Saturday, December 31, 2016

Good for 2017

What seems good for 2017?  Resolutions abound in many areas.  I find it frustrating to attempt to do all I know to help my kids grow to their potential while balancing my needs (which fill me up to help them grow to their potential, ahhhh).  I'm sure we could make lists around so much of what I usually read.  I'm a self-help glutton for sure!  We can make lists around diet, exercise, simplicity, religion/philosophy, family connection, nature connection and preservation.

I think I'm going to work with this word "connection," regardless of how cliche it might seem.  The above vicious cycle around mothering and healthy being is tied up in it, for sure.  Simplicity is too.  If I can connect with myself (in this esoteric balance), I can move consciously (exercise), I can eat consciously (diet), I can do other right actions that help my health and general well-being.  In connecting with my people, I constantly do the good work of marriage and family.  In connection with nature, there goes millions of possible right actions for our only home, our common mother no matter race or creed.

So maybe the point is to be conscious of connection in every moment?  Maybe presence can be a connection experiment for me?

I already do this at school (and check it with healthy boundaries).  With all the data-obsessed nonsense that has become the business of education, a lot of teachers truly have to focus on why we are actually in the classroom.  (It has nothing to do with a spreadsheet, to be sure.)

I notice that my day at school flies by happily and that I face the afternoon so grateful for us all to reunite and to have some "time."  When I get home, this concept of time quickly evaporates around chores, feeding, sibling fights, quick hugs and movements and hope of sleep.

To find the presence, the conscious connection, meditation will be much more important than I have made it in its different forms (TM, yoga, dishes?).  How many times do I need to write that in my journal or type something here to render it done?

In TCM, Winter is the time of silent dreaming.  It's when the seed is beneath the earth sleeping, and we have no idea what will Spring forth later!  Winter is time to dream and to feed this year to come in a way.  What will our contribution be?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Season of Giving

The girls save 20% of their allowance for charity/giving.  Each year, we decide what they care about in terms of possible recipients.  This year was super easy!

Z decided she wanted to help orphans.  We've read books and seen movies that have them, and their need really touches her.  She tells me how grateful she is to have a family etc.  She also loves Harry Potter, wants to be a writer and credits JK Rowling as her inspiration.  So, Lumos (her charity for orphans) was the obvious choice!  She has a terrific program there.

E wants to help the animals via our local Humane Society Shelter.  We've had doggies come to our yard the last couple of weekends, and we've worked with the shelter to find their owners etc.  Now that she understands what the shelter does, she wants to volunteer there (Summer maybe?) and do whatever she can to help.  She does want to adopt the animals too, but she'll have to do that once she has her own place.

As an aside, I have favorite charities our family gives to during the year.  We love St. Jude's, Sierra Club, ACLU and Conservation International.  In the past, we've also worked with Sustainable International, United Plant Savers and ASPCA.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Eat Right for Your Type

I read this one pretty quickly--very interesting ideas.  I did the reading around the types and then focused on my own blood type.  I have to admit that the basic line up of what "I should be eating" is close to my cravings or lack of cravings, personality, exercise types (what I gravitate towards).  The book helped to explain/frame all of this.  I'm wondering if I should give this way of eating a strict go or just go back to vegan eating (no sugar, oil, salt).  There's definitely some crossover, but there are fundamental differences (like nightshades, vinegar, certain grains, certain legumes, certain fruits).

Monday, November 21, 2016

Advent Ideas

We try to enjoy Advent as a full season but only do the days in December.  Also in December, we hit some holidays/highlights like St. Nicholas Day, St. Lucia Day and Winter Solstice.  
In the past, we've used calendars with opening paper doors, and we used an Advent spiral with a candle too.  
We have "baggies" with the numbers on them, but last year those even felt superfluous.  We have a little Elf with pockets named Nick the Nisse so I think we'll just stick with him for now.

Christmas movies
Nutcracker (presentation done by our local dance school)
St. Nicholas treats
Write a letter to Santa
make Xmas "craft" (felting?) 
Start Christmas Rose (a story we read each year with daily entries)
make your own Xmas story (write, illustrate)
make wrapping paper (recycle plastic caps and use them with paints on brown butcher paper)
Snowflakes (paint, glitter)
Make snowglobes (maybe?  another craft?
Put together gifts for teachers
Plan and cook dinner for family
Christmas books (library and/or from ours)
Cinnamon ornaments, dried oranges
read a Xmas story
Middle school ELF musical
salt dough ornaments
bedtime pass (stay up)
Xmas haircuts
pick where our charity money goes (which we save all year from allowance)
Go see lights
Sort and donate clothes/toys
Game night with treats
Solstice winter hike
Cookies to neighbors and firefighters
Bake/Cook for Mama D's

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Worst of Times

I lie to my children that everything will be alright.  What isn't a lie is that we will protect them, that they will be safe and that it's now our pleasure to be a friend to the mistreated and to stand up for them where we can.

