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Archive for January, 2011

Trying to live more simply is my journey of the last seven years.

The road began with reading up on small scale agriculture.  I loved gardening and animals, had studied farming in college, and was just beginning to hear the buzz about sustainable farming.  I had filled my small city lot with flowers, lettuce, and tomatoes.  There was not an inch left for any more beds.  I was longing for the country and I was trying to plan for my future eco-friendly farm.

One of my Diet Cokes and Miss “X”
(okay so it’s Lisa, but she’s given up DC for good.)

A couple of years after the quest to find out about sustainable agriculture began, I was afforded the opportunity to work for an environmental learning center which would change my life forever.  I knew very little about nature when I started.  Now I am eco-nature-geek and it’s all their fault!

As I’ve mentioned before, Diet Coke is one of my biggest vices, less now than three years ago though.  I would stop by the gas station and buy 44 ounces of pop, and bring it in to work.  I didn’t eat vegetables, and I ate a lot of meals from a tin can.  My new ecofriends would scold me (in an encouraging way of course).

No one ever bopped me on the head or called me any bad names; none that I can remember anyway.

Mostly, they led by example.  My friends…

  • carefully sorted their garbage into: recycling, worm bin, and throw it into the woods for the raccoons.
  • never used paper plates or plastic forks, even when we had a big party for our volunteers, we washed dishes.
  • always jumped in because there was work to be done.
  • were diligent about carpooling or riding bikes to work.
  • carried their water bottles and encouraged me to get one too.
  • carefully shopped for their new purchases, making sure the fabrics were sustainably produced and fairly traded.
  • found joy in a walk on a sunny day, even in the winter.
  • convinced me that winter could be fun (well, at least less awful), if you learned to dress for the weather.
  • had me order the more expensive coffee because it was shade grown and the farmers were paid a fair wage.
  • showed me how to like snakes.
  • applauded my efforts at learning about small agriculture, and encouraged me to bring in fresh eggs and extra tomato plants.

My friends led by example. Not in a preachy way, but in a “This is how we live our life way.”

I drank Diet Coke from styrofoam cups until the day I left.  I never once ate Thai food willingly while at work, never tried the fair trade coffee, and secretly used paper plates at home sometimes.

But, I can now drink coffee, drink way less pop, carry my water bottle, cook my food from scratch, wash my own plate at school-even when there are paper plates and plastic forks out.  I now eat curry on purpose without whining.  I pick up snakes on my hikes with my students.  My family of six only throws out about one or two small trash bags per week.  We compost most waste and feed our worms and chickens.  And I’m much more willing to jump in and help than I used to be.

I learned a lot from my friends.  They have changed the way that I live my life.  I was going through life without really thinking about the price of my actions.  I love them for being my teachers and mentors.  I hope that I can be the same sort of teacher and mentor that they are to me for someone else.  Not in a preachy way, but by example.

A “This is how I live my life” kind of way.

Thank you Jane, Dana, Lisa, Paul, Carol, Jennifer, and Luke for making such a difference in my life.

My Eco-buddies trying to show me that winter can be fun, while playing broomball.

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Becoming a full-fledged treehugger is not as difficult as you would think.

Today I went to a meeting of sustainable minded folks in Goshen called “Green Drinks”.  The point of the group is to have a very brief (like 5 minutes brief) presentation, and then network with other like-minded folk.

I am a complete introvert.  Networking, mingling, and meeting new people gives me cold sweats.

Tonight I didn’t pass out or anything.

The folks at my table got to talking about why we are interested in the sustainable movement.  For one, it was the way her family grew up – you just didn’t waste.  For another, each little step to be more gentle on the Earth just seemed to make sense.

I asked one woman what she thought her biggest change toward sustainability had been in the last two years.  She couldn’t pinpoint any one thing.  When the rest of the table really thought about that question, it was difficult for any of us to identify one major life habit change.

The bottom line we decided is that becoming “green”, or more importantly, becoming “aware” and changing our habits is a continuum.  It’s little bitty, teeny tiny steps toward living a more intentional life that eventually become habit.  Little things that once you learn about their impact you just can’t go back to the way things used to be.

You don’t have to sell your car, throw out all the food in your fridge, wear hemp shawls, and eat only beans.  You can start by carrying a water bottle, combining errands into one trip, flipping off the lights when you leave a room, or taking shorter showers.

Just one step at a time.

