Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “breast cancer”

From Someone More Qualified than Me – Tom Rossi

This week, I’ve decided to let my wife, Marianne, take my post once again. This is an email she wrote in the middle of the night, a week or so ago, when the weight of life landed on her mind at about 3am. She sent this out to several friends and family members. Their appreciative responses made us decide to share.

Here is Marianne’s email:

I feel compelled to write to you, all the women in my life, because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a woman. In part, this is because I’ve become an aunt again, as many of you know. But it’s also because next week I’m having a lump removed. Don’t worry, it’s nothing serious! It’s a benign tumor, not breast cancer, but it has made me pause and think.

As women we are very good at taking care of other people. We are nurturing (which is why more of us should be leaders, taking care of the planet and its people). Sometimes I think we forget to take care of ourselves, and our lives become unbalanced. Sometimes our bodies have to remind us to take care of ourselves first. For me that means having alone time, soaking in a hot bath, reading a book, playing the piano, setting aside time for my creativity, my writing. For you it may be something different, but the important thing is to do something for yourself on a regular basis.

As women we tend to think that we’re not good enough, not perfect enough. The things we say to ourselves we’d never say to our children, our friends, or even our husbands! The fact is that we ARE good enough, and we are not perfect; nobody is (especially not our husbands so we might as well give up on trying to make them so!). Let’s have compassion for ourselves, even for that inner critic; after all, she’s just trying to keep us safe. Rather than being critical and judgmental of her, or any part of ourselves, let’s be kind and accepting, just as we are (hopefully!) with everyone around us.

I guess what I’m trying to say with all of this is that if part of being a woman is being nurturing, then let’s not forget to be nurturing to ourselves!



Back to Tom:

I hope the women who read this will find it uplifting. The men might even find it so, as well.And by the way, I think my wife is way beyond “good enough!” She’s also a very good writer (yes, much better than me), which you will be able to confirm when she finishes the massive project she’s working on. In the meantime, you could read this:

self compassion2561542_o

-Tom Rossi


Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.


Coffee Grounds, Mushrooms, and Student Initiative

Rewind: Spring 2009 and two seniors at Cal were sitting in a lecture for their business ethics course. Both had offers from Corporate America in investment banking and consulting. In this lecture they heard that 7 million tons of coffee are produced around the world. With only 1% ending up in the cup, the rest is destined for the landfill. What a waste.

Somewhere in that lecture Nikhil Arora and Alex Velez also learned that gourmet mushrooms can be grown on recycled coffee grounds. They mused over the possibility of diverting this waste stream into producing gourmet mushrooms, and started to learn how to actually grow mushrooms from coffee grounds. As business majors they wanted to explore if this idea could work as the basis of a full scale social venture.

Arora and Velez cruised the Berkeley coffee store and cafes collecting their used coffee grounds. Out of the first 10 buckets in which they planted, mushrooms only grew in one. They took that batch to the local Berkeley Whole Foods, and received enough positive feedback to create a plan. They submitted their business proposal to “Bears Breaking Boundaries,” an entrepreneurial competition sponsored by the UC Berkeley Chancellor and received $5,000 seed (or should I say plug) money.

The two grow gourmet pearl-oyster mushrooms on coffee grounds, and sell kits to consumers who are inspired to try for themselves.

After graduation, their business, Back to the Roots, was born and their mushrooms are found on the shelves of Whole Foods. But this is not just about business or the initiative of a couple of smart students (though this is pretty awesome) , their business is an example of sustainability and social responsibility. Best of all is their utilization of a large waste stream to produce something nutritional and valuable. Even the rich soil that is a by product of their production line is donated to community gardens, local nurseries and urban farms – a growing phenomenon in Berkeley.

Then they took the principle one step further. “Starting off as purely an urban mushroom farm, Back to the Roots has recently transformed into an organization dedicated to letting everyone grow their own fresh food right at home…as local as it gets! Our vision is to serve as a standard bearer for innovation and responsibility in our community and inspire others to work towards a more sustainable future. We’re doing this first through our Easy-to-Grow Mushroom Garden.

These mushroom-growing kits that we sell on our website are packaged in post-consumer cardboard and printed with soy ink, an environmentally better alternative. The kits arrive in the mail ready to grow: we wanted to create a sustainable product that is easy and simple, so everyone can enjoy growing and eating fresh mushrooms (including kids…who love watching them grow so fast!). The Easy-to-Grow Mushroom Gardens yield multiple crops, and you get up to one pound of delicious pearl-oyster mushrooms in as little as 10 days from your first crop. The soil inside is safe and sustainable too – 100% recycled coffee grounds! And while you may be worrying that the mushrooms taste like coffee, plenty of chefs, like Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, can attest to their authentic nutty flavor.”

The box arrives through the post and the mushrooms are ready to grow … right out of the box. They even donate 5% of sales to breast cancer research and a further 5% of all sales to support local breast cancer awareness organizations – co-founder, Alex, fought through cancer in high school – and educating the community on the great health benefits of oyster mushrooms.”

Finally, this is really cool:


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com


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