Friday, May 16, 2008

Almost ready to leave

I baked a couple of loaves of bread (whole wheat with flax, plus cheese bread....healthy and not-so-healthy-but-so-yummy!) to bring, the suitcases are getting filled, I ran some errands this morning, and I'm getting ready. Time to go pick up Tessa - Shep and I will walk to meet her, because she needs to use up some energy before that looooonnnnng car ride.

Which reminds me - better load up on CDs and books on CD....

And I'm off. Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Early summer

Today, Tessa's preschool class went to see "Busytown" at the Seattle Children's Theatre. Katie drove (thanks, Katie!) so that the four of us (two girls, two moms) could carpool, and the girls really enjoyed the performance.

For me, the best part came after the performance. We'd packed picnic lunches, and we sat on a blanket and just soaked up the sun and the fun atmosphere. It's the Children's Festival at the Seattle Center, and they had a hula-hoop demonstration going on, and also dozens of hula-hoops for kids to try, complete with lessons. Tessa and Jessie both started to get the hang of it, and as we sat in the sunshine, there wasn't anything better.

Katie had suggested that we bring swimsuits for the girls, and it was a fabulous idea. We let them run in and out of the fountain for a couple of hours, and I think that they had an amazing time. I know that it was just what I want for Tessa: a simple pleasure, a lazy afternoon. Time with good friends. Sunshine, laughter. Heaven!

Here are some pics of our day together.

Life changes

I have been making a lot of changes lately. Some are simple - I've decided to avoid buying plastic water bottles. Some are deeper - I've decided to become an active member of a church community. The changes are intentional, and deeply personal.

My breakdown in October was a real wake-up call for me. It took me a while to figure out exactly what it was about, and there are probably no completely simple answers to that question, but I think I know, anyway. I think that I was no longer living in accordance with my values, and that my whole system broke down as a result.

Living according to my values, to me, means listening to that inner voice inside me that is very firm about what I should and should not do. The inner voice doesn't lie. As a matter of fact, that inner voice is sometimes painfully honest. My voice told me that I was pretending to be someone that I was not...I was not being thoughtful in my choices in too many cases, and I'd gotten out of whack.

I decided to listen to the voice, and it told me some things I wasn't expecting. It told me:
- Get out of breast cancer land. Even volunteer work in the breast cancer field was too much. I was being defined by breast cancer, and such a definition was too limiting and narrow.
- Write more. I've been writing in my journal, and it is such a gift to find time to do so.
- Get hands on with charity work. It feels good to me.
- Actively pursue spirituality. Not a passive occassional thought about being a nice person, but a deep seeking that for me involves a lot of reading, discussion, and joining of a church community that maps to my values.
- Slow down.
- Do what I think is most important, no excuses.

Out of this, my deep desire to leave the planet a better place than I found it started to speak to me, and I realized that I was a part of the problem. Worse than that, I knew better. I knew that I wasn't helping, and that I was ignoring my inner voice. My inner voice told me that I was capable of much more than I was giving.

So, I've been trying to listen to that voice, and the most amazing thing started happening: I started to feel happy again.

I recognize that we're all in different phases of our journies. Some people might read this and think, "Well, DUH!" and wonder what took me so long to reach this point. That's okay. Some people might think, "I know just what you mean!" because they're at my side on this journey. Others might say, "I have no idea what you're talking about" because they're on a different journey all together. I suspect that all fo these things are okay, that all points in the journey are okay. It's not about better or worse, except on an individual level. My inner voice said, "You should be trying harder. You should be on a different path. You've gone astray," and at that point, I needed to change.

So, I'm looking at things large and small, and feeling passionate and excited about them. I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with adopting a new habit, and I love the intellectual challenge of trying to puzzle out the pieces. I feel very open to the process, and to what it might bring me. I may change directions many times, and I may not always know my destination, but I think if I listen to my inner voice, which is strong, I will end up okay.

I have always considered myself an environmentalist. I have a deep love of nature - I'm the type to go back woods backpacking and love it. When I was single, I did backpacking trips with girlfriends, and once I did one solo. I love sleeping in a tent. I love sitting around a small campfire, with a billion stars overhead. I love swimming in glacial melt on a hot day. But I'd lost all of this, and had replaced it with other things, like dinners out. There's nothing wrong with dinner at a nice resturant (actually, it sounds rather nice right now), but it doesn't satisfy me in the same way that dinner over a campfire satisfies me.

