Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Busy, Busy Days


"Jacaranda in Bloom" by ME! - Nicole Pivec :)

Did you all have a nice weekend? To my American friends, did you enjoy your Memorial Day holiday weekend?

After a good time at the convention and arriving home Saturday evening, I had a busy time of cleaning and beginning to get organized. But before I get ahead of myself, let me start at the beginning!

This was my first year attending the FPEA (Florida Parent Educators Assoc.) conference. I had been previously to the similarly huge MACHE convention in MN for 3 years in a row, but had not attended the one here for 2 reasons: 1)$$ - or lack thereof and 2) I really had found myself at a place that I didn't think I needed anymore workshops for the elementary level work. Maia was in 6th grade this year and I'd wanted to go last year to begin getting my bearings for middle school, but my sister's first baby was due the same weekend as the conference and so I went up to MN instead.

So, I kind of already had an idea of what to expect at the conference: a gigantic vendor hall and workshops presented by some vendors and other folks, many who have written books on the homeschooling topic. I was not incorrect with my expectations, but was surprised at the hotel! I should have known, the conference being held in Orlando, that the hotel would have been pretty swanky. Anything that caters to the Disney tourists has to be over-the-top in one way or another it seems. So, it was really quite lovely. I shared a room with 3 friends and the price was quite manageable.

I confess that I went to the conference, though, with a little bit of... well, not dread, but having not even quite finished this year (our last day will be Thursday), I was not exactly in the mood to begin thinking about next year! I was a bit better than I'd been though. 3 weeks ago I was really wound up about the whole thing, because I was having to pour over catalogs and decide just what material I wanted to seek out in the vendor hall (did I mention it is gigantic?), so that I wouldn't have the deer-in-the-headlights expression as I wandered around.

As things turned out, I managed to pick up a great deal of my curriculum and listened to some wonderful, inspirational speakers. I chose workshops either pertaining to the upcoming high school years, ones about girls, in particular (concerning modesty and purity as the teen years approach) or ones that would boost me in my walk with Christ. Oh, they were really all so refreshing and I came away, as I told my husband and my mom, "with my tank filled." One of the workshops was hosted by "Generations of Virtue" and another by "Tomorrow's Forefathers," featuring their Bright Lights group leaders. If you have girls in the pre-teen years, I would highly recommend materials from either of these fine places. I am excited, because I know someone who will be starting a Bright Lights group in our area and I am hoping that Maia will want to attend.


Some of Our New Books


On to the weekend!

Upon arriving home with lots of energy and love and appreciation for my family as well as gratitude for the task at hand and the renewed knowledge of the privilege I have to homeschool, I was ready to tackle... well, almost anything!!

One peek into Eve's room and I knew where we had to begin. The deal was that after church and a family trip to see "Prince Caspian" on Sunday, we were going to need to once again purge her room.

The last time we went through her closet and purged clothes was not very long ago at all: perhaps 10 weeks or so. At that point, I had informed her that if her closet got out of hand again, we would be giving even more things aways, because it would indicate that there were just too many clothes to handle and she agreed. It was quite apparent that this was the case once more. We really do have just too many clothes for her. Between the generous hand-me-downs from friends and her sister, she would really, in theory, not have had to wear the same thing twice for a few months, at least. Of course, like so many of us, she doesn't actually do that, but sticks with a few favorite things over and over. So, she was ready to cull some more and readily gave up a lot of clothes!

We took this opportunity to visit the toy storage bins in the garage too. These are our "think about it" bins for toys that the girls don't play with much at the present, but aren't ready to give up quite yet. Well, we were happily surprised to unload a lot of that as well as some things under her bed (a bin full of "My Little Ponies" and all the accessories that went with it) and even some stuffed animals!! Oh joy!

After hours of diligent work, here is the van loaded up to go to Goodwill tomorrow:


Total: 14 bags... yes FOURTEEN bags of clothes and toys, a box of play dough accessories, a doll stroller, and a little bike with training wheels! Woo hoo!

I asked Eve if she felt better about her room and she said, "Yes! I should be able to manage it much better now." I couldn't have said it better myself.

