Monday, November 19, 2007

2008: Year of Non Fiction

I have been a reader my entire life. I love escaping into other worlds, getting glimpses of how people live, think, love. I love ingesting the artful, delicious language of writers, allowing their words to transport me across time and space. I love being a part of the creation of new worlds, partly based in reality but focused on the characters' specific needs.
I have always been a fiction reader.

As I spend more time with non-fiction texts, however, I am learning how they can serve the same purpose. They are telling a story; they are creating a world for me to enter into.

My reading goal for 2008 is to read 15 works of non-fiction.
  • Pankaj Mishra's An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World
  • "I wholeheartedly recommend the two books by David Hilfiker that find reference in this program: Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen is an extended version of his early booklet that caught my imagination. It has a long and helpful bibliography in addition to all the information it contains. Not All of Us Are Saints: A Doctor's Journey with the Poor is an eloquent and moving account of his family's experiences. "

  • Memories of God: Theological Reflections on a Life Roberta C. Bondi Abingdon Press, 1995 ISBN: 0687038928

    To Pray and to Love: Conversations on Prayer with the Early Church Roberta C. Bondi Augsburg Fortress, 1991 ISBN: 0800625110

I learned of these from Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett, my favorite public radio show!

I want to choose works that will make me uncomfortable, works that will force me to enter into the worlds of those who are suffering. I want books that will strengthen me and give me guidance on my path. I want books that will challenge me--challenge me to work harder, be better, do better, live better. I want books that show me the world, not through the beauty of a created person and landscape, but through the beauty and ugly of the world already created by God.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Me, by the Numbers (odd version)

1--pets I have had (? the best cat EVAH)
3--college degrees (undergrad and grad) I will have when I'm done with my MLS
5--days we will spend at Disney World
7--years until I turn 40
9--years since I taught my first class

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Me by the Numbers (even only)

2--number of children I have (L and M)
4--number of countries I've visited (France, Belgium, Chile, Canada)
6--number of schools I attended K-12
8--number of grandparents my kids have
10--number of miles I completed last week (walk, elliptical, stairmaster)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Only one thing to say...


Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Real Impact of Simple Living

The New Friars is an insipiring and historical look at people living Jesus' hard teachings, the ones about the poor and outcasts. The people profiled are not serving the poor from their comfortable homes; they are living with them, building relationships, and serving them as sisters and brothers.

Usually books like this make me feel bad that I am not doing enough, whatever that means. This book was different, though.

Bessenecker makes it very clear that this path is not for everyone, and that those of us not called to do this work do not have to wallow in helplessness. There is plenty we can do to support their work directly, as well as impact the communities in which we presently life. In addition to the Franciscan brothers and the sisters of Poor Clare, St. Francis established a third order "made up of men and women living sacrificially and simply in the work-a-day world while supporting and praying for the first two orders". From our lives of relative comfort, we can still live according to the underlying qualities embraced by these new friars. They are:

  • Incarnation—tearing down the insulation and becoming real to those in trouble
  • Devotion—making intimacy with Christ our all-consuming passion {I think this is perfectly applicable to people of all faiths.}
  • Community—intentionally creating interdependence with others
  • Mission—looking outside ourselves
  • Marginalization—being countercultural in a world that beckons us to assimilate at the cost of our conscience


Bessenecker also provides a list of ideas on simple living compiled by Daphne Eck. Here is an excerpt:


Cultivate a closeness with God.
Practice regular hospitality.
Help each other, emphasize service.
Always speak the truth. Develop a habit of plain, honest speech. If you consent to do a task, do it. Avoid flattery and half-truths. Make honesty and integrity the distinguishing characteristics of your speech.
Don't judge.
Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others.
Consciously seek to identify with the poor and forgotten. Start by visiting hospitals, prisons, and nursing homes.
Schedule "simple" dates with your spouse.
Teach your children.


Make your commitments simple.
Don't overwork.
Fast periodically from media, food, people.
Elevate reading, go to the library.
Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you. Cut down on the use of addictive, non-nutritional food and drinks such as alcohol, coffee, tea, soda, sugar, chocolate.
Simplify Christmas and other holidays. Develop the habit of homemade celebrations.


