Friday, February 25, 2011

OK, so a bit ironic after my last post, but

I'm having a bit of a bad day today. I even cried today, and anybody who knows me, knows that I don't cry very often.

But anyway, I'm having a bad day today and disappointed and feeling a bit stuck and all, but then I read and watched THIS:

I'm still going to have a bit of a pity party today, but you know what, tomorrow's another day too and tomorrow I'll go out and have HOPE that something great is coming soon. And I'll find it either because of help from my friends and family or it will be something that I can share with them. (Well, unless it is that 180 million powerball lottery thing. Then it is all MINE. Just kidding!!)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Don't Worry. Be Happy.

I haven't been what I would call "happy" for a long time until fairly recently. I do remember being happy for most of elementary school . I didn't have a ton of friends, but I was well-liked, if that makes sense. Then I went to junior high and high school. I was NOT happy for most of that time. Part of me not being happy was just teenage drama, some of it was more teenage girl liking teenage boy drama, but most of it was because I was in a group of other kids and we just hung out with each other and there was just all kinds of odd drama that happened with our group over the years.

And then I went to college in 1984, and The Boy died three weeks into my freshman year and I was terribly sad for two years after that, and mostly sad for at least another 3 or 4 years past that.

And then I got to a place where I wasn't happy, but I wasn't sad. And I stayed like that for awhile. Then I had my first miscarriage in early 1998 and I was terribly sad for a year. And then back to the not happy/not sad on and off for a few years, and then 2006 was a bad year, and then 2008, well, that year was just truly AWFUL. If there was any reason to be sad about anything, it was probably happening to me that year. I was still pretty sad during 2009, but something started happening to me during 2009. There was a little sparkle, somewhere, starting to glow inside of me. It had been so long since I'd been happy, I didn't even recognize it at first.

And then when I realized that I was starting to feel some happiness, at first it seemed odd. I wasn't sure what to do.

And then, it was so gradual at first, but I slowly figured out that there were a few reasons that I was feeling happy. In some areas of my life, I finally stopped thinking about myself so much (the poor me side and everything always happens bad to me side) and started thinking more about others. And doing more. And in other areas, I finally started thinking about myself more (the fat, out of shape, out of fashion side) and started doing more to make myself healthier.

And then I discovered other things that are helping me be happy: Trying to show love to others every day. Smiling more. Trying to live a good life. Sleeping more than 5 hours a night. Reconnecting with people. Sharing. Writing. Finding balance. Being Authentic. Listening to myself and following through. Following the rhythm of the seasons.

And although I still feel a twinge of sadness that I have been sad for so much of my life, I am also realizing that it was just part of the journey to get me Here. And I'm also not naive enough to think that I won't ever be sad again. But I also don't think that I'll spend 20-30 years with mostly NOT happy either. And that makes me happy. :)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sometimes, I'm Not Just Simple. I'm Just Simply Lazy.

For example, with food. I'm NOT really a fan of food shopping. Well, I don't mind it at farmer's market, but unfortunately for me in a medium-sized city in the middle of Illinois, we only have farmers market available from mid May to end of October. And I can't get everything I need there anyway. And it doesn't help that I'm not really a "shopping" person anyway. I don't love to go and look at stuff. When I shop, I'm usually more the "woman with a mission" and shopping is done as quickly as possible.

So, if I could, I'd love to be able to just shop at one place and get all the food that I want. Of course, if I didn't care about money or if I didn't care about local or seasonal or organic, I COULD just shop at one store. But since I do care about that stuff, it makes grocery shopping a little more complicated.

OK, so I'm not really lazy. I actually do care, and I do end up food shopping at least two hours on the weekends. I just wish I didn't have to go food shopping, or at least, I wish I could find a way to get what I wanted/needed with it taking a lot less time.

Here's how my current grocery shopping goes. And remember, I don't like shopping, so I try and drag it out as little as possible, so I do all my grocery shopping on Saturdays, if at all possible.

