Saturday, April 28, 2007

Smaller


Image Courtesy of allposters.com
So, I've been thinking about life lately. Just life in general and then, of course, specifically, my life. These thoughts always flit around my brain from time to time, but moreso this year I think. See, I'm 38 1/2 and I'm nearing that mid-life crisis thing. I remember when my dad went through it, because we really butted heads at that time. As a 14-year-old looking at my dad, I couldn't understand what it really meant. I was going through my own tumultuous period, so I don't think I could have understood even if someone had explained it to me.

Later, I remember reading about midlife crises. I remember reading how people would get to a place and begin wondering if "this is all that there is". I didn't understand it then, either, because the world seemed so full of potential and there was just so much to do, to achieve.

I don't doubt that there is still potential. And I wouldn't say that I am in a state of crisis... but now I do understand. I have always said that I doubt I will ever be bored in retirement, because I have many and varied interests. I still believe this, but I can see now, that the things that our culture pushes and pushes as the focus of our lives: career, family, house, etc. have all happened for you at retirement, and indeed, have happened for me, for the most part right now... at 38 1/2.

I have friends my same age that are thinking about these things too. Some are feeling a bit more pessimistic than others. But that question is there: What next? What is next to look forward to, to strive for, after you have achieved some - or all - the goals of your youth? How will you make your mark?

I find this question a bit challenging in some ways, as there was never a specific career beyond mothering that I aspired to. I have many interests, as I said, but I have never felt driven in any one particular direction and after homeschooling, I wonder from time to time what I will do. I have some ideas - some good ones, I think - but I guess I'm thinking about the bigger picture. Actually, I guess I should say, I am thinking of the smaller picture.

To me, small is delightful and I think that is the direction I am heading for the long haul. I always seem to do things backwards. :) The things that I want to do don't require a formal education. When others are wondering how they are going to save for retirement (something, quite honestly, that we think about too), one of the things I want to ask is, "Well, why don't you just see how little it is that you can live on contentedly and see what your actual cost is?" I confess that I do not know the pure answer to this myself, because I have a family and not all of them want to get as tiny as they can be. But the things that are constantly exciting for me are those things I do to shrink my ecological footprint. I am learning now about permaculture. I have found that we have been doing some of the things already, but there is more. Wouldn't it be fabulous if there were many, many gardens on your block, or down your street, or boxes in your apartment building, or a community garden, where we could get half of our food? Wow, that's a big goal, but it is one that I wonder if it is one we can work towards? The skills of drying and preserving foods are ones that have been lost for some, but would need to be revivied if we wanted to be living as locally as possible. Within this goal is community building as well, because we can't be self-sustaining if we can't rely on those around us.

The other day I listened to a podcast that talked about daily "giving your life away" for Christ. I have been thinking about what that means for me. I'm not a person who feels led to the mission fields and I don't currently have a particular "ministry" (beyond my home and family) that I am involved in. There are issues that I care about, but I am not an in-your-face type of activist. But if I can take less, so others can have more, I think that is one way I can do this. If I can consciously try to use fewer petroleum based products (plastic, cosmetics with petrolatum, and, of course, driving), the pollution will diminish and children with athsma can breathe a bit easier and perhaps fewer children will develop athsma to begin with. Also, we won't need to rely on forein countries to meet our energy needs... we won't have to fight about it and our children and their children won't have to die because of it.

So, I think this is the direction I'm heading. It's counter-intuitive to many who want to achieve more and do more and be more, but when it comes to thinking of my future, I'm thinking smaller.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Home, Sweet, Home

(Above is a mosaic collage I recently created for the Creative Mom Podcast circle group at Flickr. It is images of some favorite things of mine around my home. Details about the individual photos are in my Flickr album which can be accessed using the Flickr button in the sidebar.)


This time of the year is a challenge every year. I think of it as "Dotting Our i's and crossing our t's." It is the final push of the year to just get done with school. My mind has leapt ahead to summer when I will have more unlimited time to pursue my own projects. I am greatly looking forward to that.

I am feeling that way especially now when we have had out-of-town guests in a steady stream over the last month. Lovely, truly. And I wouldn't change a minute of it. I looked forward to and enjoyed their visits immensely. But now I am definitely craving "me" time... and I'm starting to get just this side of crabby, since I'm not quite getting it yet. With all those loose school ends, there are just too many commitments still in the way.