When I confess here that things won't be okay, I'm not being dramatic.  We weren't moving fast enough before on the climate crisis, and now we have someone who moves to take us backwards.  It reminds me of the DNC staffer yelling at Donna Brazile that while the latter will die of old age, the former will likely die because of climate change.  It's to acknowledge the painful truth that I will probably never be a grandmother and certainly wouldn't be a great grandmother.

Hate crimes are higher than after 9/11.  Muslim registries bandied about, massive deportations, fringe racists in all the top positions.  He won't divest himself of his assets, and there are huge conflicts of interest already present there and in his appointment of Flynn (as regards Turkey most especially).  He brags about sexual assault.  He doesn't seems to know how to handle foreign officials, and he follows no protocols in place legally for transition.  He can't honestly meet any of his responsibilities and has perpetually ripped of clients/contractors/students (Trump U).  He spends all his time tweeting and doesn't understand ANYTHING about governing.

To bring faith and hope to the fore is to skip too quickly past this.  In fact, we have no idea if our faiths tell us the truth at all.  What we do know is right here, right now.  We know that we're destroying our only home and our only guaranteed lives.  And our children's lives.

The same key brings abortion up for me since I know evangelical Christians all around me voted for the man-child for this issue.  Obviously anyone discerning knows he's not a Christian and isn't concerned about babies.  Mike Pence is sincere but in the scariest ways.  (Check out "The Family" or "C Street" if you want to understand the dangers present with him and the Christian right!)

If we are pro-life, perhaps it is wise to consider protecting the planet: you know, ALL of life?  If you have to choose between those two, it really is a no-brainer.

So I have truly distanced myself from the white evangelical church completely now.  I'm not sure I even want to be known as a Christian at all.  It's their greed and lust for power that got us here, and that is the Church's history in general.  (It's the one thing Jesus got super pissed off about too.)

Everyday this man's mark gets worse.  Every person he appoints, every little tacky/illegal action he seems to take.  We're in for a long haul though, even though millions voted for someone else.

The holiday meal tables will hopefully be free of related conversation. I'm doing my best in that arena.  Most of my loved ones elected Orange Hitler.

And then...

Love Warrior

So I finally read this one--it  has been so popular among voices I usually trust for good reading material.  And boy were they right!  I think this is the most honest a thing as I have ever read.  The conclusions gell with other great literature on resiliency, love, emotions, spirit etc.  Certain passages would be quite relevant to my Neufeld Intensive so it even coheres with developmentalist/depth psych.  No quotes should be included here--I just can't spoil one moment for you.  If I thought all my loved ones would enjoy or could handle this level of honesty, I'd just hand them out!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Making Sense of Thanksgiving

It's not a big thing, but we'd like the remainder of Fall especially (as we approach Thanksgiving) to shift to more outdoor time and awareness.  Sometimes it's hard to know how to focus around Harvest.  It's not the shift/closing of Halloween, and it's not the bounty of Christmas.  It is a quiet, peaceful time to let go and be grateful though.  Being outside gives so many opportunities for both.

For example, the girls went to Fall Fling at a camp we love.  They are tired but loved it.  They even spent the night!  We weren't sure they'd be up for that, but they loved that part too.  The camp offers beautiful opportunities like these at various points during the year.  They are now anxious for Summer Camp when it comes.


We joined Bluebird Hill Homestead's Earth Warrior Online Nature Club.  I'd love ideas for discussions and things to look for outside.  Heidi Huebner's work is beautiful.  I so hope she'll offer online her personal permaculture webinar again--was soooooo good!  Her ideas are how I make sense of the balances in my life right now.

We went up to the mountains mid-October to enjoy the beauties of Fall also.  We did as much outdoors as we had time for--stopped along the mountain too.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Before the Flood (free through Mon)

Raving about documentaries is what I DO!  This one is the best yet as regards our climate situation.  As UN Peace Ambassador for the Environment, Leonardo  DiCaprio had awesome opportunities to see the effects of Climate Change up close at the farthest reaches of our globe (and even beyond!).  The filming and information is superb, and there is actually hope contained in this information.

The part where they're in India looking at American consumption (one person consuming at home) as opposed to the average person from different nations is astonishing!

