Thursday, February 8, 2007

Stepping Back....

Beep...Beep...Beep...Move away from the blog.

I don't know what is right anymore. I can't get anything right anymore.

It isn't that I'm not trying. I have been desperately trying to create some kind of community since I had children. I know there are obstacles. I just can't seem to make it work. I'll think that something is developing, and it disappears. People are busy, they live far away, they don't eat what we eat (or we don't eat what they eat), the guys don't have anything in common...yada, yada, yada (somehow that Seinfeld phrase seems so appropriate here).

I want to leave California. I don't think this is the place to be in light of peak oil and climate change. Leaving however, takes us away from our families. We may not see them all the time, but we see them often. The family community is really all we have. No one is going to pick up and leave with us. We'll be alone.

Of course, we're not leaving tomorrow. There are preparations to make and we have to decide where to go, how to pay for it, and what kind of work we'll do.

I feel so alone most of the time. So different. I struggle more than other people I know. I think I understand better when J-Baby tells me that talking about someone cutting their arm makes him feel like his arm has been cut, because I feel that way too. This deep empathy is a gift, and a curse. I can't shut off the feelings when I think about factory farming or even killing humanely raised animals. It extends to deep sadness at the plight of migrant workers, to the animals killed in the harvesting of crops, to animals in shelters...I am a mess, and I can't fix anything.

To live, for me to be alive, means that animals and even other humans die. Even when I do my very best to not cause that, I do. I couldn't reconcile that very well 18 years ago, and now that I am no longer numbed into not caring, I'm still not handling it very well.

So I'm lost. I worry incessantly about the environment, and animals, and people less fortunate than I am. I cry over abused children, starving children, dying babies. I cry because children in my own country grow up in home that are bastions of abuse, alcoholism, and drug addiction. I cry for everyone who lives in poverty, and for every child that is ever struck, and for the children like my son who have such a hard time fitting in.

I don't know what is right anymore. I don't know what to do.

I do know that spilling it out to an unseen audience isn't the answer. Especially since it is a monologue 99% of the time. I might as well just write a book.

I know that sharing ideas, joys, and fears with an online community, no matter how long I have been there, isn't real. Some of the people are beyond kind. I treasure that. It just isn't real! No one there can really be part of my life. It's an imaginary game we play.

I say that, because most everyone I know here, in the real world, falls short when it comes to being part of my life. I am sure that I fall short too. We wrap ourselves in armor and we don't let people in. Too busy, too tired, too complicated....

I'm trying. I'm really trying. I am continually tested by fire. I emerge from the ashes changed...and it happens again and again and again. It's so painful, and yet I know it is good.

It's time...time to step away from the blog. Time to stop posting on forums. I've already my reduced my participation; taking breaks from the blog from time to time, and also from AW. I hardly participate on email lists at all anymore. It's grounds me to pull away from the screen and seek out what I have right here with me. I'm closer to my husband, my children, some of my friends. I'm happier with myself. I'm ready to make it real, to create a life with what I have.

You know, there may come a time when we don't have computers anymore anyway....

(I'm leaving the blogs up for now. I'll hard copy my writings and get them on disk before I take the blogs down.)

Monday, February 5, 2007

A House Full of Gifts

Compacting really gets you thinking in new and exciting ways. It is that outside-of-the-box kind of thinking that taps into your creativity.

Recently, as I've been decluttering, I started to see some of that I no longer want/need as items waiting to be gifted to someone else. Many of you may recognize this as the "mathom" concept from The Hobbit, or else you may have encountered the idea in Elaine St. James' book Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things That Really Matter.

Suddenly, I have a box full of treasures just waiting to be gifted to someone else. Some of these things are brand new; I bought more than I needed or the wrong thing and never took them back. Some are books I read once and enjoyed. I've placed various jewelry items in there that I won't wear again, but that are really cool, like a necklace of semi-precious stone I bought in Mexico, or a little opal ring I bought more than a decade ago (just waiting for a tween/teen girl). I could gift a little girl (or scrapbooker!) with a great selection of stickers (I don't have as many extra boy-themed stickers).

