Monday, September 19, 2016

Seasonal Rhythms: Autumn

Seasonal, sustainable living is a priority.  That can come up in terms of reflecting on habits (eg. how we spend our outdoor time, what we eat) and on the flow of our days.  When I come to a change point, usually in my journal I take some time to think about the spirit of that time of year.

This week we enter Autumn (even if the warm days say otherwise).  Pumpkin spice has entered the coffee, people.  There are corn mazes up, and various types of large squash are for sale.  Mums and apples abound, and we're looking at the forecast for when our leaves are supposed to change.

Autumn is so much more, though.  According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, this is when we let go.  This is when we distill our lives down to the essence and look at what we learned this cycle/year.  We clarify values and live more fully in accordance with Truth/Heaven.  The chaff falls away as the leaves fall.  What is left?  What is essential?  Here is the perfect time to clear out the old to make room later for new growth, come Spring.  This is also a time for the appreciation of beauty as late Summer ends and for grief.  We must grieve what/whom we lose or let go.

Here's a little ditty.  "Let It Fall" by Over the Rhine.

If your curious about TCM's concepts for the other seasons, check out Larken Bunce's thoughts.  She really consolidates the info and puts ideas into Western frames.  She did a free webinar with Learning Herbs called Thrive in Winter.

Simplified Gifts

Let's simplify gift-giving.  For a post about simplicity, there is a lot to consider!  Here are some gift ideas.

Digital books and audiobooks or a gift certificate are generally appreciated.  The same goes for music.  Amazon/kindle even has a few immersion books where budding readers can read and listen at the same time!

Consumables are generally appreciated.  Sometimes we make vanilla extract or peppermint lip balm.  (Eric likes to make a decadent peppermint bark or fudge too.)  Some years I have made hand warmers or herbal scrubs.  We've considered spice blends we like since we already make them at home.

If you really want to bless a young family, a gift certificate for someone to come clean might be neat--or maybe a furniture/carpet cleaning service.  Some families could use a lawn service to come get those leaves up or someone to help winterize the cars or the house.  Passes to zoos/museums and vouchers for a really good haircut or massage also come to mind.

Exercising friends/family?  No problem: there are even online subscriptions for them.  I know more about the yoga options since that's my own interest, and there are several options.  The most affordable and expansive seems to be Gaia's.

A word about physical subscriptions: many of them come with clutter/junk and offer a lot to the landfill.  I am usually excited at first blush.  The same goes for crafting kits.  Once something is "made," where does the related stuff end up?  If it's turned into a gift, I can get behind that.  Still, we have to be careful not to fill our spaces or others' spaces with creative clutter a la happy meal toys.  Even the little cooking club we did for just two months had a little box of "stuff" we had to deal with each time.

Tickets to a show, a concert or movies are exciting gifts to receive.  (I still remember when my parents surprised us Christmas morning with New Kids on the Block tickets!!!) seems like a great gift for people interested in their family (hi)story. is an interesting gift that most people haven't heard of yet.  It consolidates all that online stuff.  It reminds me of paypal but for passwords.  I heard of one gal who uses this being super grateful when she had someone hack into one of her accounts/emails.  It was very easy to fix things.
Earth Warriors is an online nature club for families.  I LOVE Heidi Huebner's work in general and appreciate her approach to integrating the natural into family life.  They really practice what they preach too!

Sparkle Stories are available on pretty much any device and have offered more to our little family than I will ever be able to fully describe.  The stories have lessons, crafts and recipes that go along with the stories, and there are so many different series based on interest and age.  These are gifts for children but also for their parents.
Kids Online Cooking Class by Kitchen Stewardship should be available again starting in October.  Children really can cook if we know which tasks are age-appropriate and are open to some messes.  If your kids are like mine, they like to help in the kitchen.

There are some amazing courses available online if you know someone with very particular interests.  In the simplicity realm, I have been LOVING Joshua Becker's Uncluttered.  Courtney Carver's Simple Year is also dynamite.