Now that it appears our schedule will be getting more back to normal, though, I am really hoping to find my way back into some of my art projects. I haven't totally stopped crafting during this time. I've had things that I wanted to complete as gifts for other people first though. Those things were portable enough to work on while we were with our company, but I am missing that more open-ended exploratory time of working with various media and pushing myself into new directions. Getting lost in the process is part of what I crave; it is centering and healing to me and I find that when I'm not getting that - when I know that there is something that I want to be trying, an idea that keeps nagging me, but I can't get at it - that is when I begin to get edgy.

This past weekend, we did a huge amount of rearranging and serious spring cleaning. I worked steadily Friday through Sunday and then some finishing touches on Monday. So this weekend is one that I am truly looking forward to. No commitments. No schedule. And bonus: a clean and organized house!

I wonder. I wonder if I could really not go anywhere for a week? I wonder if I could only travel by bike for a week? I have this capability, because I do not work outside my home. I wonder if I could do that for a week this summer? Make that a real vacation goal. I wonder what I could do- what I could get done - around my house if I actually did not go anywhere for one week. Would I go stir crazy or would I love it? The bike gives me greater range and I love riding. Maybe that would be the second week. I suspect something would challenge that very challenge to myself. I would guess that something like a book would come due at the library or a trip to the doctor would necessitate. But really... it would be fun to try I think. Have any of you ever done this? Perhaps it's something to really give some thought (and planning) to. Have you ever spend a whole week at "home, sweet, home"?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Happy Earth Day!


Image Courtesy of allposters.com
Isn't she lovely?

Earth Day is one of my favorite days. Did you do anything special today to celebrate Earth Day? It is always my hope that people will remember the day and commemorate it in some way with their children or in some way that others will remember and think to make changes in their daily round. There are SO many things that need doing and there are so many things we can do. Start small if you must, but please, please, start. And don't stop. Keep thinking of new ways to live in greater harmony with the world. There are so many helpful websites out there that list many ideas for change that is beneficial, challenging, and fun! I have some links in my sidebar that are very interesting. Sierra Club is another one and they are hosting a 2% campaign. Their site says:

The world's scientists agree: Global warming is real, here, and happening faster than anyone predicted. But scientists also say we can curb global warming and its consequences -- if we take bold, comprehensive action now that adds up to an 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050. That's a do-able 2% cut a year for each of the next forty years.

To reach our goal -- to build a cleaner, smarter, and safer energy future to meet and overcome the most urgent challenge facing us, to protect our children and theirs -- we must all be part of the solution. You, me, businesses, and government -- all have a role to play. To cut carbon emissions 2 percent a year for each of the next 40 years means we must start right now to make different, better decisions about the energy we use at home, at work, and as a nation.

We won't succeed without your help. That's why we are asking you to: Be Part of the 2% Solution.

One thing I am attempting to do as of Earth Day 2007 is to buy more locally as well as purchase things with less packaging. Again, these challenges are also fun. Purchasing locally means that I get to meet and talk to real people when making my food purchases. It becomes more of a pleasure to shop when I shop within and know members of my community.

This weekend I visited the farmers market in downtown Sarasota. It's not very close to me (about a 25 min drive), but it is right next to Whole Foods Market where I like to pick up things for our family about once-a-month. I bought these beautiful flowers from a local, organic farmer for only $3.00!! What a treat... I should have bought two bunches! They really brighten up the dining room.

At Whole Foods, yesterday, I bought as much food in bulk as I could. I like to buy beans (filling plastic bags I have brought from home) and prepare them ahead of time and freeze them in 2 cup batches for use in recipes.


I would like to start collecting recipes here that can be used as alternative to store-bought, packaged versions. I would like to find some good recipes for things like ketchup and mustard. I just made some mayonaisse (soy based) this weeked and I'll see how the family likes it. If it goes over well, I'll post a recipe and also keep a permanent link in the sidebar. If you know of good recipes like this (your own or links to pages), please let me know in the comments. If you post one on your blog, I will happily link to your post in my sidebar.

Three cups of dried bean yielded over 10 cups of cooked beans. These will be used primarily in the vegetarian chile that I make and refried beans. My recipe for refried beans follows.

Refried Beans

All seasoning is to taste and you can easily double the recipe.

Mash beans (with the cooking liquid) by hand in a bowl or in food processor.
Add to beans:
1 t salt
1 t chile powder
1 t cumin
1/2 to 1 t garlic powder
1 - 2 t onion powder or flakes

Saute this in about 2 T of canola oil on medium heat until the beans are warmed through and have reached the consistency you like.

