the simple minded suburbanite

Slow Living
October 12, 2011, 12:00 pm
Filed under: parenting, suburban, time management, voluntary simplicity | Tags: ,

The Race
August 31, 2011, 4:25 pm
Filed under: achievement, authenticity, parenting, suburban | Tags:

I don’t know about you, but I often find myself out of breath mostly figuratively, but sometimes literally.  One such literal time was last January when my friend and I tried running.  I sucked.  My hips and knees throbbed with pain I had never felt before.  I was discouraged and de-motivated.  I’d never run a race.  I’d never cross the finish line.  What the f—??  I realized, through talking to other running friends that where potential solutions:  I could try a different pair of shoes, run on a different surface, or see a trainer.  Part of me was like, Really?  That sounds like alot of crap just to go out and run.  The other part of me was like, I’m gonna do it!  My body isn’t going to tell me that I can’t run!!

Well, I haven’t gone back to it and I find myself saying three things to myself since January:

1.) I’m a “the other word for kitty cat”.

1.) It’s not my time to focus on running.

2.) or, running isn’t very important to me or I would’ve found a way to do it.

Or maybe it’s not the running, maybe it’s the racing.  I’m just as happy on a walk.  When running, I focused on deep inhalation and long exhalation.  I focused on true heel strikes and lengthy strides and form.  Never once did a look over at my friend and question whether or not I had lapped her or she had lapped me (okay, maybe I did once.  Okay, twice).  But, overall running, just like yoga, or writing, or my life is mostly about my own experience.

Yes, in my life, I occasionally look over my shoulder to see if my neighbors, friends, or colleagues are lapping me.  I’m an American Girl, after all, and most certainly of the human condition.  But overall, I try to pace my own self on my own run, my own life.

This is why the movie Race to Nowhere has caught my eye.   It is about, quite simply, the stress kids are under to perform and achieve in school, and the high cost of that pressure.  Though I am nowhere near Tiger Mom proportions, I admit that when it comes to school, my kids are expected to do what it takes.  My middle and my little are still in elementary school, so not much of a big deal there, but with the older one…Yikes!  3 Accelerated classes, which he (which really means “we”) fought tooth and nail for every grade point last year.  He is, shall we say, “organizationally challenged.”  And it was many times last year, his first year at middle school, that I questioned if we were pushing too hard or not hard enough.

I’m taking my two older kids with me to the screening of the movie this fall.  I hope only to impart to my kids through this and many other actions that it is their form, their stride, and their breath that are most important to me not, by any means, the race. I do hope they find what makes them run but, they can travel another path, find their own inspirtation which leads to motivation and they don’t have to sacrifice their body, spirit, and balance to be the first to cross a finish line that only keeps moving, moving, moving beyond where your feet have you at this precious moment in their unique life.

We’re Doin’ Just Fine…More or Less
July 9, 2011, 7:38 pm
Filed under: budget, gratitude, parenting, suburbanite, voluntary simplicity | Tags:

“Everyone has more than we do,” mumbled my 12 year old.  12 year olds have a sensational ability to make huge leaps in logic.  In less than 30 seconds, he went from begrudgingly turning off his Xbox (but it’s not XBox live!) to donning his Nike tennis shoes (but they’re not Nike Shocks!) to heading out the door to weed the flower bed, one of his chores (only $12 a week!  I’ll be dead before I can afford an IPad!).

I take most of his pre-teen grumbling and complaining with a grain of salt.  My husband and I counter such nonsense with pointing out how fortunate we are, we have a family who loves each other, we have all we need and much of what we want.  We state what we’re grateful for each night before bed.  Our kids work and save birthday money, summer allowance, and the occasional cash from odd neighborhood jobs for the gadget of the year and I am proud to say that we whip out the same Nintendo Ds we bought 6 years ago for road trips (Lite?  3-D?  I say, Nintendo BS).  They’ve never been the kids who beg for toys in Target or whine for bubble gum in the grocery check out.  They understand that, as a family, we choose not to spend our money “that way”.  We prefer the stability of a home that is not under water, the thrill of the occasional family vacation or excursion, and the dreams we have for our kids’ futures as we squirrel away loose change for college.

But, I gotta say, I lost my cool.  He not only said it once, under his breath, but confidently repeated it to me with a full on look into my eyes when I asked the motherly, “What was that you said?”  I didn’t lose my cool right away, I lost it after I started into my usual, “There are so many people who would love to have what we have” speech and he, as respectfully as possible, said, “I know that, but I’m talking about everyone around here.  My friends!  Our neighbors.”  I’m not proud to say, I yelled.  I stomped around.  I flailed my arms. “$120 Nike Shocks!  Are you kidding me?  You’ve gone on a run all of 2 time the entire summer!” I had had it!

