Holiday Prayer

This holiday season,

I devote myself to
the Power, the Glory, and the Honor
of you, Almighty God,
who contains within you:

and sparkly lights,
and pineapple tarts and peppernuts,
the joy of homecoming, of belonging, of a family’s embrace,
the sunny splendor of Christmas in California,
the contentment of a belly full of brisket and curry and creamed corn,
the freedom we find in ritual.

And also and still:

Black Friday
and big box stores,
and loneliness, and bland turkey,
the pain of separation, the quicksand of nostalgia,
the squalor of greedy hearts,
food that’s the fruit of another’s suffering,
rigidity that causes cracks.

I give thanks for it all,
and say, Tis the season to attend.

Because Brother Thay says that true understanding is the essence of love.
Which requires us to look deeply and well.
And You may be The All,
but You are not always The Most High.

Our Father
(and Mother),
who Art in Heaven
(and in our daily struggles),
Hallowed be thy many names.


December 2, 2013   No Comments

Daily Logs: Nov 18, 2013


November 19, 2013   No Comments

Meditation on an espresso pot

This morning I made coffee in my stove-top espresso. It was early, and still dark and quiet, which made the ritual especially satisfying: Unscrew top from bottom. Dig fingernail under metal lip to fish out aluminum filter cup filled with yesterday’s grounds. Knock against inside of the trash can to empty spent coffee. Rinse. Fill bottom chamber with water to just below the small escape valve. Replace empty filter cup, funnel tail first, into the bottom chamber. Spoon in fresh grounds. Don’t tamp, smooth in circles with the bottom of the spoon. Clean the edge. Check top chamber. Rinse if residue remains. Rescrew. Place on smallest burner. Turn heat on high.

For me, this is meditation. And this morning, in the emptiness of motion, memories came up: of myself as a young student, not yet 20, and living in Madrid, of dinners and strong coffee, old cathedrals and ladies in furs, jamón ibérico and patatas bravas, late night botellón, early morning park runs, friendship, sex, shame, heartbreak, and reconciliation.

They bubbled and gurgled in quick succession and I drank them down:

The candy shop on the corner near our apartment above the metro at Manuel Beccera where I bought coffee candies, cappuccino for me and sugar-free for our beloved bear of a Spanish literature teacher, who was on a diet but loved hard candy and was obsessed with the sublime;

Shivers of arousal and disgust at our short, virile, grey-haired professor who led us through the halls of the Prado, sketched Velásquez and El Greco at the front of the classroom, then offered to paint our portraits (sí, desnudo) in his home studio;

Stopping in for sweet gofres after class;  late lunches with family, dipping crusty bread into meaty cocino and spooning roasted peppers and olive oil onto whatever was left; late night maria biscuits with nutella;Pressing my feet against the foot of my tiny bed in our tiny room just before falling asleep, with my dear compañera de cuarto just a hands-reach to my left;

Wild eyed teens in the belly of the Metro waving their arms and yelling “CHINA CHINA” (pronounced CH – EE – NA) as I disembarked and walked toward the escalators;

A feverish trip to Granada on an overnight bus, baggage turmoil, a tiled hostel with a stern host, a foggy morning at the Alhambra;

Flirtation; more flirtation; flamenco partners; late night whispering and laughing and fumbling and gasping; jealousy and blame;

Crisp air and Christmas lights sparkling all the way down Gran Vía; stopping in to buy fancy tights at El Corte Inglés; and

Learning to make coffee for our crazy host family in the small metal “poor-man’s” espresso pot.

I missed my friend and roommate Sarah. I wondered whether my awareness then was as reflective and reflexive as now, or more unfettered and flowing. I wondered which was better, then decided that, if anything, they were just different.

The little pot I have now has utilitarian grace. It’s made of dull aluminum which doesn’t shine, but more-like glows under warm kitchen light. It is angular; decahedral, to be precise, and not uniform from top to bottom, but cinched at the waist where the top and bottom pieces join. It consists of three pieces, the bottom chamber (the boiler) where the water starts, the top chamber where the coffee ends, and the metal filter funnel in between. The water in the bottom chamber heats to boiling and creates steam, which forces the surrounding water up through the funnel, through the coffee grounds, into the collecting chamber up top.

This pot lost its handle in a forgotten accident, which doesn’t affect coffee-making, but does make it difficult to pour. To add insult to amputation, it then lost favor to two small, simple Vietnamese phins (cup-topping coffee brewers). Recently, a wiser roommate resurrected him and he resumed his place in the morning rotation. It was really just a matter of keeping a thick towel on hand to grasp the hot pot to pour.