Watch it for free through Nov 7th!  (Check out the soundtrack--awesome music!)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Joy of Less and The Body Ecology Diet

Library book score again!: The Joy of Less by Francine Jay.
This book is truly a comprehensive guide.  She even teaches her version of a capsule wardrobe.  She has zones like inner space, outer space and deep storage in terms of where/how to place things.  I enjoyed the questions she asked of our things.  "Did I seek you out?  Would I rebuy you if something happened to you?"  We apparently use 20% of our stuff 80% of the time.  That means we could part with probably 4/5 of it--unless we're still pretty enamored on that 20% of the time we like to use that extra.

Consider those time zappers like oil changes, care/repairs, chipped plates, broken vases, mud stains, shopping, cleaners for each type of thing, parts/accessories, dry cleaners etc.

I stumbled a bit onto The Body Ecology Diet.  I needed Donna Gates' site to get some culture starter for veggies as I'm about to make kraut, and I got her book and cookbook to access other ways of doing fermented foods.  I'm in a rut currently that way and my system really needs that support.  In the past, I shopped with Cultures for Health, but an acquaintance was really pointing me towards the Body Ecology stuff so I tried something different.
This book needs to be read more than once, for sure.  I did it once so far.  I'm interested in really incorporating the food combining for optimal digestion.  I read it about it in Healing with Whole Foods, a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective on most of our Western maladies.  I'm eating in accordance with that latter book already and mostly with this new one, The Body Ecology diet.  I am still eating nightshades which seems to be at odds with both of these books.

This books deals with healing yourself from the candida overgrowth that plagues one in three adults.  It deals with the themes I'm tackling with Dr. Cheryl.

She goes into eating for blood types and where she agrees and disagrees with those ideas--all very interesting food for thought.

Monday, October 24, 2016

a couple of books

Marc Lesser's book is very practical for life and work.  It helps to watch how our thoughts go and to key into our assumptions.

You Can Buy Happiness is a catchy title, and I'd heard of Tammy Strobel and her tiny home so I wanted to read it.  It's about her journey towards less, and she has a lot of small actions people can do to simplify and explore simplicity/habits.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Health Update

I started working with a naturopathic doctor who lives in a different city recently and have joined her Candida Cleanse Program.  It's at least 8 weeks, and I'm more than a week through.  The first 10 days are generic cleanse things.  No meats, salt, oil etc. Few grains, almost no legumes.  Lots of fruits and veggies, lots of detox things to do.

But I'm entering Candida Phase 1 of this work next week so we can really get that overgrowth under control.  (Most people have a candida overgrowth, and I think mine is pretty fierce.)  Meats/fats are back in business (which will be odd for me since I've been vegan a while and enjoyed that sans all the beans' gas/bloating).  But essentially no fruit.  Some berries and green apple which is nice, but I'm waiting for clarification in terms of what she means by "fruits."  Also no grains, no potatoes etc.  No prefab anything.  We can do some raw, soaked nuts (except for peanuts, pistachios).

Candida is potentially responsible for so many maladies that I feel really driven to address it strongly.  With my psoriasis/autoimmune issues being so long-standing and so deep, I might have to do this phase longer than other participants.

I do remember that when I ate similarly (but not quite as carefully) that I lost some weight initially.  I was also then eliminating gluten and dairy which was new.  This way of eating was to give my body a break from any inflammation that's typical, and it was a helpful step.  I hope I see a similar drop in inflammation (and weight?).  The psoriasis isn't awful, but my scalp could really use an itch break. :)

She is open to more allergy testing for me if we can't heal my gut this way.

Neufeld Intensive I

I'm excited to be off and running with the Neufeld Intensive I.  I decided last year not to take it, and this year I had come to the same decision almost.  But there was the tug of still wanting deeper tools always to really see our girls and read them, to really understand their needs and how they grow into their greatest potential.  (Neufeld Institute has some great courses this Fall!  The Heart Matters and Anxiety courses, for a couple.)

This is the longest course of theirs that I've taken, and there are actual requirements.  There's more investment here this time.  It's 22 weeks and takes us through March with the breaks in there.  So far, it's fabulous, just as I hoped.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Our Christmas Gift Selections

So the dictum goes, "one thing they want, one thing they need; one thing they wear and one thing they read."  We didn't follow that exactly, but that was our guide.

For the whole family from "Santa"

  • Harry Potter Puzzle
  • Chronicles of Narnia Audiobooks (CDs)

  • Lunar Calendar

For each girl

  • prefered lego set

  • top (Hanna Andersson)
  • sweater (Hanna Andersson)
  • dress (Hanna Andersson)

Girls Flowerful Dress by Hanna Andersson

  • activity books ("color counts" for Z and "color by number" for E)
  • cotton soft sheets (stars, Hanna Andersson)
  • amber necklace (replacement--they have these for pain/headaches)

Hazelaid (TM) 14" Pop-Clasp Baltic Amber Multicolored Necklace

  • picture locket (not real fancy)
  • alarm clock

Equity by La Crosse 70904 Soft Purple Cube LCD Alarm Clock

  • rainbow tattoos

Tattly Temporary Tattoos Rainbow Set

  • kawaii stickers
  • candy of their preference

And that's IT.  It's still a lot.  Quality over Quantity though.

