Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Plan to Occupy Christmas

     Here's my question: people complain about commercialized Christmas and how crazy Christmas shopping is, but do they Step Away from the Cash Register?  Over the years, I have learned that family members and friends care more about expressions of love and gifts of time than anything you could possibly buy for them in a store.  If you ask my five siblings about their favorite Christmas in our family, every one of them describes the year we went to a cabin in the woods, spent Christmas day skiing, and then for presents, each person received a little box of hand-written notes of love from each member of the family.  These notes were written that day, at the prompting of my mom, who told us to write a note to each person telling them what you love about them.  I still have mine.  They are one of my most precious possessions.  I was 18 years old when I received this profound gift.  It has colored every Christmas since then a beautiful blue, both deep and bright.
     So... this is my encouragement to you to Occupy Christmas, or whatever holiday you are celebrating.  In fact, it is my hope that you will Occupy Your Family, Occupy Your Life.  Because to me, the whole Occupy movement is about waking up and being present and aware of what is going on around you.  And the most important thing to wake up to is how blessed you are to have the ones you love in your life.  TELL THEM.  If you want to buy gifts, go ahead. Buy local.  Buy small.  Buy sustainable.  It's okay to buy gifts.  But don't assume the gifts are doing the important job of letting peole know just how deep and wide your love is.
     Here's my plan for Occupying My Christmas.
     Step 1.  Watch The Story of Stuff.  This is becoming a holiday tradition, just like watching Elf.  In fact, we are going to watch all the videos on this site, like a video advent calendar.
     Step 2. Buy a cow or goat or sheep or goats or chickens for a family in need through Heifer International and send a witty card to my family members to show them the gift we bought for the whole family. (Mom, Dad, five sibs, a whole lot of nieces and nephews plus Laird's sibs and their loves).  We'll also post a picture of the animal on the wall or make a decoration for the tree at our house so my kids see this way of giving.  (Did you ever think about all the things your parents did that you had no clue about?  I'm learning to talk more about the things we do, so my kids we truly be aware of them.) 
     Step 3. Donate a chunk of money to the humanitarian efforts of the agency that helped bring us our children from Ethiopia and make a small donation to their Holiday Project that provides Christmas feasts to the orphanages with which they work.  We will also make a decoration for the tree that represents this gift. 
     Step 4. As I declutter this month, I will wrap mathoms for anyone I can think of.  I have lots of things I am ready to part with, but not ready to just hand to Goodwill.  Giving mathoms helps motivate me to clear out Stuff by adding love to the letting go. 
     Step 5. Get copies of well-loved pictures and frame them or make little sock monkeys (from scraps... time to declutter the craft corner!) for the people I will be with on Christmas morning. Wrap in used wrapping paper or scraps of fabric. Add a thoughtful love note - the most important part of the gift.  My friend has been making Sock Monkeys and I have invited her  and some other friends to come make sock monekys on a Saturday.  Each one has a name and unique personality.  Just having this connection and creative time with her will be a gift to me and the kids, and it will help the kids know that creating things to give is more fun than buying things.  The thing we make is not as important as the joy of making things with each other.
     Step 7. Make Cinnamon Swirl Oat Bread, aka NumNum Bread (named by Ben when he was two) which will magically erase any and all feelings of "not getting enough" on Christmas Day.  
     Step 8. Require (yes, force) all to get out to play or stay in a play games. Face-to-face, person-to-person, being alive, being together... this is what Holy Days are about.
     By the way, we also have a Solstice Sing every year... we celebrate the Winter Solstice with singing and candles and yummy sun-ful foods and a fire in the fireplace.  It is sweet to have a holiday for which there is no expectation of gifts.  Throughout December, we also read stories and talk about all the other winter holidays people celebrate on this earth. 
     Have a glorious holiday season full of light and love! 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Simple Meals for the Busy Family

aka Grab-n-Go or the Four Bin Food System
A healthy, eco-friendly alternative to depending on fast food restaurants in the age of travel soccer

I have four athletic kids.  Three of them are on travel soccer teams.  Three different teams.  And one is a senior in high school who plays varsity volleyball and lacrosse.  We have practices and/or games almost every day of the week in the fall.  Plus school and work.  Yes, we are a little crazy.  But, we are also fun.  We are game.  Our kids are much happier when they get lots of physical activity. So we Do. It. All.  When we signed up the third kid for the third travel soccer team, I had a moment of panic.  I pictured us going through the dreaded tunnel under the big yellow M every night of the week due to lack of time and planning.  I screamed inside.  Noooooooooooo!  I am organica mom.  I am happy chicken, grass-fed beef, free-range eggs, and farm-fresh veggies from the lovely folks at Backbone Food Farm and Round Right Farm.  I gag when forced to use styrofoam and single-use anything. I ride my bike to Farmers Market, people. I cannot drive my "Be a Localvore" bestickered soccer-mom van through the exhaust-ridden (oh how convenient!) bastions of high-calorie, low-value, too-little-love, consumeable ill health packages.  (Have you seen how huge those cups of HFCS-colored acid water are getting to be???)