1 - Naturally Yours. I buy local, seasonal food here as well as any bulk food items. I try to not buy anything packaged here or even things that are on my "must buy organic list" because it is almost always more expensive here. Examples of food that I buy here - local milk, local eggs, local cheese, local yogurt, local sour cream, etc. Right now, I buy root vegetables and greens here too. I also buy grains and baking supplies in bulk here with the exception of wheat. I have other long-term wheat stored in #10 cans in the downstairs food closet. Very occasionally, I will buy local meat here, but it is very expensive. My goal is to get pork and beef in large amounts directly from local ranchers and freeze it. My goal is to be able to place an order in the fall. My smaller goal is to buy one meal's worth of fresh, local meat from farmers markets per week this summer.

2. Meijer. We also have two Wal-Marts in town, but I do not shop at Wal-Mart. I buy almost all of my produce at Meijer. I find that it is the freshest produce and has the widest selection of organic produce. I only buy organic for things that are on the Dirty Dozen list. Otherwise, I buy regular. I also only buy the produce that my family will eat and food that is on the food menu for the week. I generally do not have a very wide selection of produce, especially since I do like to buy as much seasonal food as possible. But we eat things like apples and spinach year round and I will sometimes prepare a recipe that calls for a vegetable or fruit that is not currently in season. So for example last week at Meijer, I bought organic apples, organic potatoes, organic spinach, fennel, carrots, cabbage and sweet potatoes.

3. Shnucks. Schnucks is a local chain of grocery stores and there is a Schnucks pretty close to my house, however, I don't buy a whole lot at Schnucks and I don't always go to Schnucks every week. Schnucks products are generally more expensive. However, Schnucks carries an organic line called "Full Circle." I want to buy canned organic produce and condiments and I want as natural as possible dishwasher, laundry, and paper products, so I buy the Full Circle brand of those products at Schnucks. Full Circle is cheaper than other organic canned produce/condiments or natural cleaning supplies. For example, last week I bought at Schnucks of the Full Circle brand, 4 cans of corn, 4 cans of green beans, 1 can of peas, ketchup, laundry detergent, and dishwasher soap. I also shop occasionally at Schnucks because they have an card that allows you to donate 1% of your purchase towards something (in our case, towards the closest elementary school.)

4. Kroger. I do the bulk of my shopping at Kroger. I have a Kroger card and I find that often the things that I am buying are on sale with the grocery card. You can also load digital coupons onto the card so that you don't have to clip the coupons. Kroger also tracks my purchases and sends me coupons for the items that I buy most regularly (even coupons for meat, and you rarely see coupons for meat in the newspaper, etc.) I look at the sale paper and try and stock up on items we used when they are on sale. I buy the food that I need for preschool/daycare too because it is the cheapest grocery store for those items. I sometimes buy our health and beauty items at Kroger too, but only after I have checked . . . .

5. Walgreens and CVS. Both Walgreens and CVS have reward programs that give you "money" to spend on your next trip if you buy a particular item. Walgreens calls their program "Register Rewards" and CVS calls their reward program "ECB" (Extra Care Bucks). So I check the Walgreens and CVS ads and if their are any health and beauty products that we regularly use that are getting rewards that week, I will buy it that week. It is key, however, to only use buy the items that YOU REGULARLY USE. I also check for "regular" coupons for the reward items. Then the next week, I will use the reward money to buy other health and beauty things that we need. I try and stock up when the items are on sale and when I'm using reward "money." There are weeks when I don't shop at either store in a week and there are times when I will shop at one and not the other. I have both a Walgreens and a CVS that are very close to my house.

Making lists and food menus is also VERY IMPORTANT to make sure that I stay on budget and so that all of the food gets used, etc. And it also makes sure that I get the shopping done as quickly as I can.

I still wish that I could find everything in one place and all of the items were reasonably priced. I'd also like it if I didn't have to actual do the shopping. Have I mentioned that I don't like shopping????

