Sunday, April 30, 2006

Eco Fashion

So many things to talk about, so little time to share! I've been experimenting more with new styles and methods of cooking, and really having fun with it. A later post will give more detail. The weather has been great so I've been in the garden beds a lot too. More to follow on that as well. This weekend has been rainy and I'm within 5 pounds of my goal weight on Weight Watchers, so I've spent some time cleaning out the closet and trying to collect a new, simpler wardrobe for myself. I certainly don't need to replace all of the clothes that I'm getting rid of. My shopping addiction encompassed my own clothes to a lesser extent and I have plenty of "bargains" that I would never have bought full price, and thus didn't love, and didn't even necessarily fit. Now I'm focusing on buying only what I love, is comfortable, feel good about, look spectacular in. Part of feeling good about it means that it works with my moral conscience as well. This means a corporate responsibility on an environmental and social level. I have an in on some great companies already, but I've been researching into more.

I found two amazing companies that are a higher end, "designer" eco-fashion option. These are beyond my wardrobe boundaries for the most part, but I absolutely love them. I found out about them in an article about Barney's becoming more eco-conscious. They are Edun and Of The Earth. If I ever need to attend a runway show, I'll be picking up a piece or two.

A great resource for more everyday wear is checking out a wonderful organization, Organic Exchange. They have so many resources. There's a consumer guide in the links on the left hand side of the page that leads to a large list of companies that are integrating organic cotton into their products. Many of the companies use other eco-friendly fabrics and even incorporate sustainable energy and production into their manufacturing. For me, I ended up falling back to two things: Resale, and the tried and true, Patagonia.

I'm at a place where I would rather have one great, sturdy, well fitting organic outfit from Patagonia, than a passel of ill-fitting sweatshop pieces from Goodness-Knows-Where. No matter how "fashionable" they might be. Buying what makes my heart sing--in every aspect--will always be in fashion with me.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Happy Earth Day

I've celebrated Earth Day for years, but this is perhaps the first year where I can sit back, survey my lifestyle, and say: "I am doing SO MUCH that I can for the Earth." Instead of just patting myself on the back for recycling (which is wonderful for starters!) I can recognize my commitment to natural cleaning products, our energy reduction efforts, the Pod (Hybrid Insight), eating local and organic, supporting natural and organic textile production, reducing our meat consumption by 99%, conserving water, rain gardens, rain barrels, using canvas bags... We're really doing our part. I found great article on "Cheap Greens", a primer for beginning organic gardeners. Of course anyone looking to get into organic gardening should follow Beo's blog too. This is an incredibly fulfilling way to make a big dent in your impact on the environment.

If there are people out there still asking why environmentalism matters, I would encourage them to do a little research. If you care about wildlife, watch Journey to Planet Earth, a PBS documentary. It's rather shocking. If you care about people or ecosystem, take a look at the National Geographic article from March 2006 on Mountaintop Mining. It gives a good example, albeit just a glimpse of the big picture, of what our country's greed for cheap energy is doing.

Looking for more ways to make a difference? Here are a few ideas:
  • Recycle, if you don't already. Find out what resources are available in your area.
  • Go Organic. Everything you consume that you can choose Organic makes a difference.
  • Buy Local. Support your local family farms while reducing the impact that your food transportation creates.
  • Turn off the lights. Even we forget sometimes, but really think about which ones you need.
  • Conserve water. Install rain gardens, or rain barrels, or just turn off the water while you brush your teeth.
  • Eat less meat. The environmental impact of meat is simply staggering.
  • For more ideas, visit

On behalf of the planet, thank you for all that you do. Each small action affects us all. Have a Blessed Earth Day!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Battle of Clover Hill