Sometimes the item maybe a gift that was given to me that wasn't quite right. I used to feel really bad about the idea of re-gifting these items, but finally I realized it was no different than donating the items to a thrift shop and then buying a thrift shop gift for someone else.

My whole thinking on gifts has changed over the years. I am thrilled to get a book or CD (not illegally burned) that someone I know enjoyed and wanted to share with me. I love receiving a skein of vintage yarn, or a piece of pressed glass, or an old apron. Flowers from your yard or vegetables from your garden make a great gift in my mind. If someone showed up on my birthday with a basket of fresh greens or a vase of sweet peas I would consider myself blessed beyond belief. Not only because I had been thought of, and because the gift would be perfect, but because I would know that the person giving the gift really understands me.

I also think of giving in a totally different way. I don't need an occasion to send an herbal salve to friend. I accept of bundle of herbs from the garden and recognize it as a precious gift even though it isn't my birthday. Giving and sharing open us up to the generosity that we need as human beings. I love to share.

Frugal Victories 1/29-2/4/07

I apologize to those of you who read at AW, as I am going to c/p some of this from last week's thread. I'm adding new stuff too!.

I made banana muffins and banana bread. The bananas had been sitting there, overripe, for days (our house is so cold this time of year that they don't go rancid quickly), and I just didn't feel like making muffins. For one thing, I don't like the vegan GF muffins with egg replacer, which is all I had. Well, right after dinner Papa was cleaning up and I decided to just get it done. Voila! Snacks for last night and today, as well as this morning's breakfast.

Trying the muffin batter in a loaf pan was a successful experiment. I wanted to see if it would work so that we can use the banana bread for sandwiches. I also cut the sugar with no complaints.

We a soup night, as usual, but I didn't make corn bread because I was out of rice milk, and I didn't have any cooked rice to make rice milk out of. J-Baby was unhappy (but the muffins later made up for it), Papa and I don't need the bread, and T-Guy just filled his tummy with 3 bowls of soup and was as happy as could be.

The boys and I dropped off 2 bags and 1 box of decluttered items at Goodwill, dutifully collecting our receipt for next year's taxes (I stop collecting receipts once I figure we've donated close to $500 in goods).

We went to the Assistance League thrift shop. They didn't have the things we had on our list (pants for J-Baby, a good backpack for Papa, etc.) , however the did have some things that we collect year 'round. We bought:

a great basket for a quarter
a nice heart-shaped basket (pink) for 75 cents
(We use these for packaging homemade gifts.)
a pack of 16 big red heart doilies for 25 cents (Hallmark NIP but so old the original price was 59 cents and it didn't have a barcode)
(We'll use these to make valentines.)
a skein of vintage Shetland wool (from England) for $1
a package of unopened twill rug binding for 50 cents
a Biosta Sprouting Kit (it appears to be NIP) for $2. That link says it isn't for larger seeds/beans, however their are instructions for larger seeds with the kit, so we'll at least give sunflower seeds a try.

It obviously isn't non-buying; we spent $5 and put $1 in the donation box. However, everything we've bought helps us stick to saving money and Compacting.

I attempted vegan/GF pancakes again, using ingredients we had at home. They were okay, not spectacular but better that some of our previous attempts. The boys really liked them. J-Baby used the leftovers to make PB sandwiches for lunch.

I participated in a tea swap at AW, and was able to send a nice package and only spend $4 for the treat and $7 postage (both out of my personal allowance). I had a nice unopened bag of specialty tea that my BIL gave me for Christmas; unfortunately I am allergic to the flavor. I bought a decadent cookie treat. For reading material I passed on a book I read recently. The gift is a surprise (just in case my partner reads here); let's just say I had something fantastic in my gift box. Finally, J-Baby and I rolled a nice beeswax candle to include in the box.

