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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Inspiring a Love of Nature

There are so many people who love nature who are working to preserve it.  So many people....but don't we all love nature?  After all, we are part of nature ourselves.  So this is a job for all of us!

This spring we are planning a butterfly garden at our elementary school.  As part of an artist in residency program, we will be able to work with a muralist who will help the children create an educational mural that reflects what they see in the garden.  It will be a way to draw them outside more often and a way for them to learn to love what they find there.

In today's technological world, this is becoming more important than ever.  There is so much to be gained from nature.  The impact of instilling a love of nature in a child is priceless.  Children sharing this inspiration with parents and grandparents and whole communities is even better.

In life, there often seem to be two sides at odds with each other, whether it be in government, religion or when the environment is at stake.  We are often at odds without knowing how close we all are to the same thing...how we are all the same inside.  Let's all come together.....perhaps in the garden!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!!!

I finally started our new blog, http://ourpieceofpeace.blogspot.com/

Wishing you all a happy and peaceful holiday with your family, loved ones and friends!!!

I started a new job in June and with a 1st grader, 4th grader and 8th grader in the house, it has been a little bit of an adjustment but at least I can say that I work with a lot of wonderful people who make the effort worthwhile!

I'm finally ok to realize that my favorite and most important job will always be the job of being a mommy!

The weather is far from a summer day here today, but for some reason this poem is in my head:

The Summer Day

Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?


Tell me...
what do you plan to do?
 I'm heading out to be with family for a few days of this wild and precious life...and wishing that more days could be spent in the presence of those dearest to me.  And that all of us had people in our lives who longed to be close to us.  Don't we all deserve that?

Happy Thanksgiving!  Peace!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

In Good Health

Hard to believe it has been almost 3 months since my last post!  I hope everyone out there is well and am sending my best wishes to you all!

Trying to be my best, truest self has required a lot of internalization and going inside of myself and time to try to figure out.  Today's life is so full...full of good and full of bad.  So many distractions.  So many things to pull us in so many different directions.  Being quiet is a good way to shut that off and get to the heart of what you are really here for.  I'm still not there, but I'm trying.  I have found that pulling away from electronics has helped clear my mind about what is important in my life.  I also find that I miss the connections that are possible with electronic communication, so it is a balance I will continue to try to strike.

One big lesson that has hit me this month has been how grateful I am to have my health.  My whole family has been through some bouts of the flu and feeling at the opposite end of healthy.  When I think about people living with chronic conditions that they face day in and day out, it gives me great appreciation for the health that I have enjoyed in my life.

Gratitude has a way of helping me live in the moment and focus on the things that are important and meaningful to me.

There's a big part of blogging and the whole electronic communication scene that makes me a little uncomfortable and that is the idea of 'followers'.  I love every single one of you, but in my mind, you are 'sharers', 'fellow companions on the journey', 'seekers'....I don't know...anything but what the idea of 'follower' usually conjures up in my head since most of this stuff I babble about is more about me trying to grow and leave a legacy for my children rather than be 'followed'.  But whatever you are called, I'm very grateful that you are here in this space we share!

I hope to post more this year.  I hope to find my focus.  I hope to share positivity and light and gratitude more often than darkness.

My middle son loves to dance.  (Don't we all, really, somewhere inside of ourselves love to dance?)  This month he started back at the place that really grew his love of dance, The Dance Lab, in Moorestown, NJ with an absolutely beautiful teacher, Candace Carriger.  http://www.thedancelab.com/

Being there brings joy to my soul.  It is one of those moments in life when you know you are right where you are supposed to be and the time passes leaving you filled up and wanting for more.

I hope you are finding some of these moments in the start of this year and enjoying a piece of peace in your life.

Which brings me to a new blog I'm going to be starting with my family this year as part of our journey as Peace Seekers and members of The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation's Peace Club (http://www.mattieonline.com):  http://ourpieceofpeace.blogspot.com - A place for my family to chronicle our journey with peace.  Of all of the things that are much-needed in our world, peace speaks to me as being at the heart of so many and being the solution to so much. 

