Saturday, May 31, 2008

keep it holy

It's so funny that Kim commented about Sabbath-keeping in response to my first post about lowering our consumption. I'd already started on a post about that very topic. Here it is.

I think the first really counter-cultural thing we did that started us on this path of less consumption was starting to take a Sabbath. Dyami heard a conference speaker on the subject of a day of rest, I'd read a book (imagine that) that talked about what an Orthodox Jewish Sabbath could be like, and we were both inspired.
Our rules were pretty low-key. No work (writing/studying/contracting/housework/regular work), no media (CDs, movies, TV, radio). We did decide that cooking, driving, eating out and quite a few other things were kosher on the Sabbath. Shopping was a kind of grey area.
I think of all the changes I've ever made in my life, this was one of the best. I come from a place where workaholism is a real temptation. I love being busy, multi-tasking, and being efficient. I also get kind of anxious when I don't have enough to do. Sometimes on these Sabbath afternoons, that happens.
That gave me pause. Why should resting make me anxious? What does all this business in our life really for? Is it because it's necessary? Or is it there to fill holes in our spirits?
Sabbath taking made me confront some of the big lies I'd been telling myself: I don't have control over how busy I am. I don't have time to rest. I have to do this work now, because otherwise it won't get done. Sure, we all need time to get our stuff done (Note: we started Sabbath Keeping before Lucy--it was a heck of a lot easier then. One would think God would include childcare in the Sabbath provision, but for some reason He did not).
Generally, work can wait. Housework, bill-paying, projects, take-home work, small business upkeep. It can wait. It can wait at least a day.
It's eerie--the times when we've decided not to honor the Sabbath since then, the times where we had to work, we worked and worked on Sunday, making no headway, and then on Monday morning, we've had aha! moments where the seemingly intractable problems resolved themselves. Spooky.
Bottom line: we are not in control.
So what does Sabbath keeping have to do with environmentalism?
I think it's the first step in taking stock of how broken our culture is. It's a wakeup call that we're all desperate, seeking solace in things (busy-ness, consumption) that cannot give solace. Not doing is profoundly counter-cultural, which is a great baby step for other counter-cultural things.
It's a great first step to being aware of the things you do on a daily basis. To take stop. And think.
I think thinking about this world a little bit more might help things, don't you?

be the change you want to see in the world

So a while ago, I read this book called "Serve God, Save the Planet," an environmental call-to-arms for Christians. It was written by a doctor named Matthew Sleeth, who after buying his giganto dream home with his family, decided that they were moving in the wrong direction and downsized drastically, moving to a radically smaller house, installing solar panels and the like, and cutting their consumption by a ton.
In a lot of ways, the book was great. Sadly, a lot of Christians need to be convinced of the disaster we're heading into. That's what the book tries to accomplish.
Unfortunately, it didn't talk about the main reason I wanted to read it:
How the heck did Dr. Sleeth do it? Not just change his own mind, but bring his two teenagers along for the ride? How did they all give up things that all of us have come to depend on, like driving everyplace? What was the sequence they did things in? What hurt most? What was the hardest shift? How much of a pain was solar paneling?
I was very, very disappointed that he didn't share any of those things.

Dyami and I have been doing some down-shifting of our own over the last year, some of it successful, and some of it--not so. But it occurs to me that it might be helpful toshare some of it here. I can be kind of a know-it-all sometimes, and a little holier-than-thou, so I kind of hesitated to share this stuff. In my family, when we get excited about subjects, we go whole-hog and kind of scare people. This happens to me a lot. But at the same time, I'm convinced that we all need to make these kinds of changes, and they are hard changes to make. Many of them (like carpooling, say, or buying fewer gifts for each other) require us to involve other people. So if I hid the bit of light I'm trying to create under a bushel, what good does that do anyone?
So here are my stabs at trying to go green. Many of them are drops in the bucket (the real biggies, like driving less and using solar power, we have not really attempted to do much of), but they're something. And you know what, they are changing my mindset, which is kind of the big first step, no?
I'm going to put them in rough order, and blog about them over the next week or two. I invite you, dear reader, to submit, in comment form, other ideas you've had, or great changes you've made. Give us more ideas!