UPDATE 12/23/16: We stuck with that mostly.  We did add a few other audiobook CDs I found used to the Santa gifts that they share--and we kept the calendars for 2017 back until New Years.  I changed the activity book situation when I realized Z really wanted a set of graphic novels--so I got those on ebay and then combined all the activity books (plus a few others I found to be even on the money) for E.

Also, what isn't taken into account here is the little things long the Advent way: we got them some Christmas doggy movies, pajamas, slippers, music CDs and fancy holiday haircuts with hair stuff that cost a pretty penny.

In hindsight, the holiday still felt like too much.  I think Advent will have to be nothing in the way of even small gifts.  When you look at what they received from both sets of grandparents even, they have a LOT.  Then we take into account the family who gave them money plus what they could spend from their allowance--they hit the sales to get more legos and more books after Christmas!  So, while I think Christmas morning was a fairly regulated gift fest, we still haven't figured out this puzzle!

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.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Reading Thoughts

It's All Too Much (Peter Walsh)--from the library
He does a nice job focusing on what a room's purpose is and then culling the things that aren't not wanted/needed for those purposes.  Before that, Walsh starts with personal questions about the ideal lives we want to live.  You also go from room to room evaluating how you feel there--what stresses you?  What do you like most about the room?  What do we need from this particular space?  Once in each room, he actually zones them off into the different areas for different purposes, and I wasn't feeling the need to go there.  If I had a much larger space or many more family possessions maybe I'd find zoning helpful?  Walsh challenged me suitably on seasonal decor.  I weeded out a bunch, but I still have things that make our home feel that transition and celebration of each season and holiday.

Walsh has a very direct tone with just enough humor and reality thrown in.  I did enjoy reading this one.  Especially helpful were the Spring Cleaning Tasks and what we do each month of the year.  I might adopt several of his suggestions.
The best thing I've read in a while is Greg McKeown's Essentialism!  I took so many notes on this one--I'll try not to get too crazy here.

It's a great book for the personal life, but a lot of what is central is our work lives.  We must say no to even really good opportunities in order to opt for the great ones.  Trade-offs are serious business--we ask ourselves "which problem do we want to solve?"

He supports a three-part cyclical process: explore, eliminate, execute.  Exploring means taking your time to really think, investigate etc. before coming to decisions.  It reminds me of my dad with his little notebook going to all the stores, jotting down measurements, notes, prices etc. before deciding which one to buy.  Make larger, discerned decisions that will in turn take care of all those small ones.  It's a disciplined pursuit of less (but better).  There's a point at which doing more does not actually produce more.

Protecting the Asset is making sure we sleep.  Did you know that pulling one all-nighter or sleeping only 4-5 hours throughout the week will produce impairment at the level of 0.1 blood alcohol level?  (The po-po will get you for 0.08%.)  Here's a parenting koan: a token system for screen time, money and kids.  Give out 10 per kid per week--each one is worth 30 minutes of screen time or 50 cents.  Reading for 30 minutes will get you an additional token which you can also trade for money or screen time.  (In their home, screen time when down 90%, and reading went up the by the same amount!)

He gives so many great details, ideas and stories for every aspect of the book that I can't imagine ruining it to spell too much out right here.  Most of us would benefit greatly from his perspective!
Leo Babauta's Zen Habits, Essential Zen Habits and Simple Guide to Minimalist Life

Stop judging events as good or bad, and stop expecting well, anything.  He doesn't advise this haphazardly--it's more in the aid of understanding.  If we judge, we have made up our minds and have not curiosity or an openness to understanding.  A lot of his other advice in the book is great too, but this first point was the newest for me to really consider.

He gave some great tech tips for programs that do an easier launch of whatever program you want (without all those icons on your screen) or for PCs.

Courtney Carver's Mini-Missions for Simplicity

The best things from this little book were the habit-stacking and refusing sections.  She offers pleasing ways to say "no" when you should.  Things like "this isn't the right time" or "I'm not the best person for the project."