Slow down.
Do not exhaust your emotional bank account.
Lie fallow.
Say no.
Restrict/eliminate television watching. Turn off or mute advertisements.
Learn to enjoy solitude.


Cultivate contentment, desire less.
Resist covetousness and consumerism.
Buy things for their usefulness, not their status.
Learn to enjoy things without owning them. Benefit from places of "common ownership" (parks, museums, libraries, rivers, public beaches).
De-accumulate. Develop the habit of giving things away.
Offer others the use of your possessions.
Develop a network of exchange.
Avoid impulse buying.
Don't buy now, pay later.
Avoid credit cards if they are a problem.
De-emphasize respectability.
Simplify your wardrobe--give away excess.
Learn how to make do with a lower income instead of needing a higher one.


Be grateful for things large and small.
Emphasize a joyful life.
Appreciate creation.
Send cards of encouragement and appreciation when others are not expecting it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

good green news

walked to field trip
turned off heat
shopped at farmer's market
carpooled to class
bought flannel sheets at thrift shop

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Why is discomfort such a central component of change? Is pain always a stop on the road to a new life?

How much discomfort am I willing to accept on my journey? How much am I willing to put my family through?

Discomfort and I have always had a bad relationship. I was never allowed, in so much as I could be protected, to experience it. As an adult, I have run away many, many times when it came knocking on my door. Even when it was the only thing between me and my dreams/goals/plans. I rationalized it by changing my dreams/goals/plans, but since they keep recurring in different forms, they are still there but I am not yet ready to confront and embrace the discomfort on my way to achieving them.

One crystal clear example of this is my attempts at weight loss. I am unwilling to begin a diet because of the discomfort I might experience as my mind and body adjust to the changes. As much as I want the end result, I am not willing to crawl through the muck to get there.

I want to get to where discomfort and I have a healthy relationship with respect, give and take, and acceptance. I want to be able to acknowledge and accept my feelings of discomfort but not let them deter me from the path I am choosing. I want to be able to simply say "This is hard" and move forward.

Monday, November 12, 2007

public service announcement

...and my new philosophy of life

If you can't go somewhere and celebrate without inserting your personal drama and issues into the ceremony, stay the %&$^*#@ home!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

totally exhausted

Friday 4:45 am--leave for wedding 10 hours away by car
drive, listen to insipid children's literature, find iPod in pocket, smile, escape the car for an hour, arrive in Sibling City, eat cheesesteak, visit R's alma mater, take kids to see Famous Cracked Bell,
drive to BIL's house, socialize, socialize, socialize
Friday 10:00 pm--put kids to bed

Saturday 11:00 am--go to BIL's house for wedding
Sunday 2:30 am--finally go to bed
Sunday 8:45 am--leave for home 10 hours by car
Sunday 7:45 pm--finally arrive home

Saturday, November 10, 2007

notes from the road

Being in an environment where my values are not the norm and the way we live is foreign is no longer stressing me out and making me question where I stand. Rather, I am feeling motivated to strengthen my values and increase the visibility of the changes we have made.

For instance, I am no longer embarrassed to collect our cans and bottles for recycling at home. That act had a positive outcome as I learned that my BIL and soon-to-be SIL actually do recycle some stuff sometimes.

It is also interesting to note how the body adapts to environmental changes. M woke up this morning with a bloody nose because the heat is set at 72 here. It was incredibly stifling.

Finally, my relationship with food is slowly changing during this trip. I was not willing to continue to eat for taste even when my body says stop. This has always been a HUGE problem for me. I was also willing to wait and experience the signs of hunger in order to eat what I really wanted, not what was immediately available.