The clover is getting out of control. I'm all for nitrogen fixing, but it's out-fixing everything else in my beds! Beo liberally planted one of his beds with white dutch clover last year. It made a wonderful lush carpet bedding, but we did have to diligently keep it from overgrowing the smaller plants in the bed. The patches of clover in the lawn have been welcomed with open arms. There is a small section of our lawn just to the West of the driveway and south of our major rain garden, with an island perennial bed in it. This bed has been dubbed "The twelve-pack bed" and I can't let that go without the story, so here it is:

When we first moved in to our house on bare earth, we embraced the rockdom which flowed freely from the ground. Every time we stuck a shovel in we hit rock. Instead of indiscreetly taking wheelbarrows full to the as-of-yet undeveloped lot acroos the street and dumping them at dusk (not that any of our neighbors did that!), we started beautiful cairns (or piles), and began bordering paths and garden beds with the rocks, which are for the most part quite lovely. I really love the huge rocks which Beo and a friend often ended up digging 10 ft wide holes to completley remove from the ground. One day as Beo was leaving for work, he saw that the excavator, in the process of digging the basement for the house next door, had unearthed a beautiful rock, about 3 ft long and 2 ft tall. He got the driver's attention and had the following conversation:
Beo: What are you planning to do with that rock?
Construction Guy: Put it back in the hole.
Beo: You want to dump it on this side of the property line instead?
Construction Guy: Do you know how much a rock like that is worth?
Beo: Not much, if you put it back in the hole.

Construction Guy: You got a 12 pack?
Beo: Uh, no. What's a 12 pack cost these days?
So for $10 I got my 12-pack rock, which is now the crowning glory of the garden bed we installed around it. (Incindentally, I later went out, not knowing the story, and told the Construction Guy he could leave the rock there in our side yard. He said: "Yeah, your husband told us. " Little did I know he had been bribed! Still, I guess it makes for a better story than "The Feminine Wiles bed") For some reason the side yard and 12-pack rock are infested (Beo would probably say blessed) with loads of clover. I'm not sure why it's so particularly prevalent there (though I have my suspicions, Beo!). I have been weeding, and carefully leaving in the clover, just pulling it back where it's encroaching on my Black Eyed Susans or Purple Coneflower, trying to be tolerant. Today was gloriously warm and in my clover thinning I found a few of my beloved plantlings getting choked out. I mowed the lawn (with our little push reel mower) and just pulled a little clover here and there. Bird saw what I was doing and ran over to me. "Mommy, that's Daddy's FAVORITE plant. You shouldn't do that!" So I let the clover be, and waited patiently for nap time. I started in on the 12-pack bed with the sole intent of doing some standard weeding, but after the millionth clover runner I snapped, and went for the hoe. My plantlings have plenty of space now, and are benefiting from the nitrogen fixing leaves which are worked back into the soil, roots drying in the sun. Thank goodness Bird didn't see THAT. I'm sure Beo will understand. Sometimes in my little ecoculture world, something's gotta give. That's why we drew the line between the front and back beds. He has his philosophy, I have mine. Yet marriage is about compromise. Once my plantlings have gained a bit of stature, I'll let the clover come back in force--which it doubtless will.

The Body in the Mirror

Over the past 3 months I have been undergoing the process of transforming my body. Up through my sophomore year of college I was a skinny girl. In High School people thought I had an eating disorder because I was so thin. The fact was that I could eat grilled cheese and french fries with ranch dressing (mmmmm....) with the best of 'em, I was just "naturally thin". Well of course it caught up with me. I started gaining weight my junior year, leveled out for a while about 10 pounds heavier, and then kept gaining slowly every year until I ended up about 30 pounds heavier than my high school weight. When I went to change my drivers license to my married name 7 years ago, the woman at the DOT said she would leave 140 on my drivers license, even though I knew I was at least 150. "Wedding weight" I believe she called it. I gained a lot of weight with my first pregnancy, and had just gotten back to pre-pregnancy weight when I found out I was pregnant with Bird. I have been losing and gaining the same 10 pounds since getting back to pre-pregnancy weight after bird. I used to tell myself over and over that I didn't have to "diet"-would NEVER diet and deprive myself--that it was a 'stupid' way to live life. I saw people doing diets like Atkins and refusing even a few bites of their favorite foods, and wouldn't do it. I am relatively active--for an American--but my phsyical activity was down a lot after having the kids. No matter how many times I read "Eat less, move more" I wouldn't do it. I ate natural, organic, healthy foods. Why should I diet? It took me years to even realize that I did not look to everyone else like I did to ME. I simply was not thin anymore. At the beginning of this year I was 163. I got myself down to 159 and I said that my goal was to get back to 150. I said I would love to see 140 but I knew it couldn't happen. Finally one day I realized that I had to stop telling myself all of the things I "couldn't" do, and just DO them.

