Saturday, February 28, 2009

enough is enough (or often too much)

rinsing quinoa

I've been reading The Long Emergency and several other titles concerning societal collapse, peak oil, global warming, and other such doomy gloomy topics. And while so much that lies ahead of us is unclear, this much I'm fairly sure: a lot of things are going to change, dramatically.

I was thinking these things over the other day as I stuck the quinoa under the faucet to rinse. I'm always thinking of these things and every little thing is a reminder. Because almost every little thing is a direct relic of our infatuation on fossil fuels. Yank them out of any equation and you've got less trade, less consumption, less of so much that has become this modern culture.

We have a lot of space to traverse before we get from here (relative pacification, granted with increasing agitation) to there (a complete collapse and turnaround) and any number of things could happen in the meantime. But in the few moments I stood there with my hand on the strainer, shaking it around while the water ran, I wondered if I'd have quinoa for the rest of my lifetime. Will my children have access to it for the duration of theirs? I mean, it's just a grain (arguably the most nutrient dense of them all), and while I do depend on it a lot now, would I miss it should it become unavailable to me? How much would I miss it?

We have so much. So much. My life has always been caked in excess. I think about the "voluntary simplicity" trend that was, well, trendy a few years ago. The precursor to the ecogreen movement that's so omnipresent now. And it seems, on one hand, sage wisdom, tread lightly, be mindful, take care. But on the other: sort of steeped in a flagrant privilege. I mean, the only reason any of us can choose simplicity is because we have, collectively, taken more than our share for so long. For much of the world, simplicity is not a choice. It simply is.

Maybe it's in the branding. Maybe I just disdain movements of all kinds, steering clear of the crowd. Even when I meet all the criteria for a trend, the accompanying label makes me wince. I do make simple choices and I do intend mindfulness. But I cannot shake the guilt of privilege, the happenstance that stuck me in the middle of the land of Too Much and others - without anything.

The impending changes scare me. I won't deny it. I hate changes. When the sort of underwear I bought for ten years suddenly stopped being manufactured, I stopped buying underwear. This was nearly a decade ago. I won't divulge further details on that one. When our telephone died and required replacement, it took a good six months before I could use it without cringing at the way it felt in my hand. I like things the way I like them and I like them to stay just like that. I think that's not uncommon. But! despite the fear of what lies on our unknown horizon, and my insufficient resilience, I think we're all good for a little shake up.

(and I'm smack dab in the midst of a personal shake up, which I aim to write more about later. I'm trying empty out the backlog of halfwritten entries in my tiny brain first)

And, frankly, I think the more we start giving up now ("voluntarily", if you will), the less will have to pulled from us, from the fingers of a kicking and screaming indignant mass holding so tight to the last vestiges of a convenient plastic life.

I enjoy, take advantage of, take for granted, abuse PLENTY of plastic conveniences. I am a 33 year old American. Right time, right place. As I type this right now, on a 17 inch laptop, next to my nifty undercabinet ipod docking station, my husband and daughter watch a film on a handy little portable dvd player; we consume. We have a lot of things we don't even need.

But I also don't have some things that a lot of other people do think I need (and by 'other people' I mean, mostly, corporations who seem incessantly irked at my lack of contributions to their bottom lines). Like a microwave. I know only a couple of other people who don't have a microwave.

It was initially a health-based decision (seriously, do you want to eat food that's been in a microwave??) but it's been so long now (coming up on ten years without, minus a couple houses we lived in that had one built-in) that I don't even know what people use them for. I typically reheat leftovers in the toaster oven.

reheating quinoa in the toaster oven

And in what is becoming a ridiculous blog post of irony (you didn't know that by 'too much' I meant: words I will write here), there's one more thing I want to cram in here (because who knows when I'll come back, I'm so inconsistent).

I had an epiphany last month, something of a Too Much realization. There has been too much of me to fit in my own pants for a while. Wait, that's not the epiphany, I'm just setting the scene. We have too much food. We expect too much. I can do something different. I can.

I had the privilege to cope with some stressful situations in the last almost 2 years (hmm, maybe you weren't around when I was beating these dead horses: an interstate relocation, an unexpected pregnancy, a very difficult temporary 6-month living situation, a 2nd trimester miscarriage, traumatic complications from said miscarriage involving a hospital bill we're *still* paying off, a fall down the stairs resulting in a fractured foot, a spouse with a very stressful job that prevented me from talking to/seeing him much, related marital strain, uh, i think that about covers it) by getting lazy. Lazy by not moving enough and lazy by eating too much.

So what am I doing about it? I stopped eating dinner. Anything in the evening, actually. I eat breakfast (usually what remains on the kids' plates, mothers can be such industrious scavengers), a hefty, healthy lunch, and then. . . I wait until breakfast again.

