to walk around in pain for a decade or so before I reach my level of “enough”.

Luckily, I’ve been doing a lot of therapy. And it’s helping so much. My relationship with myself, and with food, and with Shane, and with my family, and with life in general, has changed for the better.

Last year, four loved ones passed away. I gave myself permission to comfort-eat. And I’m glad I did. But a blessing in disguise has arrived from it… I gave myself a little health problem.

I had an easy lady-cycle until I was 21. Then I became a vegetarian and ate a lot of soy, dairy, sugar and wheat for 6 six years. Then a nutritionist let me know my body doesn’t want soy, dairy, sugar or wheat. When I eliminate those things for about a month and a half, my cycle is easy again.

But when I don’t, all hell breaks loose. It’s been over a decade of monthly problems, but I seem to have amnesia about it each month and continue my behavior.

Grieve-eating was important for me to do. And now it’s given me the gift of more physical pain. Which is actually what I needed to finally bring my hormonal problems into the light and work to heal them. I’m grateful for a medical problem I’ve developed and hope it’s enough inspiration to slowly change my self-care habits over the next six months.

I’m also grateful for my past medical problems that have led me down an unplanned path of learning that so many health problems can heal. The hope and power in that knowledge is spectacular to me, and the slowness at which it’s possible and the honesty with oneself that it requires, keeps me connected to a vulnerability and groundedness that I adore, but would otherwise naturally avoid.

I tend to focus on telling others what to do, on “helping” by giving unsolicited advice to people who often aren’t interested in it (thus the unsolicited part!), and on hyper-researching as a way to numb out and never focus on myself. So thanks for letting me start this as some sort of PSA. I think I’m basically writing it for the one person who is actually asking for this help and advice… me. Ha.

I repeatedly return to focusing on myself through out each day. It’s not a habit for me. Trying to save everyone else is my habit. A friend of mine has been using the phrase “closed feedback loop” a lot and I like it. My closed feedback loop of thought and action used to circle around from focusing on others back to focusing on others. Now, at least sometimes, it starts with them, but ends with me. So I’m glad I did it again. Any way that I can remember to include myself is great, even if it’s messy and flailing. I just want to be patient with my growth. Slow and steady seems to be the only effective thing. And there is no race at all. (Inhales, exhales… )

Sending love and light to us all as we walk this journey of life!


Monsanto’s Toxic Chemical Glyphosate Found In 100% Of California Wines Tested | Live Love Fruit

Endocrine Disruptor | Wikipedia

Reducing Pesticides Risk: A Half a Century of Progress | Environmental Protection Agency Alumni Association

Progress in Environmental Research by Irma C. Willis p.175


My Relationship with Cleaning

liked reading the Vice article ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’ is Inadvertently About Women’s Indivisible Labor and The Guardian comic within the article. They’re part of a conversation I hadn’t heard before and I think it’s an important one.

I have a mental catalog of where every object is in our house, just as this article discusses. It’s nice to hear that it takes energy to keep that catalog. It helps me to honor my reality, that sometimes I’m doing more than I give myself credit for.

I remember living with my sketch comedy group, a house of guys, after college and being so surprised that they couldn’t see the cobwebs and giant dust-bunnies in the stairwell. I remember, once, picking up the pubes off my roommate’s toilet while he, knowing I was cleaning his bathroom, leaned back on the sofa in the other room and sighed, saying loudly, “Ohhhhh, I’m sooooo boooorrrrred.” I remember family coming to visit and saying, “Ruth, this house is so dirty. Don’t you feel ashamed? You’re the only girl! Can’t you do something?” One roomie said, “I wish I could have a girlfriend so I wouldn’t have to clean.” Another’s sister let us know that his mother would teach her to clean, but follow him around picking up his socks. People would say things like, “Ruth, you’re Wendy, taking care of the Lost Boys!”

I knew to let these ideas hit an invisible wall in front of me and fall with a thud, abandoned on the ground.

But it still seemed so strange and confusing to me. I wasn’t Wendy. I wasn’t taking care of them. We weren’t on an island and they weren’t orphaned ageless animal-onesie-wearing children. (Well, we did all wear animal-onesies in sketches at some point. But…) We all worked. We all didn’t have kids. We all pursued the same comedy dream. Why did I need to be the live-in maid?

Cleaning was hours of work that the guys could spend writing at a diner. I opted to go with them.

But I also always wondered why, not only did people have this expectation of me, but why did I notice the dust, the dirt, the tiny spider-egg sacs on the table cloths, but the guys didn’t?

I was ignoring the dirtiness. They seemed, honestly, to not see it.

This article talks about how this is what we’re both taught. And, later in life, women don’t feel comfortable asking for it to change. Or they don’t know how to ask. I think both sexes unknowingly perpetuate the ideas by living within these roles and then teaching our kids to repeat the cycle.

It’s years later now and those guys and I are all still friends. I love them a lot.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that I spoke my truth during those years about 1% of the time. I wasn’t being honest about anything that bothered me or what I wanted.

I was terrified, to the bone, to be considered “a nag.” I unknowingly picked up the idea that women were hated by men, that they were a “ball and chain,” that men thought women were trying to seduce them and then make them have babies and pay for the babies’ college, that women were manipulative and vain and annoying, or even worse- that word again- nags.

I picked up that being liked was equivalent to being safe, like in a wolf-pack kind of sense. So I really wanted men, and everyone, to like me.

I picked up that men were what was valued by society. I also picked up that being sexual was very bad. So instead of choosing to have value by my side, I chose to be like a man as my way “in.” I wanted to prove I could be like them. But although they were valued, they seemed to be given an ultimatum. They receive value, in trade for their vulnerability. It’s not a fair or healthy trade. But I didn’t know. And my perception now is that they didn’t either. Because that’s what just seemed to come with the territory of being valued, I accepted the lack of vulnerability. So to never nag, or really, to never have wants or needs, to play it cool, to entertain with humor and prove my commitment, those became my goals, and I met them.

But I carried a loss of self, and part of that was the joy of home. I wanted to live somewhere clean, healthy, comfortable, and inviting. I hated that I wanted that. I thought it was “nesting” and “female” and I tried to swallow it down.

Now I see how much I was hurting myself in so many ways. But at the time, I didn’t know any other options. I like that this article says Marie Kondo’s show gives more options. I like that I’ve already learned more options too.

I finally have empathy and understanding for my roommates. They came from households where there were worlds of reasons for them to have the behaviors that they did. Same for me. We were all doing the best we could with what we knew. No one was trying to hurt anyone. We were all just walking responses to upbringings that were also not trying to hurt us. And then we tried to live together.

In the present day, things are different. Lots of growing. I think we’re closer to our true hearts. I don’t know my all of my old roomie’s new living habits, but I do know two of them…

Thank you to my partner for helping cook delicious meals and clean dishes consistently and do laundry, out of a love for your home and yourself. I’m grateful to live in a house where we don’t keep tabs on each other, where we can say, “Look, I did this chore!” and the other will say “Thank you,” where we have done enough therapy to mostly know how to ask for our wants and needs, to know gratitude doesn’t take away our worth, to feel safe and valued so we can be vulnerable, to mostly know when to trust the other person, to mostly accept them for them, and to mostly still speak up for ourselves too. And to understand that “mostly” is realistic and great.

I think it’s fun that we get to live with each other. I’m grateful for you, baby.

I’m also excited to watch this show. I wrote all of this and haven’t even watched the show yet.


‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’ is Inadvertently About Women’s Indivisible Labor

Prop 12 “Cage Free” = 1 to 1.5 Square Feet

The average chicken wingspan is 2-3 feet. There is a current California law that says egg-laying hens must be able to open their wings fully without touching an enclosure or another hen. 

California’s Prop 12 will take away space for these hens to move around, but it will also take away their cages.

I wanted to know which option was better, but in my research, I learned more than I expected: There is a second current California law that contradicts the first in many ways. Both are being used by farmers now.

How do we know how to vote on Prop 12 if we don’t know which law to compare it to, or if the second law will continue to stand?

Prop 12 is misleading in layers, like a confusing and un-delicious croissant. But I love croissants and even the the worst croissant is still a croissant, right? Well, it’s really up to each person’s tastebuds. I can see why anyone would want a croissant at anytime, but I seem to have lost my appetite.

Hiding the Definition of the Prop

Prop 12 says there will be a temporary time where hens are confined to 1 square foot of space, with that time ending in 2022 when hens become cage-free.

But Prop 12 uses a definition of cage-free that means 1 to 1.5 square feet of space.

And the definition is technically left out of the proposition. Instead, Prop 12 says in 2022, the hens will become cage-free based on The United Egg Producers 2017 Guideline’s definition. If the public doesn’t look up the guidelines, the definition is very rarely mentioned in the press and will most likely go unnoticed.

And while people who want a more-free-type-of-cage-free may not be aware of the content of the vote, the LA Times is telling the public that one-square foot is exactly what those people want:

“The new initiative sets the standard initially at 144 square inches per bird — one square foot — which is the level at which a hen is considered by activists to be cage free.”