I finished knitting the warm hat for my nephew, and we were able to send it to Belgium for $10 using Global Priority Mail. Our last attempt at sending a birthday gift to Belgium ended up costing $30, using Amazon France (and a friend to translate for us). The hat took only my time; I already had the loom and the yarn in my stash (leftover from another project).

Another nephew had a party Saturday. I had a couple of small things in my gift box, but nothing really suitable, so we gave him one of the Barnes and Noble gift cards we got with our Yahoo! points. It wasn't ideal, however we didn't have to spend any money buying him something new. One goal this year is to make a lot of gifts ahead of time; his birthday hit just as I was making the hat for my other nephew (which was time consuming), as well as other gifts for Valentine's Day. Hopefully by next year I'll have a better stash ready to go!

My boys received $20 Target cards as belated birthday gifts. Of course, they wanted to spend them right away. Since T-Guy's bike helmet is nowhere to be found the boys decided to buy T-Guy a new helmet, and to get a Lego set to share. This will seem unusual to a lot of people, but my boys don't have a strong concept of mine. Yes, we could have bought the new helmet for T-Guy, but everyone was happy with this arrangement.

At Target I finally returned the pants I bought for J-Baby last December (they were too big in the waist). I received a $20 credit. We spent $9 on a new filter for the central air/furnace unit. We went more than 6 weeks without shopping at Target.

Papa and the boys biked to the grocery store and TJs again this week, saving gas and reducing carbon emissions. All library and post office trips have been made on foot.

We filed our taxes. We're getting a smaller refund than less year, which is a good thing because it means we loaned less of our money to government at 0%. The income from the returns is earmarked for our spring vacation.

My dad gave us an empty Lionel popcorn tin to use as a trash can in our train room.

Bedwetter pants appear to be a success.

I'm sure there were more, but I'll stop there. I have one more post I want to write this morning before I turn off the computer for several hours.

Goals and Victories

I've been participating on the Mama's Simplifying and Thrift forum at Amity Mama. It's fun place to hang out with other mamas that are Compacting, Not Buying. or otherwise trying to get control of the money and make mindful choices about spending.

There is usually a weekly goals thread, as well as one for victories. I decided that I might try listing mine here, on my blog, instead of on the forum.

Goals for the week of 2/5-2/11/07:

Serve healthier, less-traditional breakfasts. For example, to day the boys had baked potatoes with olive oil, and fresh pineapple. Papa and I had brown rice, baked yam and wilted arugula, topped with gomasio and extra dulse flakes. Papa had fresh pineapple too. Alas, I am allergic. I do love pineapple.

Finish knit hat for DS#1 (Valentine's Day gift)

Peel off another layer of clutter.

Get our square foot gardening boxes built and filled with soil.

Try a new GF banana bread recipe.
This isn't intended as everyday fare; I'm looking for a standout recipe to serve to guests and to perhaps substitute for cake on special occasions.

Spend less time on computer. This one has a simple reason - I want to read more.

Cook creatively to use up all of the gorgeous produce and greens Papa bought this weekend.

Read to my boys daily. We're working on a sage story about Martin Luther King Jr. from the Enki resource materials.

Practice reading skills with the boys daily.

Change essential oil blend for bathing;
using the same blend for months at a time I am concerned about the lavender essential oil and too much estrogen. I need to research and create 2-3 new blends that I can rotate.

Other things that are happening this week:

We have library books due today. I should borrow a book on composting.
We should mail a birthday card to my SIL today! (P.O. is on the way to the library)
We want to go to Cherry Valley and buy mushroom compost. Perhaps Tuesday when we have some time out of the house in the morning.
We're making valentine boxes with friends on Tuesday.
I have a doctor's appointment Wednesday.
BMX Wednesday evening.
Farmer's Market Thursday evening.
Go to museum for planetarium show (Saturday)

I'll try to think of last week's victories and list them in another post.