I’m glad to have him back. The phins are shiny and easy to use, but they also seem as if they’ll always be light and young and uncomplicated. Perhaps this other pot has the kind of comforting sturdiness that comes with age.

October 9, 2013   No Comments

Daily Logs: July 11, 2013

July 11, 2013   No Comments

Top 5 Tips: Project to Reality

I got this interesting email from a colleague at MSU yesterday:

“I am on my way to Greece to present at a Green Ideas event. I’d love to include the “Jess Daniel” 5 Tips for Success that move a project from plan to reality. I’d love to feature you and FoodLab. Also, glad to share a copy of the presi. Just 5 sound byte points – or feel free to write as much as you like.?”
A fun thought exercise for a sleepy Sunday morning. Here’s what I came up with:
  1. As a team, have a clear, articulated vision for what “success” looks like (I learned a lot about this from Zingermans trainings…)
  2. Bring the right people & resources in at the right time (Who are the stakeholders at each point in the process? When, why, and how should they be involved? Be intentional about why & when you invite participation or feedback. Participation for the sake of participation drains energy. Planning without  involving the right partners early in the process is problematic for a variety of reasons and often backfires down the line.)
  3. Break it down. (Break large projects into phases, then break down phases into into specific action steps — which may or may not have deliverables — and milestones — points where you evaluate the outcomes of action steps and plan for the next phase)
  4. Establish a rhythm. (Meeting regularly is important, though it’s not always necessary to meet often depending on the project. The rhythm depends on the nature / scope / no. of folks involved, but it’s important to set expectations and honor a regular rhythm of checking in to keep up momentum)
  5. At check-inscelebrate milestones and recalculate (Worthwhile projects will evolve and change over time, but too much shifting of expectations/actions can drive a team crazy. A good project rhythm & clear milestones helps the team to be productive and flexible by knowing when it’s time to stick to the plan and when it’s time to reevaluate.)

June 23, 2013   No Comments

Dissertation Proposal: Growing a good food entrepreneur ecosystem in Detroit: A network weaving story


FoodLab Detroit is a community of entrepreneurs who are collectively committed to making the possibility of healthy, fair, green food an accessible and sustainable reality for all Detroiters. Together, we seek to develop individual good food businesses, connect our businesses with one another and with an ecosystem of support, and participate in a broader “good food movement” in Detroit. This insider action research project seeks to understand the process and effects of network weaving, or intentionally building social capital among good food entrepreneurs and their allies (Krebs and Holley 2002). At FoodLab, we believe our network weaving activities not only can support the growth of triple-bottom-line businesses, but also strengthen collective identity, norms and goals, increase the potential for cooperation and collective action around these goals, and promote equity among good food entrepreneurs by equalizing access to social capital.

This phenomenon of entrepreneurship as a good food movement strategy is growing in scale and sophistication across North America, yet there has been little research directly targeted at understanding or documenting the trend. Critics note limitations of entrepreneurial approaches, showing that market-based approaches to food systems change can fail to address or even exacerbate challenges such as food insecurity for the most vulnerable, structural racism, exploitation of labor, and rising global consumption at the expense of future populations (Allen 1999; Allen et. al., 2003; Johnston 2008). Reliance on consumer-driven approaches to change may encourage individualized, depoliticized behavior, direct resources away from structural or political change, or undermine deliberative democracy by moving decisions about agrifood governance out of the public realm into private markets (Donald 2008; Konefal 2010). Yet others suggest that these criticisms can be reframed as an opportunity for organizers to shape entrepreneurship into more powerful form of resistance (Donald 2008; Johnston 2008; Shattuck & Holt-Gimenez 2011; Starr 2010). Social enterprise and organizational scholars point out that building networks or social capital is key to transforming systems or establishing new social equilibriums (Bloom and Dees 2008; Kania and Kramer 2011; MacLeod Grant & Flower 2010; Scearce 2011; Wei-Skillern and Marciano 2008).