Monday found me finishing up a painting I'd begun to sketch in my sketchbook before the conference. Our jacaranda blooms so beautifully every May and trying to photograph it never captures its true majesty. Really. It is almost a crime to not have brides back there every day during the height of its bloom. It really is breathtaking. So, I was trying, at least to capture a bit of the affection I feel for it in my journal. I know I haven't captured it perfectly either, but the memory of it will be stirred every time I look at my painting.

We did manage a little tea party as a respite in our busy day and to remember the men and women who have given so much for us to enjoy the freedoms we have. I made some chocolate chip "scookies" (scone/cookies) and the girls really loved them. It was such a beautiful day yesterday after the humidity we've had - just a perfect day to be sitting outside.


I've also started working on a new washcloth. I'm in sore need of some, so it's a perfect way to use up some scrap cotton and a free ball given to me at knitting group. I love, love, LOVE that turquoise color and watching the colors change is fun after working on my solid-colored socks and sweater.

Finally, - whew! did you make it this far?! - I am getting ready to have a table at the used book sale on Friday. Hopefully, I'll recoup some of the money I spent this weekend buying the new stuff. This picture is just one of a number of stacks I will be pricing this week. Next week will be our evaluations, so I have to be putting the finishing touches on the girls' portfolios sometime this week too. Then, perhaps I'll have a bit of a breather for a few days before I begin thinking about preparing for next year. Homeschool closets need organizing too... I hope my motivation stays high for it all, because I am motivated right now.


The end of the school year feels almost more busy than the beginning somehow. Here's to summer! :)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Living More with Less Read Along - Do Justice


"Justice" by Pierre Subleyras

I've just returned from our area's huge, annual homeschool convention and I had a great time! I have some thoughts to share in regard to my weekend, but, as promised, I want to continue with our read-along and share some thoughts regarding the next section of the book, titled, "Do Justice."

In this section, I thought Longacre’s section on “Not Guilty” was right on with so many things.

Personally, as a vegan (and I won’t go on about this, because I know that it not the focus of our discussion), I can’t help but think about the factory farm situations in relation to this. She writes, “Statements like, ‘This meeting, or this book, or that person, or the poor of the world make me feel guilty’ bear careful scrutiny. From where comes the guilt? From those who are poor? That’s blaming the victim. From those who shared the information? Or from us who live the way we do?”

And, “This means being mindful, conscious, aware, so that never again can one make a decision about buying and using without thinking of the poor.”

I think about the poor and the hungry and I think about the animals.

Some other thoughts I had:

A couple of weeks ago we were in Target to get a pair of swim goggles for my daughter. I looked around at the bright, shiny, “happy” atmosphere and wished, in a way, that I could just enjoy it. It’s kind of like I wish I could just get sucked away into the fake picture of “Everything and everyone is okay in the world.” Somehow it all seems like it there. That’s some powerful marketing, eh? :) At the same time, I looked at all the stuff and just thought about how they just keep pumping it out week after week, year after year. sigh You don’t want to be me and go shopping! lol!

It's a bit of a challenge for me:finding the balance. I don't want to be the "wet blanket" ruining everyone's fun, so a lot of the time I don't say what is in my heart about a matter. Occasionally I do though. It's hard, because so much of what Americans find as "fun" includes buying things we don't need or living in a disposable, wasteful way. As an example, one of the workshop speakers at the conference was talking about her product (some of the speakers are vendors at the convention): a Spanish language program for elementary aged children. She was pointing out how "green" her company is and how much more green it is becoming and told us that her new CD packaging wasn't going to be in a jewel case any longer, but in recycled paper packaging printed with soy-based ink. And that is really great. BUT at the same moment she was saying this, she was cracking open a bottle of water from a plastic, disposable bottle. I just can't help it; I notice those things. So, on the one hand, kudos to her for choosing a more green path for her company... and yes, we all are taking baby steps toward this new way of environmental living that we really, really need to take. But given that green is a new trend in everything - including and especially marketing - I can't help being a wee bit suspicious. Still, I don't want to be the one to rain on the green parade... and I really hope it continues, but I just hope that people will look at all aspects of their lives and make changes for the better of the earth - not just the ones that are going to look good and increase sales, KWIM?