Although it took me two days of researching to come across Prop 12’s cage free definition, it is in one obvious place: The CA Official Voter Information Guide. It’s in the fine print, but there nonetheless (see the little letter “c”):


Prop 2: The Original “Cage-Free” Prop from 10 Years Ago

The chicken-spacing law we use now came from Prop 2, the original “cage-free” prop proposed and approved ten years ago in 2008. The prop was marketed as cage-free but still included cages.

Proposition 2 didn’t write out exact spacial requirements, but says it’s illegal to confine “a covered animal in a manner that prevents the animal from lying down, standing up, fully extending the animal’s limbs, or turning around freely… ‘Fully extending his or her limbs’ means… fully spreading both wings without touching the side of an enclosure or other egg-laying hens.” Prop 12 would take away these requirements.

Since many of us aren’t measuring chickens regularly, I’d like to share a visual of what is being considered. I think the graphic below, although it is old and discusses Prop 2 instead of Prop 12, brings some visual clarity to the current discussion. The graphic is from The San Francisco Chronicle 2016 article “What is does cage-free mean, exactly?” about Proposition 2.

The part of the graphic that estimates 1.5 square feet as the Prop 2 requirement is incorrect. Prop 2 requires enough space for an egg-laying hen to open their wings without touching an enclosure or another egg-laying hen, which is larger than 1.5 square feet.

Please note that organic egg-laying hens get 3 total square feet: 1 inside, and 2 outside on soil.


SF Chronicle 2016 egg-laying hen info from Humane Society

Prop Writers Working with Former Prop Opposers

Prop 12 is written by the Humane Society who wrote Prop 2 in 2008. (Prop 12 is simply edit suggestions for Prop 2.) But the Humane Society misled the public by marketing Prop 2 as cage-free, when they knew it didn’t have wording in it that addressed cages (because they wrote it).

The Humane Society co-wrote this new 2018 prop with The United Egg Producers, but the United Egg Producers opposed The Humane Society’s original “cage-free” prop in 2008.

The UEP is “a cooperative that represents members with 95% of the egg-laying hens in the United States” according to The Gianni Foundation of Agricultural Economics at the University of California.

It is the UEP’s definition of cage-free that Prop 12 is using. Using the guidelines for cage-free from a group that opposed the original cage-free bill feels wrong to me.

New Prop vs. What We Have Now

  • When Prop 12 says “hen,” it refers to a duck, goose, chicken, turkey or guinea fowl, which are all different sizes and have different spatial relationships given the same amount of space: 1 square foot. For example, an average chicken hen has a 2-3 foot wingspan, but a smaller turkey’s average wingspan is about 4.9 square feet. Neither of them could open their wings in one square foot of space, but the turkey would be even more cramped. On the contrary, Prop 2 says they would all be able to open their wings and turn around.

5 hen types CA 2

  • Prop 12 will undo the ability for hens to spread their wings and fully turn around, laws that Prop 2 established. After Prop 2 passed, egg producers sued saying Prop 2 was “unconstitutionally vague” because it decided spatial requirements based on a hen’s wingspan and ability to turn around. But the Superior Court of California and the Federal District court said Prop 2 is not vague, is measurable, and enforceable, and just because plaintiffs didn’t like it didn’t mean it was unconstitutional. I’m paraphrasing, but the judge really was that sassy about it. The court also said:

 “All Proposition 2 requires is that each chicken be able to extend its limbs fully and turn around freely… Because hens have a wing span and a turning radius that can be observed and measured, a person of reasonable intelligence can determine the dimensions of an appropriate confinement that will comply with Proposition 2.”

  • Prop 12 adds temporary times where the hens can be cruelly confined (no more than 24 hours in a month). Prop 2 doesn’t have temporary times.


  • Prop 12 names someone who would enforce the prop, unlike Prop 2, which named no one. But the two new groups enforcing Prop 12, The Department of Food and Agriculture and the State Department of Public Health, wouldn’t announce their rules of how to implement Prop 12 until September 1, 2019. So we’re voting to agree on rules that don’t exist yet.noun_Question_759832
  • Prop 12 would give the hens scratch areas, perches, nest boxes, and dust bathing areas. These are vital to the bird’s health, not extra amenities. But Prop 12 doesn’t specify how many of these items will be added per amount of birds, or at all. The dominant birds get protective of these areas and if there aren’t enough areas added, it can cause fighting, anxiety, and attacks which sometimes lead to death. I think it’s important for us to know what we’re agreeing to… How many areas are being added? Some chicken farms in California have thousands of hens. How many perches for the whole farm?noun_Bird_548198
  • With Prop 12, if a buyer says they knew a seller tried to sell them products from animals that were cruelly confined, that seller can defend themselves with a good faith certificate from their supplier that says the products weren’t cruelly confined. This doesn’t sound very ethical to me.


The Humane Society | Letter from a Famous Farmer

I wrote to a famous farmer, at least famous to me, who humanely raises animals for meat. I trust this farmer and value their opinion so even though they live out of state and they won’t be voting on Prop 12, I asked their opinion about the proposition and its advocates. This farmer has never met me, we’ve never communicated, there’s no financial gain for them, and barely anyone will read be reading this blog, so I figured they wouldn’t write me back. But they did. They said I can share their response.

Their response was that the HSUS (the Humane Society of the United States) has been in the pocket of big agriculture from the start, that way HSUS gets a seat at the table. It didn’t surprise this person that a slight of hand is occurring over this issue. They said to look at who is in favor of the Prop: the HSUS, who they know to be fraudulent, and Big Egg (the United Egg Producers), who are trying to protect their turf.

The farmer’s philosophy is that we don’t need laws to protect animals, we just need people to think about their food source as much as they think about entertainment. Then the demand for humanely-raised food would naturally happen, and the other types of food wouldn’t be produced anymore.

I agree with this most of this idea, especially the part about thinking more about our food sources. But we’ll come to a crossroads when trying to vote with our wallets if the labels we go by are misleading us to think animal welfare is happening when it isn’t. It made me wonder what the definition of cage-free means on the current boxes of eggs in the store.

But the main point now is that it was beyond good to hear from this farmer. It let me be more open to the idea that the Humane Society of the United States might not be an angelic as I had assumed.

A Misconception About the Humane Society

Many people think the Humane Society is affiliated with the Humane Societies in their town, like an umbrella organization for local chapters. I learned from researching that the Humane Society of the United States isn’t affiliated with local humane societies. On the HSUS website it says clearly, “Local humane societies and SPCAs are independent entities and are not run by the HSUS or any other national entity.”

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) does work with local chapters on training, evaluations, publications and other professional services.

But it does stand out to me that they seem to give the public the impression that they are affiliated with local chapters. Again, it seems misleading, which is a pattern of behavior at this point to me.

The Humane Society’s goals are more about preventative animal protection through legislature. That sounds good, but it may mean that they end up being focusing on fundraising for lobbying, which can be so important, but can also sometimes lead people down the distracting path of greed.

Who Doesn’t Like the Humane Society? 

This one is a hard one for me. I think it’s hard for humans to discover that things that make us feel safe aren’t always what we think they are. Endorsers trust the Humane Society to protect animals. Opponents say that the Humane Society is scandal-ridden.

I’ve learned that Big Meat sure doesn’t like HSUS. And I learned that Big Meat exists. I guess I had thought about it with dairy, but that’s all. Anyway, it’s easiest to learn negative information about HSUS through meat lobbyists.

But PETA is opposing this HSUS Prop too. And I learned that it’s naive of me to think that PETA and HSUS would be on the same side of every issue. I’m learning that no one is ever on the same side of every issue.

I found a No Kill Shelter advocate who is doing a very honest and informed job of exposing the truth about HSUS’s behavior in regards to no-kill shelters. Nathan Winograd and his wife have written the All American Vegan cookbook and run the No Kill Shelter Advocacy.

In a blog about a Minnesota vote that was upcoming, that would grant animals the protections he describes, he speaks soberly and with great experience on his website

“Publicly, HSUS has stated that it is against the gas chamber, against heart sticking , for rescue rights, believes in transparency, supports bifurcated holding periods, and that all animals should be held for a period of time… Of course, those public statements are designed for just that: public consumption. And public consumption means donation dollars…

But when it comes to its private actions, when it comes to meetings behind closed doors with legislators where taking a stand has a life and death difference, HSUS sides with those who want to continue killing with impunity. And if they get their way… that is exactly what will continue to happen: animals will continue… to be killed when there are empty cages and despite rescue groups willing to save them. And they will continue to be marched from the front counter where they are surrendered straight to the kill room…”

He shares that HSUS has stopped bills like this one multiple times. And he shares his experience where a HSUS employee told him the non-profit was going to start voting for no-kill shelters, but lied:

“Despite the fact that HSUS had worked to kill similar bills in Texas, New York, Florida, and elsewhere, I was more optimistic about shelter reform legislation succeeding in Minnesota because two HSUS representatives—a Board member and Jennifer Fearing, the person in charge of sheltering policies for HSUS—personally assured me at a meeting in San Francisco just over a month ago that the days of HSUS claiming “neutrality” …but then working to kill shelter reform legislation were over. They shook my hand, looked me square in the eye, and promised it would come to an end, only to violate that promise a few weeks later at the first opportunity…”

Later while reading about Prop 2, I was surprised to see that Jennifer Fearing was the campaign manager on the “Yes on Prop 2” campaign.