My Slow Food Vehicle

So, I needed to come up with a system.  I woke up the next morning with a picture of a fridge full of home-cooked food that could be thrown down the gullets of the athletes as they run out the front door.  Brilliant!

Step 1: Get the bins
Find two two-quart containers and two four-quart containers.  I bought Rubbermaid BPA-free containers at Kroger because I knew if I waited until I went to a kitchen store or Target or ordered them online, I would lose my momentum.  Rubbermaid also makes glass ones with lids, and Pyrex makes some glass containers with lids. My bins are square and stack really well.  Create space inside your fridge for these containers to be stacked at all times. You’ll also need a place to store bread and muffins outside the fridge. An area in the fridge where you keep packages of tortillas is also a good idea.

Step 2: Fill the bins
In the beginning, you’ll need to devote a half-day or so to filling up the containers mainly because the first time you do it, you’ll think it will take way longer than it actually takes. You can either fill up all the containers every weekend, or fill each one as it is emptied.  For example, if you run out of rice on Wednesday, just cook a batch of rice and refill it on Wednesday night or Thursday morning.  Whenever any container gets close to running out, figure out what you’ll cook to fill it up again, and the time you will be able to do so.

Container 1 (four-quart): Grain or legume (lentils, people)
Container 2 (two-quart):  Meat or beans
Container 3 (two-quart): Cooked veggies
Container 4 (four-quart): Salad greens 
Breadbox: bread, muffins, and/or rolls

Some examples

Grains and/or Legumes:  Rice, cous cous, quinoa, barley, pasta; lentils, split peas, yellow peas (mix two for variety and complementary proteins)
Sometimes, I add some peas or other veggie to this so the kids who don’t tend to eat a variety of veggies get some by default.  The trick is not to overwhelm the grain with too much of the veggie.

Meat or beans:  Roast a chicken or other meat and slice, cut into small pieces, or shred OR Soak beans overnight, then cook and season to taste. Other options: hard-boiled eggs, nuts, and cheese.

Cooked veggies:  Pick the ones that are in season, cut them up, and steam or roast them with simple seasonings. 

Salad greens:  Pick out the ones that look good, wash, spin, and tear into small pieces.  Store with a paper towel to absorb extra water.  Sometimes I just cut up a bunch of carrots and celery for this bin.  Store in water; drain to serve, fill up again to store.

Bread:  Buy yummy bread from the local bakery, and/or make muffins or rolls. Also have tortillas on hand because if the kid needs to grab food and go, wrapping it up in a tortilla will save on messes in the car and prevents the sad loss of dishes and silverware.  New Day Bakery makes our family go around the table "I'm grateful for..." list on a regular basis.  I don't know about you, but for me, one of the best things in life is Good Bread. I don't get to bake bread often with my work and soccer mom schedule, so I spend good money on good bread.

Additions:  kids can add grated cheese, sour cream, or condiments, as desired. 

Step 3: Kid Training
Show the kids the containers and tell them about how the containers will be filled with food and kept in the fridge.  Tell them that each container will be filled soon after it is emptied and washed. To make a meal, a person should pick the kind of bread they want and at least three of the other items.  Show them what one-third to one-half cup looks like, and tell them to put about that much of each chosen item on their roll or in their bowl.  No fair taking two cups of rice, one chunk of chicken and a lettuce leaf!  Also, condiments are not to be piled on to make the taste of the food disappear!  A dollop of sour cream, not a half cup!  A sprinkling of cheese, not two handfuls.  Watch kids the first few times, and help them understand that a variety of foods is how they will get all the nutrients they need.  Teach them about “complete proteins.”

Also, put a calendar menu on the fridge.  Decide which nights will be “get your own” and which nights will be sit-down together meals. Be sure to have kids check the menu before they get their own meal. It might help to have a reference page posted above the counter where people will make their meals.