Houston, We Have Soil

We went to a local nursery to buy what we need to build the soil for our square foot gardens. We need vermiculite (certified asbestos free), peat moss (sustainable harvested in Canada), and compost. We got just about all we need for 3 beds that will be 8X2 feet, for a total of 48 square feet of gardening space. All we need is another 2 cubic feet of compost; we're thinking we'll drive to a nursery a little farther away to buy mushroom compost.

We don't have an independent nursery in Our Town any longer. We drove into Yucaipa to go to Newell's. I'd never been there and was quite impressed. I could see the employee biting his tongue as we explained what we plan to do, but he was polite about it

Tuesday night we plan to go buy our lumber and fasteners, and then we build the boxes and grids. That might not actually happen until the weekend, but that's okay.

We decided to build our boxes 8X2 instead of 4X4 to maximize the space in our yard. We also figure they'll look a lot like planters, and we can fill them with flowers when it comes time to sell the house (of course, we'll try it first with the veggie garden; the flowers are a back-up plan).

Oh yeah, I got a pitch fork and some weed cloth. I've yet to see these second hand

We figured out that we have plenty of leftover wire fencing to make our compost bin with. My friend gave me seeds to get us started. I have a bucket, gloves, shoes (but I don't think I need waterproof clogs if I don't intend to ever step on my soil), a trowel, a rake, and a few other implements. I think we'll be fine.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

A Little Bit of Thinking....

The boys and I walked to the post office yesterday. It was that perfect melding of having something we needed to do (mail packages) and doing something we like to do (walk).

The boys balanced on curbs and jumped off raised dividers. They ran, they skipped...they just had a lot of fun. As it does often, my mind went to that place where I see their activities as integrating their senses. And then whoa...I realized how disintegrating that is.

I had been reading about how we've stopped eating food and now we eat nutrients packaged in the form of non-food. It was a Michael Pollan article entitled Unhappy Meals. He is, you know, the guy who wrote The Omnivore's Dilemma. I haven't read his book yet, because it has been checked out and overdue a the library (just's available now), and because I decided to read Peter Singer's new book, The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter, first. (Yes, that is a commercial link. Please feel free to borrow the book from a library or local friend, or to buy it used. But even Compacters must remember that some writing is an art and deserves to be purchased.)

His main point is that we should eat food, real food, and mostly plants, and more leaves than seeds, and a diverse selection, and...well, you need to read the article because I think any of his ideas taken out of context and away from the whole ruins the whole picture.

So I was thinking about sensory integration. Why is it a problem now? What is different? We were walking, which meets a lot of sensory needs (and certainly now I understand why kids jump off things and climb things and hang on railings...all things I see every child do, and most parents get exasperated by). We were also being assaulted by a lot of other sensory input. Vehicles zooming past us (going much faster than the posted speed limit). The changing stop light. The hum of electrical wires.

It drowns everything else out, everything that is real! Birds and bees, breezes in the trees, barking dogs, the sound of our feet. The air pollution hides the sky, the noise pollution hides the true aural environment.

Perhaps that is why nature is so restorative; it is real. We see and feel and hear what we are meant to hear as human beings.

Eat real food, food your great-great grandmother would recognize (I have to go pretty far back for that, to the mid-1800s. Please don't take that out of context; my g-g-grandmother wouldn't recognize factory eggs or corn-fed beef. She wouldn't have had animal products as the main part of every meal. How simple is it. Eat food. Everything else Pollan has to say relates back to that (cook, garden, eat less...all things g-g-grandmother did).

Get real sensory input. Get out in nature. Play. Find a quiet place. Turn off as many electrical appliances as you can, and eliminate the hum of the computer, the printer, the TiVo, as well as the more obvious background sounds like TV, radio, etc. When you mean to listen or to watch give it your full attention. And by all means, make real music. Sing! If you can't stop the hum of a refrigerator find a place in your home where you can stop the noises. Have a quiet, low-electricity room you can retreat to. Light a candle.

Anyway, like I said, I was just doing a little bit of thinking. Nothing is fully formed here. It's just another step for me, away from the things that aren't real. As always, it stands to turn my world upside down.