Do I get hungry? Do I even know what it's like to *be* hungry? How can I have grown up with grocery stores and spoiled food in my fridge and restaurants on every corner and really ever been hungry? My stomach might growl and when I go to bed I look forward to breakfast (though by the time I wake up, it's much less pressing) but I don't think that's real hunger. This has been my routine for the last month or so and it's not growing tiresome.

My choice is a flaunting of abundance. I can choose to abstain because I have so much. I hope that my awareness softens the blow of advantage.

I fill my evenings with glasses of kombucha and cups of tea and I am not missing anything. I have eaten lots of dinners. I will eat so many more. But right now, I'm deciding to avoid what is considered necessary, customary, required. I'm not gestating or nursing, I'm not convalescing or competing.

I am feeling better than I have in a long while.

I do not want to belabor body issue quirks or imply my sell-out to media dictated ideals. I have lots of the former but firmly avoid the latter (if that's possible). Outgrowing my own clothes, serviceable garments with much life left, is not mindful or simple or treading lightly at all. And nobody feels good wearing clothes that don't fit. And not feeling good is no good for me or for my family.

I sit with my family while they eat (and by 'sit with my family' I mean: sit for a second and hop up for the salt, or another fork, or napkins, or the boy's soup that was cooling in the freezer, you know.) and have not yet, in over a month, felt even the tiniest bit deprived. It's just dinner. I look around and I see all these things, pounds of flour and beans, shelves of books, cupboards full of useful things and pretty things I keep just to look at and hold, and it's all SO MUCH. More than anybody needs, really.

It is a poignant thing, to step out of one's routines and into a new thoughtfulness. What started out as a willful attempt at combating a growing malaise has become surprisingly meditative. Recognizing my abundance in everything, the food on my plate, the hot water in my pipes, the solutions to my problems, is such a gift of gratefulness. Who knows what will happen in a few weeks, months, years. But for now, I have enough.

Monday, February 23, 2009

a round tuit

My grandparents have one of those rubber grippy circles, like the sort passed out in AARP advertising blitzes, that was printed with the explanation that it was for people who are always waiting to do something until they get a round tuit. Ta-da! Problem solved.

I have one of those grippy circles, too, a spare direct from my grandmother's kitchen. And it is, in fact, emblazoned with an AARP logo and slogan: for independent living! But it doesn't say anything about getting stuff done. It's round and good for opening sticky jars, but it's not a tuit at all.

It takes me a long old while to get around to it, whatever it is. I am quick-witted and keen on ideas. I am good on the front side of any task, but get mucked up in the middle. And sometimes never see the end. Starting is no trouble, it's the doing and finishing that give me grief.

When we moved in here I hastily tacked a red checkered beach towel over the bathroom window. This remained until we recently upgraded to a blue twin sheet. The window has that mottled bathroom glass -supposed privacy glass- but I can't bring myself to do bathroom things at night in front of an undressed window, no matter what.

It took me a year and a half, but we finally have a curtain in the bathroom. Maybe my tuit is square?

bathroom curtain

Thursday, February 19, 2009

same old, same old

out of time 1

I'd say I blog the way I do laundry, but you might think we're stepping around piles here for half a month before I get a mind to toss in a load. I could compare my slowness in coming around to this little spot to the way I dawdle and delay and guiltily, sheepishly, never get around to mailing things. But while I'm a better laundress than I am a blogger, I'm a much worse mail correspondent. Much, much worse. So, if you bother to click on over here, wondering if I have anything to say (and I'm sorry for all the wasted click-on-overs, praise be to the google reader), take comfort in knowing at least you're not one of the sad souls to whom I owe a package. Unless you are, indeed, waiting for some promised parcel. In which case, I apologize. Actually, let me just be sorry all around. For everything. I'm feeling a little sorry this evening and I might as well toss some contrition in the direction of any passersby to my public presence on this, the spaceship interweb.

out of time 2

I said goodbye to 2 dear friends the other day. I had known them for such a short time, but we spent most evenings together for the last month or so and I grew accustomed to the routine. Oh, Pullo and Vorenus, how I'll miss you. Yeah, yeah, we finished Rome. It might be a little like nutritional yeast: an acquired taste. It is gruesome and violent and a lot sexier and steamier than, well, network television and I nearly dismissed it after the first episode. But we kept it up and got sucked right in, right back two thousand plus years, and now I want to sprinkle that stuff on everything. It was good. It is over. Sigh. Moving on.

out of time 3

It's easy to be in the moment when you're surrounded by clocks that don't keep time. I have several. This is not an oversight, a belated purge of broken housewares; it is intentional. I like the random-ness of hands pointing to disparate, inconsistent numbers (i feel a little disparate and inconsistent myself, so much of the time). I like the ability to enjoy something -the aesthetic of shape, the recognition of age, the space taken up on a shelf- despite its purposed function having stopped some while ago.