Have containers on hand for packing grab-n-go meals.  The plastic ones from some Chinese restaurants are a good size, sturdy, easy to eat from, and can be reused many times. By the way, don't use plastic in the microwave!  I store containers with the lids on, even though it takes up more room, because it saves precious time when we are in the grab stage of grab-n-go. In the car(s), be sure to have a roll of paper towels, some wet wipes, and a garbage bag.  In the kitchen, you could have pre-packed meal bags that contain a spoon and fork, a cloth napkin, and a mint.  The kid makes dinner in the plastic container, grabs one of the bags, and goes.  When done eating, just place the container in the bag and bring it all in the house when you get home.  There could be a small laundry basket in the kitchen so the bag gets unpacked right away – rinse and stack dishes and silverware, put cloth stuff in the laundry basket.  You could make fabric bags for this.  In your dreams. No, really, you could.  My kids just throw their food in the front pocket of their soccer bags.

Also, each person should have a BPA-free water bottle to fill and take everywhere.  Camelbak makes a sturdy one in different sizes and colors.  Each person can have a different color so everyone can keep track of their own source of water.  Kids going to athletic events will probably need more water than fits in one water bottle, so having big water container in the car for refills or having extra water bottles is a good idea.

And, remember; always have a book with you.  Everywhere you go.  Because you never know when mom will decide to sit and read in the car while the rain comes down on the soccer field instead of driving all the home and back again and you have to wait for your brother and sister sitting in the boring car. Hmph.

Step 4: Gratitude
The beauty of this system for me is that I can cook when I feel like cooking.  Yes, there are times I actually want to cook.  They are generally NOT at 4:30 pm after rushing home from work to hurry and get in the car to go to drop off H and A at LP fields, take R to get new cleats, pick up J from practice, pick up H and A from soccer practice and go home to get kids in the shower and to bed. I can cook after the kids go to bed, I can cook at six in the morning while I sip my coffee.  I can cook when it is time to clean out the fridge.  And my kids are still getting to eat healthy, home-cooked, good food.  Nothing makes me feel like a failure as a mom more often watching my kids scarf down crappy, chemical-laden, processed, automated food that came through the window of my car.  This is my personal version of the Slow Food Movement, thank you very much. 

The system in practice
I didn’t plan to cook this morning, but this is what I did when I woke up at six.  Tomorrow night is three-kids-at-soccer-and-one-kid-at-volleyball night.  Two bins were empty and in the dish drainer.  (See, this is a visible signal to me that cooking needs to happen.)  My partner is away, the kids have no school, and we are going away this weekend so the fridge needed to be cleaned out.  

First, I put on the rice. Six cups of water and three cups of rice cook up to fill a four-quart bin very nicely.  You might make your coffee first, but for some reason, I had the presence of mind to start the rice, then make the coffee.  Someday, I'll follow my partner around the kitchen and tell you how to make the perfect cup of coffee.  Today, I fended for myself.

Then I snapped the beans and put them in the steamer. 

I wanted to put some protein in a bin, but I forgot about soaking the beans last night. Since I'm going away this weekend, I don't want to get into the beans or meat work.  (Flexiblity is one key to happiness!)   I found some split peas in the pantry. I can hide some of those little green lovelies in the rice.  Well, not hide exactly, but mix in a way that prevents the children from avoiding them completely.  Mwaa haaa haaaa...  I was going to just throw them in with rice, but figured I should read the instructions first.  I had to put my glasses on... okay... I'm fifty... whatever.  Found out I needed eight cups of water for two cups of peas, so it's a good thing I didn't just throw them in with the rice.  That is them on the back left burner... cooking up in all their evil greenness. This, my friends, is cooking by the seat of my pants. 

Next, I sipped coffee and relished the quiet house. Then I chopped up lots of onions and about the same amount of squash.  My Ethiopian kids LOVE onions.  Threw in some salt, pepper, and chili pepper.  Oh yeah, garlic, too.  Lots of garlic. Helen is going to squeal with delight when she wakes up smelling these onions.

The other two bins already had some raw veggies, so I got them out for the photo op.  I had to put the green beans in one of my handy Pyrex dishes.  I could have chopped them up and added them to the rice or the onions and squash, but I use the grab-n-go for my lunches at work. I love plain green beans.  A mom needs to take care of herself, too.

See how nicely they fit in the fridge? 

This is a lesson in abundance.  It helps heal my Ethiopian kids' food-power issues from living in a children's home for five years and not having any choices around food at all. And mine, too.  My mom had a lot of rules around food, because her mom did.  Cycle of food stress.  I'm trying to break it.  This four-bin food system is one of my tools.  It works well for now. 