So, another thing that I find so amazing about Longacre, was her almost prophetic voice. While she focuses on the world’s poor in the book, the simple living actions she speaks of are the same ones we speak of when we speak of global warming/climate change. It always surprises me when some do not put the two together, as if the climate crisis does not affect people - and the most disadvantaged people first.

Do you belong to any organizations that work for the changes you want to see in the world? I belong to the Sierra Club and PETA, because, though I realize they do not work for people “specifically,” I believe the impact of these organizations is one that affects people in a broad way. Sierra, obviously for things like clean air and clean drinking water - which, incidentally, I believe, is going to become a hugely fought over resource in the years to come. And PETA, because not only do they speak out against inhumane treatment of animals, but also because I believe that a vegetarian diet is a link in the chain of dealing with world hunger. Much land that could be used for crops becomes land that is grown for crops to feed animals for the animal based-diet so prevalent in the West, instead of crops grown to feed people. The current rice shortage, I believe, is one example of this problem.

A whole foods, vegetarian diet also addresses issues of clean water, overuse of antibiotics, wetland and wildlife habitat conservation, greenhouse gas emissions, and chronic diseases affecting millions of people each year including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer and more.

So, given my limited financial resources, I try to choose the groups that I feel give the most attention to the areas of justice that I care about, that reach the most people and give the most impact for my dollar.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Veggie Q & A

Hello all. I am making this comment into a post, because for some reason, Blogger is not letting me comment on my own blog right now! In the post below, Kez asked me about the vegetarian starter kit banner in my sidebar and so, Kez (and everyone else!) here is my answer:

Kez,

You should be able to just click on the banner and it will take you to the starter guide info. Is that what you mean or did you want a banner for your page too?

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau of Compassionate Cooks (an AWESOME podcast and informative page at compassionatecooks.com) says, "Just because you can't to everything, doesn't mean you should do nothing. Do something! Anything!" So start with baby steps. Take one night a week to be meat-free. Peruse Vegweb for thousands of free recipes. When you find some you like, make it two nights a week and so on.

Personally, acknowledging what happens to the animals was enough to turn my stomach years ago and so the decision was an easy one. Colleen's podcast talks about it and John Robbin's book, Diet For a New America does too and Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary is informative as well.

I know this is blunt, but in my opinion, if we are going to insist on having meat on our plates, we owe it to the animals to see the truth of how it is done. They are not killed on the farm in which they are raised - even if they are raised "humanely." Most farmers do not have a license to slaughter their own animals on their property and so all animals are sent to the same slaughterhouses where there is a great deal of violence and brutality. I don't just mean the violence of killing the animal, but the people there, so desensitized by the killing they have to do every single day, now view the animals as things and are often cruel to them (kicking them, throwing them like balls around, using them like "baseball bats," even stomping on their heads or yanking off limbs that may become stuck between bars) because they are just going to be killed anyway. So the time the animals spend before their ultimate doom, is often one of torture as well.

It is this kind of thing that makes it easy for me to say, "You know, I can live very, very well, and have an exceptional diet without an animal on my plate. I can live very satisfactory life without tasting any of that ever again. It is alright with me." I choose not to participate in the violence which affects not only the animals but also the people who have the jobs no one else wants. I find it hard to imagine that those folks who work in those conditions would call their lives "happy" or "rich" or "fulfilling." I just don't want to be a part of that cycle.

So, for me it was a "no brainer." That said, I seem to have the type of personality that can do this more easily than some. If I have a habit in my life (and meat eating is simply a habit, not a necessity) that I feel is not a good one, I just quit it; I walk away and don't look back. If I can find a better way, I take it.

