Friday, February 26, 2010

Resolutions


Last year, I didn't make any New Year's resolutions because I had already spent a good year or so making one, green, environmentally friendly resolution at a time until I incorporated it into my lifestyle. I still have a similar feeling. There are some things in my life I'm always working on (or trying to work on), and it seems trite to make them New Year's Resolutions:  exercise more; be more patient with Duncan; floss every day; keep recycling paper; stop procrastinating. This is hardly the stuff of a REAL resolution. And now, here we are, fifty-some-odd days out from New Year's...and it's a little late. I can't call them birthday resolutions because it's too late; I can't chalk them up to Lent because that would by hypocritical; but there are a couple of things I want to work on, and writing them down and publishing them will help me focus.  So here they are, with you as my witnesses.  The Great Snowpocalypse Resolutions of 2010. There are only two, but they are complex and and tightly intertwined...tangled...if you will.

1.  Make Stuff

I love creating things. I like to knit, I'm obsessed with textiles, I love to read craft blogs, and I own way too many craft books. Although I have limitations when it comes to finishing things, I like the idea of making things for my friends and family. I like putting the time into making something unique, and I like the creative outlet. Crafting makes me feel relaxed and useful, and it calms my brain. It benefits the earth as well. Knitting a gift for someone is more ecologically friendly than driving to the mall and throwing down money for a product that is made of materials that don't biodegrade, that are packaged in excessive paper and plastic, that have often been produced in ways that are not friendly to people or the environment, and that have acquired a large carbon footprint in their production and delivery.

You may mock me now, if you know me, because you know I have not picked up my knitting needles in a year except to make a stab at Baby Ben's baby sweater, which I never finished.  Baby Ben is nearly 2, and I started that sweater before he was born. That sweater is a mark of my failure, but I'm too stubborn to rip it out and too incapable of finish the second sleeve.  Anywho...

I think I can make a stab at this. I have already started a storage bin in the basement to collect completed projects for next Christmas. I started with the ubiquitous scarf:  easy to start, quick to knit, easy to finish. I'm knitting scarves for each of Duncan's teachers. He has four teachers, and I'm working on my third scarf. It seems like a reasonable goal. I'm also working on the infamous gift I started for Lorna eons ago. I have ideas for knitting projects and other crafts for everyone in my family. If I approach this resolution one project at a time, I can make serious progress. (Well, I need to have two projects going at any one time so I don't get bored, but NO MORE THAN TWO!  ANY more than two is a recipe for disaster)

It's simple really. Make stuff...for myself, my family, and the earth. Our ancestors did it. I can do it.

2.  Buy Less Stuff

I live in the middle of nowhere. It is an hour drive to a shopping mall or a decent department store. Whatever. I chose this life, and I need to live it without whining. The problem is that it has become my excuse to buy whatever I need or want on the internet. The ease with which I can justify ordering things is terrifying, and it's causing a lot of problems. Let's start with how far my stuff travels, eating up nonrenewable fossil fuels. What am I thinking? I need to learn to plan better, to do without, or to think about a purchase before committing to its carbon footprint. Secondly, we have too much stuff. You can see it with the naked eye. We're out of space, and our house is full of things that will ultimately end up in a landfill. All my efforts to live, clean, and eat in a sustainable way are being undone by the boxes that arrive daily from Amazon.com. Finally, there is the little matter of how I have been paying with those purchases, often with a credit card, for its pure convenience. We want to buy a house; we have too much credit card debt; we have too much stuff; we care about the earth. It's a pretty simple equation. Solve for x. X = Buy Less Stuff.

The easiest way for me to tackle this resolution is to revisit Shawn Achor's twenty-one day plan to making a life change. Beginning on March 1, for 21 days, I'm only allowing myself to make online purchases if I use my debit card. I think it will be difficult for the first week and will grow progressively easier. The debit card has a much lower limit (ha ha) so I will need to stop and think about my purchases. Imagine.  Stop. And. Think.  Stop. And. Think. = Buy. Less. Stuff.

3.  Make Stuff/Buy Less Stuff

Do you see how they are intertwined? Maybe not; perhaps it's not as obvious I think it is. If I make stuff, I won't need to buy as much stuff. That's pretty simple, right? If I make stuff, I will also reclaim the kind of creativity that will encourage me to repurpose what I already have. I will slow down my need to acquire as I relearn the patience it requires to stick with a project through its completion. Maybe, I'll be too busy knitting to have time to shop. Maybe I'll develop such an appreciation for hand-crafted, eco-friendly stuff that I'll lose my taste for the mass produced, just as I have lost the ability to eat Kraft processed cheese slices. If I make stuff, I will buy less stuff. I will consume fewer resources and return less to the landfill.

It may be a fantasy, but it's my fantasy. I firmly believe that these changes are the most logical next steps in my attempts to lead a greener and more sustainable lifestyle, and they're essential if we want to be ready to buy our own house (with some fantasy solar panels...). Wish me luck. I have some scarves to finish.

(And Jay, if you're reading this, sometimes it's okay to use the word "stuff" - as long as you have thought it out and used it for effect.)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Love, Seven

Recycled Love


Valentine's Day flowers from the love of my life:  100% recycled.  

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Queen of Hearts

You might be able to discern from my recent posts that I have made my peace with Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day and I have long had a love/hate relationship. Thankfully, it doesn’t date back to 1965, but it does date back to some February 14th in the past when I realized that I had to share my birthday with the entire English speaking world. At some point, I realized there was an entire world of stereotype out there, a romanticized idea of what should happen on the day devoted to the Saint. And I wanted it. I wanted it all.