Pia Edberg's The Cozy Life

Hygge is the main concept explored, and she didn't share anything I hadn't already read.  It was a sweet portrayal of connection, simplicity and warmth in any case.
Downsizing Your Life by Claire Middleton

The most helpful information was around moving and how to decide.  When people downsize and want to consider the benefits of a new home/location, they should look to reduce monthly costs by 25% or more.  If we want see possibilities, we can check out some websites she suggests.  One was

Shopping Ban: First 10 Days

I probably shouldn't need to do an update, but this ban is a big first for me.

I noticed the same triggers of trying to solve problems around shopping temptations--lots of times!  And for the purchases that were planned and necessary (for the girls starting school etc.), it was a similar feeling.  Those were more sizable purchases, but I felt much better spending money when it was planned.  We did backpacks and shoes which are quality sorts of purchases, but it was easier knowing had I had more resources (--that we weren't fiddling money away on little things everywhere).

It's interesting to note that at least that much pressure came from the girls always asking for things we don't need right now.  We're fairly generous with them just like their other loved ones.  This is a great fix to stem some of the junk/clutter tide as well!  They've done a great job making space lately since gifts have been coming in via birthdays.  So as the holidays come and are sure to bring stuff with them, we're a little more prepared.

Shopping might be a helpful thing to "ban" for another reason: credit card theft/fraud.  My parents had some weird scenarios around this last one, and the provider admitted that right now the hackers seem to be staying ahead of them.  Perhaps swiping isn't the best thing to do right now?  Paying with cash generally means we spend less anyway.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Opposite of Spoiled

I recently read Ron Lieber's The Opposite of Spoiled.
His take on kids' allowance is that it should not be tied to chores so that they can learn valuable lessons managing money divorced from the other lessons about hard work they will learn from teachers, coaches etc.  Most parents disagree with him, but I see his point.  He thinks they need the money lessons even if they're being a bit knuckle-headed by not doing their chores.  They do need chores, though.  He wants them to have to do them because that's what it means to be part of a family and household.  He thinks they should learning cooking as early as possible.

He advocates for three jars (spend-25%, give-25% and save-50%), but different stories mentioned had different approaches to what "save" meant.  He also mentioned families who match the "save" area and some who even try to teach tax a bit with a kid's money if they lose something or inconvenience someone.  Lieber allowed for a banned shopping list for kids spending their own money.  I can picture parents saying "not even your own money!" with regard to knives, tattoos, more barbies etc.

Lieber suggests some neat sites if you are managing allowance and/or chores with children (via actual banks).  Allowance Manager and FamZoo are two he offers.  There are others.

I remember when one of the girls came home with a "Wants vs. Needs" coloring sheet from a bank who had done a presentation at school.  What a gift.  I do think that conversation needs to be central.  I also think kids need to see what we donate to.  (Lieber said that most kids don't know.)  He also advocates for very honest conversations about our finances (appropriate for age), and he gave a plethora of examples that were quite inspiring.

One place I had a hard time connecting was along the lines of what materialism is/means and what our relationship should be to consumer goods.  He doesn't have trouble (as I do) with idealizing acquisition.  Also, his idea of moderate + decently-made is Lands End for clothes.  We don't live in the same universe, I'm afraid.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I would never buy there (or Hanna Andersson!), but we usually go for used on ebay.  It's certainly not our "moderate"--especially for growing children  (But then again, for adults perhaps it could be since I have a small/capsule-ish wardrobe?  Quality over quantity.  I'm still an LL Bean fan myself.)

I liked his idea of trying to figure out the "fun ratio" in terms of toy/game purchases.  Have kids look at how many hours of fun relative to dollars/cents spent.  They realize they get more bang for their buck in certain types of purchases.  Lieber has fun with tooth fairy traditions like giving foreign money (from a traditions book) or different animal teeth from the tooth fairy.  (We give "fairy gifts" like stones, seeds, feathers, bangles.)

I found his mention of ECHOage compelling as a way to streamline birthday gifts and include the charity of their choosing.  Another exciting thought was helping them to some kind of life-changing summer camp one of these days (where all tech is left at home and they learn a little bit more of what they're made of).  (I've love it if anyone could share their favorite summer camps and why.)

Friday, July 1, 2016

Shopping Ban Prep and Details

I'm following the procedures that Cait Flanders outlined in our Simple Year Course and in her own shopping ban (which ends next week after two years).


Here is Cait's first step for a Shopping Ban.  She got rid of 75% of her stuff.  I have made simplifying a priority for quite a few years now, so this step is pretty much done.  I'll do a quick sweep to make sure.

One area of dangerous clutter around shopping is the digital type.  I previously unsubscribed from all shopping coupons, mailing lists, marketing facebook pages etc. (By the way, I LOVE Unroll.Me!  It monitors those kinds of emails and puts all your approved newsletters into one email per day.)