There is a great interview with her in the Capitol Weekly from 2008. She seems like she loves animals, especially her sweet dog. But the language in the interview brings up that the HSUS advertised Prop 2 as cage-free, even thought the prop was written by HSUS and included still included cages.

After more than a year of studying the ag industry, particularly in California, I still feel comfortable relying mostly on a report that was done by a California-based poultry economist for the industry that concluded that the difference in pricing for hens raised in cage-free environments versus in the confining cages this initiative seeks to phase out is less than an additional penny per egg. 

This is important to me because the HSUS deceived the well-meaning public with a proposition last time, which adds to their level of untrustworthiness. She goes on to say:

The only opponents were really facing on this [Prop 2] are the egg industry.

That was in 2008. Today Prop 12 is written by HSUS and their opponents, the egg industry, but the proposition is being advertising as only written by the HSUS.

“Cage-free” Again

The common misconception of “cage-free” is a beautiful idea of hens walking freely on grass, but it is different than the actual definition we’re voting on, which is: 1 to 1.5 square feet of concrete space in a building with no enclosures where hens can’t open their wings or turn around freely.

Like the misleading that happened with Prop 2, Prop 12 is giving the public the impression that the prop offers more than it does. The grassy-chicken-freedom many of us are imagining as “cage-free” is fueled by the ads and even the logo for the Yes on 12 campaign:


Here’s a deeper layer of misleading that is currently happening, which confuses me the most | CCR 1350

I was feeling like Prop 2 was the better option, but then I learned that it may not be being enforced, and not just because no one was appointed to enforce it.

In 2013, five years after Prop 2 passed with 63% of the public’s vote, the California government created California Code Regulation 1350, which covers the same subject as Prop 2, and is contradictory to it.

CCR 1350 defines spatial requirements based on amounts of space instead of animal behavior. It allows 8 hens to be in one cage and receive 116 square inches each, which is less than a square foot, which means they can’t open their wings, which means it contradicted Prop 2, even though Prop 2 had already been approved.

But CCR 1350 also has 8 options of spatial amounts. 1/8th of those options may comply with Prop 2, depending on the size of the hen. But the other 7/8ths do not comply with Prop 2. (The full CCR 1350 and graph is below in the extra reading section)

Prop 2 and CCR 1350 went into effect on the same day, January 1, 2015.

Both laws are being used at the same time even though they are contradictory. (One says they have to have space to spread their wings, the other doesn’t leave them space to spread their wings, except in one of its eight options.)

Is the government allowed to write a law that contradicts a law that the people voted in?

This simultaneous-laws-concept seems to be left unchecked because people who voted for Prop 2 haven’t heard about it. Also, maybe because they wouldn’t know what to do about it if they did.

Also, because the California Department of Food and Agriculture, in charge of CCR 1350, says that 1350 isn’t contradictory to Prop 2, but that they can’t really check because they’re not in charge of enforcing Prop 2.

But no one is currently in charge of enforcing Prop 2.

And, ironically, these are the very people who will be in charge of enforcing Prop 12 if Prop 12 passes.

It is disheartening to me that the California Department of Food and Agriculture who wrote the second law (CCR 1350) which undermined the one on which the public voted (Prop 2) would potentially regulate the new law (Prop 12). It is also disheartening that there are two separate conflicting laws that egg farmers can use right now. Instead of the public being shown that the prop we voted to pass can be ignored, we are being offered a new prop.

But since Prop 2 and CCR 1350 already co-exist, isn’t it possible that Prop 12 could also co-exist with CCR 1350? It seems possible. If you know the answer, will you share it with me?

It’s also disturbing to me that the Voter Ballot Guide doesn’t mention these CCR 1350 regulations. Here is a list of voter guide sites that discuss Prop 12, but do not mention these CCR 1350 regulations:

  • Easy Voter Guide, which is a collaboration by the League of Women Voters Education Fund and the California State Library
  • Democratic Socialists of America LA’s voter guide
  • CA GOP voter guide
  • Fox News’ A Guide to the Propositions on the Nov. 6 Ballot in California
  • LAWebsite.Net made by LA Podcast
  • League of Women Voters Presents Pros and Cons 2018 State Propositions Video
  • Knock L.A. Progressive Voters Guide

Many of those voter guides have been so incredibly helpful to me in other ways, but the only voter guide where I saw CCR 1350 mentioned was I also saw it in the San Francisco Chronicle, but not the LA Times.

What I’d Like 

I’d like to keep Prop 2’s freedom for the hen to move around, vote to eliminate CCR 1350, keep the part of Prop 12 that takes away cages, add a specific ratio of nesting boxes, dust-bathing areas, scratch areas and perches per amount of hens, add an enforcing agency to Prop 2, and vote on the rules of implementation.

The Present Vote | Comparing Prop 2, Prop 12 & CCR 1350

If I compare Prop 12 to Prop 2, I don’t think Prop 12 is as good. I really like moving around. If I were a hen, I could still get a little jail workout with Prop 2. I might be in a pen with some assholes that aggressively won’t let me work out. But Prop 12 still would feel worse to me because I’d be even more claustrophobic, potentially with the same assholes.

If I compare Prop 12 to CCR 1350, I would still get more space with Prop 2, because it in itself is the rule that I’m guaranteed to have enough space to spread my wings. Everything else isn’t that guarantee.

But the problem is that I don’t think egg producers aren’t abiding by either law right now. The CDFA is supposedly enforcing CCR 1350, and the courts said that any law enforcement is capable of and allowed to enforce Prop 2, but in the almost 4 years that Prop 2 has been in effect, it’s only been enforced once.


Last couple of layers | Controlling Out-of-State Farmers

There are other parts of Prop 12 that are also weird, like telling out-of-state egg farmers they can’t sell in California unless they use our rules. That is weird to me because it seems to be illegal to tell other states what they can do. But also because Gov. Schwarzenegger already signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1437 into law in 2010 and it tells out-of-state egg farmers they have to abide by Prop 2.

Prop 12 is literally just edits to Prop 2. So why pretend we’re adding this new idea about out-of-state, when it already exists? What’s the difference between having it as a separate law with Prop 2 or as part of Prop 12?

One might think the reason is so that if people fight the validity of the out-of-state part of Prop 12 after it is in effect, and it turns out not to be valid, that the whole prop would become invalid. But it says right in Prop 12 that if any part of it isn’t constitutional, they’ll cut that part out and the rest will stand. Also, maybe no one but me was thinking that except me. But I’m happy I checked.

Six states are currently suing to fight the validity of Assembly Bill (AB) 1437. The out-of-state part of Prop 12 and AB 1437 seem like a waste of time, money and mental/ emotional/ spiritual resources to me.

I’d like us to focus on what we do have the legal ability to change for the better.

What that is is unclear to me.

What To Do

I really can’t tell which is better, to vote yes or no, only because the whole thing has been so surprising that I wouldn’t be surprised that I’m missing something. I feel like people who are going to the chicken farms and can see what the farmers are actually doing (vs. what they’re supposed to be doing on paper) would know the best next step. If you’d like a trustworthy source on why to vote yes, I enjoyed this blog: Yes on Proposition 12.

This seems like a Lesser of Two Evils situation. It seems people will vote based on their philosophies about that philosophy. One may try to vote for the less of the two evils. Another may think the opposite evil is less. One may be really confused about how to tell which is less in the first place.

But my current philosophy about this philosophy uses the metaphor of relationships. If I’m in a bad relationship, it is unhealthy for me to think, “This is as good as it gets.” If I think, “I haven’t dated, I don’t know if there are better options,” I may never leave to see if there are better options. And staying gives my brain and heart practice with the lesson that trying to live a full life is off-limits. It’s not a healthy muscle to strengthen because then I end up applying it to other situations.

I’m learning to matter. Part of that lesson is learning that when someone gives me two choices, there are probably more options, I just have to give myself permission to ask for them, or to say no to the two choices and trust that in the unknown future, a better option is waiting.

The other part of that lesson is noticing when someone is trustworthy. And knowing that their trustworthiness can change. It’s pliable, so I have to stay mindful and aware. I used to be someone who wanted to have a switch flip and know everything will be okay. But now I see that I need to continuously be mindful about my relationships to keep myself safe and connected. I used to think that was exhausting. Now I see that being mindful is like eating: it’s normal to have to keep doing it.

In this metaphor, I’d be deciding whether to continue a marriage with Prop 2 or get divorced and start dating Prop 12, but find out CCR 1350 got a marriage license with me- even though we’d never met. Whether I stay or go, I’ve got to do something about this weirdo who keeps telling people we’re together when we’re not. Or in non-metaphor words:

Whether I vote no or yes on this prop, the California government has shown they are untrustworthy by undermining the result of the people’s vote. Other laws are upheld with seriousness. The 63% of the people who voted Prop 2 into law didn’t just have their law ignored, they had it defied. As far as I understand, this can happen again. My main take-away from all of this is that I want to continue to pay attention past the vote.

That’s Great, But Seriously, What Do I Do?

To conclude, my opinion is that I support everyone in going with their gut. And the most important part is finding out if the government will uphold the vote afterwards.

If you’re like, f-this, I think there should be no cages no matter what, I totally get it. If you’re like, no way in hell, they need more space, I totally get it. If you’re like this is a shitshow, I still don’t know, AAAAA! I totally get it. Even if you’re like, I don’t care, emotionally, I understand how people can come to that conclusion.