Peace!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

It's The Little Things

Today I took the time to visit my parents.  It's something I don't always take the time to do, but today I needed to.  Their house was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy and they had to evacuate.  Their cars flooded.  Their house flooded and the roof was ripped off like the lid of a sardine can.  I just needed to see them, to hug them, to be near them and know that they are alive and breathing and making it through the loss of a home they have spent a lot of the past 2 years working together to fix and make into a liveable retirement home.  I didn't really want to leave them.  I have 3 sons who need me here at home, so I had to leave.  But that little visit made my whole week and then some.  They are ok.  They are survivors.  Their smiles warmed my heart and their voices soothed my soul.  A little visit that made a big impression on my heart.

As a music lover, I was sad to see lots of sopping wet CD cases laying around and opened them to see what could be salvaged.  We dried them off and they are ok!  It was exciting to find a CD entitled 'Hope' that was completely unharmed...the only one that water didn't sop into.  It gave me some comfort to know that my parents' music would be there for them to cheer their spirits.  A little thing that can mean so very much.

My Dad's Marine uniform had gotten damaged from the floods, but the hat, which has his name stamped inside, was completely unharmed and will be well-loved by grandsons who will love pretending to be as strong and brave as their Pop Pop.  A little thing of joy.

I sat in a local restaurant next to my Mom tonight, eating a cup of the most delicious local soup and sandwich I have ever tasted.  We were ragged and probably smelled like the sea water that had flooded the house, but were welcomed with smiles and warmth and for that span of time, it felt like everything in the world was going to be ok.  The little gift of hospitality and friendship.

My family had the great honor this month of being nominated as Peace Seekers by the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation:  http://www.mattieonline.com/?page_id=8842
Mattie Stepanek had a real gift for words and for describing all of the little things that filled his life in big, meaningful ways.  You can read more about him here:  http://www.mattieonline.com/?page_id=15
A little peacemaker with an amazingly huge impact.

I think we all need to become peace seekers.  And it is not always easy, but what I have learned from Mattie is that it is a choice.  And it is a choice we can all make.  It starts with each one of us and flows through the little things we do each day, the way we interact with our friends and our families and spreads out into our world.

Do you seek peace?  What are the little things that bring joy, hope, comfort and peace to you and those you love?  Whatever they are, may they be abundant in your life!  <3 br="br">

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Being Mindful and Less Plastic-Filled

When I originally started this blog, I wanted to give it a name having to do with mindfulness.  I had finally gotten to a point where I realized that so many things in life are better when we are mindful, when we take the time to be aware. 

From Merriam-Webster, here are some synonyms and antonyms for 'mindful':
 
It certainly seems better to be mindful than the opposite, right?
 
And while I realize that we all need to get to this place in our own space and time, it doesn't leave me any less impatient about wanting to get to a world that is more sustainable, peaceful, mindful....
 
Sometimes in my corner of the world, it seems like we need a whole lot more mindfulness.  School started last week and we've gotten the usual fundraising catalogs sent home.  And a new one...if we can give the magazine company 7 slips with names and addresses of friends and family, we'll be able to take home a penguin.  For 10 slips, we get a plastic bracelet that doubles as an eraser.  And then there's the reward brochure.  If we sell 2 magazines, we get a plastic bottle filled with invisible ink...???  Is this for real?!?  For 4 magazines, we get a flying plastic UFO with lights that will, no doubt, be broken within the first week of flying.  8 magazines earns you plastic light-up flashing shutter shades.  I'll spare you the rest....
 
 I can't tell you the flurry of activity over the penguins and bracelets.  Do we really believe that all this cheap plastic junk is going to make us happier in some way?  How can we still be so 'oblivious'?

Three years ago, I asked our principal if I could start a TerraCycle program at our school.  I could write volumes of blog entries on this one program alone (I'll try to get there)...it has had its share of ups and downs, but in the end, I wouldn't trade it for the world.  It has been so educational.  It is changing minds and changing lives, albeit more slowly than I'd like, but I still think it's a positive step...a starting point...something to make people think about what they are consuming and what they are throwing away.  I've had students ask me, when we were collecting cups for recycling at an event, why aren't we collecting the plasticware, too?  Good question, leading to an even better question...why don't we replace disposables with reusables?
 
