Archive for Weekend Reflections

Biointensive Gardening

This year I am gardening with two other people who wanted to give John Jeavon’s Biointensive Gardening a try.  One of the main ideas is that you start EVERYTHING from seed in flats, even corn, beans and peas.  These are some marigolds I started quite a while ago.  It really has made gardening a brand new experience for me.  I’ve tried to start things from seed before and failed miserably.  It’s going better this year due in large part to the grow light Steven put together for me, but I also have a very different attitude about it.  In the past, I’ve always bonded with each little seed and plant, WANTING it to thrive, but you know, nature just isn’t like that.  And the spiritual lesson for me has been: maybe God isn’t like that either.  Most plants produce an abundance of seed and you wouldn’t want it all to survive.  I get upset at myself for each little failure, sometimes making it monumental.  But this week I’ve realized, I need to make lots of efforts, and only some of them will go on to grow and produce fruit, and that is just the way nature is.  And God, the Master Gardener, knows that and has planned it that way.


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The perfect lilac

In my mind at least, the perfect lilacs this year were over on Mortenson Road, not far from the intersection with University Boulevard.  Lilacs always make me think of my mom.  I was born when mom was 40, so unfortunately, I will always think of my mom as old (I know, 40 is NOT that old!).  Most lilac bushes are old too, standing the test of time, you don’t fully understand where they came from or what they’ve been through, but you love their beautiful profusion, the intoxicating fragrance, their simplicity.  My mom came from a simply background, she and her sister and her mom making it on their own by housekeeping and living with relatives.  They enjoyed simple things, creamed vegetables on toast for supper, sprucing up a little black dress with a variety of collars and cuffs, going swimming in the rock quarry and singing duets.  I don’t know where all the lilacs in Ames have come from, but I love their reminders that the best things in life don’t have to be complicated and expensive and that my mom was able to create a beautiful life in the same spirit.

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Poland’s Train Crash

Poland is in mourning for the 16 who died in a head on train crash last weekend.  From the BBC photos I saw, at least one of the trains seemed to be like this one I rode in going to Turin.

I liked this train, even though it broke down on the way back to Poznon.




It was open and roomy.  Here is my son, enjoying the space.



There was plenty of room for children and a kitty too!








While we were waiting for our train to be repaired, some hopped off and picked golden plums off the trees.









My sympathy goes out to those in Poland who are mourning.

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Taking Time for Kids

  I love this photo I took at the graduation potluck my friends had for me.  We get so busy and focused on the adult things, but here is Lora making time for the little things and the little people.

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Spreading Christmas out all year long?

Ok, this is my last post about reflections on Christmas! I started out by thinking of people who are sad or feel let down around the holidays.  Some of the kids I’ve worked with have major melt downs around Christmas because of family or health dysfunction.  Everyone around them is building up to this huge “celebration” and their pain just multiplies as they feel it’s impossible to have that shiny ball that the world dangles out there in front of them.  Some hurt themselves to try to make the pain go away.  People give presents to them or have parties for them, but the perfect family Christmas can’t be obtained.  And that may be true for a lot of people, especially in America, where we advertise prosperity and perfection as available to all.  Our culture would be way more sustainable if we gave up our fantasies of having it all and stopped billing things as creating more happiness than they really do.   It’s ok to make choices, to say no to things, to make due with less than the Jones have.  Even if we can afford to have it all, maybe we don’t need to.

One more thought….I’ve heard of people who only go to church on holidays like Christmas and Easter, packing in all their time with God into some intense rush, similar to the way we eat so much and celebrate so much in a few short days.  What if we made a conscious effort to make holidays less of a fuss, to spread our celebrating out in a longer, much less intense manner?   Might we then give more gifts during the rest of the year?  Send more letters?  Get our good dishes out for more Sunday dinners?  Spend more quiet time alone with God?  Hmmm, I wonder…..

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Changing Christmas Idea #3

I am proposing some radical ideas to make Christmas more sustainable and also to make it make more sense.  Some of the things we do in the name of Christmas just DO NOT make sense.  I heard a story at school the other day of a mother who bought her daughter three things for Christmas (even though she had just had her birthday) and the daughter returned all three things, and the mother was not even that upset about it.

I know I already posted this photo, but it is a good depiction of what I am thinking about tonight.

Lots of times, we want to give presents at Christmas time, but I think, if we are being truthful, lots of times we don’t, because we can’t think of a great gift, and we wind up getting something that people will take back, or wish they could take back.  I’ve never experienced hurt feelings over a Christmas present, but I hear it happens.  So, what to do?  How awful would it be if we just decided we weren’t going to do the presents part of Christmas?  Would every one think we are a scrooge?  But so often, it doesn’t make sense, the money we spend, sometimes going into debt, trying to prove we care about someone with a thing.

I know a lot of people have made changes in their gift giving,  donating to charity for example.  Some good ideas can be found here at ISU’s Live Green Dec 2011 newsletter.  The article on Greening the Holidays makes good suggestions about how to find thoughtful and recycled gifts.  The college students here also suggest that giving your time and just being together with others is a valued and sensible gift. If intelligent college students can embrace this, can’t we?

But what about the children?  A lot of people I know have given up adult gift giving but still have Christmas presents for the children.  At first, I thought this was quite sensible, but you know, what are we teaching the kids here?  The sociologist in me would say, we are perpetuating an unsustainable lifestyle by indoctrinating the future generation.  What if kids just never learned to expect gobs of toys or expensive gifts on Christmas or every other American holiday?

If you disagree with me on all of the above, maybe at least you could think about this idea.

Idea #3:

You know how every one tears open their presents on Christmas eve or Christmas morning, and then usually it’s the mom who goes around wadding up tons of wrapping paper and putting it in the trash?  And I LOVE wrapping paper.  I have way more fun buying wrapping paper and bows and ribbon and gift tags than I do buying gifts, but it’s all just really totally useless and wasteful.  Maybe we could at least give up the wrapping paper!  Reusable cloth gift bags anyone?!

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Reasons to Curb Christmas Excess and Cure Christmas Letdown (and save the planet?)

Today is the last day of 2011 and I’ve been reflecting on Christmas and a new way of thinking that I am excited to catch glimpses of around the web.  I realized that one of the reasons I am drawn to DO Christmas is the buildup and engaging in something out of the ordinary of daily life.  It can also draw me closer to family that I have built up these traditions with and is part of my identity.  But it seems like  a lot of Christmas excess, or just consumer excess in general, happens when we let the market tell us who we should be, what we should do and what we should buy.  But come on, we are smarter than that, aren’t we?  And we don’t have to be humbugs about it and totally destroy capitalism in the process (tongue in cheek here!).

  Idea #1

What if we decided to stop doing personal Christmas light displays and agreed to just enjoy community displays instead?

I love Christmas lights, especially the white icicles that people hang around their overhangs.  Driving around looking at Christmas lights was something enjoyable we did as a family, often on Thanksgiving night.  But as I was indulging myself this year, the sustainability researcher in me kept whispering, “this is not sustainable”.  But the Joey part of me answered back, “but they are so pretty”.  What to do?  I wondered how much electricity and therefore carbon was was being spewed out to meet my and others’ need for “pretty”.  Is there any way we could agree as a community to give up personal Christmas light displays?  Aha!  Perhaps it would be better if we just focused on community  light displays instead.  And I could WALK to my community light display, like this one at Iowa State, or downtown to  Ames, and I might engage with other community members, sing a few favorite carols, bump into friends for hot chocolate at Cafe Diem.  We do this to a degree, as there are Snow Magic and other community celebrations, but it’s not enough somehow.  Could we learn how to let it be enough?

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