Inventory and Parameters

My personal for-just-me list is simple now, but there are lots of in-between items.  Those things belong to our whole family, and I don't feel the need to inventory them for reflection during the shopping ban.  Make no mistake though: I have personally cut down on a lot of the familial clutter where I could clear it without hurting others.

My personal list of possessions: water bottle, backpack, cloth totes (2), dessert rose (from my dad, Saudi Arabia), purse, yoga mat, Nutritious Movement stretch/prop pack, yoga/exercise DVDs (4), yoga CD, hiking poles (2), camel pack, sleeping bag + pad, e-reader, journal, notebooks (2), cell phone, iPod classic, flute + music, photos, memory book (made by G'ma Hall), (alarm) clock, Hapkido uniforms (3) + sparring equipment, Hapkido weapons (5), paperbacks (2), bolga basket.  Clothing/accessories (covering all seasons): long sleeve t-shirts (2), slippers, shoes (7), nice shirts (4), flannels (3), sweaters/sweatshirts (8), scarves (3), long sleeve basic shirts (9), vests (4), work pants (4), regular t-shirts (8), exercise outfits (5), jeans, overalls, PJs (2), necklaces (8), rings (2, aside from wedding set), bathing suit, cap, gardening/trekking hat, rain jacket, warm coat, wool hat, gloves, mittens, leg warmers, cowl, sunglasses.

The Essentials List/Approved Shopping List: anything I use on a daily basis but not replacing things until I need to.  These are consumables usually, but even my clothing counts unless it's out of season and I can wait.  One example (if gorilla glue doesn't work) is a pair of brown sandals that are essential to my wardrobe until it's quite cold.

Non-Essentials List: books, music, random toys, decor, furniture, cooking gear, hobby stuff, art supplies (unless it's a replacement issue for the girls), educational "stuff" for the girls, DVDs, stuff for my classroom (unless it's truly necessary!), me eating out when feeling lazy, yoga/exercise gear, programs for the girls that I instigate.

***I've changed my concept of books or exercise stuff as non-essential depending on how/why they are bought.  Are they recreational or important for some goal?  Are they replacements for a necessary item (especially in exercise)?

I'm currently debating the area of online courses.  I take them as I can and as really good ones are available.  I don't think this will be an issue since the Neufeld courses on my radar don't start for quite a while.  The classes are experiential the way going to the theatre, concerts, museums, hikes and camping are.  This area feels grey for now.  I will consider this area if I do a longer shopping ban.

Track Savings and Triggers

This will be multifaceted since there are other choices we're making in terms of mindful budgeting.  There could be other factors contributing to our savings.

Everyone's triggers are different.  One of mine is internet influence (via blogs usually) so I have to watch it carefully.  This concern gels well with generally cutting screen time because of the time it devours.  I'm catching the trigger feelings in the moment now some of the time rather than in hindsight only.  That's progress!  Now I'd like to observe other components of my trigger moments (like emotions, what kind of day I'm having, stress, where I am, what I'm doing).

Eric and I used to involve shopping in many of our dates.  We have lately chosen more of the hike-types but still included a good dinner/restaurant.  Some of the shopping doesn't have to be bad.  If there are things we need or he really wants to look at, I'm down with it.  Being in malls or Target doesn't seem to mess me up these days. I've tested that a bit lately and passed.  I'm not saying that there's no temptation, but it can fuel Christmas gifts later if we so decide.  The only time I come home with more than what's on my list is when it's consumable foods we can't access locally.  I want to be mindful of that tendency.  If it's for the girls, it feels okay; but when it's processed food that still qualifies as junk (just organic junk) for me, it's not okay.

I wonder if any triggers could be replaced by healthier movement habits like exercise, more walking, hiking etc.?  One habit I'm building for my health and wallet is really a re-do: better advanced food prep and planning.  When I have healthy options ready to go, I make much better choices.  The library is a resource I'm using more habitually. There's nothing crucial about reading just this book just this moment in terms of purchasing it.  If it's really great, I will get to it either with the library or later when shopping isn't off limits.

I feel some of my shopping ban and conscious consuming intentions have the flavor of Katy Bowman's new book coming out in November where she explores stacking her life to maximum benefit.  I'm looking forward to reading that book, but I probably won't buy it anytime soon.

Shopping Ban

I'm starting a shopping ban.  It'll be July for now and might turn into three months or longer.  What is a shopping ban?  "It's a period of time where you choose not to buy any of the non-essentials in life." (Cait Flanders)  

What's (non)essential changes for people at various points, and that's just dandy.  When I think of essential, I'm not going with the truest understanding of that word (food, shelter, clothing, relationships according to Leo Baubata) even though they're in the logic of it somewhat.  I'm including things that seem reasonable for the lifestyle I want within the context of my family.  I do want to be able to buy other people gifts for birthdays and Christmas even though handmade gifts are awesome (and often my preference).  I do want to have outings with my family that involve restaurants or entertainment sometimes.  We still love the simple things like a hike or a playground, but sometimes we opt to spend money.  I'll buy the girls things like comfy shoes and clothes that fit for seasons, but I will purchase them more intentionally/consciously.