See? No time has passed. The hands haven't moved at all. I might have had secret intentions of blogging here *every day for the whole, short month of February* and then, clearly, failed so completely. But such an endeavor would have accomplished. . . a whole bunch of nothing. I am giving myself the space to write when I feel like it and the time to come here when I remember to and the permission to be as sporadic and vague as is reflexive. I'm so tempted to close up shop, put the useless in a drawer and focus more on that which is productive, but pleasure is important. And this place does please me, even if it's quiet and I can't be so transparent and I have more ideas of things to write about than I ever get around to writing. . .

Because I am a broken record, a bulldog, a dead horse kicker (I didn't have any nicknames when I was a kid but these things I was called frequently, and really: some things never change) I will remind you that Rome truly is worth watching and, then, when you've finished the series (but two short seasons, boo melodramatic hoo) tell me all about it.

tick. . . tick. . . tick, I won't mention it again, I swear.

Monday, February 02, 2009

leave yer thermarests and rainfly at home


I can be so obtuse. For years, we've mused about yurt camping. But because there's a "no pets in yurt" rule and we always have the dang dog with us, I just sighed and pretended that I don't really need a shelter I can stand up in.

It was just a few weeks ago that I lightbulbed the following: our tent is so small and our dog is so smelly, she always sleeps in the car *anyway*. We can sleep in a yurt and she can sleep in the car and what the heck has taken us so long?

The girl's birthday last week was the perfect opportunity to give this whole fancy camping a try. I really did think our tent was sufficient, before. But now? I'm not sure I can go back.

Because the yurt was awesome.

I got a full size sleeping area all to myself. And because I don't like to sleep all mummied-up in a sleeping bag, I took a big fat comforter and stretched right out and had more space than I usually have at home. Nice.

We had a table inside for setting stuff and plenty of hooks for hanging stuff and a little covered deck outside for cooking. It was so much quicker and easier than tenting it.

And warmer. It was definitely warmer. I'm not sure we're hardcore enough to tent camp in the winter anyhow, so the yurt gave us a chance to visit the off-season of a beach campground. It was so different, so much more empty and quiet. Our yurt was the only occupied yurt in our loop of the campground. So quiet.

We had the beach all to ourselves, too. A few times, I could sort of squint and see people, very far away, but mostly it was just us.


Oh yeah, and the weather was brilliant: 50ish degrees, blue skies, no wind. It was a quick trip, but it was a good one.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

a perfect ten


It humbles me, confounds me, astounds me that my daughter is a whole decade old. The girl who made me a mama and taught me how to be patient and gentle and kind. Her difficult nature as a baby, her demanding intelligence as a toddler, her inexhaustible wisdom and wonder as a small child, her busy plans and schemes as a big kid all required of me something that I surely did not have before she came along.

Even though I chose her name, in part, because it's not nicknameable and even though I think her given name suits her absolutely, in that sweet singsongy way parents can have with their babes, when she was still very new and young I started calling her Fifi. And then, because I'm so fond of alliteration, I tacked on Fantastic. The Fifi faded, over time, but the Fantastic has remained because she is, indeed. Fantastic.

The most surprising, blessed, Fantastic thing that has happened to me, becoming her mama. Such a gift. I'm not an overly lovey dovey soft focus person, but I am still pretty much in awe of this wonderful girl creature I get to watch grow and learn and be. I feel a little bit lucky every day, just for knowing her.

And can you believe I'm still hanging construction paper numbers?? I wrote before about our little family tradition. One of those funny spur of the moment ideas that unwittingly becomes *the thing we do* year after year after year. It's important. But I thought she'd outgrown it, and also? I thought it was a one digit phenomenon. But as we eked into the last week of January, she asked me, sweetly, if the nines would be replaced with tens. What else could I do?

I admit that the double digits stumped me for a bit until I decided to work with negative space and voila! The cutting was a snap.

She was up so early on her birthday and she said she opened her eyes and saw the numbers twirling, the larger 10 shadows cast all about, and knew it was really true: she was Ten.

I had tacked a note on her bed, a happy birthday good morning, we love you, sort of note, which she read upon waking and which set her off on a whole house scavenger hunt for her gift. I attempted to make obscure clues, leaning on her love of literature and language and history (for example: one clue was 'ovum' -where to? the egg carton, of course. another clue? 'dogeared achilles' she ran directly to our most worn mythological reference) and it was fun. She enjoyed it and I was glad I bothered to stay up the extra hour it took to arrange it.

These are little things: construction paper numbers and quickly written clues hidden about the house. But it's my hope that all these little things I do will together make a picture of a happy childhood, someday when she looks back.

Because I'm already looking back, as much as I look forward, and feeling so overwhelmed by the goodness, the sweetness, the joy of spending my days with this girl.