Monthly Archives: September 2011

Earth-Careful Diapering

Last week I wrote about my longing (and failure) to care for the stuff around me. I don’t want to be careless, not with my things or my money, not with my relationships, and especially not with my children.

Lately, I’ve been more and more reminded of the needs of this planet I live in and how God is asking me to live carefully in it too.

I said in another post that I was “medium crunchy” which led to some funny responses from people obviously more earth-kind than I who thought they were medium crunchy. Obviously, I realized, I must be more like “mild crunchy” or “crunchy lite.”

Whatever the shift, I’ve sensed from God a nudging to care more, to sacrifice more, to up the crunchy, if you will.

This is why: I’ve moved from a city where I walked more than I drove (only filled up our gas tank once a month), where it rained a lot, and where we didn’t need air conditioning to survive. Now I live in a city that demands air conditioning constantly (well, at least so far. It was in the high 90s yesterday), where most families need two cars and walking anywhere is almost impossible, and where we’re in the midst of a drought with little water in sight. This is no thumbs down to Austin; it’s just the honest truth. There is not a large amount of fresh water here and my family has moved here, adding the amount of water being sucked out of a small supply. Every time I wash the dishes or feel relieved to walk into the AC, or sigh at the nearness of Target, I remember that I want to be careful with this world. I want to believe that God has made it good and has given me an opportunity to be a good steward of his creation.

So, I’m stepping up my game. Recently (when? how? I can’t remember) I was inspired by the lovely SortaCrunchy to “Change 3 Things,” a movement to get parents to commit to using 3 cloth diapers a day. When August was born I did research into cloth diapering. A read some of a book called Raising Baby Green, which surprisingly brought into question the actual carbon footprint of using cloth diapers. Yes, cloth diapers make less trash and contribute to less consumption overall. But the amount of hot water that has to be used to wash those things sucks a lot of energy from the earth. Just at that time Nature Babycare came out with a fully compostable, disposable diaper. I thought, hey, this is easier and maybe even better for the environment, even if it’s a little more expensive than Costco diapers. My problem? I couldn’t really compost them in San Francisco because I had no yard for that and the city’s FREE composting service (yes, SF is the best!) was not okay with human waste. (ummm, good idea.) So, I was sending them in sad little compost bags to the landfill, knowing they’d decompose but not do much else for the land around them.

I began to feel like I needed to do more. It was less about the carbon footprint of biodegradable verses non-disposable. It was more about trash and consumption. I just don’t want to consume just because I can. I don’t want more stuff to be made and then be sent into the ground. I want to be careful.

Once I became a bona fide house-dweller with a fenced-in backyard, the first major purchase I made was a tumbler compost bin. In go the diapers! And, two weeks ago I made a deposit at Jillian’s Drawers with their “Changing Diapers, Changing Minds” program, where you make a deposit, are given 21 days to try several different types of cloth diapers, then given the freedom to return them or keep them.

My goal has not been extreme. I’m not cloth-diapers-all-the-time lady. In keeping with my “Crunchy Lite” title, I’m cloth diapering at home and Nature Babycare diapering out in the world and at night. Urine-soaked disposables are going in the compost. The rest are going in the trash.

And, just because I was feeling inspired, I bought more cloth towels and put away the disposable napkins. I love cloth napkins anyway! They’re so pretty and August is loving choosing his color at mealtime.

So that’s my story. I hope it’s not preachy preachy. I am the girl who has always had a love-obsession with my paper towels. I’m just making some changes a little at a time and I like it that way. Moderation is good and taking care is even better.

If you’re thinking about the “Change 3 Things” movement, you should join me and “Like” it here.

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Wise Stuff My Husband Said {A Series}: The Bible as Friend

Monday night we sat on the couch, me drinking tea slash eating dark chocolate and writing my Thankful Tuesday post while Chris read. My husband interrupted my train of thought to read a section from his ongoing savoring of our beloved Dale Bruner commentary on Matthew 1-12:

“Together, Mark and Matthew give us a colorful (Markan) and a catechetical (Matthean) portrait of Jesus and the way Jesus works. Mark is technicolor gospel; Matthew black and white. Mark is Luther; Matthew is Calvin. I think of Mark as young, more joyful than Matthew, and in some senses even more evangelical (rather Lutheran). I think of Matthew as more serious, and as most concerned that we live moral lives worthy of the grace of Jesus Christ (rather Reformed, Calvinist, or Presbyterian. Each has a place in the church. Mark without Matthew might be light; Matthew without Mark might be heavy. Together, young and old, happy and serious, evangelical and moral, they give us the full Jesus Christ. (Luke adds social and John spiritual dimensions. Luke is Methodist; John is Orthodox, Catholic, or Episcopalian; and Acts is Baptist, Pentecostal, or Free Church, except in its doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit!)”

Chris and I both agree that Dale Bruner is just about the cutest thing we’ve ever read. (I mean cute in the, Oh! I wish you were my sweet yet clever great uncle! sort of way.) He is also brilliant and kind-hearted in his reading of scripture. I never leave his explanations of the Bible burdened. Instead I’m always grateful, reminded of Christ’s love for me, reminded of grace.

Chris said to me, “I feel like Dale Bruner and the Bible are friends.”

I laughed. Of course they’re friends! Of course the Bible would want to hang out with him! How else could Bruner see such an ecumenical picture of the New Testament? I love Bruner’s explanation of these books, the foundation of our faith (which we Christians have such a hard time agreeing on). I thought about my own tendencies toward the Arts and liturgy and contemplative prayer. And then I considered the fact that the book of John is hands down my favorite of the gospels. John is so dramatic and long-winded and deep. Of course he’d be the Episcopalian/Catholic!

So I keep thinking today of my husband’s words. What does it mean to be friends with the Bible? Am I friends with the Bible?

As a child I lived in awe and respect of the Bible. Sometimes in fear. I believed every interpretation of scripture I heard spoken from the pulpit and I began reading it on my own, daily, as a sixth grader. (A sixth grader! Sometimes I still can’t believe that.) Scripture informed every part of my life and at points in high school the Bible began to hold mysteries (Oh, Song of Songs. Ah, Isaiah!) that had never been explained away by my Sunday School teachers.

When I got to college the mysteries got bigger and began to bleed over into everything I felt I already knew about the Bible. My acceptance of mystery turned into a whole lot of questions. Then doubt. Then came adulthood.

Maybe becoming friends with the Bible is circular. I’ve spent the past ten years of my life working past the doubt and entering back into the depth of worship I find in mystery. Isn’t it funny how mystery can both lead to doubt and then be its own antidote to it? I don’t feel burdened by my unanswered questions in scripture as much anymore because my experience of Jesus is richer and more gentle than any side’s passionate defense of their stance. I used to argue theology. I used to cry over lines drawn in the ecumenical sand. Now, I tend toward some directions. I know where my orthodoxy causes me to land on certain issues. But, I’ve found rest in Jesus, who loves a lot more than he draws lines. And sometimes, mystery is good for relationships.

There are moments now when I’m reading the Psalms when every word is magic and God’s presence around me is soft cotton. There are moments in Paul’s letters when I squirm uncomfortably and ramble out a “help me with this” prayer, then move on.

All my husband said was one sentence. A statement about a scholar. But it’s left me wondering: How does a girl like me, a woman whose love for the Bible is deep and central to my life, who continues to get stung by that same book’s prickly sharp words…How does a girl like me offer out my hand to it? How do I say, “I don’t want to read you and tremble. I don’t want to read you and scoff. I want to sit with you the way I do my dearests across the table: share some pumpkin bread and latte. I want to be your friend.”

What about you? Is the Bible your friend?

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Of course it’s Thankful Tuesday!

The past week has not been an easy one. There was the destruction of my laptop, then four days of a vomiting, whiny 3-year-old, then I got sick (and am still recovering). Last night my husband said, “Do you even have anything to write for Thankful Tuesday?”

I scoffed! How dare he?!

There are plenty:

  • Night driving after meeting with my college freshman girls Bible study, listening to She & Him. I’ve forgotten how lovely it can be to be alone in the car with a good song on and a bright moon.
  • How August is learning to entertain his brother. They have the sweetest budding friendship.
  • The promise of grilled veggies on our early Christmas present from my mother-in-law. (Thanks for the grill, Basia!)
  • Brooksie’s ecstatic joy in the bathtub. (Such happiness that I’m sure his bouncy bottom is going to shoot him face-first into the water at any moment.)
  • August had a blood test yesterday. Shots are one thing, but having someone take a vile of blood from a three years alive arm is something utterly more heart-churning. He screamed the whole time while I sang in his ear and cried. (I couldn’t help it.) Sometimes I shocked at how much I love him, how his pain can hurt me, how easy it is to hold him over the toilet while he pukes, or clean his vomit-soaked sheets. I’m thankful for that. For mother-love: for that guttural, physical love for my boys in me.
  • August told the doctor yesterday that I had a BIG stomach and I didn’t believe him. That’s worth being thankful about, right?
  • Eating pizza with college freshmen and talking about John 1 with them. How I love John, chapter 1. Such poetry and drama and Jesus (some of my favorite things)!
  • Soy cheese on a pizza really doesn’t taste that bad!
  • Soy cheese on a breakfast taco really doesn’t taste that bad!
  • I ate really well Sunday.
  • What does my oldest son want to be for Halloween? His ideas include: a finger, a window, a door, a tooth, a germ, or pancakes. Where did that brain come from??? I love him and I’m so thankful he’s “unique.”
  • Late nights beside my husband on the couch. This is a good life.

And you? What are you thankful for?

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Absence, marriage and making that little heart grow fonder

So yesterday I came across an article in Slate about a new book by Iris Krasnow, who has spent every July for the past decade away from her husband of almost a quarter century. Her book is called The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes To Stay Married, and much of it has to do with how spending significant chunks of time away from your spouse may actually be good for your marriage, especially if you’re a woman.

“…the idea that absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that is a cliché. But it is a cliché for a reason,” writes Jessica Grose at Slate.

The benefits of the time spent apart? It helps women become more emotionally self-reliant. It empowers women to recognize that the emotionally fulfilling relationship of marriage is still not “an intimacy oasis,” as a 1980 study from the Journal of Marriage and Family describes it. Also, it benefits couples because they are forced to communicate. It’s easy in the chaos of daily life to go through days with out ever needing to really speak to your spouse. But when communicating is all there is to your relationship, many wives say that time is incredibly fulfilling.

What about you? If you’re married, how often do you spend time away from your spouse? And when you do, does your marriage benefit?

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Taking Care

I’ve never been known for being careful.

When I brush August’s hair, I go for quick and efficient, the same as when I brush my own. I have a tough scalp. I brush my teeth with vigor. I don’t close doors quietly. And I tend to spill. Often.

These are things I’d like to change about myself. I want to be someone who notices the possible repercussions of the actions I am about to take. I may be able to sense the goings on in an acquaintance’s unsaid words, but I will never discover (until it’s too late) the terrible choice of letting my spit-uppy baby (the first one) Skype with my parents while leaning over the keyboard. (But that was 3 years ago…I should have learned by now…)

The problem with not owning the common sense to foresee possible disasters is that you essentially make the same mistake over and over. When you’re eighteen and you lose the camera you got for graduation three days after you got it, you disappoint your parents. When you’re in your thirties and your parents give you a GPS for your birthday (just what you’ve hoped for an entire year since your last was stolen and you are going to be so careful and never leave it out in the car again!) but then you drop it in your bag and lean over to get your child out of the carseat and, whoops, the GPS falls out on the streets of San Francisco never to be seen again (How did I react? I cried for a day. Then I hoped no one would ever notice), then you disappoint your parents.

So, would it shock you to hear that in the past week I have twice done something regrettably careless? One involved leaving markers in the living room, after my husband warned me of our child’s 3-year-old tendencies. (I moved the marker that was out, but never once considered the three still in the packaging.) Are you shocked to hear that while I nursed his brother in the other room, August found that green marker and made wide, brilliant streaks across our 5 day old couch cushions?

Do you want to hear more? On Tuesday, after dropping August off at school, Brooksie and I went to a super cool coffee shop to do a little writing during his naptime. He was fussy. So I pulled out the Ergo so he could fall asleep in it and happened to set him in his car seat beside my coffee beside my computer for one minute. (You know where this is going. Do I even have to say it?) Coffee on the laptop. It’s gone…thankfully the hard drive survived.

Did I mention that I want to be aware? I really do. I’ve been making mistakes like this for 32 years. Come on! To try harder you have to first have a warning bell in your brain that says: This is a bad idea! How did I not get one of those?

Last week, after the couch incident and my washing the cushions with my tears, I sat beside my husband on the couch. I said, “I want to be careful. I want to be careful with our things and our kids and our time and our money. I want to be careful!”

I keep thinking of those words, typing this post on my husband’s computer, wondering what it means that I’m not a careful person. I don’t take care. In the past I’ve written those things off, choosing to embrace my carefree! fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants! nature. Sure, it means we have impromptu breakfast dance parties in the kitchen. But it also means I make people feel like the gifts they give me are not valuable. It means I teach my kid to leave toys he cares about outside because I didn’t think to enforce clean-up.

I want my boys to be grateful. I want to be grateful. And I know that means more than feeling that emotion in my heart. I feel grateful a lot. But do I respond in my everyday choices with gratefulness? Do I choose to care?

Forgive the frustration, friends. I’m just a little slow to learn.

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#Ask5for5 Campaign: Let’s do this, people.

I’m so excited to have Sarah Lenssen guest posting here today. In August, she launched the Ask5for5 Initiative and in just six weeks, she’s raised $23,000 (as of this posting) towards the famine crisis in East Africa. Her goal is $40,000. I’ll let her tell us more about how we can support her efforts. Thanks Sarah!

Thank you Mama:Monk and nearly 150 other bloggers from around the world for allowing me to share a story with you today, during Social Media Week.

A hungry child in East Africa can’t wait. Her hunger consumes her while we decide if we’ll respond and save her life. In Somalia, children are stumbling along for days, even weeks, on dangerous roads and with empty stomachs in search of food and water. Their crops failed for the third year in a row. All their animals died. They lost everything. Thousands are dying along the road before they find help in refugee camps.

At my house, when my three children are hungry, they wait minutes for food, maybe an hour if dinner is approaching. Children affected by the food crisis in in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia aren’t so lucky. Did you know that the worst drought in 60 years is ravaging whole countries right now, as you read this? Famine, a term not used lightly, has been declared in Somalia. This is the world’s first famine in 20 years.12.4 million people are in need of emergency assistance and over 29,000 children have died in the last three months alone. A child is dying every 5 minutes. It it estimated that 750,000 people could die before this famine is over. Take a moment and let that settle in.

The media plays a major role in disasters. They have the power to draw the attention of society to respond–or not. Unfortunately, this horrific disaster has become merely a footnote in most national media outlets. News of the U.S. national debt squabble and the latest celebrity’s baby bump dominate headlines. That is why I am thrilled that nearly 150 bloggers from all over the world are joining together today to use the power of social media to make their own headlines; to share the urgent need of the almost forgotten with their blog readers. Humans have the capacity to care deeply for those who are suffering, but in a situation like this when the numbers are too huge to grasp and the people so far away, we often feel like the little we can do will be a drop in the ocean, and don’t do anything at all.

When news of the famine first hit the news in late July, I selfishly avoided it. I didn’t want to read about it or hear about it because I knew I would feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable. I wanted to protect myself. I knew I would need to do something if I knew what was really happening. You see, this food crisis is personal. I have a 4-year-old son and a 1 yr-old daughter who were adopted from Ethiopia and born in regions now affected by the drought. If my children still lived in their home villages, they would be two of the 12.4 million. My children: extremely hungry and malnourished? Gulp. I think any one of us would do anything we could for our hungry child. But would you do something for another mother’s hungry child?

My friend and World Vision staffer, Jon Warren, was recently in Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya–the largest refugee camp in the world with over 400,000 people. He told me the story of Isnino Siyat, 22, a mother who walked for 10 days and nights with her husband, 1 yr-old-baby, Suleiman, and 4 yr.-old son Adan Hussein, fleeing the drought in Somalia. When she arrived at Dadaab, she built the family a shelter with borrowed materials while carrying her baby on her back. Even her dress is borrowed. As she sat in the shelter on her second night in camp she told Jon, “I left because of hunger. It is a very horrible drought which finished both our livestock and our farm.” The family lost their 5 cows and 10 goats one by one over 3 months, as grazing lands dried up. “We don’t have enough food now…our food is finished. I am really worried about the future of my children and myself if the situation continues.”

Will you help a child like Baby Suleiman? Ask5for5 is a dream built upon the belief that you will.

That something I knew I would need to do became a campaign called #Ask5for5 to raise awareness and funds for famine and drought victims. The concept is simple, give $5 and ask five of your friends to give $5, and then they each ask five of their friends to give $5 and so on–in nine generations of 5x5x5…we could raise $2.4 Million! In one month, over 750 people have donated over $25,000! I set up a fundraiser at See Your Impact and 100% of the funds will go to World Vision, an organization that has been fighting hunger in the Horn of Africa for decades and will continue long after this famine has ended. Donations can multiply up to 5 times in impact by government grants to
help provide emergency food, clean water, agricultural support,
healthcare, and other vital assistance to children and families suffering in the Horn.

I need you to help me save lives. It’s so so simple; here’s what you need to do:

  1. Donate $5 or more on this page (http://seeyourimpact.org/members/ask5for5)
  2. Send an email to your friends and ask them to join us.
  3. Share #Ask5for5 on Facebook and Twitter!

I’m looking for another 100 bloggers to share this post on their blogs throughout Social Media Week. Email me at ask5for5@gmail.com if you’re interested in participating this week.

A hungry child doesn’t wait. She doesn’t wait for us to finish the other things on our to-do list, or get to it next month when we might have a little more money to give. She doesn’t wait for us to decide if she’s important enough to deserve a response. She will only wait as long as her weakened little body will hold on…please respond now and help save her life. Ask 5 for 5.

Thank you on behalf of all of those who will be helped–you are saving lives and changing history.

p.s. Please don’t move on to the next website before you donate and email your friends right now. It only takes 5 minutes and just $5, and if you’re life is busy like mine, you probably won’t get back to it later. Let’s not be a generation that ignores hundreds of thousands of starving people, instead let’s leave a legacy of compassion. You have the opportunity to save a life today!

Guest Blogger: Sarah Lenssen from #Ask5for5
Family photos by Mike Fiechtner Photography

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Green peas, weddings, acorns and more! A Thankful Tuesday post

  • Yesterday’s lunch when a newly 6-month-old baby was simultaneously consuming and expelling puréed green peas all over his face: This made his older brother laugh hysterically. Which caused the little babes smile like a hero. He made his big brother laugh! So they both stared at each other over lunch, both smiling and knowing whatever secret it is that brothers know.
  • Cooler evenings which lead to cooler mornings: which lead to coffee and prayer
  • A driveway for practicing tricycle riding.
  • A weekend to see sweet friends from San Francisco all in Dallas for Cecelia’s wedding. After 6 weeks in a lonely new place, how can I say thanks for time to dress up with girlfriends, eat barbeque (best wedding food ever) and dance my heart out? And how can I not add to this list the fact that I have a mother who would fly to Dallas to watch my boys so my husband and I could have such a weekend? Grateful, grateful.
  • For the satisfaction that comes every time a cardboard box is emptied and out of my house. I’d love to move this moving in thing along but I’m thankful for this home, for my sweaty boy running free in his yard, for closet space and for the hope of settling in…
  • Old trees dropping acorns in the yard.
  • Did I mention that for my birthday, my friend Julie Manwarring letter-pressed my favorite Elizabeth Bishop sonnet for me? I framed it today. It’s right in front of my kitchen sink, which, in my humble opinion, is the best place for a sonnet.
  • My baby is 6 months old! And 18 pounds, 12 ounces. His thighs are thicker than my upper arm! And I can’t stop kissing all that chunk.
  • Being married to the best wedding dancer on the planet. Is anyone more fun than that guy?
  • Two days for my 90-year-old  grandmother to cuddle with Brooksie.
  • New friends and dates on the calendar and hope and hope and hope…

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