My boys are cooking up some breakfast and they just made me a second cup of coffee.  Life is Good.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Instead of painting a room while Laird is away...

...I have updated my blog. Ms. Reality Check (I visit her in the mirror) said to me, "Face it, Ms. Soccer-x3-Volleyball-Scientist Mom, you do not have the time-energy-discipline to Write That Book.  Good ideas, yeah, but writing a book and getting it published is a Huge Project, huger than a PhD, Sweetie, so until your kids # 4, 5 and 6 are in college, you need to put that thing on hold."

Now, I have to respect the chick in the mirror, even if she does talk in run-on sentences.  So... I am going to focus my creative effots into this low-maintenaince, instant-gratification vehicle of expression... the blog. So, I said yes to the updated blogger interface, and I said yes to a new template, and I am saying Yes to me.  I am accepting my current Lifestyle and committing to working within my mom parameters to get what I need. I know there are some issues (like the one gadget on the right has blue font that is unreadable...) and I am working on that as I re-learn my way around.

Meanwhile, since it is now past time to get the kids up for church... I give you this latest picture of Helen (13), Rediet (13), and Abel (11).   (The room in the background is the room I painted last year while Laird was away.)

And... Jordan (17) with her new lovee:

Tegan (almost 21! with the world at her feet)

And Ben (27, with the world in his back pocket)

Coming soon:

The Grab-n-Go System... healthy food, and lots of it, for the busy family.  I've got four athletes and this is how I keep them fed.  Recipes, too!

Living With People 101: a series of lessons in getting along and building relationships without going carzy, plus teaching kids how to Live With People.

Things That Work: short entries about sustainable products of value, family practices, and phrases for various occasions.  Oh yeah, and my favorite restaurants and places of business.

My Heroes:  short stories of my favorite people in the world, mostly ordinary folks I know who live extraordinary lives.

scone on,

Friday, September 30, 2011

For Struggling Parents

This letter is an expression of my grief.
This letter is written with love and hope
for parents who are having a hard time
loving (and/or liking) the child(ren) in their family.

Dear Parents who are struggling with children who don't behave as you expected,

Please do not use food as reward or punishment.
Please do not lock your child in isolation.
Please do not withhold attention for long periods.
Please do not hit your child.

If you are using or considering any of these methods
if these seem like reasonable solutions to the problems at hand
PLEASE get help. Please find people who are experienced in helping families
follow a path of patient love and compassionate teaching.

There are ways that work. There are ways to solve problems
that do not harm children.

I know it is hard to take it in
when you find your child lying to you
or completely ignoring your rules and wishes
I know they do all kinds of things that you never thought of
that you never witnessed
that you never dreamed a child could do

I give you these red flags to watch for:
If you feel very angry in response to your child's behavior
If you cannot see something good in your child every day, some way she/he is growing
If you feel afraid and alone or overwhelmed by your child
If you tend to avoid being around others because you are embarrassed by your child
If you have tried the same method of problem-solving repeatedly and there is no positive change
Find someone to help you overcome whatever is inside you that is being triggered by your child's fear

Your child will find your triggers and will reflect your unhealed hurts
Your hurts will raise to the surface from deep within you
Where you buried them
Your child will unwittingly bring you to your knees
This is an opportunity for you
to be a better human being
to admit to not knowing
to connect with others
to learn and to be helped
things that all human beings need
things that you wish your child would learn how to do


Know this: if your child does not see you learning new things
if your child never sees you admit you made a mistake
if your child never sees you as naturally imperfect
and okay with the fact that you are imperfect
Your child will never see imperfection as an option for herself

Your child is a work in progress. Your child is a person.
Your child is not clay. Your child is not something you own.
Your child is a garden.
Your child is a precious growing being.
Your child has a heart and a mind and a spirit
that is growing and learning
and observing and hoping

Misbehavior is a message. It means "I don't feel safe" or "I don't understand" or "I am overwhelmed"
Sometimes, it is just "I'm not perfect."
Sometimes, it is just "I'm not you."
Many times, it is your child begging for help
It is your child asking you for limits, yes,
But also for love.
Loving limits, explained limits, simple limits
imits appropriate to your child's age, experience, and past hurts
Limits which need to be accompanied by concrete praise and gratitude
and words that show you understand
Or that you are trying to understand
"I see you did this part right"
"I see you trying really hard"
"You seem confused"
"I see you remembered this step, but forgot this step"
"Everyone gets scared"
"Everyone makes mistakes"
"Everyone forgets"
"You don't have to be perfect"

"Every human being needs words that show true acceptance
"You are beautiful."
"You are an amazing human being."
"You are so smart... and more and more you will see how smart you are!"