Friday, November 09, 2007

green on the road

super simple tips for staying green on the road...

bring a reusable cup--sigg, kleen kanteen, or otherwise.
it can be filled up with water, soda, or anything else.

keep a bag in the trunk for recyclables. We are traveling to a state with no bottle/can returns. the amount of waste is staggering. I am walking around my in-laws collecting bottles and cans to bring home and recycle. I can't return them for $.10 (that's illegal), but I can put them out on the curb.

keep cloth napkins in the car.

slow down. the gas savings are significant. (I'll admit this is the hardest one to do. It is soooo tempting to want to get there..and FAST! Especially with two young ones in the car.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Freeze Yer Buns Update

The heat has been off at least 4 hours each day. I have been diligent about turning it off when we will be gone for more than 3 hours. I am not sure if this will be a good idea when it gets really, really cold, but for now it works!
The maximum temp is holding steady at 65.
Nights are at 62. We will be moving down to 61 in December and 60 for the remainder.
Layering is a good thing.
Cleaning is actually a good thing when it's cold because it gets me moving. (This one is still in the theoretical stage.)
The kids have flannel sheets on their beds. I am working on getting some for our bed. I would also like to get (eventually) flannel duvet covers. Our down comforters are really toasty, but they take a while to warm up.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

ABCs of Me

A--my middle name has 3 of these
B--L would not be caught without at least one ball in his bed each night
C--Charlotte's Web is one of my favorite books.
D--I have never had a dog.
E--For the past 3 months, the only eggs I've bought have been from within 20 miles of home
F--I took my first solo cross-country flight (from NJ to CA) before I was 10
G--I am enjoying my journey toward a more green lifestyle
H--I lived in Houston from 5-9th grades
I--We lived in Evanston, Illinois for 4 years.
J--Motherhood is an extremely challenging and exciting journey.
K--I walked from Ohio to Kentucky across the Ohio River.
L--I can't wait to become a librarian.
M--Go Blue!
N--R thinks my 2-3 hours naps are too long to be considered naps.
O--Oreos were L's first cookie.
P--My life never had so much pink and purple until M turned 3 and decided those were her favorite colors.
Q--I really, really, really want to learn to quilt.
R--Running a marathon is a goal of mine.
S--Second graders have too much energy.
T--That makes them really fun to teach
U--I believed unicorns were real for a very, very long time.
V--R and I were vegetarian for 7 years.
W--My wedding took place 11 years ago.
X--Next semester I will beable to explain XML.
Y--I have been unable to get into yoga.
Z--My family likes going to the zoo.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Trip to the Farm

Our afternoon trip to the farm was amazing. It was drizzly, cold, and dreary, but the kids' wonder, amazement, and curiosity made it feel warm and bright. We saw a calf, piglets who were cuter than anything (I can totally relate to Fern from Charlotte's Web. Those pigs are just too darn cute to be put down.), a turkey who had lots to say about his friends' upcoming fate, a mama goat and her quadruplets, and another mama goat and her twins. We got to help load the animals into their pens for lunch. We also got to ask the farmer lots of questions about the animals' lives on and off the farm.

The kids and I went with friends—one for each of us. The kids all play really well together, so the moms get to have lots of good conversations. This was one of those trips I never would have attempted on my own. It was cold and rainy and the place was deserted. L, M, and I would have been ready to go within minutes.

I am so happy to be able to give my kids these kinds of experiences. When we walked into the chicken coop, the first thing out of M's mouth was, "Thanks for the eggs, chickens." She has already made the real connection that eggs come from chickens, something I didn't think about until recently. Since we are not raising them vegetarian, I want them to get to know animals and make the connection between the way they are raised and their suitableness as dinner. I hope by exposing them to farms regularly, talking about where our food comes from (remember picking those blueberries this summer?), and being committed to living a more local, nature centered life (including when the weather is less than perfect) will give them a foundation for low-impact living.

Monday, November 05, 2007

connecting the dots of my brain (Not!)

  • I prevailed against my demons and cooked dinner, even though it was the last thing I really wanted to do.
  • The dinner is completely LOCAL (within 20 miles). We are having meatballs, smashed potatoes, and collard greens. Even the butter and eggs are local.
  • I am cold. The heating challenge has just begun and I have a lot of adapting to do.
  • I have been religious about turning off the heat when we leave for longer than 2 hours.
  • We went to L’s basketball practice as a family tonight. I walked on the treadmill for 45 minutes.
  • New plan—10 days of pushups = 1 song from iTunes. I have recently rediscovered the nurturing power of music to my soul and this is a good way to gain some much needed strength while earning additional songs for my collection. This is the beginning of the snowball effect—the more songs I have, the more I am going to want to go out and walk, the more I will want to do pushups, the stronger I will be, the more satisfying my walks will be. Go ME!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

holidays, consumerism, and kids

The Sunday paper brought with it some very unwelcome companions today: the Target and Meijer toy preview magazines. These glossy, attractive mini-catalogs were very popular at the breakfast table. The kids read and reread them, talking about what they wanted. It was very hard for me to acknowledge their excitement without a)buying into it and encouraging it or b) putting a huge damper on it by talking about the social and environmental ills associated with most holiday consumption.