Friday, May 30, 2008

TV Gold

What ever happened to the adventure drama?
I grew up on them. You know, A-Team, AirHawk, MacGyver, and--
Knight Rider.
Ohhh, Knight Rider. You rock my world.
What ever happened to that loner (or group of loners) who takes on the Bad Guys who are harassing helpless people/Beautiful Woman and also drive cool Vehicles? Possibly that talk?
Yeah, I knew you couldn't think of any current examples.
Those TV execs. They don't have any sense whatsoever. I mean, I really dig those "macho man rescues hapless female" story lines, the shiny black camaro/van with red stripe/helicopter/whatever MacGyver drove, and the ridiculous NGO supporting the one man army (FLAG, the Foundation for Law and Government from Knight Rider). The leather jackets or low-rider jeans and the aviator glasses! Mr. T's chains!
Also the ridiculous story lines: KITT meets his match in a super-charged 18 wheeler! KITT meets his match in a pit of toxic ooze! KITT meets his match in the form of his sort of twin brother, KARR, who has been programmed to save himself, rather than save human life first.* (Programmer says, whoopsie!)
Note: Can cars have twin brothers? How does the splitting of the egg work?
There's a lot of ridiculous TV on, but arguably, there's nothing this ridiculous.
Well, maybe.
I might need to go on NBC and watch some of the old episodes. Or possibly read David Hasselhoff's autobiography, Don't Hassle the Hoff.
Or I could go eat some Funyuns.

*What does it say about me that I can remember these plots but I often forget my keys/hat/wallet/sunglasses? What is wrong with my brain?

well, yeah

(Showing Lucy the New Yorker, wherein there's a drawing of a bunch of policemen testing a new weapon)
L: Man?
H: Yes, these are men. All men.
(Me, thinking): Hmmmm.

Monday, May 26, 2008


I decided to start volunteering with a local hospice organization. Hospice is a way of dealing with the end of life--rather than letting people die as they may in the institutional, techological black hole of the ICU, hospice tries to help people die with dignity, not using invasive methods, treating pain, and surrounding people with community. Sometimes that means that people die in their own homes, or it may take place in a nursing home or hospital.
I'd read about hospice, and heard about it, and after doing a home birth, the idea of a less-invasive, more personal death seemed kind of cool.
Plus, it sounded like volunteering with hospice would allow me bringing my child along to be an asset, not a liability.
Anyway, it took a while to get assigned to a person, but last week was my first time visiting her. I'll call her Maggie.
Maggie lives in a residential facility pretty close to my house. Because of her health issues, she's not really able to interact much, or say much, or really even move much. When I first saw her, with Lucy, she was eating lunch, well, being fed lunch, and her head was down. Her medium length grey hair was in her face.
I kind of wondered what I was getting myself into.
The first visit was a little awkward--a helpful person from the hospice was there with me to introduce me to Maggie, and so I kind of felt like I was Performing! To show how Comfortable I was! In front of my (sort of) Boss!
Lucy sat in my lap the whole time, her eyes as big as saucers. I'm not sure if it was the wheelchair, or Maggie's non-standard way of interacting with us, or the other resident who was wandering the garden, muttering to herself, but Lucy was a lt quieter than usual, and a little more willing than she usually is to stay in my lap.
At one point, Maggie said something, a whole sentence full of something, and I missed it entirely. Having a toddler, you'd think I would be used to only catching bits of conversations, but I was embarrassed, and said, "I'm sorry, Maggie, I couldn't hear you."
She looked away, and didn't say anything else.
Afterwards, the staff person told me that Maggie probably wouldn't remember what she had said, so I can just say something non-committal, like "That's wonderful!" or "Sweet", or "Fuhugugads", and it will be fine.
I felt awkward and dim, and wondered (again) what I'd gotten myself into.
Except for the last minute, before we left. We wheeled Maggie back inside, and I learned how to operate her wheelchair (with brakes. Note to self: remember to set the brakes on the very fragile lady's chair) and we said goodbye. That was when I realized that Maggie's head was up, she was looking at us--well, at Lucy, and she was smiling.