Tell me about things you are commiting to this year! Hearing things people are doing gives me more hope for our children's futures. I would love to hear from you. Happy Earth Day, everyone!



Earth Day Art Project

Here is an easy project we did about a week ago when we started talking about Earth Day. I found this project at the Enchanted Learning website. It is just a treasure trove of educational ideas, especially if you are a homeschooling family. There are many, many free resources there and even more if you subscribe for $20.00. Looking at some of the things it offers, I think I could easily build a whole year curriculum using this!

Anyway, we made beautiful transparent planet earths to hang in the girls' bedroom windows.
We started by using food coloring to color our glue blue and green:


My only complaint about this project is something that is a pitfall of many craft project directions. The directions said you should use some acetate, but that wax paper would work as well. Well, let me tell you it did not. Sometimes I think when people are preparing directions for a project, they are assuming that another option would work without actually trying it. So here we are trying the project on wax paper, because I wasn't sure if we had acetate.
We taped down the wax paper over the picture of Earth that we'd printed from the website and the girls began to fill in with the green and blue using cotton swabs. It all started out well enough, but soon the glue began to slide and pool in places and then as it was drying it completely puckered up the whole paper!!
I was able to find one piece of acetate that was just enough for both the girls to use, so we didn't have to scrap the whole project. The directions said that it would take a number of hours, perhaps even a day, before we could peel off the earth image from the acetate. I can tell you that initially, the glue would not come off. We waited about 3 days and, thinking that it still was not going to come off, Maia began trimming her acetate closely around the edge of it and then, voila!, it began to peel off for her. We did this with both and, peeling carefully, they both came off and the project turned out beautifully.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Best Thing

Oh, I have been so, so, SO busy!! You should SEE my house! Well, no you shouldn't. Okay, it's really not too bad, because both Paul and I are neatnicks, but this constant going for this girl who really likes to be at home, is starting to show. I suppose I can understand that if you were a two-income household you may want to have a person come in to clean your house, because when one is constantly going, it seems like it's just go and drop [stuff] and go some more. I, for one, am thrilled to be a one-income household and that I can stay home and tend to my little world. But when circumstances prevent me from doing that, it really shows.

We were blessed to have my brother-in-law and his family staying nearby at my mother-in-law's house for three weeks. I've posted here and at the old blog about some of our adventures. And Lena, when you read this: 1) you should comment and say hello when you do!! :) and 2) I miss you already. I had a great time with you this year and wish you all didn't live so far away... oh, and 3) the house next door is still for sale. :)

So, anyway, we were doing a lot of fun things with them and then this past weekend, my mother treated us to a trip to Disney World's Animal Kingdom and Epcot.

I kind of have a wet-blanket attitude about Disney, in general, with all the consumption that goes on there, so I'll spare you my tirade. I hope I didn't include too many pictures here, but I just wanted to show some of the things we saw. I also spoke to one of the "Cast Members" (as the staff is called) about her working life at Disney World and I learned some interesting things. So, hopefully, this post won't bore you to tears like a family vacation slide show.
Above is the cool dragon in the pool at our Port Orleans French Quarter hotel. The head, which you can't see very well, is a water slide and the girls spent all their time - and I mean all their time dong that when they were in the pool.
We arrived Friday night and so we headed to Downtown Disney, since we'd never been there before and just to stroll around. A ferry took us up the river to DD. Here I am with my sweetie pie.

Factoid: Did you know that Disney World employs 55,000 people?! That's right, thousand. That is truly incredible to me.

Once we were in the heart of the beast... um, er, I mean, Downtown Disney (hee, hee), we stopped by at the Lego store. This display was an entire wall (this photo is only a small portion) behind the cash registers. I thought it was really cool.

Below is the giant Lego dragon in the lake outside the store in DD.
The next day we went to Animal Kingdom. The consensus was that the new Mt. Everest rollercoaster was the coolest attraction there. Now, I love rollercoasters. But folks, going backwards... in the dark... was enough for me one time. I wasn't scared, but I have found that not being able to see where I am going, and being tossed all around, makes my stomach do the same thing, so it was a one-time-only ride for me.
Despite their enormous staff, DW is short 3,000 to 5,000 cast members every day.
I long to travel to some of these places for real one day, but Disney does a pretty nice job of making places look quite enchanting. Here is my mom and Maia along one of the animal trails among the "ruins in Asia."
A huge, totally cool fruit bat stirs and stretches and moves along the rope to feed on fruit and lettuce hanging among "Tibetan prayer flags." We were lucky enought to be there around 4:30 p.m. when they were beginning to stir from their daytime naps.