Every journey begins with a single step.

I signed up for Weight Watchers online, and picked up my Billy Blanks Boot Camp routine again. In the past three months I have lost another 17 pounds. I've gone from a size 12/14 to a size 6/8. I feel better than I have in years. What took me so long to do this? What took me so long to believe in myself? I am so glad that I took matters into my own hands and decided to change my life. Yet there's still one battle to conquer. I look in the mirror, and I'm thrilled. My face has slimmed, my waist is slender, I look great. The second I walk away from the mirror I gain 20 pounds and my face swells. I step into my size 6 pants which are perfectly comfortable, and think to myself that it's only that the pants ran huge, that I'm not really that small. I know how hard I've worked to get here, but I just can't see myself as I am now. Beo tells me that I've spent the past 10 years learning to see myself as I really was, and now it's that image that's in my head. It will take more than three months to start seeing my new thin self in my head. I believe that I will keep this weight off. Weight Watchers has helped me to learn how to eat our foods in a healthier way. I've learned so much about how different foods affect me, about portion control, and about satiety. This weight loss is ushering in the new era of Me. Reminding me that I must honor and nurture myself if I am to do my best to honor and nurture my children, husband, friends, and environment.

Friday, April 14, 2006


Spring is one of my favorite seasons. (The other being fall.) In my early days as a Catholic I was enchanted by the church Easter celebrations. I still remember an Easter breakfast after a sunrise service, walking down the table of goodies, and in particular a circular braided bread with delicately colored eggs woven in to it. I would have been about 7. Easter was all magic. Joyous singing, beautiful flowers, pure celebration. My first Easter away from home I went with Beo and his family to their church. On the way home my Druid self asked if we could stop and attend a Catholic service. I needed some lilies and stained glass.

This year I have really been trying to cultivate that magic in my children. Bird and Sprout made sponge houses that we grew grass on, and we planted a basket full of grass, which is lovely and green now. We've been going on "Nature Walks" in our own yard to see which plants are waking up. We're very blessed to be on the migration path to a huge National Wetlands, and we get geese, ducks, and Sandhill Cranes stopping all around us on their journey. So we've talked about how the birds coming back are also a sign of Spring. This morning over pancakes we talked about the many signs of Spring we've seen, then did a fun short little dance celebrating the sky. I sat down and got out my long neglected copy of "Celebrating the Great Mother" to see what we could be doing with the kids to celebrate Ostara. Plant Grass. Celebrate the return of the Birds. Search for signs of Spring. Color Eggs. Create Baskets. It was so amazing to be living what before was a book of suggestions which I wanted to aspire to. As Beo would say, "We have arrived."

This realization makes the vegetarian marsmallow goo which didn't set into peeps much less disheartening. Celebrating the Great Mother isn't just a holiday, it's our life.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Monster in the Living Room

When we moved into our home 18 months ago, we made an excellent decision. Our living room would be TV free. We relegated the TV, VCR, and Playstation to the basement. The basement is unfinished, and we have a play area for the kids, but we only went down once in a while to let the kids watch PBS. I only had a couple of programs that I liked to watch, but with bad reception in the basement, I gave up the TV altogether. I would watch movies on our computer, but no more commercials. More knitting, less straight-out vegging.