And information: "That was a mistake."
"That is not okay."
And direction:
"Show me how you can do that with kindness."
"Here are a couple of options for ways to deal with that problem."

Mom, dad, aunt, uncle, whoever you are to a child:
You Don't Have to Be Perfect.
Accept yourself, and accept your child.
But, if you are overwhelmed with a sense of how imperfect you are
if you are angry all the time
if you are taking that out on your kids
Your kids are not the ones have a problem
Take Care Of Your Own Internal Problems

That's what adults do.
Adults admit when they need help.
Adults do not stop growing and learning.
Adults to not use their power to damage others.
Adults don't let their distress get in the way of their kindness and compassion.
Adults make sure everyone is SAFE.

You a work in progress. You are a person.
You are not clay. You are not something you own.
You are a garden.
You are a precious growing being.
You have a heart and a mind and a spirit
that is growing and learning
and observing and hoping

You can change and learn
But no-one is going to do it for you
or make you do it
or even know to help you learn how to do it
You have to take the step
You have to decide to change
You have to seek the people to help you.

If your children are not safe, and growing,
and able to behave and play and joke
and able to look into your eyes
at least some of the time on most days
then you are not doing your job as a parent.

If you are not able to look into your child's eyes with love,
You need help.

If your child is afraid of you,
You need help.

Humble yourself and ask for help.

If you are overwhelmed, afraid, exhausted, depressed, or angry all the time
You need help.
Get help.

Don't stop looking for it,
until you find it.

in memory of precious Hana
who did not receive what she needed
and so, rebelled

Sunday, April 3, 2011

This little illumination of mine, I'm gonna let it shine

It's taken me thirty years to formulate a succint answer for why I refuse to believe there is "only one right way" to G-d. I believed for most of my teen years that a certain brand of Christianity was the only right way to G-d, and that it was my duty to tell others that, and especially to point out to them when their choices were bad and sinful and not part of that one right way. When I was 20, I saw the movie Ghandi at the suggestion of a friend (thank you, Bruce). I remember sitting in that movie theater in Boyertown, PA, right after the movie ended with a big light bulb going off over my head. I heard a very insistent inner voice saying "there is not only one right way to God." It is one of the most vivid memories of my life.

Of course, I had already been questioning things for a while for various reasons I won't go into here, including some very unethical behavior towards me by my paster at the time. But, at that moment, I felt a great weight lifted from me, and I gave myself permission to stop judging everyone for their choice of G-d's name, their choice of the stories they found sacred, and their choices around the way they lived there lives.

I want to say to all those people I bullied for Christ: Please forgive me. I know that what I did was unkind, unloving, and just plain wrong. I hope you were able to heal from the hurt I caused. I can tell you that I now defend you and wish I could tell you to your face that I regret not listening and learning from you because of my arrogance.

The following is my response to a comment by one of my friends on facebook which was a reaction to violence being done between groups of religious people - the desecration of the Q'uran by a small group of people who call themselves Christian, and the trampling to death of people by a group of people who call themselves Muslim protesting that offensive act. One comment listed many sacred texts and asked if one was right or all were wrong. I'm glad the discussion happened and that I was able to take five minutes to type out this short and clear statement of my faith. You may notice I don't name my sacred text of choice.

This is a statement of my faith in the Divine, and my faith in humans. It has taken me thirty years since that night in the movie theater to pull it together. In those thirty years I have read many books, written many questions in my journals, had therapy to heal the wrongs done to me, engaged in many discussions, and sung many prayersongs. I have also, I am proud to say, listened to many people as they talked about their connection with the Divine and their sacred stories, no matter where they came from. I can tell you that the Divine lives and moves and breathes in us all, from the moment of birth to the moment of death. I don't need to know what happens before and beyond those moments. It is enough for me to know the abundance of Love that I have known on this earth to be fine with the rest being a mystery. It is enough for me to practice being loving, being kind, here and now.

There is a middle way. My scared text of choice tells me to live in lovingkindness. I don't get to tell other people they are wrong about their sacred text because it is not living in lovingkindness to do so. The truth is that MOST PEOPLE who follow a particular sacred text are not out there stomping on other people or their sacred text. MOST PEOPLE of Faith are appalled by actions like these and go about their daily lives sowing seeds of peace and lovingkindness. Most people who are really living by their chosen sacred text are so loving that you don't even know why they do what they do, you just know that you feel loved and respected by them.