A few days later, I was kind of bored in the afternoon.
This is why I signed up to volunteer. I get bored sometimes, and it seems a shame. Couldn't I be useful in some way? Couldn't I get past my boredom and actually give of myself, and so, perhaps, feel better about the doldrums that come occasionally with housewifery?
Still, I hesitated.
I liked seeing Maggie smile. I like how she kept looking at Lucy, and how she tried to talk to us.
But old people's homes are weird, and people who are unable to move/talk/interact are awkward, and I was already out-of-sorts.
I got in my car, put on my Official Name Badge and parked.
As we marched to the front door, I told Lucy who we were visiting. "Maggie," I said.
"Maggie," she repeated. "Maggie, Maggie, Maggie."
We walked down the hall to Maggie's room. There was someone moaning in the hallway. "Owwww!" she yelled. "Owwww!"
I hoped it wasn't Maggie. I wondered if I should tell someone that a resident was in pain. Probably they knew? Seeing as she was yelling?
I asked a staff person where Maggie was--and he brought me to her room. As he walked in ahead of me, he said, "Oh, no!"
Not what I was hoping to hear.
I kind of stopped, hesitated, and said, "Is everything okay?"
She had rolled over in bed, and was half on the floor. The poor woman.
But he got her propped up again, and put the teddy bear she had dropped in her hand.
She saw us and smiled.
Lucy went mute and squirmed in my lap. She had remembered Maggie, but she still wasn't used to her.
I talked for a while, filling the silence. I told Maggie that Lucy was climbing on things now, and getting better at disobedience, an important skill. I mentioned the garden I had planted. I told her that Lucy liked "helping" with it--pouring water on the plants and her pants and her shoes. I told her that we liked telling Lucy that she was a rascal.
Maggie smiled. "Rascal," she said. "Rascal."
This time, I knew I understood her.
I got up and moved from the chair to the edge of her bed. I sat down.
Lucy wriggled out of my grasp. She wasn't ready to be so close. But funnily enough, I was.
I smoothed back some of Maggie's hair. It was drooping into her eyes. And I grabbed her hand. It's odd, how I don't know this woman really at all. She's (mostly) a closed book to me, and as far as I know, will continue to be. But sitting there on her bed, I knew her, and wanted her to be comfortable, and know she was loved, and that we would get to know the parts of her that we could.
"We're glad to be here," I said, glad it was true of me, hoping it would soon be true of Lucy. "We're happy to see you."
She mumbled something I couldn't understand. And then--I understood her whole sentance. "Tomorrow. I'll come to see you," she said.
"I'd like that," I said.
And meant it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


So my little garden has plants in it. And sproutlings.
I planted fennel, basil, bunching onions (the scallion kind), tomatoes, strawberries, peppers and thyme.
My basil seeds actually sprouted! I have sproutlings!
Did I mention the sproutlings?
Dyami's getting the blender ready for pesto. The plants should be ready soon, right?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Just joined facebook.
Had been resisting. May not use it very much. But was pleasantly surprised to find a few long-lost friends that might even add me as friends.
But Facebook is kind of weird.
Very weird.
For example: the self-definition. I define my Political Views! My Religion! I was trying to be ironic (I put Jesus Freak) but there are many other people who share that religion, and it looked less ironic than, well, like I actually define myself as a Jesus Freak.
Also: The running commentary of Things I have Just Done. I.E., "Heather has just updated her profile." "Heather has just started using FaceBook, after avoiding it for years!" "Heather is Married!" "Heather just picked her nose." Well, not that last one. I haven't set up the webcam yet.
Also: the whole friends thing. That's the other part of the running commentary. My bro-in-law and two friends have added me already (thanks, guys). But when I add them, it says, "Heather and ____ have become friends!" Which kind of ignores the fact that each of the three people have been friends with me for years. More than a decade, in one case.
Anyway, look me up if you're all facebooky, yourself. I don't actually really need another time suck (besides this one) but Oh Well!
Heather just finished Blogging! Heather is going to go get ice cream! Heather is going to go to bed on time, in a few hours!
Heather is shutting up now!