Now that the season is upon us, I am going to have to work these issues into our conversations. I want them to understand why I don't want to spend money on cheap (and not so cheap) plastic toys. I want them to make the connection between their consumption and someone else's labor. I also want them to make the connection between their consumption and the environment. What happens to the packaging? Howdo the toys get here from China? What resources are being used to make the toys? The folks over at New American Dream have some good tips and resources to get me started.

I am working hard at trying to make Christmas more experience-based and less toy-based, but that is going to take lots of time and energy on my part. We have to develop ways to lessen the short-term thrill of opening a ton of presents on Christmas day. Instead, I want to focus on having adventures and doing activities that will make long-term memories.

Another component of this is making the holidays a process. Decorating the house and tree are events in and of themselves; I need to treat them that way by involving R and the kids.

I would love to create photo books for the kids of our vacations and other special things in their lives for Christmas. I don't know if I will get to it this year, but that is definitely something they would love, and it would fall right in line with my values. It will also encourage me to use the wonderful new camera R bought. ;)

Saturday, November 03, 2007

being in the moment

I just had lovely evening with M. We went swimming at the Y, had dinner at Panera, and took a quick tour through the Salvation Army, where I found her Christmas present. Of course, she now knows about it because she was with me, but this will be the one from her parents and I'm going to make it fancy so it's all good.
Her swimming is coming along really well. The only thing holding me back from encouraging it is the damage it inflicts on her hair/scalp. I don't have the energy/time to redo her hair everytime we swim. I know that's a pathetic reason, but if she really ends up choosing swimming as her activity I will totally support her. Obviously.
Anyway, back to the pool. I followed her lead--played her games, let her decide what tricks to show me, swam/sit where she told me. When she finally said, "I'm ready to go." I didn't question her to make sure, I just swam out of the pool.

One of the main messages I'm getting from my reading of Pema Chodron is to minimize and not reinforce the negative behaviors/thoughts/ways of being while reinforcing the positive ones I am striving for. Being with my kids in mindful, meaningful ways is a behavior I want to nurture.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Project Garage--Day 2

This job can best be done in chunks. I spent 20 minutes today cleaning and loading the car. I made some noticeable progress. I am going to need R's help to load the big piece of furniture into the van so I can take it to the reuse center. It's a great feeling to see progress after only 20 minutes.
For the first time ever, our curbside trash can will not close. I am both proud and embarrassed of this fact. First, I am proud because it means I am detaching from my possessions and willing to only keep that which is meaningful. But, I am embarrassed because we had so much stuff to begin with and because we did not take good enough care of it to let someone else use it.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Organization Day 1—reflection, planning, and pictures

1. What do I want the purpose of my room or area to be?

Storage—bikes, car, toys, lawn and yard equipment
Pantry—additional space for kitchen supplies

2. What do I need in or near the room to serve that purpose?


3. What can I remove from the room?

Items we no longer use—double jogger, furniture, toys, duplicates
Items we can store elsewhere
items that need to be put together to be used elsewhere

4. What problems do I see with the room?

Not enough places for things to go off the floor
storage tools are inadequate

5. What organizational tools might solve those problems?

See #2

6. What habits need to change to solve the organizational problems?

Putting things away when done
Not buying more than I can comfortably store in the space available
Using what I have before buying more
Timely removal of recyclables, returnables, and items for donation

7. What kind of a budget do I have to create the organized room of my dreams?


8. What kind of a timeline is necessary to organize the room?

This needs to be done this month because the weather is getting colder.

9. What is my plan of action?

a. take first batch of items to be donated
b. sort toys with the kids
c. take second batch of items to be donated
d. make bins for donation
z. purchase new items and complete organization (I want the purchasing to come last because I cannot buy my way out of this problem.)