This all seems like a giant distraction with no real change occurring within the government.

Where the change is clearly growing and being nourished is within the public’s level of caring and education. Good on us! That’s hard to do with all of the other parts of life swirling around.

I’m grateful to have learned a lot about the history and present regarding the welfare of the egg-laying hens in California.

This is a living document, meaning, I was passionate about sharing what I’m learning, but will keep adding to it once it’s published because it’s too much information and I’ll never share it otherwise.

If you’d like to read more details about how I got this information, there are more resources, stories, and more of an in-depth background in a longer version below…

I wish you self-care, love, gentleness and nourishment. May we all trust that doing the simplest acts of kindness towards ourselves, like receiving a long-slow breath, can add up to a life we feel grateful to live. Politics isn’t the only answer. The little positive things really can add up.


The extra sections below are for folks who would like more details.

  • Federal District & Superior Courts Decide Prop 2 is Clear
  • Measuring the Birds
  • Two Current Law Options: Prop 2 and/ or CCR 1350
  • Current Law #3


The argument against Prop 2 is that because it doesn’t specify exact amounts of space, it’s too vague and therefore too difficult to enact.

In 2012, egg producers went to the courts to prove that Prop 2 is unconstitutionally vague by filing the lawsuit Cramer v. Harris et al in the Federal District Court for Central District of California. On February 4, 2015 Prop 2’s constitutionality was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In regards to Prop 2’s level of enforceability, the court said:

“Proposition 2 establishes a clear test that any law enforcement officer can apply, and that test does not require the investigative acumen of Columbo to determine if an egg farmer is in violation of the statute.”

The court also said that just because the egg producers don’t like Prop 2 doesn’t mean it’s not constitutional:

“The mere fact that Plaintiff dislikes or disagrees with the policy or language of Proposition 2 is not sufficient to sustain a Constitutional challenge.”

That same year, 2012, another group of egg farmers filed the lawsuit ACEF v. California et al in the Superior Court of California, County of Fresno, also claiming that under the California Constitution, Prop 2 is unconstitutionally vague. But in 2013, the Superior Court dismissed the case, but granted leave to amend. Their response was:

“The fact that the statute defines confinement limitations in terms of animal behaviors rather than in square inches or other precise measurements does not render the statute facially vague.”

The courts were saying Prop 2 is possible. Measure the birds.


There are five species covered in the Prop, and each of those species has hundreds of types.

I spoke with a family farmer at the Hollywood Farmers Market who sells humanely-raised meat, and raises chickens for eggs, but only uses the eggs for her family. She taught me that most commercial egg farmers use one kind of hen to maintain uniformity. They often use White Leg Horn chickens for white eggs, and the larger Rhode Island Red chickens for brown egg production.

Wikipedia chicken types
A few of the many types of chickens

I thought it seemed possible for the farmers, who know what breed they’re using, to evaluate the breed’s wingspan and make space accordingly. But I still wondered if maybe it really was as hard as farmers were saying to find out how to measure the birds.

My family farmer friend said that smaller farms tend to have multiple breeds together free to roam on grass and they have so many less chickens that it would be easy for them to get the breed measurements. She let me know about the websites where she buys her chicks. This little detail made me realize it would be insane for someone to be in the business of egg farming and not know basic information about their product.

It also seemed that going by the size of the different hens would be in the best interest of the hens. I am a human, and so is my friend John, but he is more than a foot taller than me. So with this in mind, going by the wingspan leaves room for different breeds to have space, but also for different sizes of the same breed to have space, for the Johns of the chicken world to have equal wingspan treatment as the Ruths.

I think we live in a society that is used to a one-size fits all mentality. Diet books are for everyone, even though our immune systems, environment, stress-levels, hormones, and genetics are all different. When it comes to care for living things, a one-size-fits-all rule isn’t often realistic or effective. It disrupts the “care” part.

In the case of a Prop 2, I could seeing a chart working though, if they wrote out a slightly above average amount of space for each of the species and each of those breeds.

What I hadn’t thought of was that this animal-behavior based idea could also fit into a chart using math. Joy A. Mench and Richard A. Blatchford, both at the Department of Animal Science and Center for Animal Welfare, University of California, Davis, authored a paper published in Oxford Academic’s Poultry Science in April of 2014, eight months before Prop 2 went into law.

In “Determination of space use by laying hens using kinematic analysis,” the authors share the math formulas for determining the space for a hen to stand, lie down, turn 180 degrees, their wing span, wing flap, and wing flap with a little more give.

I don’t understand math well enough to understand what it is saying. But I’ll share it here anyway. And there is much more info at the link above.

Table 2.

The floor area [cm2 (in2)] used by hens when performing particular behaviors, as well as the height [cm (in)], wingspan [cm (in)], and wing flap floor area [cm2 (in2)] with 2.54 cm (1 in) added to the length and width of the hen

How to Determine laying hen measurements stand turn wingspan wing flap


According to the CA Voter Information Guide, Prop 12 would consider the following illegal:

(1) Before 2020, any amount of space where laying hens can’t spread their wings

(But they can still be in a cage.)

(2) Between 2020 and 2022, any amount of space less than 1 square foot

(Even though now they wouldn’t be able spread their wings and they can still be in a cage.)

(3) Any amount of space less than 1-1.5 square feet and it’s called cage-free, even though it’s similar to what was happening in 2020 and 2021, because it’s not in a cage

(Even though they can’t spread their wings.)

Can’t spread wings or turn around Can be in a cage Limited to one-square foot Limited to one or one and a half square feet
Now until 2020 yes
2020-2022 yes yes yes
2022 on, cage-free yes yes


I thought that the definition of cage-free was the most surprising part to me, but now the “current law” part is the most surprising. Really, the whole thing is a bag of surprises.

In 2013, California wrote out exact numbers of space requirements into the Official California Code of Regulations as CCR 1350. The regulations don’t comply with Prop 2 so I don’t understand how they are legal.

The California Code of Regulation 1350 has a graph with amounts of space and the number of chickens that are allowed to be housed on that space. It ranges from 9 chickens living in 2.23 square feet of space or 1 living in .8 sq feet of space, which would mean none could open their wings. And these regulations of space are allowed to be in a cage. Here is the graph:

§ 1350. Shell Egg Food Safety.


Commencing January 1, 2015, no egg handler or producer may sell or contract to sell a shelled egg for human consumption in California if it is the product of an egg-laying hen that was confined in an enclosure that fails to comply with the following standards. For purposes of this section, an enclosure means any cage, crate, or other structure used to confine egg-laying hens:

(1) An enclosure containing nine (9) or more egg-laying hens shall provide a minimum of 116 square inches of floor space per bird. Enclosures containing eight (8) or fewer birds shall provide a minimum amount of floor space per bird as follows, using formula 322+[(n-1) x 87.3]/n, where “n” equals the number of birds:

Number of Birds Square Inches Per Bird
1 322
2 205
3 166
4 146
5 135
6 127
7 121
8 117

(2) The enclosure shall provide access to drinking water and feed trough(s) without restriction.


For a moment, I’ll refer to Prop 2, the current law that was voted on in 2008, as Current Law #1, and CCR 1350, the current law that was added in 2013, as the Current Law #2.

Current Law #1 was passed in 2008, but was enacted in 2015.

I had originally tried to make sense of it all by wondering,”Maybe Current Law #2 that happened in 2013 stopped being the law when Current Law #1 went into effect in 2015.” But this didn’t end up being the case, because they both were enacted on the same day in 2015.

I couldn’t understand why the CA Voter Ballot Guide refers to Current Law #1 and left out Current Law #2, or why the majority of the arguments about Prop 12 also only use Current Law #1.

I also wondered why The San Francisco Chronicle and BallotFYI bring up Current Law #2 when the others didn’t.

BallotFYI’s only mention said, “California did eventually land on a number for hens: 116 square inches [0.8 sq feet].” But they linked right to the actual law.

If Current Law #1 is in effect, Prop 12 gives much less space, but takes away cages.

If Current Law #2 is in effect, Prop 12 gives more space to birds crammed 5 to 8 in a space, and takes away cages, but gives less space to birds sharing 1-4 in a space, and takes away cages.

The San Francisco Chronicle said of Prop 2, “The animal welfare movement contended [Prop 2] meant space equivalent to the bird’s wingspan — 2 to 3 square feet — but the state Department of Food and Agriculture interpreted it as less than a square foot.”

But the Prop really does say wingspan. It wasn’t an interpretation. How did the Department of Food and Agriculture “interpret” a clear guideline incorrectly and get away with it?

Also, why do singular hens receive the most space? Based on the other misleading, my first instinct is to ask, “Is that to distract the public with positivity about something that rarely happens because the common practice is to put as many as 8 in one space? Why are we still allowing multiple hens in one cage? And again, which law are we using?”

The answers to these questions seem like a huge foundation of what we’re voting on in Prop 12.

I only had an answer to the last one: I hadn’t thought about that Prop 2 says they need to be able to spread their wings without touching another hen, but it didn’t specify that they couldn’t all be in one cage, thus allowing multiple hens in one cage.


The Animal Welfare Institute had another answer: “Currently, producers are using all three interpretations of the law.”