Personally, having been a vegetarian for 20 years, I believe it is easy-peasy. There are SO many delicious things out there and many, many vegetarian convenience foods too. I am now switching again to a vegan diet - eliminating the dairy and eggs - and so I am learning again. But just as when anyone learned how to cook anything, it just takes a bit of time. It takes a while to find those sure-fire winner recipes and a while to develop a wide selection you can draw from and find easy to prepare. But it is worth it. For my conscience and my soul, for a non-violent society and for the animals, it is worth it.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Living More with Less Read Along - Foreward/Intro

I think I will be posting here once a week - on the weekends I think - in regard to Doris Janzen Longacre's book, Living More with Less. I reviewed this book a couple of weeks ago and invited anyone to read along with me to discuss the book. The topics are broad enough, I think, that others can participate in conversation if they like even without reading the book, so feel free to comment if you'd like, whether you are reading along or not.

****************************

I was just speaking with a friend of mine at church last Sunday and she was kind of lamenting the fact that she isn’t farther along in the kinds of changes she wants to make in her life to simplify - to be more green. Yet, she realizes and also commented that she knows it takes baby steps - one change at a time to incorporate into your life.

I told her - and what I’ve said here on my blog - that I love this lifestyle, because it is always an experiment. All of a sudden you will think of on your own or discover a new way to walk more lightly and with more intention and sometimes you will wonder why you never thought of it before. It’s hard to see, sometimes, a new way of being when all your life everyone around you does things a certain way.

I loved the section in the forward where Longacre talks about the small decisions she says, ”…which, if you stop to think about what causes what, become maddeningly complex. This book is unapologetically about such small decisions.”

She then goes on to give a scenario about needing flour for bread which I just love! I have had many of these same conversations myself. Sometimes when I tell people the conversations I have with myself in the grocery store, they just look at me and shake their heads. But I can’t help but think, “Another plastic container??? Can I make it myself? Is it organic? Can we afford it if it is? If it isn’t organic, is it one of the REALLY pesticide-laden foods, or is it relatively benign? Can I wait until I can buy it in bulk or do I need this with with packaging right now?” Etc.etc.etc.

I'm SO glad to know I’m not the only one who deals with this type of thinking!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Paint Comes Out Again



I was listening to an old episode of the Creative Mom Podcast from last year and was wondering what I should do with the washed page I did last night. Amy was talking about self-portraits and I'd always been AFRAID of how I might render myself, but thought I'd give it a shot. I'm actually quite surprised and happy with the way it turned out. I love working with the gouache! I just tried it for the first time on Sunday and it's fun experimenting!

The funny thing is that I think it looks a little more like my sister than me... but maybe not.

Here's the one I did on Sunday.

Cactus

It feels good to be drawing and painting again. I had about a month hiatus there. It happens and may continue to. I just try to get it in when I can. I wish I were more gentle with myself about it, but there's always that "monkey mind" in the background griping at me. Nevertheless, I am glad to have made something new; hopped back on the horse, so to speak. It makes me feel happy.





Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Why Vegan?



I feel a certain shift happening in me that continues to grow daily. I think a big part of these feelings I'm having have a good deal to do with the fact that I will be turning 40 in 4 short months.

As I've noted in a previous post, I've never been a pushy vegetarian. But, you know, now I just feel that it is more important than ever for me to speak and live my truth. I am a very polite person and try very hard to be kind, considerate, and tactful. It's not like I'm saying, "Well, NO MORE!" But. But I don't think I've done enough. And I feel kind of like this shift - this freedom growing in me that says, "If I don't do or say what I mean to do or say in my life now, when will I do it? When will be a better time?"

There have been other times and other pieces of myself that I have found or rediscovered (such as the need to weave creativity into every day of my life - to validate that and recognize it as important for me) in the past few years that have proved to be very important. This is one of those things.

Returning to the vegan diet - that I tried for a year 3 years ago - is what I am talking about. Yes, maybe it has to do with turning 40, but also, maybe it has to do, too, with the health crisis so many Americans face... and the fact that rice - a staple for the hungry in so much of the world - is also in crisis... and that the environment continues to be in crisis. A vegan diet addresses ALL of these things including the factory farming cruelty that happens on a daily basis. Nobody wants to look at that - least of all me. But I need to raise my voice more: for the animals that have no voice, for my children with an uncertain future, and for those I love eating diets that are statistically showing to be harmful to them manifesting in high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and more.

My posts won't all change to this nature, but there will be more of them from time to time. I feel like I've been too quiet for too long.