Sometime soon: Part 2: How I am Simply Lazy About Laundry or at least How I would Like to Be Lazy About Laundry.

Friday, February 11, 2011

No Impact?

No, this isn't about my impact on my family or on the kids at Montgomery Academy or the other people I come in contact with - I hope I have at least some positive impact on those people.

I watched THIS movie the other night. I'd heard about this a little a few years ago. Just vague references. And while I've been researching my book, I've read a couple books about people who were working to lesson their impact on the earth and to build more sustainable communities. I find it interesting, but they weren't what I was really focusing about when I was working on research, so I didn't do a LOT of reading about it. I know I didn't read this guy's book anyway and until a couple days ago, I hadn't ever visited his blog.

Anyway, the movie is a documentary of a man and his family who try to have as little impact on the earth for a year. They do it in stages, so it isn't like they went without power the first day. But they tried to create as little trash as possible. They only used reusable containers for EVERYTHING. They became locavores by only eating from the farmers' market and the bulk bins at the store so that all of their food was from less than 250 miles away. They washed their clothes in the tub and only used cleaning supplies that they made from vinegar, baking powder and borax. They only used bikes, scooters or public transportation. They used a cooler instead of a fridge. And they didn't use anything disposable, include toilet paper.

Now, first off, if I ever did this (and I'm not saying that I'm going to), I would definitely have to draw the line at toilet paper. LOL

But the movie was interesting on more than just the "less impact on the earth" way. It was interesting to see how others saw the family - were they doing this just to cash in on the minimalist/simple living craze? And I loved watching how the wife struggled and rationalized things during the years and got mad at her husband for being annoyed with her for not being able to do it as well as he did. And I loved how once they got rid of the TV, they played more games with their friends and read more to their daughter. By candlelight. And I also liked how the man said that if there is only ONE thing that you could do, he would recommend volunteering at a local environmental group.

Sometimes, I feel so overwhelmed. With the things that I want to and all of the things that stand in the way of me doing that. Mostly with things that I'm trying to do with my version of Simple Living, but of course, I found myself thinking "Wow. Maybe I'll try and live like that for a few months. Oh, no. I can't because of the kids. And the daycare kids. And how would I get to dr. appointments, especially if I had to take any of the daycare children with me too? Get on the bus 2 hours before the appointment and then walk the 5 blocks from the stop? In the winter too?" and suddenly I was all discouraged again. I can't do it.

But you know what? I can at least volunteer once a month at the Ecology Center. And I can turn the lights off during the day. I can buy less things with packaging. I can eat even more locally. I can have LESS impact than I'm having now and that is a start.

I'm not giving up toilet paper though.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Am I A Feminist? Hmmm . . . .

Well, while I'm older than most of my friends, I was born in the mid 60s, so I don't remember much about the the wave of feminism that ran through the 60s and 70s. I was too busy wearing my stylish plaid ensembles and playing cars with my brother. (I never liked dolls, but my younger sister liked Barbies and dolls so we did have plenty of all types of toys around the house.)

I do know that when I started playing softball, the first year I played, I could only play on the "Ponytail League", but the second year, I could pick whether I wanted to play Ponytail League or Little League baseball. I stunk, so I just opted to drop out altogether :)

In the 80s when I was in junior high and high school, I took Clothing 1 and 2 and Foods 1 and 2and we had a couple Home Economics teachers at our school. However, there weren't just girls in my Home Ec classes, in fact, there were just as many boys as girls in my foods classes. Some sort of "life skills" classes were required for graduation at my school, but you could take Technology Education classes and/or the Life, Career and Money class to complete the requirement instead.

Mostly back then, honestly, I never gave feminism much thought. I'd heard of it a little, but it seemed so harsh and negative and just something for people older than me.

I went to college for a few years and then I worked as a police dispatcher for a few years. It was a mostly male environment at the police station, although there were 3 other female dispatchers, and one female police officer. The only way that I ever felt that my gender was an issue was when I would sometimes be talking to the public at the front desk, and they would ask to speak to a MALE police officer instead. Who would ALWAYS tell them exactly what I just said.