Sigh. A third law? There was Prop 2 and California Code Regulation 1350, and a third law, California legislature AB 1437, added in 2010, which said people selling out-of-state eggs to California had to abide by Prop 2. All three laws went into action on the same day, January 1, 2015.

Quick Review because our heads are going to explode:

  • Prop 2 = spread wings, turn in circle, in a cage, with other hens
  • CCR 1350 = 1 to 8 hens in a cage, different amounts of space for each group
  • AB 1437 = out-of-state producers have to comply with our state laws

The AW Institute also shared, “California’s Department of Food and Agriculture, the entity responsible for enforcing CCR 1350, has stated that it believes CCR 1350 meets the standards of Prop 2, but cannot state this definitively as it is not charged with administering Prop 2.”

Of the eight options in CCR 1350, only one meets the lowest option possibility for Prop 2. If there is one hen in a cage that is 322 square inches, that equals 2.23 square feet and if that hen is the type whose wing span is 2 square feet instead of 3, this scenario meets the standards of Prop 2. The seven other options in CCR 1350 are too small for the average hen wingspan of 2-3 square feet.

Since the California Department of Food and Agriculture is stating they cannot be definitive because they’re not currently in charge of Prop 2 (although if Prop 12 passes, they will be), it’s important to me that they don’t make guesses because that is misleading.


Proposition 12 in full, PDF |

United Egg Producer’s 2017 Cage Free Guidelines, PDF |

Archive of Proposition 2 from 2008, PDF |

California Proposition 2 | Ballotpedia,_Standards_for_Confining_Farm_Animals_(2008)

1350. Shell Egg Safety Food Safety | California Code of Regulations site maintained by Thomson Reuters Westlaw 


Stop the Rotten Egg Initiative |

Yes on 12 |


“Minimum Space Requirements Under Current Law and Proposition 12” | The California Official Voter Information Guide

Proposition 12 – Farm Animal Cages | Voter’s Edge


“Yes on Prop 12. Let’s get rid of cages for hens for real.” | LA Times |

“Live in California and buy eggs? If Voters approve this in 2018, they’ll need to be from cage-free hens” | LA Times |

“The Chronicle Recommends No on Prop. 12” | The San Francisco Chronicle |

“What does ‘cage-free’ mean, exactly?” | The San Francisco Chronicle |


“Why We Oppose California’s Farmed-Animal Initiative and You Should Too” | PETA |

“California’s Egg Regulations: Implications for Producers and ConsumersAgricultural and Resource Economics Update” | Gianni Foundation of Resource Economics | Universitiy of California |

“California Mandates More Space in the Cage for Egg-laying Hens” | Animal Welfare Institute |

“Prop 2 Timeline” | The Humane Society

“Hens Behind Bars, Viva! Hen Laying Factsheet” |

“What does the Humane Society Do?” | The Humane Society

Animal People Newspaper p.12 |

“How Much Space Do My Chickens Need?” | McMurray Hatchery

Criminal Charges brought against California hen factory farm | The Humane Society

Choices in Hen Housing | The United Egg Producers


Bird by Viktor Ostrovsky from the Noun Project

Paper Note by Ben Markoch from the Noun Project

Time by BomSymbols from the Noun Project

Question by Iconika from the Noun Project

A Walk Down Craft Ave~ Memories of the Pittsburgh Playhouse

I went to college in Pittsburgh. I lived in Tucson, Arizona before that. It was a strange decision to move there. But they had musical theatre as a major and I was accepted and they gave good scholarships. I thought the little city and cold weather would be good practice for New York. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I went alone to a place where I knew no one.

The whole town was beyond different from the Southwest. I was lost. And confused. I was trying to understand so many new things. It was a hard time for me.

Years later, I’m absolutely smitten with the city and it’s loving people. And the theatre there is magical, supportive and life-changing. It’s one of my most favorite places in the world.

But in college, I had been used to the shorter history of the West and most buildings were newer where I came from. The Pittsburgh Playhouse was our theatre and is an anomaly, even to folks who grew up accustomed to the beauty of deep history. We performed, took class, rehearsed and worked inside the Playhouse, which was basically a pile of different buildings that were strewn together with secret hallways and staircases. The love for theatre joined together an old restaurant, a brothel, and a synagogue.

I feel like when we’re little kids, the way that we imagine any place to be what is in our minds, the unlimited possibilities of that, I feel like that is how the Playhouse really is. Walking through it feels like how parts of dreams come together- like it doesn’t make sense but it did at the time and it doesn’t need to.

Theatre seems to be a place where we can create like those little playing kids. And this building was a physical representation of putting things together to create something new. It felt like our giant treehouse rooted on the ground, made of cement, wood, love, and ghosts.

People had said they had gone down to the old restaurant and seen the entire room filled with happy, partying ghosts. The costume room still scares the living bejesus out of me. I think a friend saw a woman’s face in the little square window in the door, even though no one was inside. These are stories I’d be so mad to read if someone else wrote them. Sorry if I’m scaring you. I’m scaring me too.

Theatres always have ghost lights, a single lightbulb on a metal pole on wheels, that they put on the stage overnight. We were told stories about the ghost light and ghosts on the Rockwell stage, while we were standing on the Rockwell stage during our orientation. I was so scared that I blocked it out. And to this day, I don’t know if the ghost lights are there to ward off ghosts, or to help them see while we’re gone. I don’t want to know. Don’t tell me.

Anyway, this old place would receive new coats of paint like a neglectful dad repeatedly buying his kids candy to make up for it. We couldn’t really change the structure or rebuild the inside, maybe for financial reasons, maybe for structural ones. But boy did we paint it.

I got used to that. And now that they’re tearing it down to build a new theatre downtown in its place, I’m sad that we can’t just put another layer of paint.

I know that it logically makes sense to give something new and sturdy to the students coming to learn. And the caretakers of this old beast are probably exhausted from holding its organs together. But it’s sad that we won’t be able to visit our memories in the same way. We won’t be able to see, touch and smell them.

There will be pictures, and videos, programs, newspaper articles, costumes, set pieces, scripts, music, songs to sing and people… priceless friends and strangers with stories who remember.

But right now there is something that joins us with strangers we never knew who have passed on. It even houses some of them as ghosts. A lover of haunted places visited and said they felt an aura of entities, “Nothing evil, just perhaps all theatre enthusiasts, who find the performances a wonderful diversion from what is keeping them in this world.”

I think theatre can act as a diversion for what is hard for us in this world too. Other times it can act as a mentor, a question inspirer, or a glue that makes us realize we’re not alone. I felt alone when I arrived in Pittsburgh. It took a long time for the city and I to understand each other. This sweet place was part of all of that.

I hope someone films the view of walking all the hallways. Places like this don’t get made anymore. I think they’re important. They encourage imagination because they are proof that things can be unique and work. And they seem to attract people who were the type of children that liked playing with the box of the gift more than the gift.

Pittsburgh itself is filled with gift-box people though. So I think the new theatre will be in good hands. I just wanted to share that I’m sad. And share some of the wonderful uniqueness of this place.

I hope the good hands that continue the tradition of the Playhouse also leave a map to the new theatre for the ghosts. But they’re so good at navigating secret passages, they might find it on their own anyway.

Sending love to fellow Playhouse memoristas!

The 1st Time I Heard Women Were a Minority

I remember the first time I heard that women were a minority. I was 22.

I grew up in South Carolina. My mother was a successful business woman. As kids, we were taught that it was important to treat everyone equally and with love. I moved to Arizona and finished high school there, then went to college in Pittsburgh. For 22 years, no one ever mentioned to me that women were a minority.

I took my senior of college year “off” and went home to Arizona where I took core classes at Pima Community College. My sociology teacher was a woman, a lawyer, who had graduated from Oxford. She mentioned minorities and casually listed women as part of the group. “Eeeek… How embarrassing for her,” I thought. “She doesn’t know there are more women than men…” I raised my hand. I would let her know. (Ha!) “There are more women than men in the US.” “Yes, I know,” she responded. “So they aren’t a minority,” I said. “Yes they are…” And then my female teacher explained to me that in my country, I am considered a minority, even though that isn’t based on math… It’s not based on the actual percentages of people, which is what I thought defined the word “minority.”

That was very jarring.

I think it’s misleading to call us a minority when we aren’t in the minority. It lets words familiarize us with an untrue concept. It’s said as though it is true. And I think some people may start to believe that we are actually in the minority.

A more truthful usage of the word would be “Women are treated like minorities.” If we said this, it would remind us each time it’s said that it’s about the treatment and not the math.

And that might lead us to think more about how we treat people in the minority differently than those in the majority.

And that could focus our attention on equalizing that treatment.

Since we are all created equally, it seems strange that these distinctions are made at all.

Also, if our heritage was broken down honestly, where “white” wasn’t an ethnicity, but instead, the actual countries of origin were listed, the ratio of minorities would be much more equal.

On my mom’s side, I’m Mexican, Native American- Tigua, Apache, and Yaqui, most likely Sephardic which is Spanish-Jewish… And on my dad’s side, I’m English, Scots-Irish, German, and Swedish. But on government forms, I can often only choose one place of origin. But if I’m allowed to check more than one box, they are only for my mom’s side. For my dad’s side, the only option is always “white.”