Monday, May 19, 2008

act locally

We found treasure in the bushes by our house.
I glanced at the leaves while with Lucy on our daily walk, and saw a flash of gold.
With black spots on it.
A ladybug! A golden (yellow/orange) ladybug!
Didn't know they came in colors other than yellow, but I pointed it out to Lucy, let it crawl on my hand for a little while, then placed it back on its leaf and went on for the rest of the walk.
When we came back that way on our way home, L kept pointing to the bushes, so I went to the place I thought we'd left it and--
I found it again! I was so proud of my tracking skills!
Until we found it again and again and again.
Turns out there are a lot of ladybugs in the bushes.
So, every day after, we've walked past, admired the ladybugs, invited a few for a sojourn on our hands, and placed them carefully back on their bushes. Lucy loves it, though she keeps calling them "ants".
But. Two days ago, when we walked by, we heard a huge buzzing noise and saw a pile of fresh bush clippings on the sidewalk.
Trimming time.
My first thought: Oh no! The ladybugs are going to all fly away! Their ecosystem is in peril!
My second thought: Insects definitely outnumber us on this earth. And a suburban eucalpytus bush next to an apartment complex doesn't really count as an ecosystem. Does it?
Anyway, I told myself that surely the ladybugs would still be there. Not to fret.
Except--I was wrong. Their number is greatly diminished.
Not sure if the weed whacker scared them away, or if they got stuffed into trash bags or what, but there are definitely less then there were.
It made me sort of sad. I know that the HOA's around here have to make sure the sidewalks are passable, but the ladybugs! Their ecosystem!
It also made me think about why there is so much environmental degredation going on around in our world. Seriously.
I only noticed these bugs because I'm going at a toddler's pace, and because I happen to know this one bug's name, and what they're like (harmless to humans, bad for aphids).
But I feel embarrassed every morning when we walk and we see plants or bushes or birds and I say, "Look! A...bird! It's got...feathers! Brownish ones! And a plant! Of Some Kind!" Then I see a pigeon, and I shout, with some releif, "A pigeon! In its natural ecosystem!" I love birdwatching!

Growing up in Tucson, I felt like I knew the plants, knew the lay of the land, because I spent time in the desert, in the washes, and we learned about it in school. I got no such training when we moved to CA. I think it's a loss.
I like reading Wendell Berry (sometimes--sometimes he's too curmudgeonly) and one of the things I admire about him is that he is committed to his community, and the land that hosts his community. He knows where he's from. He knows how to make land productive. He knows when it changes and why. He's a farmer. He notices the changes in his town, in the small towns around him, because he's lived there for a long time.
Whereas me, I feel like an old-timer in our neighborhood because we've been here a stunning six years. Or an old-timer in our city because I've lived here almost 20 years. Whoopee!
How can any of us really see changes, see disintegration if we don't really know our land, the animals that coexist close to us, or even the people around us? If we're so cut off from nature that seeing a ladybug in a bush is surprising?

I did something either fabulous or foolhardy this weekend: I planted a garden. It is three feet by three feet, and I have planted three different crops thus far (Crops! I planted crops!). Onions, fennel, and basil. I also plan on peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, and maybe garlic and thyme and potatoes.
I'm hoping something comes up, that I get some kind of vegetables. Part of me just wants to have some idea how nature works. What kind of system it is. Like going out and watering my little patch of earth is a way of extending a hand and saying, "Hi! My name is Heather and I'm sorry I have killed so many plants in previous gardening attempts, but I read a book! Wait, don't laugh! I want to get to know you! I have good intentions of keeping these plants watered! Alive, I don't promise, but watered!"
I guess the garden is hopefully some way of paying more attention, and maybe noticing a little bit more. And helping Lucy to notice. And also figure out where things like tomatoes come from.
And maybe some of those ladybugs will hop the fence and come visit, sometime.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The invite

reads "Attire: cocktail."
Do flip-flops count for "cocktail"? They've got rhinestones on them.
Cool, cause I'm wearing them.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

on again, off again.

My internet connection is acting like an emotionally unavailable boyfriend.
He's connected! We're working on our communication! I'm getting on a roll, telling him things, and he's relaying them, and then, out of the blue--
He doesn't take my emails, ignores my calls. Just disappears.
I do some work on the relationship, reset our connection, and he decides to reciprocate.
For about fifteen minutes.
I'm starting to doubt us. If he really cared, wouldn't he listen to my cries for help? Wouldn't he answer me? Wouldn't we be able to dance wirelessly around the house?
If he doesn't shape up soon, I'm ending things. Except--
Except I need him.
I really need him.
I looooooove him.
I don't even know how to use a real dictionary anymore. Or look outside for the weather.
Or blog.
I think I can change him. Buy him some things, sweet talk him, plug the router into a more desirable location?
In the meantime, I'm going to go eat some Ben and Jerry's and watch TV to drown my connectivity issues.