HerbMentor and Learning Herbs have some beginner herb things and even Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine type courses.  A larger investment in herbal training might be Thyme Herbal's class or Chestnut School of Herbalism's classes.

Neufeld Institute has awesome resources and courses for parents/teachers, and I have genuinely grown from Simplicity Parenting's offerings (and even became a family life coach).

Check out Red Balloon for a huge web of experiences that won't clutter up a loved one's space.

Sunday, September 4, 2016


Labor Day is a good time to check in and evaluate how the school year is going, now that it has been going on for a month.

We so need the shopping ban back.  I'm too mindless at the moment.

As to that general poor quality: it effects my health too.  Besides the obvious getting sick twice, really I need to get eating and exercise to healthier places.  Enter Chef AJ (along with the other Forks over Knives and McDougall goodness).  She has a lot of great ideas, and I'm enjoying her recipes thus far.  It's not hard for me to be vegan.  I mostly am with minimal effort.  I do enjoy carefully raised eggs and hunted meat, but I can take a break at least.  The no salt-oil-sugar thing seems harsh, but it isn't with some planning.  (I NEVER thought I'd be saying this.)  There are tasty ways to season food without the addictive components.  I might even ween off caffeine and get ALL addictive components out of my life, at least for a while.

And I think I'll need the shopping ban to make sure I don't go off the deep end shopping out of control with the good cookbooks and hacks out there.  Libraries, Mom's cookbooks.  Make a decent Christmas list for loved ones.

Being mindless (aka out of control!) isn't simplicity.  I realized when I evaluated that I haven't taken care of myself well at all.  No outside time, no genuine resting, very little TM, veeeeery little exercise, recees cups.  (So, yeah, I usually avoid gluten and dairy with good reason.)  I can say that mostly this month I slept adequately.

Some parameters help me onto a healthy path.  Mom and Dad gifted me with a fitbit--wow!  That will help me see how many steps I'm really getting.  They are also very supportive with my food changes as they are doing similar/same stuff at home.  I don't know if this could be Eric's speed--it might just be too extreme in terms of being so different from the way he eats unless he felt a strong need.  (It's not an inconceivable leap for me.)  Let's not even mention the girls.

Along the simplicity vein, if you need a place to start, consider Joshua Becker's class, Uncluttered.  You can sign up through tonight!  (Check out this article for a code for 25% off.)  He's very common-sense in his approach to things.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Shopping and Allowance

No shopping but plenty of spending!  We've already made tentative lists for holidays coming this Fall/Winter and spaced out when we'll likely buy certain things.  (That's not really a new idea for us, but in the past it was less concrete.  I'm enjoying Evernote these days with pages for lists, class notes, brainstorming etc.)  We're also trying to be careful with our girls not to gift too much at Christmas.  As I look at the list we've made, it's still quite an expensive enterprise.  Yet, they'll hear of huge amounts MORE from friends and family.  Concrete spending plans make me feel less likely to be drowned by that tsunami.
The girls feel a bit more empowered since we started allowance.  We are doing $2 in the spend jar, $2 in the save jar and $1 in the give jar weekly.  As their "spend" amount increases, they ask for fewer things.  They talk about what they want to buy which functions as wish-fulfillment psychologically.  Whether or not they ever purchase the items, it's almost as if they have since they COULD (eventually).   They didn't even bring their spending money to TN (Dollywood etc.).  They don't seem to think of their allowance as possible "mad money."

Many simplicity and frugality peeps say we should write down our purchase hopes for 7 days (up to a month) when the item is $50 or less and then longer periods for greater purchases.  Cait Flanders said in our Simple Year webinar that she counted up $400 she saved one month from avoided impulse buys!  (Imagine what that looks like for a family of four rather than a single gal!)  To write it down and then decide a bit later really curtails impulse buys that aren't in line with our lives/values.

