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Posts Tagged ‘community’

but tossing and turning instead because my brain won’t turn off.

As I was lying in bed last night, I was thinking about yesterday’s post and how complicated my life really is. Today, on Facebook, three of my friends were lamenting Monday, and realizing that somewhere along the way, we have forgotten how to live.

The  joy has been sucked out of our lives with busyness: long commutes, needless paperwork, unpaid overtime, too many papers coming home from school, soccer games, and lawn mowing.  Even 13th Century peasants had 80 holidays per year, and slowed down in the winter long enough to mend their socks and make babies.

Some people are lucky enough to be in the financial situation to be able to do what they want, and others of us, are treading water, trying to get the bills paid. I know some will say, “follow your bliss”, “quit your job and do what makes you happy”, “sell your house and your car and everything will be okay”.

Some of us are just not in the financial position to do that.  I’ve been reading a lot of blogs about simplicity, and there are  a lot of hardcore, all or nothing types.  Either you sell your t.v. and your car, or you might as well give up your quest for a simpler life.  That’s just not possible for all everyone.  Some of us have child support to pay;  a significant other in school; are under or unemployed; have houses that won’t sell in this market; or are up to their eyeballs in student loans and credit card debt.  Maybe we live in places that have no public transportation and eight-year-olds that can’t ride their bikes 10 miles to town and back. What about us?  I am hopelessly optimistic.  I just think we will have to be ultra creative to figure this all out.

What do those of us that want a simpler life now do? In our minds we see how we want our lives to be, but aren’t sure how to get there.  Maybe we don’t even know how we want our lives to look yet, so we can’t even begin to make a change.

Eight years ago, I knew that something wasn’t quite right in my life. I really felt stale and stagnant.

So I took the following steps to make some changes. I…

  • learned to oil paint. I had always wanted to learn to paint, so when my daughter was just about a year old, I took an oil painting class.
  • threw pots on a wheel at a pottery studio. Let me tell you, pottery can be therapeutic. The other major and maybe the most life transforming thing that I learned was: Don’t be afraid to look like an idiot and ask questions. People want to help you.
  • came to terms with the thought that I wasn’t crazy, just creative. I saw a counselor for a while, but I think anyone could have filled the role of letting me know that I wasn’t crazy, just different from the mainstream. Who wants to be like everyone else anyway?
  • tried every thing I could think of to save my marriage. I didn’t bolt, and suffered for a while, but I wanted to make sure every step had been overturned before I left.
  • found people in my tribe. This included people from age 21-76. Age doesn’t matter, heart does.
  • made a plan. I went back and got my teaching certificate for High School science so I could find a job with a paycheck that could support myself.
  • finally learned how to use my camera which is by far the most fun I’ve had so far.
  • met a great friend that shares my lust for learning, so I married him.
  • really started evaluating what I eat, buy and otherwise consume, and have started making some difficult choices in my behaviors to match up with my values.

So, that’s what I’ve done so far, not all at the same time mind you-over the course of the last eight years. I’m not there yet, far from it. I still feel like there is a lot more for me to learn.

The last ten years have beat me up in a lot of ways, but I wouldn’t trade them because I learned too much about myself. If I hadn’t have had troubles along the way, I would still be stupid 26 year-old Jenny, and not mildly jaded 36 year-old Jenny.

So friends, what are we going to do to find the simplicity and connectedness in our lives that we want?

Step One: We have to evaluate what our values truly are. What do we hold dearest to us in our lives?  How can we better show through our lives what is most important to us? And then, this is the kicker…we have to prioritize those values. Put them in 1,2,3 order with one being the most important to you.

I’m going to sleep on this one tonight, and post more about this tomorrow. If you are courageous, post your values in order in the comment section on the blog, and maybe we can help each other out.

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I was talking about Blog Action Day with my family at dinner the other night, and mentioned that I had oodles of ideas about this year’s topic, “Water”, but wasn’t sure how to narrow it down.  My eight-year-old daughter suggested that I write about kids that have to walk thousands of miles to go to the wells to get their water each day.  True enough, there are about 1 billion people in the world that don’t have ready access to clean and healthy drinking water.  They’re probably not walking thousands of miles, but it probably feels that way to them.

It’s hard to imagine life without running water.  I can imagine having to pump water from a backyard well, but the thought of having to haul water back and forth each day is a stretch.  Last summer our power went out three times.  The longest was three days.  It was easy living without lights, the computer, and the oven.  Life without refrigeration for those days was difficult, but even more difficult was life without water.  I felt grimey from no shower.  I had clothes that needed washing.  I wanted warm water to wash my face, and running water to rinse off my toothbrush.  And let’s not forget the water for flushing.

Today let’s focus on why we should care.  When most Americans can still get water from their water utility, even if the power is out, why should we care if we conserve water or not?  How does what we do affect the water supply for people elsewhere?  We’ll briefly look at a variety of issues, mostly just to get you thinking, although I’d be glad to write more on these issues later.

Three percent of the water on the planet is freshwater, but only about 1% of the water is useable to us.  Some is trapped in icecaps and glaciers, and some is in places underground that we can’t access.