I believe that there is not one right way for all, but there is a right way for each one. And yes, my sacred text of choice supports that belief, even if there are others who say it doesn't. The main teachings of every peace-loving religion is that we human beings need each other, we need to connect with The Divine and with each other, and we need to serve people in need. It is boiled down to living your life in lovingkindness. The media loves to report on the horrors done by humans, especially by those who are religious. But, a person of faith will look for and celebrate any person who is doing good, loving mercy, and walking humbly with their Divine Loved One. Peace, peace, peace.

Friday, April 1, 2011

emotions are your internal weather

Here are a few things I know about weather.

1. There is no bad weather, only lack of appropriate clothing.

2. Whatever is happening right now will not go on happening forever. It probably won't even be happening for the rest of the day.

3. Unpredictable!

4. Weather can really mess up your plans, unless you make a plan for what to do in case of certain kind of weather.

5. Sometimes, the weather is a reminder for you to just give yourself a break.

6. If you enjoy an activity, you can enjoy it in almost any kind of weather. A certain type of weather is rarely a reason for not engaging in something you really want to do. (Notwithstanding number 5.)

7. Blaming weather for your actions doesn't get you anywhere.

8. Nobody else is responsible for your decisions about what to do in response to the weather.

9. If we always had one kind of weather, things would be pretty mundane.

10. Every kind of weather has a gift or a message for you.

11. If you want to be happy, it is good to pay attention to the weather, find a way to accept it as it is, and be grateful for what the weather is bringing you.

12. Good shoes, wool socks, and a cozy hat, and a good friend make any kind of weather bearable.

Whenever you are having trouble with the weather, internal or external, it's good to have a nice cup of tea.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I heart my feet

Day eight: a photo of something you enjoy doing.

I started my Couch to 5K training program today and will run my first 5K ever on my 50th birthday... in about six weeks. So, I have been thinking about my feet and my shoes a lot over the past couple days. Went to Merrell's website, because I have two pairs of Merrells and they are the most awesome shoes in the world. Comfortable and long-lasting, and let me tell you, if there is any combination a Taurus wants in a pair of shoes, or anything for that matter, is it comfortable and long-lasting.

I love the earth. I love running through the woods and dancing barefoot under the blue sky. I love walking in the rain and playing in the snow and wading in the river. I love smelling the ocean and walking in the sand. I love touching the earth with my bare hands and my bare feet.

I don't like wearing heels or getting pedicures. I don't like socks that don't stay on right. I don't like shoes that squish my feet. I don't like panty hose. I despise panty hose. I don't wear make-up or shave my legs because both are just too much time that could better be spent being outside. And the main, sometimes only, reason I don't like my job is that it forces me to SIT all day long, in front of a computer, indoors. It's UNNATURAL.

I love the earth. I love running through the woods and dancing barefoot under the blue sky. I love walking in the rain and playing in the snow and wading in the river. I love smelling the ocean and walking in the sand. I love touching the earth with my bare hands and my bare feet. I love walking in soft grass. I love walking on sun-warmed rocks. I love feeling mud ooze up between my toes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

If I were in charge of the world...

Human Rights would be THE PRIORITY.

Day seven: a photo of something you stand for.

Anyone who can't lead without treating people with respect and dignity: you lose your privileges. Early bedtime AND no screen time. Forever.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Day six: a photo of someone you love

Someone I love: God in us.
God as in God=Love, God=Peace, God=Joy
The One
The Divine in Each One of Us
That drive for justice that rises up from deep in the core of each of us.
That place in each of our souls that creates
music out of suffering,
art out of hunger,
dance out of nothing,
song out of Hope.

I have been wondering what discipline to practice for Lent. I have a long list of changes I'd like to make. More walking, less junk food, more meditation, less complaining, more breathing. But nothing felt like the commitment I need to make right now. None of my wishes for a better me would have any real effect on the world except that a better me makes a better world in a tiny way.

Someone sent me a link to Stand by Me this morning, recorded by Playing for Change Foundation. I had seen it before. It is my favorite version of that song. This foundation uses the universal language of music and great recording technology to bring people together and to create positive change in the world. So, I decided that each day of Lent this year, I will be giving up something I would spend money on that day, and collecting that money in an envelope to send to this Foundation. Today, it will be the latte that I usually bring back to work when I go out to lunch.

So, today's picture is this video. I love all these people. Especially the dancing children, the little girl in the pink dress, and the little one with hands folded in prayer. I love Tamika in NYC whose voice is the most beautiful voice I have ever heard. And I love the talented hands and ears and hearts behind the scenes, collecting all this video, and splicing it together in layers to make such a beautiful collaborative piece of magical song as if it is the richest treasure in all the earth.