I'm trying to decide if I should continue my ban, making it longer (or opt for a write-down-and-wait method?  or just continue the mindful budgeting procedures?).  I'm curious to see if I'd start to feel worse about it as time went on or just the opposite?  I also wonder about the notion of personal discipline and character shaping.  (Those are certainly good things!)  The jury is currently out.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Update on First Shopping Ban

I have more tinges to buy intellectual or developmental things/digital products than probably anything else.  I get inspired or curious, and then I think I "need" something.  Lately, I'm learning to flex my waiting muscles which is just plain good for my character.  I'm enjoying those library books! :)

I'm grateful for the ban since we've had many extra household needs: a new washer, roto-rooter and a new family room floor (water damage tied to the washer issues).  In many past months, I would've considered these events actually stressful financially.  It's not like we're on easy street, but it's doable.

I'm still saying "no" to shopping, but I'm also saying "yes" for those approved purchases I consider necessary.  The girls need school stuff to get started.  I have a few exercise-connected replacements I had to work in also.  All that feels fine in my conscience.  What's interesting to me is that when I spent unconsciously, I didn't feel "good" about spending on anything.  There was always a little fear involved or a sense that I needed to keep any eye on it.  Now that I keep a much firmer eye on it and genuinely plan, I don't have that fear.

The clarity just keeps on coming with greater simplicity.  I don't find it so hard to make plans and decisions even about spending.  My priorities seem much firmer.  And when I deviate from my daily goals, even that feels okay when I need rest or a break.  This all equates to less stress.  Less stress even though we have a floor to rebuild and spent no-fun sorts of cash on household inconveniences.  (I can also say that the simplicity of our space is such a gift right now--it wasn't hard to move our things around to tear up the floor etc.--not a lot of "stuff" to store/shift.

If you do want a FREE-to-access thinking conundrum, check out a lot of Sam Harris' work.  He's quite a neurologist and is known as a calm, rational atheist.  Here's a talk on free will and why no one has any.  Good Twilight Zone concerns.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Hundred Dollar Holiday

This is a very small book, and I just re-read it.  As I prepare for us to start school and even think ahead to holidays coming up, I wanted to consider his perspective again.  He says more than once that it's not about the dollar amount but rather hemming ourselves in so that this "holy-day" isn't about money/goods.

McKibben gives a terrific run-down of the history of our traditions and how many of them were perhaps suitable to the people in those times and places.  "Over-the-top" makes sense if your life is laborious and rather removed from all the stimuli we face.  (Here's a stat from reading unrelated many years ago: we process in one DAY mentally what our ancestors at the turn of the last century 1800s-->1900s processed in a YEAR.)

Plus, their notions of "huge" fall amazingly shy of all our dreams of Christmas.  He gives ideas for homemade gifts in his little book, and the biggest focus is on what our needs actually are around holidays: we need a season of peace.  We're made for connection to nature, each other and the divine.  So he hopes our traditions and time spent around Christmas reflect those needs.  Christmas is an antidote to the onslaught we face daily, when our days feel less holy.  I think he published this book in 1998--how much more true it seems to ring!

7: An Experimental Mutiny against Excess

This wasn't your typical simplicity book.  It was spiritually-focused and relies more on humor than one might guess as a result.  She brings heavy things so Jen Hatmaker also has to balance that.  (Some of it is a bit too silly.) Her areas are clothes, spending, waste, media, food, stress and possessions.  Each of the months had a different use of the number 7.  She wore the same seven items for a month, spent money at only seven places one month, ate only seven foods (I couldn't do this one) for a month, cut out most/all media for a month, observed the seven sacred pauses with the Sabbath etc.  In Waste, she gardened, composted, conserved, recycled, used one care for her family of five, shopped at thrift stores and bought everything local.  Her family wasn't able to stick to the challenges absolutely 100% of the time, but they mostly did.  The clothes and food weren't imposed on her kids, but the others were.  I winced so badly when their seventh grade son had to endure having his skater hair-do shaved by his dad's unskilled clippers because of it all--not sure that was really necessary.  She references some great personal transformations, organizations and authors along the way also.