There are lots of different opinions about TerraCycle, as there are about recycling, but one thing I have found is that it is a company full of very caring people, many of whom I've had the pleasure to meet or talk with, and they have a CEO, Tom Szaky, who is much more accessible than many CEOs....I have written to him on at least 3 occasions and gotten a personal, meaningful, timely response each time.  They know, as well as we do, that this isn't the ultimate, sustainable answer, but it is a step in the right direction until we get there.

Last year, we kept over 50,000 juice pouches out of the landfills along with tens of thousands of other plastic packaging that is not typically recycled.  Again, the dual-edged sword...am I happy that we saved the pouches from the landfill?  Yes!  Would I rather we not have juice pouches in the first place?  YES!!!  So even though I love our program, I hope we save less juice pouches this year and have more students using reusable bottles.

And I also hope we soon realize that plastic penguins and UFO's don't make our world a better place.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Thinking About Looking Good

I live in a 'Community Association'.  There's a part of me that really likes the 'community' part of that.  There are a lot of kids here and that means my kids are always close by in the company of their friends.  We moved here 6 years ago and chose this neighborhood as a safe place for our children to grow and play.  I'm realizing that is one of the few things I like about being part of this 'association'.

Today I got a letter in the mail, on formal letterhead, from our community association.  It tells me that living in a community association requires all owners to follow the governing documents, including rules and regulations.  To "help us maintain the look and feel of the community, maintain community pride, and importantly, help us promote the values of our homes and the community as a whole."  It goes on to tell me that during a recent inspection, my house has violated the governing documents by having excessive weeds in the cracks of our driveway and the cracks of the curb line at our house.





Maybe you are shocked by my weeds.  Maybe you, like me, are scratching your head a little and wondering whether this letter was an efficient use of resources and really necessary.  Which brings me to the thing I dislike the most about living in this 'community association'.  Just about everything is set up, like much of our culture and society, based on appearances only.  As long as we "look good", we are all happy.  I can only imagine the amount of money my neighbors spend on keeping up these appearances, judging solely by the number of landscaping trucks in our neighborhood on a weekly basis.  Huge trucks block half the street to unload tractors that can barely squeeze through the gates to manage lawns that are less than 1/4 of an acre.  The barrel trucks roll in to eradicate every weed and insect in sight.  The trimmers make sure everything is perfectly even, not a blade of grass out of place.  Even though we have had no rain for weeks and most of our ground is dry as a bone, there are still plenty of houses here whose grass springs an eternal green thanks to constant watering and spraying.

I guess this issue really cuts to my core because it is something I've always thought about and internalized.  When I let my hair grow its natural gray and brown, I get people telling me in the preschool line that I'm much too young to be gray and there are plenty of products that could help me with this 'problem'.  I even let it get to me enough, in a 'turning 40' moment that I dyed my hair, to be met with resounding applause and appreciation from everyone around me...but it didn't make a bit of a difference to me...so it's going back to gray.  Can't wait to hear the comments rolling in at Kindergarten pick-up.

Back to the neighborhood, another place I am feeling like a fish out of water.  Me, with my Neuton battery-powered mower that I bought after much consideration about why I needed that over a human-powered model, humming along, waiting to be eaten for lunch by the gas-guzzling giants around me.  I've sat inside my house choking on the fumes of my neighbor's gas-powered leaf blower for 1/2 hour at a time and that is a weekly pre-mowing ritual, followed by an hour of mowing, followed by another 1/2 hour of leaf blowing (or grass blowing?).  Then the trimming starts.  And I have never once complained about this 'excessive gassing'.  There are no rules or regulations against over-maintenance.  Those are left for us greenies who are just out to destroy the neighborhood by our reckless non-use of pesticides and sprinklers.

Somehow it doesn't feel like much of a community to me....

But we do look good when you drive through (if you avert your gaze from the bottles and papers littering the street that nobody seems to notice or care about...but that's another story).