You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Day five: a photo that makes you laugh.


So, this was the Fall of 2009. The kids came here from Ethiopia - two in March and one in July. They ate everything we let them. Three servings if we let them. Big servings. And since all the books said "let them eat," that is what we did. Together, the three of them weighed only a little more than I did, and between the three of them, they ate about nine times what I ate at every meal. Growing is not the word for it, but I don't think there is a word for it. Making up for lost time, maybe.

Turned out they loved bananas. We easily went through four or five bunches of bananas a week. They would wolf a big banana down in about four bites.

After a few months, we noticed they were asking for food at every transition, and whenever they were bored. Duh. Food for comfort, food to deal with stress, food for power, food for filling up this great big hole in my soul! So, we did some talking about listening to our bodies... and we set some limits. Limits on food, oh my gosh.

We also noticed that they complained like wild. Every time we put food in front of them, whining and complaining. Not liking things they had scarfed down the day before. As if all the complaints they had not been allowed to express for the previous five years of their lives had been unleashed in this new world where complaining was not being punished.

So, we did some talking about gratitude.

One evening at dinner, the story came out that at the children's home, they only got one banana a week. It was on Sunday. And the Sunday banana had strings attached. If you were good, you got a banana. If you were not, you did not. Ouch. And sometimes, other kids would take your banana.

So, it dawned on me (oh my little brain) that whenever I said no to a request for a banana, it was probably automatically felt as a punishment. As a declaration that my child is bad.

Now, I am the parent who read every book on self-esteem ever written when I was pregnant with my first child. And put into practice the very careful practice of distinguishing between the child and the action, of never saying or implying that "you are bad" when correcting my children. So, this whole thing of connecting food and behavior... well, it does not fly here in Barbaraland.

But, it was indoctrinated. And so, the task is to unindoctrinate.

One of the kids asked, "Can I have another banana?"

I said, "Yes, but we are really going to have to limit bananas. Five a day. You are each only allowed five bananas a day."

Great big eyes, very excited "oooohhhhhh!" And a rush to the banana bowl.

(No, they weren't actually able to eat five in one sitting, but they had fun trying.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Day four: a photo of a place you'd like to visit

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut. Not because I wanted to step on the moon, but because I wanted to see earth from out there.

But now, that trip breaks my Rule of Reasonable Carbon Footprint for Sustainable Travel. I really think we should invest our money and fuel and intelligence on reducing our use of limited resources, and teaching people how to live responsibly and sustainably.

So, when I go here:

I would like to be there for at least four weeks to really experience this place, the land of many of my ancestors. I don't want to spend all that jet fuel on the experience of running from here to there to there trying to pack each day with all the sights you just can't miss when you go to Ireland. I want to Be There. I want to know the place and the people, and to do something that honors the green, poetic, dancing, singing parts of my soul that were somehow knit into my DNA long, long ago.

Day three: a photo that makes you happy.

This is Thanksgiving Day 2010. My whole family in my sweet home, plus my aunt and a friend. Tegan made a superb dinner, and even delegated some of the work to others. Everyone was having a good day. This... is the good life.

Friday, February 25, 2011

day 2

I know... day 1 was so long ago. It took me that long to organize all my pictures. Not really. I gave up.

So here is day 2, because I'm nothing if I'm not tenacious. A photo of myself at least a year ago.

April 2009. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Where people are more important than things. More important than productivity. More important than clocks. More important than property. Where people look into your eyes and ask you how you are and actually want to know. Where children are welcome. And hugged. Because people love them. Because they are little people.

I've learned many things in two years. But when I stop and think about my responsibility to Ethiopia for the gift of my second batch of three children, it is not only about cherishing them, but also about cherishing all people.

I had thought I already did. I was not even close.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A month of photos, day 1


This is the most recent picture I have of me. I don't have many of me, because I am usually the one taking the pictures.