I live in Indiana. Here are the top issues that immediately come to mind in my state:

Wetlands

Constructed Wetland at Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College, Photo by Goshen College

Indiana used to be covered with about 24% wetlands.  Now we are down to about 3.5% wetland cover.  Why?  The wetlands were drained, starting in the 1800’s for farming and development.  At the time, it was considered wasteland.  Now we know better.

Wetlands provide a natural means of flood control.  Wetlands are able to hold runoff (rain that cannot be absorbed into the ground during a storm).  The water sits in the wetland and slowly percolates through the soil, getting cleaned up along the way.

Wetlands are a natural filtration system.  Wetlands clean our water for free!  That’s called an ecosystem service (the job of nature that benefits us, and doesn’t cost us a penny).  The wetland filtration system works so well, that many people and businesses have started using constructed wetlands complete with wetland plants that will clean the waste water from a home or organization before it is either reused or returned to the water system.  It’s my understanding that these are becoming quite popular in LaGrange County, Indiana.

Wetlands provide an important ecosystem for our wildlife.  One third of Indiana’s endangered plants and animals are from a wetland ecosystem.

Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO)

Think about that term for a minute…What might we be combining?  Hmmmm? Some of you may have guessed it.  Human waste with our rivers.  How delightful!  When cities originally made their sewer plans a hundred or so years ago, the cities were much smaller, and there was far less runoff.  Runoff comes in greater quantities from hard, nonporous surfaces like paved roads, parking lots, and big roofs.  They did plan sewers for the extreme event that should there be a heavy rain, the sewers would not back up into people’s homes and the streets.  Generally street drains and homes will run the waste water through the sewage treatment plant.  In the event of a heavy rainfall, the sewage treatment plant cannot handle the inflow, so there is an extra pipe that drains directly into the riverways during a “heavy” rain.  And by heavy, I mean a quarter of an inch for some cities, like mine.  That means anytime it rains kind of hard that human feces is floating down the river.  That doesn’t sound too healthy to me.  Cities are supposed to take care of their CSO’s and make plans to fix them, but it costs millions of dollars to do so, and no one is getting penalized for not fixing them.

Ditches and Drains

We are an agricultural state.  We have lots of drainage ditches through the agricultural land.  The drains wouldn’t necessarily be so bad, except that they lead into the river.  Many of these drains have been straightened, which makes them flow faster.  A faster flow means more silt and sediment.  The number one pollutant in Indiana isn’t oil or heavy metals, it’s sediment.  Why is this a problem?  It makes the water murky which keeps plants from photosynthesizing, which messes with the whole rest of the food chain.

Privatization

This is an issue that I am still learning about.  But here are some thoughts to ponder:  Who owns our water?  If water falls on your land, does it belong it to you? (In some places, even in the U.S., it is illegal to collect your rainwater), Should the government take care of our water?  Can private organizations own our water and distribute it back to us?  Can they sell our local water to folks far, far away?  I HIGHLY recommend the movie, Blue Gold.  It explains very clearly some of the water privatization issues in the U.S. and around the globe.

Water Footprint

Where does the water you use each day come from?  Think beyond your shower.  Where did the juice you drink originate?  How much irrigation was needed for your cotton t-shirt?  How much water was needed to make the plastic bottle that you use?  How much water was needed to raise the beef for your hamburger.

The piece that I had never really thought much about is how water moves around the globe.  For example, most of the applejuice that you buy anymore comes from China.  The apples are grown in China, then the juice gets shipped back to the U.S.  In a country that has a water shortage issue, it seems strange to ship the water from one ecosystem to another.  Another piece that I have recently discovered is that water should stay where it is.  If we ship water to places that have a severe water shortage, that water will essentially be lost from the original ecosystem’s water cycle.

One of the very worst American trends is bottled water.  As long as our water is safe to drink, we should be drinking water from the tap.  It takes 3 liters of water to produce 1 liter that we can actually buy, not to mention the waste from the plastic bottle it came in.  If you do one thing to make a change today, go buy yourself a reusable metal bottle, and start filling up from your sink.  Most bottled water is municipal water anyway.

What the heck is big mouth Jenny going to do about her water consumption?

This is what I’m going to do.  I’m giving up Diet Coke (and all sodas).  I have an issue with drinking too much of it.

Based on a study by Coca-Cola in the Netherlands, the total water footprint for a .5 liter bottle of Diet Coke is 35.41 liters of water to produce.  Some of that, 0.41 L is used in the manufacturing process, most of which can be reused.  Twenty-eight liters is used in the production stage (growing sugar beets, carmel coloring, CO2), about 22.4 liters is green and blue water (water from the soil and surface water).  The part that concerns me most is the 11.41 liters that is used to clean the water pollution created during the process of making the Coca-Cola and the bottle that it came in.

Coca-Cola is making its way toward sustainable business practices, and working to reduce their footprint.  I’ll give them some kudos for that.  However, after seeing these numbers, and knowing the state of our world’s water supply, I think it’s time for me to ditch the Cola habit and try to increase my local water consumption.

What are you going to do?

Are you going to find out what watershed you live in?  Start carrying your reusable water bottle?  Cut your shower down by one or two minutes?  Stop dumping toxic chemicals into your lawn?

I want to hear your ideas.

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