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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:
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:
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) 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 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 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:
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.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring of Sustainability 2012

The Shift Network is presenting a free program called 'Spring of Sustainability 2012:  Solutions for a Thriving New World.'  It starts today at 3 pm EST and continues throughout March and April.  There are lots of different presenters.  On April 10th, John and Ocean Robbins will present 'Green Lifestyles:  Eating as if the Earth Mattered'.  If you'd like to sign up, please visit
The webcasts will be available online if you can't make it to the live program.

There's also something cool happening called the '99% Spring'.  Unfortunately, I'm on Easter break at my parents' house when this is gearing up, but if you want more info., please check out:

Spring is in the air and my sons and I were so excited to see a great blue heron back at our neighborhood pond again this year.  We think it's the same one we've been spotting for the past 3 years, but I'm not sure about that...we never get close enough to be that sure and I'd have to do some research about whether or not these birds return to the same spot each year, but I guess it's possible.  What a cool-looking creature, though....The boys love to watch him/her and see what he's up to.  It also makes them want to clean up the pond, which, sadly, has filled up with litter since our last clean-up efforts.  I took some video of our pond and will work on getting them uploaded along with my next post about what I've been up to lately.

I also watched Oprah's show about transcendental meditation last night...very interesting!  Has anyone been doing this?  You can get more info. about it here:

I hope spring finds you and yours happy and healthy! :) Kate

Friday, February 10, 2012

On Shamrock Shakes, Extremism and Other Miscellaneous Ramblings

An old and dear friend posted a picture of McDonald's Shamrock Shakes on my Facebook wall and said they remind her of me.  It's true....the "old" me was a Shamrock Shake fan.  Before I became a mom, when I was a working woman, every year at Shamrock Shake time, I would organize and outing to McDonald's so we could hang out and ingest the minty green concoction with delight.  I haven't been able to bring myself to buy one for a few years, since I've been realizing the environmental impacts that my lifestyle is having.  As my mom says, "When you know better, you do better."

A lot of people in my life think I'm an extremist.  It's extreme to a lot of people to never drink a Shamrock Shake again just because you believe it's bad for the planet.  It's just one Shamrock Shake, after all.

A wonderful blogger, Ryan Elizabeth Cope, just wrote a post about an article that upset many of us 'extremists' dealing with this very thought.  You can check it out here:

It's just one Shamrock Shake, right?  I'm extreme because I won't let myself have one.  It's extreme to refuse a straw.  It's extreme to have to bring your own bag...or water bottle...or utensils.

Well, to me, it's extreme to put 3 items in a plastic bag that will be used once and tossed.  It's extreme to defend the right to consume single-use plastic every day when there are animals being killed and oceans and beaches being polluted at rates that are unfathomable.  It's extreme to not think about what impact our actions are making on the world around us, to live an unconscious life.  When you know better, you do better.

One of my sons came crying to me this week telling me that he was sensitive and that meant he had to run away when a friend of his said something that hurt his feelings because he felt like he was going to cry.  And he is sensitive and this really upsets him.  I told him that I think I know the person who passed on this sensitivity very well and I have it on good authority that sensitive people are some of the very best people on this planet because they feel things so deeply that they can often discover things that other people do not notice and make other people aware of them before they cause more harm.

Chris Jordan is a sensitive soul.  His artwork captures breathtaking scenes of beauty, agony, anguish, despair, hope.  His work for his documentary, Midway, is what first made me realize the horror of the plastic that I was tossing on a daily basis and start to change my actions.  I am so grateful to him, among many others, for his inspiration and courage in following his heart and his convictions and giving that gift to the world.

Another such inspiration is Goffinet McLaren, author of Sullie Saves the Seas, a beautiful book for young people about plastic pollution, who I had the extreme honor to meet on Facebook!.  I highly recommend this book to everyone who has a young person in their life and even those who don't - I loved reading it as an adult!  If you want to try to win a copy of the book, Beth Terry is giving one away here:

There is always fear around extremes.  We worry that our freedom will be taken away.  What will life be like without a Shamrock Shake?  I understand the fear, but we need to push past it to make new discoveries that lead to a better life.  I'm testing out some homemade shamrock shake recipes that come without the plastic cup, plastic dome lid and plastic straw.

I think we need to live a life that is in line with what we believe and who were truly are inside.  When we see the pictures of birds on Midway dying with bellies full of plastic and make the connection with what we are throwing away on a daily basis, we need to have a response.  Maybe an extreme response.  When we know better, we do better.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Importance of Education for Sustainability

I was fortunate enough to have been selected to participate in NJ Learns Keystone Year 2011, an effort by The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education.  Generously paid for by The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, this experience has greatly enhanced my ability and desire to affect change in our world.  I was motivated and inspired by all of the wonderful people who are making good things happen each day in the name of sustainability.  This group is not unlike the world in which we live:  full of diversity, ideas, challenges and ready to unite around common goals.  It is so powerful to feel what can be accomplished when we work together, using the best of our individual talents to add to the whole.

What is Education for Sustainability?  In the words of The Cloud Institute, "Education for Sustainability (EfS) is defined as a transformative learning process that equips students, teachers, and school systems with the new knowledge and ways of thinking we need to achieve economic prosperity and responsible citizenship while restoring the health of the living systems upon which our lives depend."  You can learn more about The Cloud Institute and the work they do here: .