Just some more cool animals from the "safari."

Every day DW sends leftover food to surrounding homeless shelters in the Orlando area.

Last year DW Animal Kingdom was able to release two baby white rhinos into a preserve in Africa where they have become endangered.
Here is my family heading down the "French Quarter" back to our hotel room.

So, the best thing. This is so funny to me and just tells you what kind of a person I am. While truly thankful to my mom for this trip and the time I spent with my family and the fun rides we enjoyed, what really thrills me is this:

I have been irked living here that we are not allowed to have clotheslines because of some ridiculous deed restrictions. Here we are in Florida, the Sunshine State, and we're not supposed to hang out our clothes. Now that I'm not attending choir on Tuesday nights (when our association meetings take place), I was collecting information two nights ago - facts and figures to plead my case to allow these again. I was going to cite climate change, economic benefits, the great concern for living greener lives, etc., when I came upon a great website. I found out there that as of 2006, there is state legislation that allows all FL residents to have clotheslines (as well as the ability to install solar panels) regardless of any previously existing deed restrictions, covenants, etc. THRILLED I tell you! I am PSYCHED! I hope to shop for my new, retractable clothesline this weekend! Woo Hoo! Can you hear me yell?! Mt. Everest, eat your heart out!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Small Victories and Hunting Squirrels


"Country Outing" by Rob Blackard
Courtesy of allposters.com

I
had a message on my answering machine this past weekend letting me know that a library book I'd requested via an inter-library loan had arrived. I love, love, love the fact that inter-library loans exist. I don't know if its my taste in reading or what, but many times, the books I want are not carried by either of the county libraries nearby where I live. Inter-library loans, however, allow me to browse libraries from all over the country! Your library can do this for you too! I am not a big book buyer. If I know that there is a book that I love and that I will refer to many times, I will purchase it, but if I just hear of a book - a good review or recommendation - I prefer to check it out at the library first. When people talk to me about simplifying their lives, decluttering, or when I have done workshops, I often mention this. Books are truly treasures. They are often one thing that people don't mind spending money on, because, after all, books are good for you! They are often things people are afraid to part with as well. This is where libraries come in so handily. Other than your reference books and a few treasured books with sentimental value, why not donate some of your collection to the library? I know that is tantamount to heresy for some, but think of the library as your storage unit, if you will. It will likely be there when you want it and other folks can benefit from your books in the meantime. Those inspiring ideas, that beautiful language, that well-formed sentence will be appreciated by someone new instead of collecting dust on your shelf.

Now... where was I?

So, I get the call to pick up the book and I know I need to pick it up right away, because usually the loan time on inter-library loans is shorter than those from your local library and often they are not renewable. But I had just been to the library a few days earlier and I really have not been wanting to drive as much - certainly not for one-item trips. The library is approximately seven miles from my house. A bike ride would be easy for me, but would my 10-year-old - and more importantly, my 7-year-old - be able to handle the 14 mile round trip?

I thought.
I considered.
I asked them both.

This was on Monday and we were just starting school. Let's see... sitting at home going through our regular routine or having an adventure and taking a bike ride to the library which meant going over a bridge over the interstate and having all that traffic whizzing under our feet. Which do you think they chose?

I had a backup plan too. Grandma's house is about 5 miles from us and we would pass by on the way. So we packed our lunches and I reasoned a pit stop at Grandma's for lunch and rest and a bit of play with the visiting cousins would make the trip an easier one. And if they were really pooped, someone was there who could give the girls a ride home.

So off we went. And here is the small victory: Not that they loved it (which they did and which I expected), but that they were not tired at all! They kept exclaiming, "This is AWESOME!!" And Eve (my younger) kept pointing out all the cool things we would have missed had we taken the car: a large, loudly rapping Pileated Woodpecker, a Red-Shouldered Hawk, a pair of birds feeding each other on a wire, and the cool temperature change and freshness of the air as we passed a stand of trees. I had told them that I wanted them to write about their bike trip for school the next day, so they were being particularly astute in their observations.