The dissertation will integrate longitudinal network analysis and autoethnography within an insider action inquiry approach to address three questions: (1) What kind of social capital exists in the FoodLab community? How might we build social capital to strengthen collective identity, norms and goals, and increase the potential for cooperation, collective action, and structural change over time? (2) How does social capital among FoodLab entrepreneurs vary according to characteristics like race and socioeconomic status, and how does this affect business outcomes? How might FoodLab promote social capital equity and what is the potential effect on the overall community? (3) What does it mean to be a “network weaver” and build social capital? How does power manifest and what are the ethical challenges? What characteristics and skills set a network weaver apart from other kinds of leaders and how are these learned? The overall aims of this research are to develop myself as a network weaver, action researcher, and story-teller; to make FoodLab more effective in fulfilling our mission; and to offer theoretical foundations to guide practitioners, funders, and policy-makers in effective use of good food entrepreneurship and network weaving as tools to build more just and resilient food systems.

June 2, 2013   No Comments


“My love is sweet,”
you say.

Well O.K.

I’ll gobble you up
like a Hostess cake
I didn’t really want in the first place.

You go bankrupt.
I hoard remaining stock in the attic.

It makes me ill to think on it.

Sweet is sweet.

feed me tannins and
Suck my mouth dry.

February 12, 2013   No Comments

fish bone

Who are we
and how did we come
to be these bodies
in this place?

What right do I have to feel unworthy,
What’s worthy?

How can it be authentic,
when I don’t (won’t) feel?

What if my authentic
steamrolls yours?

Therein lies Suffering.
Unless, I guess…

I am you,
you, me,
your Suffering’s mine
(and Joy)?

Because I act, not of body-feeling,
but tugged by invisible
threads that tie




Your reverberation in turn:

Fish bone in my throat
and disapparates to phantom feeling that I
and swallow
and swallow.

February 10, 2013   2 Comments

a soft, fierce animal

It’s been nearly two years since the small wild thing began to visit again. At first, he was crafty. He snuck in without my noticing, drawn to residual warmth from being close to loved ones; he crept into a grey-blue dewy mornings next to my coffee and fried eggs; he materialized with tiny sharp fangs behind bracing wind, the kind that makes you suck in sharply and feel alive. He was skittish at first, came and went as he pleased. But over time, the little animal (call him Love or Affection or Yearning) started to linger.

The feeling is familiar, like something I lost and learned to get by without, but haven’t forgotten. At first I didn’t think I wanted to remember what it felt like to love that way, but something in me decided I did, and I (weak soul I am) put up little protest. So when this wild feeling came around, instead of turning towards Business At Hand, I started to feed him a little daydream or sweet memory and he grew bolder.

The warm, growly fellow is now a regular guest, barging in at inopportune moments, associating himself with people and situations where he doesn’t (yet) belong. Last Saturday morning, out of the blue, he nestled up inside me, filled my belly then chest so he couldn’t be ignored. By the time I got home, he’d dug his claws into my throat til it was hard to breathe and my eyes got wet. I curled up in bed for the afternoon and placated him with poems and nostalgia.

It worked, but it’s clear this soft, fierce little orphan creature needs more to thrive.

For now, we’ll make do with brisk mornings, writing, the ocean, more red wine than is typical, listening to good music (gongs!) with our eyes closed, and lavishing attention on people and things who make us feel deeply. When the going gets especially rough, we’ll feed ourselves on busyness.

November 25, 2012   2 Comments

Another rainbow week in October

Not just the leaves, which are gorgeous, but my calendar. Oh, what would I do without you?

Less, maybe?  :P

It makes me look crazy, but I color-code my calendars so I can look forward or backward and understand at a glance whether I’m actually spending my time the way I want to be spending my time. There’s a whole separate spreadsheet with quarterly goals and approximate hours/week in each area. Notice the light blue: “be well” and red “my loves.” I’m lucky; these colors are actually underrepresented since they tend to overlap with a lot of the rest of my life. I work with people I love and do what I can to treat myself and my body kindly even while working.

It’s kind of like these two juicy bits, via the ever-inspiring Maria P.:

How to live. How to get the most life… . How to extract its honey from the flower of the world. That is my every-day business. I am as busy as a bee about it. I ramble all over the fields on that errand, and am never so happy as when I feel myself heavy with honey and wax.

– Thoreau

and this:

Dividing the day between “work” and “leisure” and then measuring how many hours is spent at each activity doesn’t provide us a reliable guide to what we really care about, which is how much of our time we get to spend doing things we find rewarding and fulfilling. It turns out that many people have only a limited appetite for “leisure” in the sense of spending their days at the beach or on the golf course. Rather, they’re interested in pursuing creative or philanthropic activities that, when pursued in earnest wind up looking a lot like having a job.

Timothy Lee

I’m thankful for my privilege.

October 21, 2012   No Comments