If we had honest boxes, where we included the beautiful, real pieces of our heritage, most likely the percentages of majority and minority would be much more even. And again, honest.

I wish those boxes said things like Hungarian, Italian, Irish… When it comes to food or drinking, we don’t think those places have the same “white” food. St. Patrick’s Day isn’t a time where “white” people have delicious homemade lasagna and play croquet. If I mistake a person from New Zealand as Australian, they are rightfully upset. These are all different places with unique, lush histories. And most of the time, we celebrate these differences. But the boxes that end up defining the word “minority” (except in regards to women) lump all these people together to form a false “majority.”

I find that people already have enough ways to have low self esteem. And that lack of autonomy and self love manifests in all sorts of addictions, anxieties and sadness. We don’t need to add more subconscious judgement to the fire. It hurts the people who may end up with a falsely inflated sense of self, and it hurts the people who may end up with a falsely deflated sense of self. Extremes either way take us away from walking the earth knowing we belong just as our true selves. I see that we’re changing and growing little by little and I’m very grateful for that. But I still wanted to share my feelings.

The article below is from 2015, I just read it today. Its respect for the power of words is what reminded me of my experience at 22 and inspired me to share. Thanks for listening. To those of you around me for those first 22 years, thank you for leading me into a world of equality. I find that my thoughts affect my feeling of freedom, which affects my actions, and I’m really grateful for the loving thoughts you all shared. 

A bit about the article: Apparently some places outside of the US, like Europe, Africa and Hong Kong, regularly use the word “expats.” In America, I rarely hear people use the word expats. These countries use the word when referring to “white” foreigners working in their country, but they don’t use it to describe people of other races who are also working in their country. There are different words for those workers. The Guardian quotes The Wall Street Journal saying, “Some arrivals are described as expats; others as immigrants; and some simply as migrants. It depends on social class, country of origin and economic status. It’s strange to hear some people in Hong Kong described as expats, but not others. Anyone with roots in a western country is considered an expat … Filipino domestic helpers are just guests, even if they’ve been here for decades… It’s a double standard woven into official policy.” Click for full article:

Jada & Gabrielle Share about Codependence

I ADORE THIS. !!! Thank you thank you thank you both for sharing!! Please, anyone who comes across this post, watch this wonderful video. If anyone watching this can’t afford an AJ (the wonderful life coach), I highly recommend reading Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. It, and the journey it starts, has helped me so much and changed my life.

It’s about $12 on Amazon or free in this Youtube video.

I’ve been learning new behaviors, much like the experiences shared in this video, over the last 3 years and while it’s an ongoing process, it has given me clarity and an understanding of the world in a way that I never had.

The video only mentions codependence one time, but in learning about the word over the years, it means so much more than what it sounds like, and most of the subjects in this video fall under its umbrella.

Although there is not one single definition of codependence, there are over 50 codependent traits. Where I am today, a short definition of my codependence could be: “being someone who has a difficult time maintaining my authentic self in front of others” or “being dependent on anything else to fill my self-esteem or to distract me from my lack of it.” The word “anything” leaves the range of options very open! And that range often includes extreme opposite behaviors, like people pleasing vs. isolation, even though both equal codependence. The result of the dependence on outside sources for self-esteem is often an unhealthy relationship with oneself and others, which creates an inability to have real intimacy, which can lead to deep sadness and anxiety.

I didn’t recognize any of these behaviors in myself. I thought I was fine. But I knew my closest relationship left me feeling an ache that was dangerous. Luckily, someone opened up vulnerably in front of me about her imperfect relationship and after years of swallowing my pain, I randomly opened up to her. She told me to read that book.

Finally, I’m growing bit by bit toward real intimacy. Progress not perfection is a daily goal now. And as someone who never wanted to let anyone down, imperfection terrifies me, but finally makes room for me to live, take up space, and experience real authenticity and love with myself and others around me who are interested in authenticity and love.

I used to think that love was sacrifice or was shown by proving I would never abandon. I used to think I had to be needed in order to have a friendship or relationship. To learn what a healthy relationship is is mind-blowing to me. When I started to learn and accept my true self, I could let go enough to not be needed. To trust that without earning, I can be wanted. Just for me as I am now. Whew, that’s terrifying to write! But the times I’ve been able to put it into practice, it’s beautiful and creates real connection for me.

I had heard so many wonderful ideas in my life. Like “Be grateful” or “Detachment is healthy.” But in this journey, I’ve found that those ideas start at the end. Detachment hasn’t come first for me, self-acceptance, autonomy and self love are coming first, and detachment and gratitude are beautiful byproducts. I couldn’t let go until I had myself, my gut instinct and something bigger than me, to hold onto and trust.

It’s a daily struggle, but now I have many imperfect people around, who are also focused on healing, to grow with, and many tools to try to reconnect to love. I forget all day long. I was so practiced the other way for so long. I worry in a loop, I criticize my almost every thought, I use whatever I can to distract myself from feeling or healing. But when I can authentically allow love back in, the world shifts in a blessed way. It has been horribly difficult to learn this. But I’m beyond grateful for it all.

I believe that the type of individual growth Jada & Gabrielle are sharing about helps people heal and slowly start to manage addiction, anxiety and depression. It’s so good to see this deep discussion by people in the limelight. So grateful to these ladies for their vulnerability! THANK YOU again!!!!!

Sending love to those currently healing and who hope to heal


Brugmansia: A Trick or a Treat?

Holy Happy Halloween. Wow. I just read about this plant. It’s very thematically appropriate for today. Creepily dark. I mean, Holy S#*+. But first, I’ll start off not scary… This horror movie starts out harmless, with color and playfulness, as they do…

It’s called Brugmansia & there are seven different types. They come in pink, red, white, yellow, orange or green and they have a lovely fragrance that is most noticeable in the evenings. The plant was originally found in tropical areas in South America, from Venezuela to Chile and in Brazil. It’s now listed as extinct in the wild by the ICUN Red List, but is grown in the wild in places where it is non-native and ornamentally in yards. In Los Angeles, I’ve seen them in yards inland in Norwalk, and in the Hollywood Hills, and Beverly Hills. They get surprisingly tall. I’ve always been intrigued by them. I thought they were very beautiful and amusing, droopy sad cartoon plants that look like elephant wallflowers waiting for someone to ask them to dance. (Wouldn’t Brugmansia be a great name for a wallflower elephant?) Little did I know that they are much more strong than that!

The plant contains alkaloids that in modern medicine have proven to be medically valuable for their anesthetic, spasmolytic, anticholinergic, narcotic and anti-asthmatic properties. Although some alkaloids can be beneficial, there are many types of alkaloids and they’re used for many things. Cocaine, nicotine, morphine, caffeine & strychnine are all alkaloids. Different parts of the Brugmansia plant have different concentrations of the alkaloids scopolamine, hyoscyamine, and atropine that change with the seasons and the plant’s hydration. So determining a level of safe alkaloid exposure from the plant is kind of impossible. (A little bit unsettling right? Let’s cue the start of just the slightest underlying scary music…)

Indigenous South American cultures used it in spiritual or religious ceremonies and medicinally, mostly externally, where the leaves were applied to the skin as part of a poultice, tincture, or ointment. They used it to treat arthritis, rheumatism, headaches, infections, aches and pains, dermatitis, orchitis and as a general anti-inflammatory. Internal uses were rare because of its dangers, but when it was used internally, it was used in an extremely diluted state for stomach and muscle ailments, as a decongestant, to induce vomiting, as a sedative and to expel worms and parasites. Worms and parasites get the hell out of a body to flee from this stuff, that is very telling.

(However, let’s have a music change again, something light, happy and disarming…) Night pollinating moths are drawn to its smell. Attracting pollinators is always beneficial. Hummingbirds drink happily from the unscented red Brugmansia. And butterfly larvae eat the alkaloids and store them into their adult butterfly stage so that they are less tasty to predators. (So far this horror movies seems really mild and butterfly-friendly. But… Back to that creepy music.)

A couple weeks ago, as we tended to trees we planted with our Orchard friends, a tree expert walked with us and answered someone’s question about if this plant is poisonous by saying, “There’s a fine line between poisonous & hallucinogenic. Is it more toxic to your stomach or your brain?” In looking it up for this post, I see what she means. But DAMN. I thought hallucinogenic sounded like it had an element of fun to it. This is some scary Halloween morbid hallucinating.

Ingesting parts of the plant (the seeds and leaves are the most potent) can cause tachycardia where the heart rate is above normal when resting, dry mouth, diarrhea, migraine headaches, paralysis of smooth muscles, confusion, visual and auditory hallucinations that the person doesn’t recognize are happening- with amnesia that follows afterwards, mydriasis where the pupil is enlarged even in bright light, rapid onset cycloplegia where the eye becomes paralyzed and therefore can’t focus on nearby objects, and death.

Swiss explorer Johann Von Tschudi described a man who ingested Brumansia in Peru:

“Soon after drinking the Tonga, the man fell into a dull brooding, he stared vacantly at the ground, his mouth was closed firmly, almost convulsively and his nostrils were flared. Cold sweat covered his forehead. He was deathly pale. The jugular veins on his throat were swollen as large as a finger and he was wheezing as his chest rose and sank slowly. His arms hung down stiffly by his body. Then his eyes misted over and filled with huge tears and his lips twitched convulsively for a brief moment. His carotids were visibly beating, his respiration increased and his extremities twitched and shuddered of their own accord. This condition would have lasted about a quarter of an hour, then all these actions increased in intensity.