There was one stretch of the ride that bothered me. It was the only part of the ride that required us to ride - on a sidewalk - along a busy highway. Sidewalk or no sidewalk, it frightens me. One false move of the driver and, well, the answer was obvious. One doesn't realize the violence of cars until they are moving at 50 miles per hour past you. And that certainly isn't the fastest we travel. While I appreciate the ability to travel long distances in a shorter amount of time and with a certain level of comfort (getting more and more comfortable every day, it seems, with the amount of stuff you can have in cars these days), I don't really like 'em much. There is a whole host of reasons I have, but one of the greatest is how they hurt people and animals.

Today, on our way to Grandma's again, this time in a vehicle, I noticed a little dead squirrel on the road. Sometimes I wonder if people purposely hit them. I know they are not the greatest loved creature in the world, but I think they are quite charming. Some day I'm going to have a bumper sticker printed that reads, "I Break for Squirrels".

I can't help wondering if the one on the road I saw today... or yesterday... or a week ago... is one that would frequent our yard for seeds and nuts (yes, from our bird feeder, but I don't prefer birds to squirrels, but enjoy them equally) from the feeder or the ground. I wonder if it is the one that likes to travel along the screen on our lanai and chirp loudly at our dog and three cats that love to watch it so intently. Or the one that loves to come within 2 feet of our dog and scold her and which is obviously playing with her or teasing her or both.

I wondered those things and then I began counting squirrels. Our neighborhood is somewhat older and has far fewer deed restrictions than the newer neighborhoods springing up everywhere. Those are the same type of neighborhoods portrayed in the movie, "Over the Hedge." You know the ones: matching, green, chem-lawns, everyone keeping their grass the same length, perhaps a golf course in the background somewhere. We are surrounded by those types of neighborhoods here in FL, but ours is not like that - thankfully!! So, in my highly un-scientific count through my neighborhood, I counted 12 squirrels breakfasting on various lawns. I mentioned it to the girls as I counted and we began squirrel hunting. But, unlike the squirrel on nearly every lawn as we road through our less -cultivated neighborhood, we couldn't find any as we began driving through Grandma's neighborhood (a golfing neighborhood). The girls were getting pretty disappointed. "Does that dead one count?" asked Eve. "No, but that's another to add to that count," I answered. :( We discussed the possible reasons for the lack of squirrels. Pesticides perhaps? I don't know the answer for sure and perhaps our counting was just a fluke today. We did end up seeing 3 more squirrels as we arrived closer to Grandma's.

I think we're going to have some fun with a clipboard and tally-marks in the car now, counting different wildlife we see on our travels. The girls had a blast at this simple game and maybe our data will begin to show us things. Maybe not, but we'll be more aware while we're in the car when we're not on our bikes - which I hope to be more and more. It's been a good week. A good week with a few small victories.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Easter!

Do you do this? Do you take pictures of the same Easter festivities every year? Well, I love it: the colors, the dyes, the fun & fancy, springtime clothes, the hunt. Like Christmas, I'm sure I could put together a whole photo album or scrapbook dedicated just to Easter. But, um, I'm not going there. I'm certainly not needing any other projects. The lists and ideas just keep coming and growing (notice, not going!).
I'm still trying to figure out just how the photo layout works here on Blogger. *sigh* Please forgive this if it turns out to be too random.

Here are the girls and me on our chilly Easter morning! I know the rest of the U.S. was feeling the cold snap too. These short sleeves didn't last long after our return from church!!

It was my last day of church and the first day of my sabbatical, which may just turn into remaining church-free for some time.

The cousins are still in town and it was a lot of fun to share our Easter dying with them. This year Grandma hosted the egg dye-ing festivities.

Cole stares intently into the cup to see the chemical reaction taking place!!














The bigger folks can't help dying at least one egg
for themselves too.

Some patient sticker work in process:




























The hunt begins the next day after church at our house.















The bunny even hid some eggs on the trampoline...and mangaged to get one up in the tree too!














After the hunt, the cousins gathered together to peel and eat their newly-found snacks.











































Delicious!