Then it was back to school, and then working again, and then marriage and working, a baby and working, and finally, more kids and working at home. Since about 2007, I've been using my homemaking/life skills much more than I had in the past.

So back to Feminism. When I hear the word "Feminist," it makes me think of an angry, single woman who is fighting for equality in everything - equal pay, equal duties, equal in legal issues, etc. I imagine someone who feels that women are oppressed and need to be liberated from all the inequity that has been placed upon them. (Now, I didn't say that it was an accurate or fair representation of a feminist. I'm just saying what it makes ME envision.)

I've never felt that I was really oppressed. I guess I could have been. It doesn't feel like oppression, but I'm sure part of it is my ignorance. I don't know if I've had equal pay with my male counterparts when I was employed. I don't know if my legal rights have ever been compromised (I've never been arrested or anything, but I own a home. I pay taxes.)

I guess there was probably one time in my life that I was treated unfairly because I was a woman (well, a mother at least.) I was in a job interview. The interview was going VERY well. The woman began talking about her family and then asked if I had children. I indicated that I did have children. She asked their ages (at the time, the children were 7, 5, and 2.) When she heard that, she said "Well, this job probably isn't a good fit. There will be quite a bit of traveling in this job and for a mother of young children, well, it probably would be a problem." I was pretty desperate for a job at the time, and was willing to make hard sacrifices and tried to assure the woman that I was aware of the traveling and that I had support in place and that I could still do the job. I never heard from the company again. Now, in retrospect, she could have been right. It may have been very difficult for me to do traveling when the kids were so small. But I still felt like she didn't agree and so didn't even consider me for the position, even though I was otherwise qualified for the position.

So anyway, for a long time, I didn't consider myself a Feminist. And then I started thinking about it more. Couldn't a Feminist be someone who celebrated the differences between men and women? Couldn't a Feminist be someone who thought that one of the coolest things in the world is the ability that a woman has to give birth to a child??? And the ability to feed that baby with her own body? I'm not saying that every woman has to do those things to be a Feminist or a "good" woman, but I am just in awe that women CAN do those things. And couldn't a Feminist be someone who provided well for her family with gardening and cooking and sewing and other homemaking skills?

Because if a Feminist is like that, then sign me up.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow . . .

We decorate the windows in our dining room all the time, especially for holidays, but for January, they were all decked out with all kinds of winter decorations.

The girls made these snowmen years ago
out of colored paper stuck between two
sheets of contact paper.

All the snowflakes were cut by Jelly Bean

My mom sent me these cute shirts for Christmas
a couple years ago. There are three and they are
hanging from a piece of red yarn that is attached
to the curtain rod.

This picture isn't actually up in the windows.
Jelly Bean drew it for part of the wall
decorations for the preschool area. She
does one every season. This one is Winter!
So we had all of these winter decorations
up in January, but there was hardly any snow
on the ground.

And then, just as February began,
The Blizzard came!
Our little pinecone tree is "flocked"
with real snow.

Our front yard. There
are front steps there somewhere!

Our street looks like it is plowed, but it
really isn't. A pickup truck with a plow on
front came by and made a first pass, but you
still couldn't actually get out onto the main road.

We have alleys on the side and back of our
house and that is the only way to get your
vehicles out onto the road. Our alleys were
completely covered with about 3 feet of snow.

A view of the alley behind our house. The
driveway was shoveled, but the snow was too thick
for too long to be able to shovel or snowblow out
the snow. We were snowed in!

A view of our tree out front.

The kids made the best of it and
made snow tunnels out of drifts.

And here they are sitting on the retaining wall.
The stones are under there somewhere!
All in all, we were snowed in for about 48 hours. The alleys are considered the lowest priority for the snow plows. The snow started for us Tuesday afternoon, and we were out by Thursday afternoon. But we had games and movies and food and heat and power so it was all good! Although I am glad to know that if I WANT to get out today, I can!