I know enough to step away…. so, I did.  I took a breather.  I calmed myself down.  After furiously scrubbing the kitchen and sorting all of the laundry in the house, I went onto the back deck and called my hubby, ran through all of the things I was planning to take away from son #1 to teach him a lesson.  My husband, may I say, knows enough to let me get it all out, spit out the venom, before offering perspective.  “It is his reality, and though he needs to be respectful of us, we do need to listen to his reality.  It’s how we feel often times ourselves, isn’t it?”

Shit.  I knew I married this guy for a reason.

I am not enough.  It’s the pressing, unwanted mantra that bumps around in the dark. It’s the self loathing untruth from which I’ve tried to free myself for most of my life.  And what son #1 said, it made me feel less than.  It made me feel that all the hard work that my husband and I have put into our homes, our family, our relationships, our careers is all for not because we keep falling short.  We keep falling short in the “stuff” aspect.  In all truth, this is one of the reasons I write this blog. Yes, for one, I want to point out the absurdities of the suburban, consumer-driven, self-indulging lifestyle.  But, also, it keeps me focused on what I know to be true, and I think everyone knows to be true when hard pressed, that none of that “stuff” really matters.  But, ya know, it takes alot of energy, consciousness, humility to believe it and stick with it in the Land of Rovers.  And sometimes, I think I’m the crazy one.

So, I took what my husband said to heart and changed gears.  My son is getting older now.  I explained, that Mom and Dad feel like everyone has so much more that us sometimes too but here is what is most important to us:  that our children dream big and work hard to get it, that our family finds joy in the day-to-day moments, that we embrace a love of learning and an openness to people and situations around us, that we be our true selves and support one another. You are not what you own, you are sooo much more than that.  I told him that what he said was a put down to a mother and father who love him and work hard to provide our boys with the best life we possibly can, that by saying words like that hurts us.  We are here to listen and to help with anything that comes his way because we love him.  And, if anything like this comes up again,

I will take all of his shit and throw it in the trash!

Author’s note:  I wouldn’t really throw it away.  Why, that would be wasteful and bad for the environment. I’d sell the crap on Ebay and get my hubby and I a nice little weekend in the mountains!  College?  Smollege!)

April 26, 2011, 1:07 pm
Filed under: collaboratation, parenting, social entrepreneur | Tags: ,

We are not a camp family.  I’ve never been able to take the February rush to enroll my children in back to back summer camps for the supposed development of all of their talents and interests.  Wheel throwing, chess, vetrinary camp, rock climbing, vacation bible school, sports skills, let alone sleep away which you have to think about in October of the preceeding year.  When the kids were younger, they were glued to Mommy’s side.  They couldn’t think of a worse misery than to be dropped off in some church gym to learn line dancing with a bunch of kids they’d never met.  Summer was for relaxing: swimming, sleeping in, gardening, exploring, books, art projects, and naps…oh, and chores.  As they’ve grown older we do throw in one or two based on their evolving interests but leave room for the relaxing part.

But last year was the first year I felt the kids were a teensy bit bored, so I vowed to up the camp anty. My oldest requested a sleep away camp ( I was so proud!  This a child who would not get off my criss-crossed applesauce lap for three years of “play group”!).  My youngest requested a cooking camp.  My middle…nothing. 

 But, despite my good intentions and an endless barage of emails from well-meaning friends who wanted our kids in the same class, I still did not get off my duff and make the committment.  I got nothin’.  I got a trip to visit family and one $35/week vbs for my 6 yo and nuttin’ else.  Why?   Dunno.

Then it hit me. I have been talking about having community service be a larger part of our family’s life.  My kids are always contriving ways to soak the neighborhood’s spare change through garage sales and lemonade stands.  They are getting older and I worry about their future.  Will college be enough?  I am raising conscious kids?  My idea: kids social entrepreneurs!

My mom had sent me the link about a year ago, and now I am going to put the wheels in motion.  The program teaches kids about social entrepreneurship…make money by doing good, doing good by making money.  It has work books, free games, links etc…  It’s amazing and exciting and, I believe, the way of the future.  Kids can create “Kid Cafes” at the neighborhood pool, or have a dog walking service.  They choose their business.  They choose how they want to do good with it.  Do they want to use the money made at the nieghborhood kid cafe to start one at a local shelter?  Do they want to use their dog walking money to buy dog food for the local SPCA?  They decide.  They develop the concept.  They earn.  We are doing it with another family, to make it fun, and to further inspire them will pay each kid 10cents for every dollar they earn for charity.  I can’t wait to see what they come up with.  Looking forward to another “campless” summer!