Hope you all had a blessed Easter! Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Going To Bars


My Burt's Bees Baby Shampoo just ran out this morning and is out in the recycling bin. Wanting to Reduce first, I'm going to be trying this out next. When my hair was longer (and very dry) I skipped this, imagining that it would only add to the straw factor. Now that it's shorter and healthier, I'm giving it a go. My conditioners still haven't run out, but this is the only shampoo I have now, so we'll try it first without the conditioner and then with, if necessary. I figure it's at least one fewer bottle even if I have to keep the conditioner. At the same time, I know honey and other oils, etc. can do a great job on your hair too. Let's just say I'll be experimenting for a while. I'll let you know how it turns out

A special thanks to alina who pointed out that my blog was only allowing registered users to comment. I've fixed that now, so feel free to have your say... ahem... within reason. ;)

Just a couple of new drawings:

Another beach day...

and a sketch of Eve relaxing on a pile of cushions on the couch.





















Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Uncharted Waters


I've been looking at more blogs regarding sustainablility the past few days. I am encouraged to find them cropping up more and more. Little Blog in the Big Woods is one I visited today for the first time and I was impressed! I have been simplifying my life voluntarily for the past 20 years. It is an extremely fulfilling way for me to live, and while there are times that I do better than other times, I find that the more I integrate into my life, the more fulfilled my life becomes. Well, this guy, who calls himself "Greenpa" has not had a refrigerator for 30 years!! This idea is incredible to me! Now, in the 20 years that I have been paying attention to my own impact upon our home, I had never even thought to not have a refrigerator. I don't know if it's something I will do or not, but it gives me some real food for thought and I love it when that happens; when my ideas of what "is" are turned on their ear and I can begin to think about something in a whole, new way.

One thing that surprises me are the number of people who are ready to attack these folks for trying to do things differently. No Impact Man deals with this quite a bit on his blog, it seems, and he handles the snide remarks with real grace. I understand being the target of these kind of reactions, though I must say, no one has been flat-out rude to my face regarding my own choices (though one person has used a round-about way to do that through one of my children!). The choices I have made that seem to push people's buttons the most are my vegetarianism and homeschooling. The only thing I can manage to guess at their reactions is that they are threatened or are fearing being judged; assuming that I feel like I'm on a "high horse" looking down upon them for their choices.

Many of these people (like the ones who seem to criticize the aforementioned blogs) seem to seek out any inconsistencies in your lifestyle choices and are waiting to pounce and slap on the label of "hypocrite." But why, really... why do we do this? Why look to attack someone who is trying to live according to his/her values? You know, we Christians try to live according to our values too and guess what? We fail. And we will continue to fail, because we are simply human. But why berate and attack when someone is trying to do better or live authentically... especially when what one is trying to do is to do something better for themselves, the planet, and/or others?

What these folks are doing, to me, is admirable and inspirational and even if they find that they fail in some of their attempts, they are living with intention, which is what I have always strived to do. Rather than have life "happen" to me, I relish the opportunity to choose - even if that means heading out into uncharted waters.

*top photo is of my girls at Siesta Key Beach, sharing the waves with a dolphin

Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Gang's All Here

I'll admit that there are a number of things that I am not fond of about where I live. Viewing wildlife, however, is not one of them. We do live with a very beautiful pond just out our back door and look who was just hanging out yesterday: an ibis (smaller white bird on left), a great egret (tall, white bird in the middle), a roseate spoonbill (on the right), two moorhens (the small, black birds), and one fish crow (the small, black bird just in front of the spoonbill - you can see its tail). When I took this photo I thought, "The gang's all here!"

The pond and its creatures (even the alligators that slide through every now and then) have soothed my soul an uncountable number of times when I have been sorely homesick or simply discontent with... things.

One of the things that bothers me about where I live is that, being in a suburb, everything is - and continues to be - built around a model that serves automobiles rather than people. On Sara's blog, she recently posted about walking and how close she lives to a great number of places within walking distance of her home. If we ever move again, I do think that is going to be a priority for me - especially since our planet continues to heat up.

I have been thinking about further ways that my family can lower our carbon emmissions and I have been thinking about setting a resonable goal for myself cutting back the days we drive places. After Easter, as many of you know from my previous blog, I will not be attending church any more for the time being. My faith is rock-solid as ever, but for various reasons, attending the institutionalized church has left me feeling sad and lonely... and I don't believe those are the desired outcomes!

Anyway, I will not be needing to make that 15 minute drive twice a week. I have also recently found out that 4 1/2 miles from where I live, a new farmer's market has started. I am very excited to think that this may be a source for me to shop locally and I plan to ride my bike. I've also begun thinking about making smaller grocery runs on my bike to the nearby grocery store. I do this from time to time anyway, but only if I need a few things. I am wondering if I can plan a weeks' worth of meals and get only those things I need. The girls can ride with me and we'll all get some good exercise. We'll be taking our cloth bags, of course! Have you started shopping with these yet? It's SO easy! Just throw a bunch into your car or trunk and you're always ready!