Friday, May 9, 2008


So Dyami's last day at his job was this Wednesday.
So far that has given us two days of self-employment.
It's weird, I would have thought I'd be super stressed out or worried or anxious about him quitting. With the exception of the health-care issues, though, I'm pretty chill.
Who am I, and what have I done with Heather?

I think part of the calm comes from having a source of income. Dyami's software business is doing well. Not enough-to-pay-all-our-bills well, but pretty-darn-good-for-a-new-business-and-slowing-our-burn-rate well.
Also, I'm so much more spiritual now than I was in the past.

I think the time at my parent's also helped. We have a fallback plan! Hah! No, more that, "worst-case scenarios" don't seem so scary anymore. We have been able to depend on family in the past and it was a blessing. So taking some risks doensn't seem so scary. When D and I watched "The Pursuit of Happyness" together, we couldn't watch it all in one night, so we stopped in the middle, just when Will Smith's character is becoming homeless. I couldn't sleep that night, worrying about us becoming homeless. Doesn't that make sense? But I've realized how far away from the margin we have been living, and how many blessings we have in the people that surround us. It helps me not to be as scared.
Also, I am trying to live more simply, and it seems like doing more with less money is going to help with that. There's no better discipline than necessity, right?
I should also mention that spirituality again. Really, I'm praying right now.

So there you go. Dyami's self-employed, I'm self-aware, and we're eating a lot of beans.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

hidden camera

We have trouble with our camera.
No, it works fine, takes great pictures, and is small, easy-to-use, and, well, digital.
The trouble is, we can never find it.
Not just the lost-track-of-it-for-five-minutes kind of lost. No, this is:
  • Our camera getting stolen, so we buy a new one, until we find the old one in our suitcase, (because, of course, the theives brought it back).
  • Then, finding the camera, and having it for about a month, then losing it again in the cabinet where we usually store it, where I look for it at least fifteen times over the course of four months and don't see it even thought it's a very small cabinet.
  • Then finding it again, taking it out of the house for the very first time to take pictures, and leaving it at our friends' house. Where we forget we left it, and thus spend another week thinking we lost it.
I'm starting to think we shouldn't bother taking pictures, or having a camera, or really trying to save anything for posterity. It's been about six months since we've taken any pictures, and I'm completely out of practice.
Just for fun, the other day Dyami tried to take a video of Lucy playing with the cat, using the DVR he also uses for his software business (mostly he "animates" things like Tylenol bottles and his eyebrows). First time we've tried to record her, um, ever, and...
The tape was full.

Monday, May 5, 2008


Can I vent?
Now that Dyami's "retiring" from his job for the short term, we thought it might be good to purchase some health insurance to cover catastrophic events and/or planned or unplanned pregnancies. We've done this before--the last time Dyami got bored at work and decided to strike out into the great unknown of semi-unpaid work. Last time, we bought the high-deductable plan that's crappy but better than no insurance at all. So it was kind of nice, this time, to know what I was doing. No need to reinvent the wheel, right? I just signed up for the same plan we had before, and waited for the company (Blue Shield) to take our money.

Except it turns out they don't want our money.
Why? you might ask.
Well, because I actually used the health insurance we're currently paying for.

When we got company-provided insurance a few years ago (oh, happy day!) we shelled out a bit of extra cash to get some chiropractic coverage. Both of us like our chiropractor, we have a few aches and pains, and it's nice to be able to get them taken care of when they occur, rather than letting the kinks decide they're permanent.
So that was our big mistake: actually using the chiropractor.

After Lucy was born, I had some aches and pains. Ligaments were all stretched out, my old dance aches were irritated, and I slept wrong and got a crick in my neck.
Nothing too catastrophic.
And man, was I glad I had decent coverage! Cause then I could get it taken care of!
Except apparently that was a bad idea! Because it was on the basis of those complaints that Blue Shield decided I was in poor health and a bad risk.
Hmmm. I eat well, don't smoke, don't drink too much, exercise regularly, and have never broken a bone, been hospitalized, or had a major illness. Not only that, but I gave birth to Lucy at home, without anaesthesia.
If I can't get health insurance, who can?