His eyes were now dry but had become bright red and rolled about wildly in their sockets and all his facial muscles were horribly distorted. A thick white foam leaked out between his half open lips. The pulses on his forehead and throat were beating too fast to be counted. His breathing was short, extraordinarily fast and did not seem to lift the chest, which was visibly fibrillating. A mass of sticky sweat covered his whole body which continued to be shaken by the most dreadful convulsions. His limbs were hideously contorted. He alternated between murmuring quietly and incomprehensibly and uttering loud, heart-rending shrieks, howling dully and moaning and groaning.”

Brumansia causes such terrifying hallucinations that the journal of Psychiatry & Clinical Neuroscience even reported of a man who drank only one cup of Brugmansia tea and then amputated his own tongue and penis.

Ancient South American cultures mixed it with corn beer and tobacco leaves and drugged wives and slaves with the mixture before burying them alive with their dead lords. Holy I Can’t Handle That.

From me & the boring plant world 😉 Happy Halloween.

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Resources: Wikipedia pages on Brugmansia, Alkaloids, Tachycardia, Cycloplegia, & Mydriasis

All I’ve Learned About Compost, in One Big Pile (Get It?)


These are true for any compost, whether it’s done in a bin, in a pile, or in the ground. (There are more tips later specific to bins and piles.)

  • Compost needs about 50% green ingredients, 50% brown ingredients, and oxygen.
  • “Green” is anything with moisture. It can be any color. Food scraps, grass, leaves, coffee grounds, (non-pet) manure…
  • “Brown” is anything dry. Dry leaves, brown paper bags, wood chips, egg cartons…
  • Green is nitrogen-rich.
  • Brown is carbon-rich.
  • The compost needs oxygen to work. That’s why it’s important to turn bins or flip piles when making compost, to let oxygen get to different parts of the compost.
  • If there is too much green, it will get very stinky. If this is happening, add more brown. (Also, too much green means too much nitrogen, which means it could burn plants if it was used as fertilizer in this stinky form.)
  • No meat, dairy, fish, or animal food oils can go in the compost, unless it’s bokashi (see below).
  • Pet waste is bad because sometimes it has bacteria that can survive the heat of the pile.
  • It helps to cover the compost at the end with a layer of only brown in order to keep the smell enclosed.
  • Whatever size the compost starts out, it will end up being much smaller when it’s done. (Sort of like cooking fresh spinach)
  • If you’re trying to make organic compost, make sure yard trimmings you use (fresh grass, brown leaves, etc) come from a yard that doesn’t use pesticides.
  • We chop up twigs and branches with shears before adding them to the compost. Making everything into smaller pieces helps the compost digest more quickly and easily, like chewing for our tummies.


A few years ago, a farmer friend of mine taught me that compost piles get hot and they are actually cooking the carbon-rich brown & nitrogen-rich green scraps. They get so hot, about 140 degrees, that the creatures one might worry about staying inside the pile (bad bacteria, bugs and any rodents who might smell tasty treats inside the pile) can’t live there anymore. It’s too hot so they leave. Pretty cool, huh? (Pun inaccurate and not intended.) A pile covered in winter snow will still cook inside and sometimes steam will still rise off of the covering snow! When it’s done, there will be only good bacteria and healthy, nutrient-rich compost.


Composting food scraps and brown waste returns back to the earth what came from the earth and lets it become nutrient-rich soil that grows more plants, instead of landfill trash that becomes methane gas.

Also, when compost is added to a garden, it amends the soil by nourishing it. As the soil gets richer, plants in healthy bacteria-rich soil don’t need pesticides or chemical fertilizers. They can be next to plants with disease and not get sick. It’s like our human immune systems: we need good bacteria (probiotics) and nutrients and minerals for our organs to fight off disease. Plants are the same way. And the same way that we have to keep eating those things, so do the plants.

Helping the plants immune system ends up helping ours too. The garden food ends up having more nutrients and tasting better too 🙂

Plus plants in healthy soil need less water, which saves water! It also reduces the city’s need to collect yard waste, saving resources.

Even if you don’t have a garden, putting compost back into the earth anywhere is healing for it, from the lack of methane gas to the gain of nutrients. Overall, it’s a cycle that benefits people, the plants and the planet.


  • Fruits & veggies
  • Peels, skins & cores of fruits & veggies
  • Herbs & spices
  • Nutshells
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Egg shells
  • Pits & seeds
  • Grains & beans
  • Tea bags without the staples
  • Shredded brown paper bags, paper egg cartons, toilet paper rolls
  • Brown, dry leaves from our pesticide-free yard
  • Chemical-free hair
  • Chemical-free fingernails
  • Down feathers from the sofa or birds outside
  • Vacuum cleaner or sweeping dust (haven’t done this one yet, but want to!)
  • House plant leaves & cut flowers (for the green bin)
  • No meat, dairy or animal products (bones, butter, fish skins)


Store the food scraps you’re collecting in the freezer or fridge (so they don’t smell) until you’re ready to compost.


These are some options of how people compost. I’m sure there are more, but these are what I’ve heard. You can put your food scraps and brown compostable waste in:

  • your yard in a compost pile above ground
  • a pit in the ground with or without doors to seal it
  • a fenced in compost area
  • a plastic compost bin that turns
  • a wooden compost bin that allows for air circulation
  • a homemade compost trashcan with holes drilled in the sides


  • the freezer or fridge (so they don’t smell) until you’re ready to do any of the following with them
  • your green or brown bin from the city
  • your outdoor or indoor worm bin (no acidic food or shells)
  • an indoor bokashi compost bucket (more info below)
  • or donate your food scraps to an community organization, farmer’s market or restaurant that accepts compost. L.A. Compost collects food scraps on Sundays at the Motor Avenue Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the Atwater Village Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m


  • Make sure you put in brown stuff. Just food and it gets stinky and won’t become compost.
  • Make sure it doesn’t get too heavy to turn. Turning gives it the oxygen it needs to work.
  • While water is added to open-air piles, the enclosed nature of bins seems to use the moisture of the green ingredients to help cook the compost, instead of needing water. But if things get too dry, try gently adding in some water when you go to turn the bin.


This is info for composting not in a container, but in a large pile above ground:

  • One cubic yard is the magic size for the pile to really heat up.


  • Make a layer of green, about half an inch thick, then a layer of brown, same thickness, alternating as you go, and gently watering the whole time.
  • Each time we make a double layer of green & brown ingredients, we mix them together with a pitch-forky hoe. (I’m sure that’s the proper name for it.) Then we make another set of layers and mix them and so on. Doing it slowly like this makes it be thoroughly mixed. It also lets the water get in there to hold it together like a glue so the pile can get really tall and reach its cubic yard goal.
  • Without watering each layer, it apparently doesn’t cook!
  • The water should be saturated to where you could wring the compost out like a sponge. But if it’s trickling down the sides, it’s too much.


  • We’ll go back and turn or flip the pile 3-4 more times before it’s done.
  • To “turn” the pile, have a second space as large as the one the compost is in where you can put the pile. (In the photo above, we moved it from the left space where the pitchfork is to the right.) I thought we would flip it in place, which seemed hard, messy and confusing. Putting it next to where it was, made it so easy to flip! That may seem obvious to some, but living in apartments for most of my life apparently has made my brain not think of space as an option. This blew my mind, ha!
  • The top layer will have cooked the least because it was exposed to the air.
  • The inside will be more cooked, even ashy sometimes, or still steaming!
  • When we flip the pile, the top layer becomes the bottom layer and the bottom becomes the top, so the whole thing will get a chance to cook evenly. 
  • We shovel the top layer onto the empty spot and repeat the same watering/ mixing as we did for each layer before.
  • More new green or brown can be added in every time a pile is flipped.
  • A pile can be turned every three days to finish the project more quickly.
  • Turning it once a week is fine.
  • Turning it every 3 weeks or whenever is fine too, it’ll just take longer.


  • Horse poo really has a hard time breaking down. (Another gardening friend recently said that chicken poo or sheep poo work wonders! And cow poo, too, because their four stomachs break the food down more than a horse’s stomach does.)
  • If we see something that is stuck in a clump, we break it up with our hands.
  • The Hollywood Orchard (where we made this pile) doesn’t worry about avocado pits or too much acidic fruits. It’ll all break down eventually.


If you can find a free class or a place to go help someone do all of this with a pile, great! I learned so much from experiencing it in person.

In LA, the city gives some free workshops and discounted compost bins and worm bins. Kiss the Ground also has free compost workshops sometimes, listed on their FB page. You can also look up Grow Good, they give free classes from time to time. Here’s an LA Times article with more info.

March – November of 2018, the Burbank Recycle Center has a free compost workshop the last Wednesday of every month from 6-8pm, you just have to RSVP.

My favorite option of course is for people to join our beloved Hollywood Orchard mailing list, ask to be informed when we get together to work on our compost pile, and then come play in the dirt with us!

If you get to work with others, or you’re trying on your own, either way, let it be okay that trial and error is part of the exciting learning process!