My mom bought me a Sam's Club membership last year and I'm going to let it drop instead of renewing in May. Nuts were the best deal around there, but ugh... 1) it's SO big and impersonal and just a chore to go 2) while I may "save" money, the actual cost of the food is higher, in my mind, when I consider the low wages paid to farm workers in other countries, as well as the shipping and fuel costs to get the product here

You know, my neighborhood used to be the very end of development east of the Gulf here in Bradenton. Our house was built in 1986. Now, of course, there is development way beyond ours and big box stores and chains are springing up left and right. The saddest thing to me about this, is not only that small businesses have a terrible time competing, but there are no small businesses of some sorts out here at all. For example, if I would like to shop at a local, small hardware store, there simply are none. There is only Home Depot and Lowe's to choose from. I cannot think of any place to purchase art or craft supplies around here. The nearest place for that would be Wal-Mart (a 10 minute drive) and the next place would be Michael's (a 20 minute drive). I think they have an art store somewhere in Sarasota, which would be more like a 40 minute drive. Or should I just skip the brick-and-mortar store altogether and just order online from my Dick Blick catalog. How do I shop locally when the big-box stores have already succeeded in doing the thing that the small-business owners have tried shouting about for so many years? I am doing what I can, I suppose. I wonder - I really wonder what it would mean for me to stay away from Wal-Mart... and even, gulp, Target for a year? I think that would pose itself as a huge challenge given where I live... but I'm thinking about that too.

Are you trying to live more sustainably? Have you asked yourself what that might mean for you and your family? Have you already made changes? Do you feel challenged at all by the events happening in the world to alter some of your habits? Would you rather be seen as a citizen as opposed to a consumer? Do you ever think about what might happen if China and/or India achieved our level of consumption status? Ar you happy with the stuff you have? How do you define success or your level of happiness? Do you feel you have to surpass your parents' level of financial or material accumulation - or your friends' - to feel happy?... at peace... content?

These are things I think about a lot. And the new choices and changes I make never fail to leave me feeling more whole and better about myself and my place on the planet. Because the gang really is all here: the egrets and spoonbills, the Chinese and Indians, the polar bears and butterflies. And we all need to share this space. There is no other home for us. Can we share gently with one another, like we teach our children or are we going to behave like a big bully among the nations? I hope and pray for our childrens' sakes that we all learn how to behave with more maturity and responsibility with a concern and compassion for them and the future.

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit!


Image Courtesy of AllPosters.com

When my mother was a little girl her grandmother taught her to say, "Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit!" on the first day of every month - before you say anything else! - and you will have good luck... or even get a present!

It's just a little game and even my girls know that it's not "real" (we are Believers, after all, and understand Who really brings us blessings and Who's hand is over the whole of the Universe), but it's a fun little way to celebrate the turning of each month.

In fact, I almost blew it this morning. I went in to wake the girls and before I could get out, "Good morning, time to wake up!" my little E popped her eyes wide open and with a big smile on her face, said, "Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit!" So she reminded me!

I love all the seasons of the year and the turning of the months, don't you? There is something special about each one of them. I am always so grateful for our amazingly creative God. He has given us variety in everything! Sometimes I think He did that to let us know that it is really okay to be ourselves and by being wholly ourselves and following Him, we can bring Him glory.

I even think about this when we are sitting down to eat. You know, He could have just given us manna. He could have just given us one thing to eat and one thing to drink to sustain us in our lives, but he didn't! He gave us papayas and mangoes, sweet corn and squash, mushrooms and asparagus, wild rice and plantains and the list goes on and on. And He gave us all different tastebuds that enjoy or reject the different flavors and textures of the foods of the world. The turning of the year brings us new flavors to discover and old ones to recall that link us to fond memories.

It amazes me, too, that using some of the same ingredients in differing combinations, can yield different, tasty results. Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin said, "The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of the human race than the discovery of a star." That's certainly correct in my book! I hope you'll experiment with some of the delicious harvest that the season brings your way this year. What a wonderful way to herald the coming of Autumn and what a gift and easy way for us to remember the blessing of each day! So, Happy September to you! Happy Autumn to all! Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit!

Edited to add: Another of my archives. Happy April everyone! Happy Spring!
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