I spent many birthdays in my teens, twenties, and thirties watching from the sidelines as everyone around me received flowers, chocolates, expensive jewelry, and engagement rings on my birthday. Spending my professional life in the perpetual John Hughes movie of high school did not help. Not a year passed that I was not forced to confront the age-old “flower ordering” show of popularity or a teenage girl who scored expensive jewelry from her boyfriend of 35 days. It’s not that I didn’t have my moments. There are some romantic birthdays in my past; it’s just that I am a creature that easily devolves into a spinning vortex of want. I don’t like that aspect of myself, but it’s true. Jamie has always said I always want something I don’t have, and I’m embarrassed that that has often been true, especially on Valentine’s Day.

I did the natural thing, under the circumstances (I think). I developed a hearty disdain for the holiday. In sort of a sour grapes phenomena, classic avoidance, if you will, I eschewed the hearts, the chocolates, and the diamonds. I mocked. I snarled. Sometimes, I even hid, but how can you, really? There’s no escaping the commercialized Hallmark, Russel-Stover, 1-800-Flowers-ness of the day (except that about twice every seven years it happens on a weekend, and I can hide in my house!). The problem is, I didn’t really want to escape it. I wanted to be immersed in it, but I couldn’t get away from wanting what everyone else had.

Then, I had a child. It sounds simplistic, but it’s true. Valentine’s Day perks up the gray, miserable, cold time between Christmas and Easter. It’s a great excuse to bake something nice. And kids love it. They love the whole idea of making Valentines and baking heart-shaped cookies, and wearing t-shirts festooned with X’s and O’s. Duncan had such a good time last Valentine’s Day, that I started preparing for it weeks earlier this year. We crafted Valentines cards; we baked cookies that mirrored the X’s and O’s on Duncan’s favorite shirt. I tried out the red velvet sandwich cookies. This year, Duncan’s preschool class exchanged cards; rather than roll my eyes and poke out my tongue, I enjoyed taking him to the store to pick out Peanuts cards. Next year, I’ll work harder at making them. I’m actually a little sad to see it go.

As I mentioned before, there has been a huge outpouring of love in our house over the last few weeks. I can’t help but think that opening myself up to the joys of the season has helped to encourage it. I don’t really care anymore what you did or didn’t get for Valentine’s Day. I have my family, and I love them, and they love me, and if I needed a perfect excuse to celebrate that, I’d have one. As for being another year older, I’m not too concerned about that any more either. I like to think I am older and wiser, but there is something about receiving a construction paper heart decorated with scraps of lace that makes me feel younger too. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Love, Five


Yarn Love

Alert the media. Or at least Melissa. This here is a knitting post. It's not much, but I promised this scarf to one of my students last year and never came through. I was wearing a fun fur scarf, and Filipa said "I want a scarf." Fool that I am, I said "I'll knit you one. What color do you want?" "Pink," she insisted. I started it, knit like crazy, made a lot of mistakes, abandoned the project, and ordered her a fair trade bracelet instead. Last week, in a fit of knitting atonement, I ripped it out and started over. And finished it. I've made three scarves since January first and picked up another project that I had started and abandoned. That one's a secret. I'm on a roll. More on my "make stuff" resolutions later; for now, the post is for Melissa, and the pink fun fur is for Filipa. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Love, Four


Preschool Love

Love, Three


Cookie Love

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Love, Two

A couple of weekends ago, Duncan and I made some Valentines.  Here's the one he made for me:


He made Jamie a more traditional card.  "This color makes camouflage!"  Who knew camouflage was a color, let alone a Valentine's Day color?



Here's the inside:



I'm enjoying all the love in our house these days!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Independence Day

To surprise me last night, Duncan sent me out of the bathroom while he put on his pull up, his pajamas, and his socks and brushed his teeth "all by myself!" (I thought he was just buttoning his pajama top so I was truly surprised. There was a lot of grunting (which sounded like a preschool version of swearing) and self-affirmation ("I can DO this,") followed by sweet triumph. "I put these things on all by myself, AND I brushed my teeth." Sometimes it's so hard to take the time to let him do these things, but it's really important. Not only does he learn valuable self-care skills, but he also learns the feeling of success. I will remember these things when he needed to be in the car 10 minutes ago and insists on zipping his jacket...I swear I will...while I'm counting to 10 inside my head and practicing deep breathing.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Love, One

Duncan is very lovey this week. We have been blessed with a multitude of declarations of love and countless hugs and kisses. It's a nice change. Often, lately, we hear a lot more "No.  No kisses." If we're lucky, "No. No kisses. Only hugs.," or maybe "Only kisses on the cheek." I don't know if it's the impending holiday or everything that was going on at school (and now isn't) (more later), or a new developmental stage. I don't need an explanation. I'll take it and store it for the future.

"Mama.  I love you. I love you to the Korn and back. The Korn is farther than the universe."

Love, pure and simple.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Random Thoughts

I'm secretly thankful that Duncan seems to call Jamie Mama about as often as he calls me Daddy.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Resilience

"Daddy.  I LOVE you, and I think my new school is going to be REALLY cool."

There is a god, and s/he sent me THIS exact child for a reason.  Thank you.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Love is in the Air

Overheard from the kitchen during Duncan's shower:

"Daddy, I LOVE you.  Will you make me a valentine?"