The folks at our table had lots of insights tonight about their journey.  Here is a snippet of some of the simple things we noticed about our lives:

  • Disposable plastic packaging is much more prevalent, and almost impossible to avoid.
  • People stopped carrying their own water or relying on water fountains, with the invention of the plastic water bottle, leading to more trash.
  • We can learn to simplify, or make our own to avoid packaging (in this case there was a desire to learn to make yogurt).
  • Sustainable practices can be incorporated into a business plan as an expense to limit waste.
  • In the media, sustainability is treated as a “special interest” story, when really it should just be a normal part of our lives.

I’ve reposted a blog post from early last fall before anyone but my mom was reading my blog.  It follows this post and is about how my friends dragged me kicking and screaming into this intentional lifestyle.  I think it fits today’s thought.

It’s easier not knowing the truth sometimes, but definitely not better.

We have one planet, finite resources, and a fragile ecosystem on this Earth.

And that’s why I bother.

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Trying to live more simply is my journey of the last seven years.

The road began with reading up on small scale agriculture.  I loved gardening and animals, had studied farming in college, and was just beginning to hear the buzz about sustainable farming.  I had filled my small city lot with flowers, lettuce, and tomatoes.  There was not an inch left for any more beds.  I was longing for the country and I was trying to plan for my future eco-friendly farm.

A couple of years after the quest to find out about sustainable agriculture began, I was afforded the opportunity to work for an environmental learning center which would change my life forever.  I knew very little about nature when I started.  Now I am eco-nature-geek and it’s all their fault!

As I’ve mentioned before, Diet Coke is one of my biggest vices, less now than three years ago though.  I would stop by the gas station and buy 44 ounces of pop, and bring it in to work.  I didn’t eat vegetables, and I ate a lot of meals from a tin can.  My new ecofriends would scold me (in an encouraging way of course).

No one ever bopped me on the head or called me any bad names; none that I can remember anyway.

Mostly, they led by example.  My friends…

  • carefully sorted their garbage into: recycling, worm bin, and throw it into the woods for the raccoons.
  • never used paper plates or plastic forks, even when we had a big party for our volunteers, we washed dishes.
  • always jumped in because there was work to be done.
  • were diligent about carpooling or riding bikes to work.
  • carried their water bottles and encouraged me to get one too.
  • carefully shopped for their new purchases, making sure the fabrics were sustainably produced and fairly traded.
  • found joy in a walk on a sunny day, even in the winter.
  • convinced me that winter could be fun (well, at least less awful), if you learned to dress for the weather.
  • had me order the more expensive coffee because it was shade grown and the farmers were paid a fair wage.
  • showed me how to like snakes.
  • applauded my efforts at learning about small agriculture, and encouraged me to bring in fresh eggs and extra tomato plants.

My friends led by example. Not in a preachy way, but in a “This is how we live our life way.”

I drank Diet Coke from styrofoam cups until the day I left.  I never once ate Thai food willingly while at work, never tried the fair trade coffee, and secretly used paper plates at home sometimes.

But, I can now drink coffee, drink way less pop, carry my water bottle, cook my food from scratch, wash my own plate at school-even when there are paper plates and plastic forks out.  I now eat curry on purpose without whining.  I pick up snakes on my hikes with my students.  My family of six only throws out about one or two small trash bags per week.  We compost most waste and feed our worms and chickens.  And I’m much more willing to jump in and help than I used to be.

I learned a lot from my friends.  They have changed the way that I live my life.  I was going through life without really thinking about the price of my actions.  I love them for being my teachers and mentors.  I hope that I can be the same sort of teacher and mentor that they are to me for someone else.  Not in a preachy way, but by example.

A “This is how I live my life” kind of way.

Thank you Jane, Dana, Lisa, Paul, Carol, Jennifer, and Luke for making such a difference in my life.

My Eco-buddies trying to show me that winter can be fun, while playing broomball.

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I am one that struggles with decision making.

One of my strengths is my ability to see the big picture.

Imagining possibilities is exhilarating.  Nothing gives me greater pleasure than sitting down and brainstorming all of the possibilities to solve a problem, either by myself, with my husband, or with others at work.

I can easily come up with a fistful of solutions to most of the problems that come my way in life.

But, one of my weaknesses is my ability to see the big picture.

Life is many shades of gray to me.

I seldom see black and white answers to problems.  I can see the positives and negatives in those solutions, but when trying to weigh my options, they all seem to carry the same weight to me.