Loose Your Noodle…Funny how the Universe Works.
April 21, 2011, 9:21 pm
Filed under: nutrition, parenting, time management | Tags:

I haven’t cooked in weeks…and now I can’t wait to get started again.

Everytime my family sits down for dinner together, which I am thankful is most every night, one or two of my three boys breaks into convulsions: face contortions, gutteral noises, stiff-armed propulsion away from the table. They don’t like what I’ve made.

I’m a good cook, I’ve been told.  I take great pride in providing balanced, healthy, yummy meals for my family; always keeping their “tastes” in mind, though I do push the culinary envelope at times.  But, I don’t enjoy cooking every single night.  It takes Heculean efforts to keep up with the dirty/clean/dirty/most always dirty dish kitchen rotation.  Every play the game Wack-a-Mole?  That’s me with a dishrag.  And fitting these meals into a day where I am actually trying to build my own writing business and nurture my own self is not always the highlight.  So when apoplectic shock sets in over spaghetti with meat sauce because the sauce is too “bumpy”, I’m liable to loose my f**ing noodle on y’all!

So, instead of dumping linguini on the heads of my three gorgeous boys, I quit cooking.

Huh?  What’s for dinner?  Dunno, yet.  What’s this on my plate?  Hmm.  The box says “curried peas and jasmine rice” but, I’m no so certain.  This stuff is gross!  Why, yes, I suppose it is.  And I merrily scoop up the paper plates, heavy with those little, black, rectangular boxes still filled with “food” and I dump them in the trash, given reasonable time for consumption, of course.  Clean up, finished…now where’s my book?

Guilty?  Not a bit.  I was feeling drained, unappreciated, taken advantage of and I had no one to blame but myself.  No one asked me to prepare Ortega Taco’s with grass-fed buffalo meat.  No one asked me to find a new, fresh way to use kale in a main dish.  And young boys, although in need constant lessons in manners, are not capable of always predicting the depths of their mother’s emotions.

I have learned that if I am feeling resentful or taken advantage of, it is because I have neglected to put down healthy boundaries on myself and/or others and it is usually because I am trying to be all things to all people.

So I took a break.  I didn’t feed my family Fast Food Nation style.  I didn’t throw in the dish towel, say “Pour yourself a bowl of cereal”, and head out the back door for a loooonnnngggg walk through the desert.  I simply nuked some “health/organic” freezer items and substituted paper plates for awhile (weeks, actually).  And nobody died.  And nobody gained 50#s in a month.  And my kids didn’t complain any more or any less. They still loved me and I still loved them.

Now I’m ready to cook again.  Not because the newest issue of Gourmet Magazine was just delivered to my doorstep (because it wasn’t) and not because the bees are buzzing and I can’t wait to get my hands on some wonderfully fresh, local produce. 

It’s because my oldest was just diagnosed with Celiac Disease, and all indications are that each member of our family has some form of it…intolerant of wheat, barely, rye, and all of their dirivitives.  If you don’t know anyone with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerence, think about it and start listing all of the foods this diet restricts….loads!  Funny how the universe works, when you listen to it.  It was like something was telling me, “Take a rest; you’re gonna need your energy.”  And I did and, I will. 

I’m so glad I took the break because, now, I’m ready to dive into this new lifestyle with vigor!  I’m glad that I can go at this with an intention of abundance and creativity, not one of depletion and gloom.  I’m not sure if I could’ve done that if I didn’t take my little break.

Oh, and I’m also sooo glad that this new lifestyle utterly and completely cuts out SPAGHETTI!

Don’t get Mad, get Glad

My floors are filthy, I thought as I squeezed a 30 minute nature walk in between volunteering in the kindergarten class and lunch with a friend.  I savored the crunch, crunch beneath my feet.  I alternately forced myself from feeling suspect for not being fully work-out-attired and fist bumping myself for having the foresight to throw a pair of tennis shoes in the van so that I could squeeze in some exercise today.  My plan was a one hour yoga class after volunteering, but my little boy looked up at me and pleaded, “Please, Mommy.  Can you stay for lunch?” Of course, I hugged him, of course.  I’m glad I took time for lunch with my son today.

I scanned the forest for signs of predators, not the furry kind but the kind that might be waiting for a single woman hoofing it in a pair of jeans, obviously not fit enough to dash away in safety, sticking our amongst the occasional gortex-clad mountain bikers that faired the same path.  Yet, I forced my mind to rest.  Sucked full breaths of musty wooded air through my nostrils and savored my increasing pulse.  I’m glad I took time to walk in the woods today.