A few months ago, our neighbor was kind enough to babysit when I went to an evening Volunteer Orientation. To make it easier, we brought the TV up from the basement. Plug in the kids. The next day, the TV didn't make it back to the basement. Nor the next. Now, months later, here I sit in the living room, with the TV lurking. Big bulky TV, cords, antenna, everything I don't want in the feel of this room. So why is the TV winning? Well the main reason is that it's far easier to let the kids watch 15 minutes of TV where I can see them while I prepare a meal, pick up, etc. I avoided the TV myself at first. Now, as I try to catch up on my knitting, I've started watching again myself.

I've been shocked to see the correlation between my mood and my TV watching. A few months ago I glibly quoted a study showing a direct relation between depression and women who watched TV. I realize that many factors play into this: less exercise, lack of other hobbies, etc. However I think so much of it is the TV itself. We are bombarded with stories-real and imagined-of drama, horror, and tragedy. Even my favorites like E.R.-so many depressing stories, so much stress. I have caught myself getting sucked into the emotions. Then we have the commercials, which give specifics to what we've been seeing on the programs themselves. We could: be prettier, be thinner, be better hydrated, have nicer furniture, find a better lawyer, keep a cleaner house, take a pill to fix those pesky problems like stress. The message we hear, over and over, is: You could be doing better. I am infuriated just thinking about it. Yet it keeps drawing me back, and I don't understand why. Kill your TV indeed.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Super Mom ~ Super Dad

What a day. It's amazing how our family's many different roles, priorities, and responsibilities somehow manage to fit into place, or at least stick together as we roll along. This morning I headed for the office to prepare for an evening Volunteer orientation. Beo called to tell me he was taking the kids to the farm store to get his pea innoculant (of course--what else would he be doing?). I stayed at work an hour longer than I'd intended, tying up loose ends. When I came home, Beo had managed to hold lunch for me. Leftover "Chick'n" alfredo and steamed green peas. He'd made the kids quesadillas, with shredded carrot cleverly hidden among the shreds of cheddar cheese. Who could ask for anything more? After the kids went into their "quiet time" mode, Beo went out to innoculate his peas and "walk the back 40" (approximately the last 20 feet of the back yard). I finished up some work, then he came inside so I could go for a half hour jog.

I have been enjoying my "running" more since I started listening to "This American Life" on my iPod. I can't believe how much better I can run now than when I first started. In the beginning, I would try to make it to the next lamp post running, then walk the next one, etc. (These are country lamp posts mind you.) Now I can run 3-4 before walking one and picking the pace back up. On a beautiful day it just feels so amazing to work out your body and muscles that way. I love my tae bo videos, but going for a run in the countryside around our house is a whole different animal.

Once I was back, Beo was back out poking around in his garden. Sprout woke up in a great mood, asked for an apple, and sat down for PBS prime time. I started making a kale and potato stew. When Beo came in I had peeled everything, but that was as far as we'd gotten. He gently suggested a simpler dinner, and after packing the peeled veggies away we started our super-pot on fusilli pasta and steamed broccoli. Beo finished that up while I got ready for my orientation. We managed a quick dinner together, and I went to dash out the door but noticed that the dog had mistaken Bird's carpet for the backyard, so...long story short I was almost late for my orientation! 2.5 hours later I was back home, we put the kids to bed together, and voila, we'd made it through another parenting day. Worked on our blogs together while Beo finished up his bread baking for the day, and now it's bed time.

I truly understand now what my parents meant when they always talked about "tag-team parenting". It can be stressful at times, but I just can't imagine it any other way. Sure, on the days that I get an hour or two to myself, it's a nice break, but those hectic 5 minute spurts that we have together in-between our next designated tasks are absolutely priceless. I feel proud that Beo and I have managed not only to survive this with our marriage intact, but to actually make our marriage stronger. I think that one thing we've learned is how important it is to take time not just for us but for ourselves individually. It is definitely a daily balancing act, but I think we're doing a bang-up job, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Where I Am

I am starting this blog in an attempt to reinvigorate the journaling that I know can be benifical to the inner workings of my mind. I used to try to journal when I sunk into bed at night, but these days I am so exhausted that the last thing I can do at that point is write an eloquent transcription of my days and my thoughts. Logging in this blog seeems like a much easier way to plug in when I find a minute here and there. SO. Here is where I am.