Why would I do a complete ban?  Sometimes I'm very careful about what I buy.  I make a truly concerted effort to think about my relationship to things and how I would like it to be.  Still, I have habits around impulse buys: that album I've heard about, that ebook since it's cheaper than the physical book and since I can read it that instant.  Some of those purchases have been wins, and many more have been true losses.  I use buying as a problem solver more often than I'd like to admit (filling time for the girls, health trends etc.).  When I crunch the numbers at the end of a month, I notice all those things that seem rather insignificant add up to a lot of money and clutter.

I think what fluctuates for me and for plenty of people is the idea of whether or not we CAN buy something.  Just because there's cash on hand doesn't mean we can buy it (or does it?).  For example, if you're disciplined with a budget, that cash on hand will serve some purpose.  It could be savings/emergency funds, investments and retirement or something clearly delineated for this particular month or quarter.  Some of us assume since we are permitted via credit to acquire things that we can buy them.  It's all pretty murky, and I'd like to clarify this point for myself (and my family).  That might change over time obviously as we have more security built than we currently do; but for now, this idea of "can" will be more regimented at least for yours truly.

I'll get into particulars next.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

7 Habits

This version of Stephen Covey's 7 Habits books was most interesting to me so I read it instead of the other variations.  The idea of making a family mission statement seems a little corny sometimes, but I agreed with him ultimately that it could be really helpful.  So we might do that.  I wanted to read  his book(s) because of reference Joshua Becker made to Covey's idea of about big rocks and little pebbles--that we have to put in the big rocks first or it won't all fit in the jar.  Most of us put in those pebbles--the daily tasks that seem important.  It goes back to what's urgent vs. what's actually important.

Another key idea that I heard first from Kim John Payne is Covey's idea of our Circle of Influence vs. our Circle of Concern.  Imagine the Influence residing inside the Concern (realizing our actual reach).  If we focus on the Concern, it crowds out the space our Influence could have.  When focusing on our actual Influence, it expands.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Recent Courses

I've been enjoying some classes lately.  One that finished a couple of weeks ago was Dr. Neufeld's "Preserving Play in a Digital World."  That topic and the subsequent info around both play and the digital world are all fascinating.  I really enjoyed the mingling of it all.  Play is absolutely endangered, make no mistake.  I had no idea how strangely lacking it was before some of the statistics comparing our current culture to even 20-30 years ago.  I'm currently reading Last Child in the Woods which addresses many of these concerns also.  The understanding of the digital world as shortcuts is very interesting in terms of the relational needs of humans and particularly children developing.  The interactive part of the course offered some markers for when our children are ready to deal with the digital world (particularly social media).  I loved Dr. Shefali Tsabary's and Meghan Leahy's conversation regarding the former's new book.  They touch on some of these themes.

A Simple Year is offered usually once a year, but they have it open now.  I have been playing with January through June so far.  Some months didn't seem that relevant to me at present (like March which was about travel), but they have different minimalists leading each area/month.  They do webinars, have short readings and offer any relevant resources.  They also have personalized homework so you can apply the principles where it matters most.  I have learned a bit more from the experts for sure, but if you're new to simplifying or minimalism, I think you'd get even more from the material.  January (declutter time) and May (simplifying the digital world) are two favorite areas so far.  I'm really excited about July which will have to do with finances.  I really like Cait Flanders' work, and she's leading that.  I am new to her mindful budgeting system but like it a lot so far.

While the course is technically over, but I'm still working through The Enneagram for Awakening (with Russ Hudson).  New for me this time are the three instincts.  Still, there's such richness in each module I've done!  His and Don Riso's The Wisdom of the Ennegram book was my first book, and I also did his seminar with Richard Rohr (Enneagram as a Tool for Your Spiritual Journey).  He's a very thoughtful instructor and really digs into things, explaining them thoroughly.  I've been taking notes, but I need to go back and do a lot of journal work and then try his deepening practices for each module.  This stuff will happen slowly in layers as inner work always seems to.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

I love Summer Reading!

This book didn't have new information for me, but I think it's a valuable contribution to what's out there for parenting!  I have loved any of her speaking contributions online too.  Tsabary has a book coming out soon called "The Enlightened Family" which I may read.