So I thank you, my internet community, for allowing me a space to reach out and find someplace to be myself and be appreciated.  Maybe that's why I don't post very often because there's a part of me that is afraid I will disappoint you, too, and then where will I swim?

But for now, I'm diving back in, swimming hard against the current and smiling at those of you heading my way! :)

Monday, May 21, 2012

What Really Matters

Sometimes it's difficult to get to the heart of what really matters in certain life situations.  Last week, Vermont became the first state to ban fracking, with Governor Shumlin stating, "Human beings survived for thousands and thousands of years without oil and natural gas.  We have never known humanity or life on this planet to survive without clean water."  You can read an article about this here:  http://www.treehugger.com/energy-policy/vermont-bans-fracking-can-live-without-natural-gas-cannot-without-clean-water.html
For me, that pretty much says it all.  Back to basics.  What do we really need?  What really matters?  This has been said so many different ways by so many different people and many of us are catching on.

The thing about this is that it needs to be carried out every day in big ways and small ways but each one of us.  We have to get to the heart of what matters.  We have to stand up for what we believe in every day and we have to teach our children to do the same.  And we have to let others know that we are doing this so they can learn from our examples.

I know this is not always easy.  I seem to relearn this lesson every time I give a piece of myself away to something that I don't believe in because it has become a part of life....every time one of my son comes home with a plastic bag full of tiny plastic toys that are half broken and destined to become trash within the week from yet another school party.  Speaking with the room mom was not enough, I learned, because some students sent pre-packaged 'treats' from home for birthdays and nobody is to be excluded.  When I didn't buy my sons Smencils (plastic encased pencils) at the school sale, someone kindly sent one home for them anyway because nobody should feel left out.  It was then left to me to explain that my sons are not feeling left out because they understand that their identity is not tied to a pencil.  They have plenty of them and when they need one, they know it will be provided.  When I made that speech, the looks I got were looks of pity and sadness, though, so that tells me the road is a long one.  I can't reach everyone at the time and place that I want to...I just have to keep going with what I believe in, putting the information out there, teaching by example and maybe one of these actions will reach someone and change one mind. 

The most important thing is that I keep trying to live a life of integrity.  If I can't do that, how can I expect a corporation to do it?  I'm not there yet.  I just spent one night this weekend sleeping outside in a line to buy a ticket to watch my son's dance recital.  Seriously?  It is absolutely crazy, certifiably insane!  I can't even believe I did it.  And I'm very embarrassed and sad that I did.  My son loves to dance.  Last year, he danced for a teacher who was completely in sync with my thoughts and beliefs:  his recital was completely organic...costumes sewed by hand, props painted by local students, tickets sold just to cover costs (around $5 each).  It was a beautiful, heartwarming show and gave us such good memories.  That was ballet.  This year, my son wanted to learn tap.  Our teacher didn't teach tap, so we had to seek out a new studio.  All of the studios that teach tap locally are big production type studios.  I didn't quite understand what that meant until the sleeping-out part came along.  All year, the lessons have gone smoothly, my son loves to tap, he's learned a lot...and now, we are spending money on fancy costumes and sleeping out to get an $18 ticket just to be able to watch our son dance.  And if we'd like the DVD, which will feature 2 minutes and 45 seconds of our son dancing, that will be another $40.  So for my husband and I to bring our 2 sons to watch their 7 year old brother dance for less than 3 minutes, it would cost $72 (sadly, we opted to leave his brothers at home with their grandparents for this one).  I am a big supporter of the arts, but even here, I have to think about what really matters.  Do the fancy costumes matter?  Not to me.  The big production?  Nope.  What matters is that my son gets to do something that he loves and I think there are better ways he can do this.  So next year you won't find me in the line of 300 people sleeping out to get a ticket to their child's show.  It has been a lesson learned.  Still, it gives me a lot to think about.  Why does a situation like this exist?  There were lots of people in that line who were not happy about the situation, but still told me this was not the first time they've done it and it won't be the last.  Why do we let go of what we know to be true just to go along with existing systems that are not working for most of the people involved?

If only we could learn these lessons more quickly.  For the planet, this is a necessity.  When we wake up to what really matters to us and try to live that out with each and every action, we contribute to a better world.