One of my favorite parts of this experience is the access to another network of people who share my passion for sustainability.  Just as this blog has connected me to wonderful people like David who writes at .  His words always seem to inspire me to get my words out of my head and onto this page.  His most recent post is about connections and I know you will enjoy reading it!

Another connection:  Beth Terry of My Plastic-Free Life ( ) recently added me to her blog list.  Thank you, Beth, for this honor - I will try to live up to your example and inspiration (although when you hear about the plastic I am considering buying, it will not make you smile)!

A fellow NJ Learner recently mentioned the book Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein.  Have you read it?  I have not, but plan to.  You can read it here if you'd like: .  I listened to the first 15 minutes of a recording by the author here: and am intrigued.  It connects to something I've been thinking about at school lately....

We are getting ready for our Mother-Son dance.  The theme is a luau.  As always happens when we get ready for these events, we are looking for gifts.  Door prizes, game prizes, etc.  And, of course, our budget is very small.  We ask for local companies to donate gift certificates or baskets of goodies.  This is definitely an area that I struggle with as I have been asked to track down gifts for the boys.  We have karate class and gym gift certificates and now they are looking for physical  And they need to be 'cheap'.  I was pointed in the direction of plastic boomerangs which cost $3.33 each and little plastic cars.  Most of the things that have been purchased in the past are no doubt sitting in a landfill at this point, since they were cheap, plastic and easily-breakable.  I could easily buy those boomerangs, but I won't.  At a slightly higher price per item, I found these: .  Yes, they are still plastic.  It makes my conscience feel a little better to know that they are made in the U.S.A. from 100% recycled plastic grocery bags, but I know I could do better.  And the best would be to do without. 

I'm hoping to gain more insight into this problem and the solutions from the book above.  But I am constantly faced with the realization of how important Educating for Sustainability is in our lives.  As Einstein said, and The Cloud Institute has reinforced, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."  We need to think differently and act differently.  What new ways of thinking are you implementing in your life?

Friday, January 13, 2012

I Am...

I find that I don't post as often as I think about many words and thought swirling around in my mind, that I'm never sure I'll do them justice, bring them to life the way I want them to come many connections, mixed emotions, contradictions....will you understand what I'm trying to say?  This year, I am telling myself to relax a bit and just put the words out there.  I've set a goal to do this at least twice a month, hopefully more often.  It might not be pretty or poetic, but I'm happy to be here among friends, so thanks for reading!

I sat down on the morning of January 1st and watched the documentary "I Am" by Tom Shadyac.
It sums up a lot of what I've been feeling and thinking and what seems to be a rising consciousness in our world - we are all connected.  Each one of our actions has an impact on the world....what are our actions doing?  Are they protecting, preserving, sharing, caring?  It was a good way to start the year, thinking about who "I Am"......

That's how I started this blog, trying to think about the actions I was taking and see if I could inspire and be inspired by others.  Who am I?  I guess that's the universal question.  Some of us know much earlier than others.  Another connection to 'I Am'...Mattie Stepanek.  A young man who wanted to be known as "a poet, a peacemaker, and a philosopher who played."  Wise beyond his years, inspirational beyond his life here on earth.  He wrote a poem entitled "I Am/Shades of Life" and Billy Gilman recorded a song using his lyrics.  Mattie's mission was peace.  He thought a lot about what each individual's impact was in the world and knew that it meant a lot.  You can read more about him at .  I had the great honor of meeting his mom, Jeni, in September when we traveled to Maryland to visit a park built in Mattie's honor.  I took my family there because I have 3 sons who I hope will be inspired and encouraged by Mattie....One of them is named after him.  Jeni Stepanek continues to spread her son's vision of peace.  When you read the 'Pathways to Peace' publication that she has created, you will see the incredible wisdom of her son:

Who am I?  I think it takes some slowing down to ponder that question.  It seems to swirl around in my head a bit louder now that I am 3 months away from turning 40.  Age is just a number, but milestones have a way of making us slow down to think about things.  I have a son who will be a teenager in 1 1/2 years.  How can that be when it doesn't seem that long ago that I first became really aware of the fact that my actions impact another, when I was 'eating for 2' and wondering why we don't all eat as though we are eating for 2.  Not that long since, as a new mom, I moved into a new townhouse with my husband and infant son who would not sleep unless he was upright (which I later found out was due to a milk intolerance, passed on through breast milk since I was drinking lots of milk).  Because of this, he slept in his carseat, right on the ground, on the newly installed wall-to-wall carpet that 'would be perfect for a baby to crawl around on.'  The same carpet that I believe gave him asthma.  Nope, it's not scientific, just a mother's intuition....another one of my gut feelings.  After almost 40 years, I'm finally starting to trust my gut.  To continue to question who I am.  To try to make sense out of this gift we call life....

It's such a beautiful thing.

I have so many things I want to write about....some you might like and some you might not.  I welcome the agreement, the disagreement and everything in between.

Thank you for sharing my journey and stopping by to share yours, too!

“In so many ways, we are the same.
Our differences are unique treasures.
We have, we are, are mosaic of gifts,
to nurture, to offer, to accept.”
— Mattie J.T. Stepanek

I Am.....Someone who considers you a brother or a sister.
I Am.....Looking for ways to be a better person so that my positive changes have a positive impact on you.
I Am.....Not perfect.
I Am.....Grateful.
I Am.....Ready.

I Am....

Are you?