I'm sitting in my dining room. I painted the walls "Fresh Pear" in October when Laird was away for three weeks. It was bold; could have turned out to be really too much. I was sick of my dining room having too much clutter and all the walls were white and dirty except for the one behind me in this picture, which was three layers of wall paper all scuffed up and torn and dirty and depressing. It also had a bulletin board on it with all kinds of papers getting old and useless and cluttered, which always ended up in the background of pictures. So, I moved everything out of the dining room and started wiping and scrapping all the walls. I picked Fresh Pear for the walls, and Avocado or Forest something for the four pieces of wooden furniture that hadn't been painted since anywhere from when I was a child to when I first bought the straggler thing at a yard sale. Of course, I had to set up a bookshelf and a new shelf for the media in the living room so I could organize all the things I took out of the dining room. And I had to single-handedly get to work, get four kids to school, feed everyone, and do all the schlepping, every day for three weeks with the dining room in complete chaos. And the living room, too, since that was full of the furniture that belongs in the dining room. But, I now enjoy the room. Which is essential, since most of the time I am at home, I am in this room or the one next to it... the kitchen. Fresh Pear is oh so pleasant. And, now, on what was the ugliest wall... are my two pieces of artwork done by Tegan and Jordan.

I just tried to use my computer's camera to take a picture of the two pieces, but I can't figure it out. Sigh.

Anyway, this is me. I'm almost 50. I am still pretty much the same person as I was when I was around 15, except greyer and more educated. I like to sit on the edge of my bed and just let my mind wander. I like to sit high on the limb of a tree. I like music and wind and playing with words. I like science and the brain and God and fresh air. I like to get on my bike and ride to my friend's house and talk about everything in the world. I like kissing my sweetheart. A lot. And I like eating brownies. A lot.

I think it might be time to freshen up another room in this little bungalow. Maybe the kitchen...


Woke up this morning - it's a new day. This video given to me yesterday via facebook (thanks, Alison!) had fermented in my brain along with all the great fish oils from the sushi we ate yesterday and helped shape my overnight thoughts. Not to mention the french fry grease. And the lack of sleep. (But that's another post.)

Tenderest video I have ever seen. Whenever I am finding it hard to like human beings, I am going to watch this.

Anyway. Back to my brain.

It's time for me to stop turning so often to food for comfort and celebration and escape. Past time. So, what to turn to instead? Words. I love words. I adore words. I relish the practice of putting words together to create whole thoughts and big questions. I also love putting them into song... and when I get a good little song, I record it on whatever voice recording device I can find before I lost it.

I have in my head and heart several books and collections of poems and songs. I actually have a couple of self-published chapbooks, and one has an accompanying cd. They are collecting dust. I want to share... I want to encourage and lift up and help people hope. But I have not been able to carry forward my intention to create books and cds no matter how hard I have tried to do so in the last few years. I have written a lot... on yahoogroups, in emails, some here, and on scraps of paper. But I have not shared much beyond that for lack of time to organize and pull things together and get them close to perfect. I am going to forgive myself for that. After all, I do have a full-time job and six kids.

I am going to go easy on myself, by establishing a practice of writing here once a day. It might only be a sentence, it might be a picture, or a snippet of the song I got in the shower. But it will be something. I'm putting it out there for anyone who needs or wants it. When I'm really hungry, you might get a lot of words. Because, friends, this is where I am going to turn for comfort rather than stuffing my face with french fries covered in gravy, mozzarella cheese, and bacon bits. Seriously.

I think a good way to get me started is to do this series of photos I have seen friends do on facebook. I'll do Day One shortly. Here's the list.

Day one: a photo of you.
Day two: a photo of yourself at least a year ago.
Day three: a photo that makes you happy.
Day four: a photo of a place you'd like to visit.
Day five: a photo that makes you laugh.
Day six: a photo of someone you love.
Day seven: a photo of something you stand for.
Day eight: a photo of something you enjoy doing.
Day nine: a photo of yourself when you were a baby.
Day ten: any photo you like for any reason.
Day eleven: a photo of a night you loved.
Day twelve: a photo of when you were happy.
Day thirteen: a photo of one of your favorite movies.
Day fourteen: a photo of your best friend (s).
Day fifteen: a photo of you and a family member.
Day sixteen: a photo from your childhood.
Day seventeen: a photo from a trip you'll never forget.
Day eighteen: a photo of your town.
Day nineteen: a photo of your favorite thing from school.
Day twenty: a photo of something you ate today.
Day twenty-one: a photo of somebody you find attractive.
Day twenty-two: a photo that you associate a good memory with.
Day twenty-three: a photo of something you want to do someday.
Day twenty-four: a photo of what you want to be when you grow up.
Day twenty-five: a photo that inspires you.
Day twenty-six: a photo of your favorite subject in school.
Day twenty-seven: a photo of something you are looking forward to.
Day twenty-eight: a photo of something/somebody that made your day.
Day twenty-nine: a photo of your favorite person from history.
Day thirty: a photo you find beautiful

I hope you'll find something in my words and songs that will lift you up.