We're working with our chiropractor to contest the denied coverage; I'm hopeful that the result will be good. After all, wouldn't they desire to profit off of our fabulous health?

But it just pisses me off that this is our health care system. That I will now be afraid to go to the doctor or use the coverage I pay for because it might prevent me from getting coverage later. That someone with an entrepreneurial spirit might think twice from starting a business because they can't afford or receive health insurance. That we are forced to fight to pay someone to provide us with bottom-of-the-barrel, only-prevent-bankruptcy coverage. That all this could be avoided if we all ponied up more taxes (probably less than what a lot of people pay for insurance and health-related expenses) and actually supported a health care system that made sense, pooling all of the people in our country of good and bad health.

If this makes you mad, too, here's an organization that's trying to do something about it. Healthcare reform is just one of their platforms, but it's an important one. I'd like to be optimistic our next president will solve everything, but I'm not. Unless we all put more pressure on them. And ditto with California's legislature. How do they know what it's like? The state already provides their insurance.
So I invite you to join me in supporting Moms Rising. Because in this economic climate, it could be you that gets laid off next. And you who is unable to find coverage for you or your loved ones. If you have had problems getting coverage for your kids, share your story here to help our lawmakers understand this crisis.
And pray that Blue Shield decides to take our money.

What's Happening Now!

a) We moved back in!
b) Many things still need finishing (tile! mirror! finding things that were misplaced! Three-foot-high weeds! Kitty neediness!)
c) Dyami quit his job!
d) We applied for health insurance!
e) We were denied for health insurance! (this merits its own post: soon to follow)
f) Moved Lucy into her own room! She's sleeping in her own room, people. Ie, without us. Why aren't you gasping?
g) L using potty on own, asking to go! (Yeah, I know, since we did EC in theory this shouldn't be exciting, but well, it is).
h) Weaning progressing so well I thought we might actually be done nursing a few days ago (we weren't, kind of glad I have a few more times to savor it before we move past this phase).
i) Am I missing something?
h) Oh, yeah. Lucy got her first mole today. Saw it on her arm while she was (um) nursing. It's like watching the stars come out at night.
So that's why I haven't posted for a while. It's been a bit, well, um, new around here.

Friday, May 2, 2008

great idea, but...

So I was all proud of my plan.
Our town has lousy public transportation, like the rest of SoCal, but I did find that there's this call-for-a-ride service that serves the area we live in. So you call the service ahead of time (the night ahead, or a few hours ahead), specify where you want to travel (from some pre-defined stops) and an approximate pickup time. Then they come get you and deliver you to your destination. They picked us up from the front door of our house and delivered us two blocks from the library. Then they picked up from the same location every hour.
Cool, huh? It's the same price as a bus ticket, and it's good for the whole day. I could go to the library, to Target, to a different library, and to the thrift store, all without using my car. Well, in theory. The schlepping of Target items and the baby probably won't work. But some books? I can do that.
So here was my plan, once we moved back to our house: try to use the service to go to the library/thrift, which are a few blocks away in our town's downtown. I go about once a week. Less driving, more public transportation.
Everyone wins!!!

Except when I got on the bus for my first ride, I see a notice posted that they're considering discontinuing the service in August. Completely. Along with many other routes and holiday/weekend service.
Come on, Transit District! I just got my act together to use the system! (Actually, the thing holding me up was the fact that our downtown library was just finished and I wasn't living within the service area for the past few months. Making the service not so usable.)
And the very first time I try it, it's going to be cancelled?

The thing is, this service seems to make so much sense for our area. Some kids got picked up from our local high school and delivered home when I was riding. How much sense does that make? (You'd think there were be school buses, but you'd be wrong.) Some older folks, that might not be driving. It's flexible, it can operate in a way where people might actually use it here, and it doesn't require a bunch of infrastructure.
It's kind of like public transit, with training wheels.
Consider: the closest bus stop to my house is a mile away. The do-gooder in me would love to use public transportation, but I ain't schlepping my baby a mile away and back for the privilege.
I think I'm going to send a comment to the Transit District. I mean, come on, people? Haven't you heard that all the cool people are going environmental? WOuldn't we want to catch the wave and do the same?