The More of Less was FANTASTIC.  Joshua Becker really delivered!  I truly enjoy his perspective and blog.  I had so many notes from this latest contribution that it really deserves its own post.  Several of my books are minimalist/simplicity-related so I might unload some of those thoughts later on.
I also read his book Simplify--it has plenty of good advice and is a smaller read.

He mentions in some of his work the 100 Thing Challenge that Dave Bruno did in 2008-9.  I enjoyed that book as well.  He's a little silly in some of the delivery, but there are some true koans there.

I've been an admirer of Leo Babauta's thoughts/blog for a while.  I read one of his books last year as well. This year, I did a few short reads.  The Little Book of Contentment and The Effortless Life.  He always gives lots to chew on.  I don't always end up agreeing with him, but he's perfectly fine with that from what I can tell.  Clutterfree is a short book he did with Courtney Carver.  I liked that one a lot so I read a couple of her other ones: Simple Ways to be More with Less and Living in the Land of Enough.

One final read that was okay: Frugillionaire (from Francine Jay).  It has some ideas worth weighing, but I didn't find much new there.

I have a lot more to say about some of these than I have just now.  I should note that in the minimalist work and even the parenting book, all are coming from some kind of spiritual or mindful perspective.  Many of these writers are Christians, and some are more Eastern in their thoughts.  All are gratefully met here.

A blog that I have spent a little more time with lately is The Art of Simple.  It has all sorts of insights, reading recommendations, simplicity inspiration etc.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

This one doesn't quite go with the last family/food book I read, but there are some common things like having variety available to our kids.  She also emphasizes all three macronutrient areas available with each snack offered too.  (Our snacks usually only have two of the three when I think about it.)  Her patients come to her for various reasons, so helping kids grow up healthy/strong is just part of it.  She's also dealing with people who are harming themselves with bulimia etc.  So her all around message is that of plenty and to get off the diet wagon.  It is startling that no research backs up dieting as any sort of sustainable health approach.  Doctors still suggest it because they'd still rather see us losing (even if we're gaining back more each time).  Interesting things to think about.  I didn't care for the recipes she gives, but her take on psychology and eating was very instructive.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

a couple of books

Getting to Yum was terrific--very helpful.  I read her first book "French Kids Eat Everything," which was also a very good book.  This one is even better though--it is less memoir and more how-to.  She elaborates on her idea of the children "tasting" everything at every meal and makes a way for them to spit it out politely.  That one might be easier than what we tried where the "polite bite" was always swallowed.  That created tears, pangs, near vomit etc. so I can definitely go with this way more easily.

She puts the emphasis on food training and how to do that.  She also introduces some clever games.  She had so many practical suggestions too, and the back of the book is a large group of recipes by food/veg.  We'll try having courses this time along with some of her games this Summer.
I recently discovered Katy Bowman's site and some of her books.  Her perspective and adjustments are so needed!  The one I just finished was Don't Just Sit There.  You might have hear things like "sitting is the new smoking;" and while she sees some wisdom in that, it's more about variety than one particular type of movement.  The book is very specific in terms of aligned standing, helpful was to sit, good stretches, ideas for work station variety etc.  Her site has tons of short videos and articles--plenty to keep us busy before we ever look into her books.  (I'm particularly working on pelvic list and engaging the outer thighs when I walk.)

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood

It's seems silly, given some of the teaching here, to spend too many words/thoughts expounding on all I learned from this book.  I made tons of notes, but it reminds me of the way our TM retreats or teachings are--don't think too much or make notes.  Let stuff sink in in the layers and waves that will actually sink in for now.  This book is a beautiful exploration of many motherhood themes you'll find in popular parenting books and then principle themes of Zen.  (Karen Maezen Miller is a Zen teacher, after all.)

Monday, February 15, 2016

a bit of reading

I mainly skimmed The Dirt Cure since a lot of the info was repeat for me.  I'd like to still suggest it, though, as a good reference for health concerns, feeding kids, helping them not fall into the health pitfalls so many of us are in etc.  I like the end too because there are snack suggestions and some recipes.

I'm strongly impacted by Loving What Is.  There's a lot of depths to be plumbed with her four questions, and in most respects I can find immense wisdom.  I would disagree with perhaps the extent to which it could apply especially when I consider victims of child abuse etc.  I can't go all the way there with the inquiry as far as that might regard a person.  I do see the benefit of therapy and not remaining a victim, for sure!  But some of the turnaround aspects don't ring true when I consider a child's development and mental capacities (even for an adult looking back).  Challenging book!

What's neat also is that has ways to do this process without investing in books.  There are many youtube examples of her walking through the work with other people.  I find examples just as helpful as the concepts on their own.