I am a full-time Stay at Home Mom and a part-time Non-Profit Director. My children are an amazing boy who is 4, and a spunky little girl who will be 3 in June. They are my "pride and joy". Cliche? Yes, but it's become a cliche for a reason as it is quite appropriate to describe these parental feelings. My children's Dad, my husband, works full-time to allow us to lead this totally blessed lifestyle. Not only does he win (and make) our bread, but he is kind enough to recognize and acknowledge so much of what I do. He makes a real effort to be the best father/husband/him that he can be. I am incredibly grateful for him. Most of my work with the non-profit is done from home. Another blessing. My job was initially something I stumbled across browsing the on-line classified of the small local paper a few months after we moved to our current home. I wasn't looking for a job, but a flexible, part-time Assistant Director position at a non-profit sounded so ideal that I couldn't resist applying. I was thrilled to get the position, and after a year I took over as Program Director.

Our house is plugged into a subdivision in a rural Wisconsin 'village'. It may sound quaint, but quaint is not what comes to mind when you look out the back door and see the interstate on the other side of our back fence. While this house is a far cry from the farmette that is our ideal, it is a good stepping stone while we prepare for the "Someday" stage of our lives. We have done our best to make the house as eco-friendly as possible. We use organic, low maintenance lawn care, which is especially minimal since the majority of our yard is filled with perennial gardens. My husband has taken up organic gardening and has turned the yard into an exercise in permaculture. His passion for it is truly inspiring.

Now for the deeper stuff. I spent much of my early adult life as most all of us do, trying to "find myself". Looking back, I believe that the reason so many young adults have myriad problems is that focus on "finding" themselves. Some may turn to drugs or alcohol, whether to "liberate" their minds, or to fit in. Others may join clubs or religions to try to find a place where they fit in. Still others search in vain for this secretly hidden "self" only to find deep despair when it doesn't seem to manifest itself. The labels we choose can become so dangerous to us as well, as we try to force our selves into the boxes we've chosen. It's difficult for someone who is "Depressed" to expect happiness. Our culture makes reference after reference to "finding" yourself, but what we should be doing as adolescents and young adults is creating ourselves. We should explore different music, fashion, religion, art, style, diet, philosophy, without the expectation of finding the plug that we fit into or latch onto. We should instead be encouraged to absorb the aspects of all of these things which appeal to us, and to practice them. It is those explorations, and the aspects that we pull and practice, which truly create who we are. So while I believe that we certainly must all explore and find the things that we love~that sing to us and that we want to incporate into our lives, it should be a goal of creation, a journey of design that never ends.

I feel that I am finally at a peaceful place in my life because I have turned to creation instead of searching. Instead of asking "Am I a Catholic? A Buddhist? A Taoist?" I've found Unitarian Universalism, which doesn't require me to define anything more than my basic moral principles, which I believe should be the foundation of any spirituality. Instead of asking "Am I a Vegetarian? An Omnivore? An Organic Consumer" I choose a lifestyle which is mostly Vegetarian, and mostly Organic, and stop worrying about adhering to the boundaries of one label or another. After 10 years of telling myself that I am a skinny person, so I can just wait around for my 20 extra pounds to melt away of their own accord, I have taken responsibility for my eating and exercise habits and lost 1/2 of my extra weight in the past two months. I'm learning that I can do whatever, and be wh0ever I make myself.

For now, I see myself as a hip eco-mama, living a sustainable lifestyle and working to teach my children the values of respect and stewardship. And I'm so happy with who and where I am.