And back to the van.  The wheel wells are filthy.  And so is the interior. Have I ever waxed this thing?  If only I could park it in the garage. Ugg, the garage….  And my mind wandered through the garage, past the muddy, mudroom, up the back steps to the office, strewn with…  I really shouldn’t be meeting my friend for lunch.  I should cancel.  I need to get caught up.

But, she’s leaving for Turkey tomorrow.  Peeling off my sweat socks and donning my leopard flats, I fist bump myself again for my foresight.  I doff my North Face and toss it on my dirty van floor, tuck my blouse into my gold belt at my hips, release my pony tail, and put on my buggy expensive-looking shades.  I am superman.  My van, my modern-day phone booth.  A quick stop for $3.29/gallon gas, armed with a $10 coupon for hibachi and I’m on my way.

“I read your blog,” my friend said, peeling the paper off her chopsticks.  “I love the post about sharing and bartering.”  And she began talking about how she and her husband were planning on getting pregnant after their marriage this summer in Turkey (he’s a Turk) and how the information I shared helped her open her mind up to perhaps renovating a portion of their home to accommodate international (not foreign, as I’ve been told that Ted Turned has new employees sign a contract vowing never to use that word)  exchange students.  She, herself, speaks three languages, works at a university international exchange program.  And we both started jabbering about how that could come to be, all the while I was thinking, wow.  I actually inspired someone.  It felt good.  I’m glad I took time to blog, that day.

She generously turned the conversation to me, what was I doing?  She noticed the new signature on my email that contained my new business’ name.  So, I smiled and explained and found myself getting really passionate about my future plans and how I wanted my new business to morph into a social entrepreneurship, and how I wanted it to be flexible because compartmentalizing our roles in life is becoming archaic, how I wanted giving to the community and my family time and my creative talents to be part of a whole instead of trying to niche time in the day to dedicate to each one individually, and how this new business could achieve all of those things, and…whew!  “That’s so great!”  she said.  “Some people have a vision without the skills to make it happen.  Some people have the skills but no vision.  You have both,”  she said.  “I think this is the right thing for you.”  I’m glad I took time to have lunch with my friend today.

And I was just glad.  The whole day through.  And I’m sure that someday I will be glad that I popped myself on the couch with my laptop and business plan template before the bus pulled up to the corner.  I’ll be glad that I schlepped my oldest off to music lessons, that I put dinner in the crockpot that morning, that I helped the boys with their homework and made them pick up their rooms before bed.  I’ll be glad for sharing a good belly laugh with my hubby over Jimmy Falon’s impression of Charlie Sheen but, also glad that I sobered myself and reminded my husband that Mr. Sheen is a man and someone’s father and someone’s son and could be ours or anybody’s too.

I’m glad I took the time to be glad in my day.  Fist bump.

To Market, To Market to Buy a Fat Pig
October 26, 2010, 4:18 pm
Filed under: authenticity, budget, parenting, suburban, suburbanite, voluntary simplicity


One stop shopping is a thing of my past.  In my effort to be more conscious of the food my family and I eats, I have found my grocery habits taking on a new rhythm.

I drive across the river to Whole Foods for grass fed, no antibiotic meats.  Plan a morning to haul to Aldi for discount snacks and cereals.  My produce is delivered to my friend’s door through our CSA.  And I’ll zip once or twice a week to Publix to round out my meals.

Got to thinking, isn’t this (kinda) how people used to shop?  The butcher for your meat, the bakery for your bread, the produce stand, and the general store for the odds and ends.  Only now, it’s incorportated.  The “markets” are owned by giants such as Whole Foods, etc, who take a specific bent on consumer habits and pair convenience and the market research they perform to bring the highest quality items to you at a hefty price.

To boot, you have to drive over a map of several miles, stoplights, and Starbucks drive-throughs to make your purchases thus wasting gas, time, and your nerves.

To market, to market, as the nursery rhyme goes but America’s market looks nothing like the European markets of today or the American markets of yesteryear.  Are we heading in the right direction or are corporations simply giving us what we think we want without really changing a thing?

Doesn’t Whole Foods really wish I’d buy all of my groceries there, as opposed to what I can afford for meat that week? Doesn’t Publix stock some grassfed products now?  I’m making changes in my diet to bring me closer to the earth, to understand where my food comes from, to honor the food in front of me, yet, coorporations are so smart, they keep me satiated and keep me coming back to them.  I suppose it will end up like it did when I made and purchased organic baby food.  Eleven years ago, the only place you could find it was at a Whole Foods all the way in town, a forty minute drive away.  And I drove it…until the neighborhood Kroger near me started to carry it.

Perhaps my dreams of peddling to market in a cute little bike adorned with wicker baskets and a bunch of lavendar and sunflowers will be wiped out by my need for convenience and an unwillingness to truly change.  Good or bad?

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