The Question is not...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day and LMwL RAL

Hello to all you mother's out there and a Happy Mother's Day. A few of you mentioned joining in for a Read Along of Doris Janzen Longacre's, Living More with Less book. I have begun a thread over in the Ravelry group of which I am a part, so if you have not gotten a copy of the book, don't feel badly; I am discussing it over there. That said, if you did or still want to discuss the book, I'd be happy to do so here too. Please let me know by Wednesday if you were sincerely planning to do the read-along and I will be happy to post some thoughts on the book here.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Make a Better Choice

I am not a pushy vegetarian. I have been a vegetarian for 20 years now and I am sure that anyone who knows me would say that I do not hassle people about what they eat. Others hassle me pretty freely, yes... but I try to refrain. As Coleen Patrick-Goudreau said, "I do not wish to convert people; I want to inspire them."

This has been my m.o. for all these years and sometimes I wonder if I have not spoken up enough. I certainly don't want folks to dread seeing me coming, but really, sometimes things just need to be shared, which is why I share this video with you today.





Watch more videos at KentuckyFriedCruelty.com.


I know what happens in factory farms... or at least I know enough. Usually, I will not let myself watch these things, because I'm just SO sensitive to this kind of thing. This kind of thing, incidentally, which happens every day. But I didn't know the extremes of the kind of cruel treatment that KFC turns a blind eye to from its suppliers.

I am not asking you never to eat chicken again (though, of course, be my most welcome guest!!), but what I am asking is that you re-consider your sources for the animals you do want to eat. The best choice would be animals that are humanely raised, of course... and yet so few are. But please, please, boycott KFC and even more, let them know why if you can take the time to do it.

What it boils down to is this for me: I realize that not everyone is going to stop eating animals. But the way we raise the animals for human consumption in this present age is just wrong. It's just wrong and it's not just people who choose not to eat meat who should recognize this. North Americans are just plain spoiled by getting what they want when they want it and at the cheapest price around no matter what the cost - no matter who gets hurt or quite literally crushed in the process. But we can be better than this. I pray we can be better than this.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Read-Along; Book Study, Anyone?


Over at the online knitting community, Ravelry, I have started a read-along on the message boards of the book I just reviewed below: Doris Janzen Longacre's, Living More with Less. I started to think that it would be fun to do that on here, too, if there is anyone interested in joining me, since I realize not all of my readers are necessarily knitters, nor are they necessarily on Ravelry (which still has a waiting list even if you wanted to join).

As I mentioned below, the book is an easy and enjoyable read, chock full of inspirational ideas and stories of living a simpler life.

I would plan to start the read-along here the same day I will start the one on Ravelry, May 11th, Mother's Day. I chose that day for a couple of reasons. First, it would give everyone a chance to procure a book, whether from a library or via a purchase (I will say that I think the "study" will take longer than the average 3-week loan on a library book, so owning it may be a good option). I did notice that Amazon has used copies as low as .59. The shipping of $3.99 is the higher price there!

The second reason I liked the 11th was that it is the Lord's day and it is a study that will impact our faith and our walk with Him and for His creation. Also, it seems a bit symbolic, too, that the choices we make to live more simply effect not only God's people, but also the Earth, which is so often affectionately referred to as our "mother." It seemed to me like a great Mother's day gift to give and receive. :)

I'll be looking over the book this weekend to get a rough outline of the reading schedule. Obviously, it is not as easy to have a "thread" on here for each specific section, as it would be to have on a message board, but I'm just going to wing it. I suspect that we will discuss a new section every other week.

One woman on Ravelry said that she had seen an actual study guide companion for the book. I do not have that, but will try to not only discuss my general impressions of each section, but hopefully, also pose questions. If someone does have the study guide, perhaps he/she would like to share those questions with us. Or maybe someone on Ravelry has it and I'll be able to post some of the questions/comments here.

Well, enough said about that. I think I'd like to hope for at least 2 other readers to join me in order to make it worth all of our time and enhance discussions. So, let me know if you are interested! I hope so; I think it would be a fun way to learn a lot about our Lord, convict and challenge us with new ways of living out our faith, and let us get to know each other a little more too.
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