By saying “yes” to one possibility, I am saying “no” to another, and it feels like I am closing the door on that idea forever.  Indeed, sometimes the “yes” really is closing that possibility forever.

Sunday, my husband and I went to church for the first time in a long while.  The message was about listening for God’s call.  The man that spoke was a physicist, I’m guessing by his story that he was in his eighties.  He spoke of the times in his life when he had to make the tough decisions: take a fellowship; accept a job at a prestigious Ivy League school or a small religious college; complete his PhD or go overseas to serve in a religious ministry.

At some of his decision making times, the answer was clear, in other instances, it was difficult to separate the call from his own desire.

Sometimes it is difficult to sort out the best of two really good choices, or conversely two really bad choices.

He closed with,

“Whatever you do, make sure that you are living life intentionally.”

Those of you that read my blog regularly know that is the core of what I am personally working toward.

Another wise and experienced man, after the sermon said,

“If we are trying to live an intentional life, then we cannot let gravity guide us through the life of least resistance.”

I love that.

For so long, I was living the life of least resistance.  In many respects I still am.  Most of us let the gravity of life pull us through and make decisions for us.

Least resistance could mean staying in a job that is unsatisfying, staying in a major because you are almost done (guilty!), marrying someone just because you’ve been together so long, staying in an abusive marriage, giving up on a relationship because it take work to fix, watching too much television, letting our kids go with the cultural flow and grow up too soon, or buying the latest and greatest (fill-in-the-blank) just because that’s what everyone’s doing.

Sometimes least resistance is in the shape of putting off or avoiding decisions.  In which case, our decisions are made for us.

On ocassion, our ability to choose certain solutions is limited by our circumstances.  As a divorced and remarried person, my decisions and solutions must also consider the kids’ two other families.  Perhaps your decision making is limited by finances or a lack of support from your spouse.  Maybe your decision making is limited by location or education.  Maybe the solution you’ve envisioned, or feel called to has not presented itself yet.

What opportunities, calls, decisions will shape your life into what it is supposed to be?

For myself, I’m not sure what the next big decision will be.  In the meantime, I will continue working toward making small intentional decisions daily.  Hopefully that will help shape my life and prepare it for the next big decision making opportunity.

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I didn’t get any writing done over the Christmas holiday.

For whatever reasons, I was uninspired to do anything creative at all.  I took only a few Christmas photos of the kids, didn’t do any writing, and only painted one room.  Maybe it’s the duldrums of winter.  I’ve also been a bit uninspired about adding more noise to the world of blogging.

I think part of it was me feeling lonely.  I moved to my new town about a year and a half ago.  My husband has lived here for over 20 years, but I’m still getting to know people.  I do have two friends of my own from this town, but both of them were gone visiting family all break.

I have 44 facebook friends that live in my town.  Most of them are folks that I met through my husband.  All super-wonderful-great people.  But I feel like I’m at the “just getting to know you” level of friendship level – not yet at the “my house is a mess and I haven’t showered yet, but come over and have coffee anyway” level.  After a year-and-a-half, I would have thought that I would have some deeper friendships by now.  I am painfully shy, but once I feel comfortable, I open up and let my full-blown geek out to play.

Yesterday I had a revelation.

One of my good friends recently dropped her cable, internet, and land line to save a few bucks.  She was lamenting the other day at lunch that she didn’t realize how much she relied on the internet to check maps, weather, look up recipes, and check her email and facebook.

Yesterday she called me to ask for a recipe for chocolate syrup.

I can’t remember the last time I called someone to ask for a recipe, or that someone called me to ask for help.  I cannot recall the last time I called to ask for directions, or to borrow something from a friend.

The internet is a wonder.  I love it, I spend a lot of time frittering my life away on it.

This is the first time period in my life in which I am trying to create friendships and Facebook is a huge part of everyone’s life.

But what are we giving up in exchange?  Are we giving up the opportunity to interact and share in a more meaningful way by having the world’s information at our fingertips?

I am grateful that my friend called yesterday.

It reminded me that the best friendships develop face-to-face, not facebook-to-facebook.

And that recipe:

1/2 c. cocoa power

1 c. sugar

1 c. water

1 tsp vanilla

dash of salt

combine cocoa, sugar, salt in a saucepan.  Add water and mix until smooth.  Boil for one minute, but don’t overboil.  Take it off the heat, when it cools add vanilla.

We’ve made lots of variations in my house including: marachino cherry juice and almond extract; or cinnamon and nutmeg

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