My favorite compost video is of a guy in Hawaii who is playful and hilarious and simply shows a covered bucket and says, “This is BO-KAA-SHIEEE. It’s from Japan. It’s meat compost. Haven’t heard of it? It exists! That’s all I’m going to tell you. Look it up.” Ha!

So I did! And now I know that meat, dairy & animal oils can be composted too! And we can compost inside!

Bokashi bucket composting is a type of composting that takes two weeks to ferment food, including meat & dairy. All kitchen scraps go into an airtight bucket with bokashi, a mix of wheat bran, molasses, and specific microorganisms such as yeasts, actinomycetes, lactic acid bacteria and photosynthesis bacteria. The good bacteria breaks down the food and the lack of oxygen keeps the bad bacteria from growing. It’s essentially pickled compost. Or probiotic compost. Once the microbes in the bucket have made it safe, it’s added to soil or compost outside and soil microbes finish the process. Pretty neat!

Japan has done it for hundreds of years, but recently a professor clarified the exact ratio and type of microbes needed to make it safe, which allowed the practice to reach more people. For fellow curious friends, here is a site where bokashi microbes and buckets are for sale and this site has great frequently asked questions about bokashi.



If you don’t have brown waste (dry leaves, brown paper bags, twigs etc) and you only have food scraps, your situation is perfect for a worm bin. The worms only need food scraps and are happy to help you on your composting quest.


After the worms eat food scraps, just their poo is left over and it’s called “worm castings”. It’s used to sprinkle on the soil around plants as a fertilizer!

In some worm bins, there is even a spout at the bottom to drain their “tea.” In this case, “tea” is pee. Just like their poo, it can be poured on the soil or sprayed on the leaves of plants- they love it!

“Worm tea” can also be made by putting a glob of poo in some water, letting it sit for a few hours and then feeding it to your plants as a wonder-working fertilizer.

Worm castings are filled with enzymes, good bacteria, and nutrients. Worm poo contains no salt, has a neutral PH of 7, and is water-soluble, so it is immediately absorbable by plants and can’t burn even the most delicate ones. Extreme PH levels, either high or low, make it impossible for plants to absorb nutrients and worm castings help prevent these extreme levels.

It contains nitrates, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, calcium, copper, zinc, cobalt, borax, carbon and nitrogen. The good bacteria in the worm guts ends up in the castings, continuing beneficial activity in the soil too. And a light oil is on the castings when they come out, which erodes over time, creating a time-release effect for the quickly-absorbable nutrients.

And don’t worry, there is surprisingly nothing gross about earthworm poo. You can stick your face right near it and inhale deeply and it smells lovely! It’s as clean and refreshing to us as it is healing for the plants.


The square worm bins often fall into themselves. I recommend buying the circular 3-tray Can-O-Worms. It used to be available on Amazon, but today I’m only finding it on If it’s not available at that link when you’re looking, just Google Can-O-Worms with the dashes (if not, lizard food comes up), and look for a black circular thing with 3 levels (each level has handles). Shorter ones with less levels are more available online, but the taller one will make it easier to harvest the worm castings. It’s usually about $120.

You can also make your own worm bin, but I’ll come back and write more about that another day.

can-o-worms 3 trays


There are actually different kinds of earthworms! Some are meant for worm bins and some aren’t. Red Wigglers are happy to eat food scraps because they are epigean, meaning they are found above ground, actively decaying rotting vegetables, compost and manure. (Anthills are epigean too, above ground. Fascinating. To me, at least.)

Other earthworms are meant to have humus and soil as their main food and won’t do well in a food scrap environment. And Red Wigglers won’t do well in soil when it dries out.

So be sure to put the right worms in your bin to keep them safe and happy. I think the worm below is not a Red Wiggler. It’s the kind likes soil. The Red Wigglers are much more red. But I’m not sure. So I buy Red Wigglers to be sure…


I buy them at the Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH) in Los Angeles. They have a little fridge of live things and the Red Wigglers come in a $15 container that looks like a pint of ice cream.

Farmers also sell them at markets or if you go directly to their nursery. Some people have businesses selling worms online. Or if you have a friend with a worm bin already, you can take a handful of them and over time, your bin will be full of worm families!


For International Compost Awareness Week in May, Rosario Dawson, Amy Smart, Adrian Grenier, Kendrick Sampson, Paul Blackthorne, & Kiss the Ground (a non-profit in LA) worked together to get the word out about how composting restores the cycle of life.

They had a Compost Challenge with daily challenges, but the big one was to post a short video or photo sharing your Compost Story, what you do with your left over food scraps.

Fellow soil lovers shared their Compost Stories with Kiss the Ground on social media and it let me see how there are so many different ways to do it and how I can make it easier for myself. It was very helpful and inspiring to hear, and see, other people’s ways of composting!

I recommend searching the hashtag #compostlife or @kissthegroundca on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to hear more ideas. Here is my compost story:


May 10, 2017  I’ve been participating in making and flipping the Hollywood Orchard compost pile over the past few months. From this experience, I’m getting to learn even more fun things about composting! The Hollywood Orchard made a big compost pile this morning! (It’s even taller in the shadows.) This particular day, the pile was a mix of:

  • local rabbit poo
  • local horse poo
  • fruit & veggie fiber remains from a juicery
  • straw
  • clipped up loquat tree trimmings
  • dry leaves from a yard

We make thin repeating layers of these ingredients, each layer gently watered the whole time.

The pile will get hot even by tomorrow! We are prepping for when the Cheremoya school kids to come visit the Orchard in Beachwood Canyon in two days. We’ll put a potato and deep in the pile tonight to cook & show them how hot it gets inside! And randomly, all of this happens to coincide with International Compost Awareness Week! #hotpotato


May 11, 2017 This is Shane & I’s homemade compost bin! A trash can with drilled holes in it. We’ve had it for years, but as it filled, it was too heavy to rotate (aka roll around on the driveway)! And then we stopped adding brown stuff, so… whew! It is an intense/ rich/ thick pile of wet stuff. At the beginning of April, we started adding brown again though. But it’s still hard to truly mix the brown in to the bottom of the muck.

So we’re saving carbon-rich brown yard leaves, torn-up brown paper grocery bags, egg cartons, & toilet paper rolls to eventually mix with this nitrogen-rich giant wad of old food we have in our compost can. We’re either going to mix it in a fancy compost bin that we can turn easily, or build a pit topped with a raised-garden-bed-type box with cellar doors to keep out critters, or just find a spot to make a pile in the open, now that we saw how to do it at the Hollywood Orchard. Whatever we decide to do, our layers of carbon & nitrogen will be ready and abundant!

But in the meantime, we made our own worm bin! Worms don’t need brown carbon like compost does, and since we naturally have more food scraps (which fall under “green”), a worm bin makes sense for us.

Also, we used to only compost foods that are organic and other things that are chemical and pesticide free. But because of The Compost Challenge, we realized we were just throwing non-organic food in the trash and wasting it! So now we’re also starting to put non-organic food in our green bin to be composted by the city.

We keep our food scraps in our refrigerator before transferring them to the compost to avoid smells or a parade of ants. We need to get better tupperware for the fridge door to keep it all easily accessible and organized (Organic/ Non-organic/ Worm Bin). We also need to find inside-the-house storage for our new habit of keeping brown paper things for the compost.

We keep the most chopped up, less acidic and soft organic food in a separate tupperware for the worms. They like it.

As for non-food items, we’ve worked up to having all natural, basically edible, shampoo, conditioner and hair gel so that we can compost our hair with our organic compost. Hair is incredibly nitrogen-rich! So are our fingernails! So I don’t use any nail polish or nail polish remover and our body soap is also all-natural ingredients. So we can organic-compost our fingernails too! Fun fact: There are companies who even make hair-mats that cover the base of plants to keep moisture in and add nutrients!

I’m madly in love with the fact that what our body exhales (carbon dioxide) and sheds (nitrogen in the form of hair and nails) naturally feeds the plants and trees around us, and what the plants and trees exhale (oxygen) and shed (fruits & veggies) naturally feed us. How magical. (I even love mites- because they are eating our dead skin!) Imagining a world without this cycle of togetherness leaves me thinking of gross piles of hair and fingernails with no where to go! But in reality, the cycle we have is amazing! I technically have no excess, because it all has a place that helps the world in some way… Even the “gross” stuff becomes beautiful!



Kiss the Ground made this deliciously passionate video about how to keep our soil healthy with compost and how when carbon is in the air, it’s bad, but in the ground, it nourishes life:


They also shared about the intricacies of what the soil is doing:


Their Compost Story video below also extends into the details of why composting is important. Many school teachers shared it with their classes during the Compost Challenge. I thought that was so cool! Kiss the ground also has a lot of other wonderful composting posters, tools, and content on &


One last helpful summary of How to Compost, made by Kiss the Ground…

Thanks for listening. I would love to hear your compost story if you feel like sharing!

Updated on September 20, 2018


More ideas for what to compost:

Purchase a bokashi bucket & microbes:

FAQs about bokashi:

The Hollywood Orchard:

The Hollywood Orchard’s Facebook:

Kiss the Ground:

Kiss the Ground’s Facebook:

The Compost Story: https://www.thecompoststory

Very interesting article about how NYC is starting to compost:

Great info about worm castings: