Saturday, November 8, 2014

Putting my bottle where my mouth is (or why I voted against expanding the beverage deposit law)

I voted against Ballot Question 2 in Massachusetts. And so did a majority of the Bay Staters, because it didn't pass.

I voted against it because the pro-side rhetoric claimed that it was an "anti-litter" bill.

But it wasn't an anti-litter bill. At least not in my opinion.

At its core, it *was* a "let's make litter more valuable so indigent people will pick it up" bill. (It was also a "let's make groceries more expensive for people who don't recycle" bill and a "let's make the manufacture and distribution of beverages in the Bay State more expensive because we need to have different bottles distributed here" bill.)

Chuckleheads will still throw their garbage on the ground. But, with an expanded bottle deposit law, more of the trash that clutters our roadways and neighborhoods will now have value. While the pro-side of of the ballot question didn't come out and say it, it seems fairly straightforward to me that indigent people will collect litter that has value. If we make our most prevalent litter - drink bottles - more valuable, homeless people will collect it. Ergo, our streets look cleaner, making ballot question 2 an anti-litter bill. Right?

Not to me. Instead, it felt underhanded, gross and exploitative.

I would rather we talked about the problems of homelessness, un- and under-employment that lead people to rely on collecting trash to make a living. I would rather we talk about the dynamics (laziness, lack of community- and self-respect) that lead jerks to throw their trash on the ground in the first place. And I would rather that we, as a society, make strategic decisions about if/how we want to address these problems, so we can compel our neighbors, corporate beverage manufacturers, philanthropists and lawmakers to direct fund to support solutions to our persistent problems. I know there will always be people who "choose" to live on the streets, and who will always "choose" to collect bottles and cans as their form of income, but I'm not psyched about expanding this as an option for people who are in dire straights.

What I most certainly DON'T want is a subversive bill designed to support - rather than prevent - indigence. And that's how I understood Massachusetts Ballet Question 2.

So, in the spirit of putting my bottle where my mouth is, I have decided that BMG and I will put a nickel in a kitty for every bottle and can we buy that *would* have been covered by the expanded bottle deposit bill. At some point during the year, we will make a donation of the money to  homelessness prevention/work support program serving our community.

I'm doing a dump run this morning. We have 10 Gatorade and Orangina bottles ready to go to the transfer station. So, I'll put $0.50 in the kitty. And when I get back, I'll start researching community organizations that are making a difference in preventing and alleviating the factors that contribute to homelessness. Suggestions welcome.

Monday, November 3, 2014

How'd I do? (or was I able to restore balance in a week?)

Were you wondering if I would find balance on my week between jobs? (I know I was!)

Here is my diary of from the week:

7:00 AM - Get up with a little help from the alarm
8:00-9:00 - Prep pumpkin bread while waiting for and dealing with the plumber
9:00-10:00 - Go to the gym and restart a C25K
10:00-11:45 - Make pumpkin bread, run vacuum and steam mop, shower
11:45 AM-2:00 PM - Run errands, eat lunch al fresco with my SIL
2:00-4:15 - Rake leaves and transplant
4:15-5:30 - Start relaxing with a glass of wine
5:30-6:30 - Nap
6:30-8:00 - Make and eat dinner
8:00+ - More relaxing with BMG
Body and family taken care of today. And with the gardening, a little soul too

8:00 AM - Wake up (after a terrible night's sleep with a painful headache), drink coffee, make and drink a blueberry kale smoothie & read paper
9:00-11:30 - Work on blog project with BMG
11:30-1:00 PM - Run errands at Staples, Lowe's & Michaels
1:00-1:45 - Coffee with my MIL
2:00-3:30 - Rake, transplant fleurs, and plant tulips, daffodils & grape hyacinth bulbs
3:30-4:00 - Fill out Thanksgiving volunteer application for me and BMG
4:00-7:00 - Loaf, read books, play games, eat dinner
7:00 - Resume binge watching House of Cards with BMG
Tuesday feels like a rerun of Monday, with a little creative time added in. How do I make Wednesday different?

7:00 AM - Up (with help from the alarm), drink coffee, read paper, eat breakfast
8:15-9:45 - Walk to,the gym, exercise for 30 minutes, walk home
9:45-11:30 - Shower, putter, work on a Christmas craft
11:45-1:45 PM - Visit with Gal Pal Lois
1:45-3:30 - Errands, hang Christmas lights (just because they are up doesn't mean we'll light them)
3:30-6:15 - Read, putter
6:15-9:00 - Drive to & then take "Intro to Meditation" class
9:00+ - Watch TV, get ready for bed
Body & soul are fully taken care of today. Add a little friend time & the start of some creative time & I'd say it was a good day.

8:00 AM - Wake up with no alarm (unless you count the cats as an alarm)
8:00-9:15 - Coffee, smoothie, paper, putter
9:15 - Head to Subaru dealer to check low tire pressure
9:45-10:30 - Sit at Subaru dealer until I learn there is a nail in my sidewall and I need a new tire; grab a loaner and go
*Cancel lunch plans in Acton, argue with BMG about whether I was smar enough at the Subaru dealer or if I let them take me for a ride
10:30-4:00 PM - Shop for craft paper and baby gifts, eat lunch, wrap and mail/deliver baby gifts
4:30 - Pick up car with new tire
4:30-7:00 - Meet BMG at the Art gallery, have dinner at a new restaurant
7:00-9:00 - Drinks with BMG's mom
9:30 - Home & in bed
This was a weird day. Had some itchy connecting time with BMG (had expectations that weren't met)', and I spent the day running errands but not taking any joy in them.

7:00 AM - Wake up with the alarm and fall back asleep until 7:45
7:45-8:30 - Coffee and the paper
8:45-10:00 - Walk to the gym, exercise, walk to BIL/SIL's house to pick up truck
10:00-11:00 - Take yard waste to dump and run a handful of local errands
11:00-2:30 PM - Make and deliver gluten-free (and fat-free AND refined sugar-free) cookies for a neighbor, start prepping pasta sauce for dinner, putter and generally get in BMG's way
2:30-4:00 - Go to DPW to renew dump sticker, then head to local bar to read and sip wine away from BMG
4:00-10:00 - Finish making dinner, putter, pass out candy to trick-or-treaters, decoupage bathroom vessels with a Boston map, watch TV, argue with BMG
10:00 - Read in bed until I fall asleep
Body taken care of, along with some necessary errands and a little creative productivity. Soul care was dismal today given the arguing with BMG.

7:30 AM - Feline alarm combined with a headache leftover from the night before wake me up
7:30-9:30 - Coffee, putter while waiting for BMG to wake up, make breakfast, download a headache tracker app with the goal of figuring out the cause/pattern to my persistent headaches
9:30-9:30 PM - Putter, read books, eat, sleep, relax (it was a miserable day outside)
I did nothing to take care of any part of me today. Was still a little down because of the previous day's fight with BMG + two separate headaches. This was a wallowing day.

6:45 AM - Wake up sans alarm (happy end of daylight savings time!)
6:45-8:30 - Coffee, breakfast, putter
8:30-10:00 - Gym for another C25K session and 30 minutes on the recumbent bike
10:00-11:45 - More puttering, cleaning up
11:45-2:30 PM - Run errands, give blood, grocery shop
2:30-5:15 - Putter, read, nap
5:15-6:30 - Prepare and try a new recipe for a salad made of roasted butternut squash, shallots and kale
6:30-8:45 - Putter, read, nap
8:45 - Head to bed, read some more, sleep
Body taken care of - think I've jump started a healthy eating and exercise routine. And I feel proud of having given blood, particularly because I got to talk to a niece about it - raising her awareness that this is one way people can give back to their communities. Thought about working on my Christmas craft and/or addressing Christmas cards, but I didn't feel the mojo. Maybe next weekend?

6:15 AM - Up without an alarm, ready for my first day at my new job

So, how did I do? In m post on Monday, I said I'd try to to the following:

To take care of my body:
  • Go to sleep at a reasonable hour every night, planning to be up between 6:30 and 7:00 each morning (instead of my typical 4:30-5:00 wake up time).
  • Be caffeinated, showered and fed by 8:00 or so, which I'm hoping will be my typical "leave for work" time at the new job. 
  • Make a high protein veggie smoothie for breakfast at least three of the weekdays; prep smoothie packets for the freezer
  • Try at least two new healthy and delicious recipes (sorry BMG).
To take care of my soul: 
To take care of my family: 
  • Plan a Christmas trip to NYC to enjoy the sites and visit with gal pal Suzy Burstein. 
  • Finish making Thanksgiving and Christmas plans to visit my family in NYC. 
  • Order our Christmas cards.
To take care of my creative side: 
  • Cross a couple of Christmas crafts off my "to do" list well in advance of the Christmas season starting.
  • Do a decoupage project in the bathroom. 
  • Blog at least three mornings a week.
  • Finish setting up the website for a creative project I'm doing with BMG.
  • Schedule at least three interviews for a creative project I'm doing with BMG. 
I took care of my body and soul on my week off. Family and creativity - a little lacking, but I'm well on my way to restoring balance in my life. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Restoring balance

I'm between jobs right now. I left the national dental insurance company on Friday with the intention of restoring balance in my life.

My goal for the next seven days? To decompress and start routines where I am taking care of my body, my soul, my family & friends, and my creative side. This means getting enough sleep and creating rhythms where my evenings are blissfully full of time with friends, cooking, exercise, writing and other activities that make my heart go pitter pat. I need this so, when I start my new job at the mutual fund data company a week from Monday, I'm compelled to ONLY be at work when I need to be at work, and not a minute more.

These are my intentions:

To take care of my body:
  • Go to sleep at a reasonable hour every night, planning to be up between 6:30 and 7:00 each morning (instead of my typical 4:30-5:00 wake up time).
  • Be caffeinated, showered and fed by 8:00 or so, which I'm hoping will be my typical "leave for work" time at the new job. 
  • Make a high protein veggie smoothie for breakfast at least three of the weekdays; prep smoothie packets for the freezer. 
  • Try at least two new healthy and delicious recipes (sorry BMG).
To take care of my soul: 
To take care of my family: 
  • Plan a Christmas trip to NYC to enjoy the sites and visit with gal pal Suzy Burstein. 
  • Finish making Thanksgiving and Christmas plans to visit my family in NYC. 
To take care of my creative side: 
  • Cross a couple of Christmas crafts off my "to do" list well in advance of the Christmas season starting.
  • Do a decoupage project in the bathroom. 
  • Blog at least three mornings a week.
  • Finish setting up the website for a creative project I'm doing with BMG.
  • Schedule at least three interviews for a creative project I'm doing with BMG. 
I also want to finish cleaning the yard for autumn, including one major dump run.

I tend to have a "to do" list that is bigger than my capacities. Think I'll check back in on Friday night to see how far I got with my intentions. 

If you had a week to restore balance in your life (presuming you needed to restore balance), what would YOU do? 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Chucklehead leaf blowers

I don't care if you rake your leaves or not. Generally speaking, nature is self-regulating and raking one's yard in autumn is a social convention intended to keep one's lawn looking green and lush.

If you do choose to rake, how you clear your yard of leaves is irrelevant to me - ol' fashion' arm-powered rakes, leaf blowers, whatever.

HOWEVER, I DO care if you use a leaf blower to merely move your leaves into the street for someone else to take care of, or worse, into your neighbor's yard.

Image source:
If you own a yard and you want your lawn to be the envy of the neighborhood, stop behaving like a chucklehead and bag your leaves. Simply clearing them but leaving them for someone else to deal with is no different than leaving your grocery cart in the middle of the parking lot, nudging your dog's diarrhea into tall grass at the foot of the neighbor's driveway where you *think* no one will see/smell/step in it, or blocking traffic during rush hour because you HAD to make that left hand turn across three lanes of traffic to get to your favorite Dunkin' Donuts.

You don't want to deal with your yard waste? Guess what? No one else does either. And if I'm forced to, all I'm likely to do is bag it up and put it back in your yard.

Awkward Family Photos

Photo source:

If you haven't seen the website Awkward Family Photos, you should. Its like the worst highway accident you've ever seen, because you just can't stop looking. Wondering who in god's name imagined THAT composition would be worthy of the family Christmas card.

BMG and I took our Christmas card photo today. As we prepared for the shot, I reflected on the dozens of cards we receive and hang on the wall every year. Each one shows beautiful, smiling children. And very few show parents with their children.

I think that's awkward.


Well, the kids aren't sending the holiday greeting. The family is, and really it is likely the more nurturing of the parents who does the work. Managing the photo session, selecting the perfect picture to include on the card, composing the list of people to receive the greeting and then doing the painstaking work of addressing the cards and adding personalized notes. 

And yet, on a majority of the Christmas cards we receive at The Tiny Bungalow, there is no inkling that the adorable children have parents. 

I have heard many a parent rail against Disney and the children's television industry for creating entertainment that perpetuates the notion that kids don't need adults to help guide their lives. In fact, one of my sisters went so far as to screen her kids' television programs to ensure they were not watching shows where the youthful protagonists had no discernible adult role models. She didn't want her daughters to make the same madcap decisions as Hannah Montana and her contemporaries.

Within this context, I think it is weird that an estimated 50% of the parents in my life send Christmas cards that only include photos of their children.  

When I receive these adult-free cards, I put my social worker hat on and imagine why the parents aren't included. Has someone died? Is the marriage in trouble? Are my grown-up friends too insecure or self-loathing to want to include a picture of themselves? Maybe their lives are so intertwined with those of their children that they believe sending a picture of their kids is the same as sending a picture of themselves? I might go to a maudlin place in which I believe my friends elect to omit themselves from the card because they do not actually intend to extend holiday wishes to me. At which point I assume the friend *must* think I'm a narcissist because I DO include a photo of myself on my annual winter greetings. 

Christmas 2014 is 60 days away. It is not too late to make the decision to include your entire family on your Christmas card this year. I know I would be delighted, because I love you and want to see you.

Merry Christmas!

PS: I also have a practical reason for wanting at least one photo of you each year.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

If Jack Sprat had Crohn's Disease

I was raised in the 1970s in one of those families that ate every meal together. While food was rarely fancy, my mom always prepared a balanced meal that contained a starch, meat protein, some sort of dairy (invariably a glass of milk) and a vegetable. My mom occasionally experimented with amazing (Chinese fried chicken) and disastrous (lion's head meatballs) results.

As a married adult who tends to play the caretaker role, I've bought into the idea that my job is to cook for my family. But, my husband has a particularly advanced form of Crohn's disease, which leaves him with mercurial eating habits. He doesn't have enough small intestine left to have much use for vegetables or any other food with any measure of fiber. (His body cannot process them.) The speed at which his body processes his meals means spicy foods tend to cause discomfort, as does anything with pointy edges. In this same vein, his body doesn't absorb bad nutrients the way mine does (or most other people's do). So, processed food, cheese, fat, sugar - all fair game.

On the flip side, if left to my druthers, I tend to cook vegetarian meals for myself, particularly Indian and North African flavors that I'll serve with brown rice. And loads of butter,  salt and spice. Oh, and I'm lactose intolerant. So high doses of dairy are taboo.

So, if left to our own devices, my husband and I would eat completely different meals.

But, because I have this belief that cooking for my husband is one of the ways to show I care for him, I've figured out how to make meals we both will eat. The meals we share are likely to be composed of animal protein with white rice or pasta.I'll cook a veggie for myself, or if it is one of the few veggies he'll eat (spinach, asparagus, cauliflower, peas), I might OVERCOOK a vegetable for us to share.

While I'm cooking, BMG might snack on some cheese, while I drink wine and sample from the meal as it simmers. When we serve dinner, BMG will take a portion of the meat we've cooked and a triple serving of carbs. And me? I'll eat a generous serving of meat and vegetables and a light helping of carbs. For our dessert course, I'll continue with another serving of beer or wine, and BMG gets dessert - often an ice cream novelty or candy.

When I'm preparing meals for us, I'm often reminded of the classic Mother Goose rhyme, Jack Sprat:
Jack Sprat could eat no fat,
his wife could eat no lean.
So betwixt them both,
they licked the platter clean. 

But, with slightly different words:

Jack Sprat ate carbs and crap
His wife? The wine and greens.
So betwixt them both,
they licked the platter clean.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

I want my two hours!

I have the opportunity to reclaims two hours a day of my life. How? By reducing my commute from 2.5+ hours a day (round trip) to only 40 minutes.

There are a handful of reasons why I started to put feelers in the market, none of which were related to time management. But, when an opportunity for a lateral move quickly presented itself (same basic work, same base pay) AND the office was 20 minutes from my house, it seemed too good to pass up.

I want my two hours.

If you had two extra hours a day, what would you use it for?

Here's what *I'm* thinking of:
  • More sleep (and less money spent on make-up because I'm not trying to hide the bags of exhaustion under my eyes)
  • An hour a day (well, most days) for exercise
  • Good-bye Hamburger Helper, now that I have more time for preparing healthy and complete meals
  • More sleep in the morning because I don't have to get up early to read the paper now that I can listen to it on public radio while I drive to work
  • Fulfilling my goal of having a healthy garden, because I have time (and energy) before or after work to prune/weed/water
  • More time to talk with my family during the week because I'm in my car, and not taking public transportation, where I can use my cellphone without fear of being *that* person talking non-stop in the close quarters of the subway, bus or boat
It stands to reason that more sleep and more energy during the week will translate into less exhaustion and panic on the weekend. So, instead of dedicating one full weekend day to all of the cleaning and errands I normally do on the weekend PLUS everything I didn't get done during the week, maybe I can:
  • Be fully present with family and friends, instead of resistant to social plans because I'm "too tired"
  • Be fully present with BMG to create adventures 
  • Develop my creative side through dance, writing and art
  • Relearn how to meditate and start a spiritual practice
  • Take action to make the world a better place through community service
  • Give myself permission to take a long bike ride or travel longer distances to explore the world by kayak
At the age of 44, I've realized I want to be known for having a balanced life, not for being the best (insert impressive job title here). Looking back on the 15 years of my working life (post-graduate school), I see that I jumped off the career train pretty early. In this moment, I can admit that I took the leap not with intention, but rather because of fear. Or maybe, on the inside, I knew that I didn't want my legacy to be an amazing career, but rather a robust life.

My rational brain still struggles with this. I actually like my current job. I am pulled, intellectually both to the services my present employer offers in the world and the challenges presented in the workplace as the business grows. It is a good fit for my professional skills and my ego. I'm not burnt out, I have no ill will towards the company or my colleagues. In this context, leaving feels like a weird thing to do.

But I want my two hours. I really want my two hours.

So, I'm going to take them.