I hadn't totally gone off track. I hadn't become an axe murderer who beat my daughter and cursed at strangers. I am proud, mostly, of the type of mother I am, and I am proud of the quality of my friendships. I am proud for my commitment to family. Lots of things are right...but the inner voice kept insisting "more!"

My small accomplishments in becoming a more environmentally aware person are deeply personally satisfying to me. I believe that I'm helping the planet, and all of its inhabitants, by my small personal choices, even if I'm only helping a teeny, tiny amount. But it just makes me feel happy, and as I've said, being happy is pretty darned important to me.

So, if you're reading this, and wondering why I've become so crazy, this is the answer. I'm not telling you what to do (although of course I've got billions of ideas I'd love to discuss). I'm not your inner voice. I can not insist that you make the changes that I am making, and indeed I think I'd be foolish to think that those reading this must be on the same page I am.....if I'd been presented with these changes a year ago, I couldn't have done it. But right now, for me, the timing is right.

I would love to inspire others to adapt some of these changes, because I believe that they're healthy for everyone involved, and I'll continue to present my "case" as to why I believe that. But I'm not in the business of running others' lives, of telling others what to do, or in judging them for what they do.

I don't expect everyone I know to ditch all their plastic containers, to refuse disposable water bottles, to go all organic in their food, to only buy non-toxic cleaning products, to carry a sack so that paper and plastic bags become items of the past. Yes, these are my goals, but I'd be a fool to think that everyone who reads this has the same goals.

And there are so many worthy goals in the world! This is MY project. I have other goals that I could or should be working on, but I can only focus on so much. This is my focus now.

A couple of friends indicated to me recently that I'd become so hard core that they'd be embarrassed if I saw them drinking out of plastic, or that they'd be nervous to serve me food for fear it wouldn't be "right." Let me assure you, I am so far from perfection that I'm more nervous that others' will hear my stated opinions about the environment and then call me a hypocrite for not doign all that I can. I'm judging my own choices, NOT others' choices. I promise.

And how could I judge others, when I am struggling so much with this stuff, even when I'm giving it my all?

I still drive my car short distances sometimes. Often, actually. Tessa takes so long to walk, ro the weather is poor, or we're running late....I'm filled with excuses.

Organic is EXPENSIVE. If money were no object, I'd eat 100% organic. But it's expensive, and I make choices. I'm not always thrilled with those choices.

I'm not sure what to do about plastic water bottles while on trips. We'll start our trip to Spokane with our Klean Kanteen's all filled and fresh....but what happens when we're in Moses Lake and thirsty? I don't think I'm comfortable filling my bottle from a gas station restroom (yuck). So how do we get water?! I'm not going to dehydrate myself out of purist motives.

The garden is a lovely idea, but I fear that when we add up the money it's going to be twice as expensive than organic produce straight from the store.

I want to buy local. Local coffee, chocolate, bananas, mangos, tea, and sugar don't exist. I keep buying them.

Tonight Ryan was out for the evening, and I wasn't sure what to make for dinner. I found a Trader Joe's Cashew Chicken with Veggies & Rice dish in my freezer (which we intended to eat after my last surgery, not knowing how many people would bring us meals). Each component was in a different plastic bag (sauce, rice, chicken & veggies, cashews) within a bigger plastic bag. Talk about processed, even though it had "healthy" food in it. I cooked it up for Tessa and I. And I'd probably do it again, despite the plastic and packaging. (Much cheaper than ordering out, and healthier.)

I'm not meeting my goal of one vegetarian dinner per week.

Now, I'm not beating myself up about these things. I am SO PROUD of the hard work I've done to advance my environmental goals. I've done lots of things that are becoming habits, and I'm thrilled about that. I will continue to offer advice and ideas to anyone who is interested (and if you visit the blog, I hate to tell you, but I consider you "interested" even if you're not!).

I do recognize that I am working on my stuff, and you (whoever you are) are working on your stuff. I'm not better than you. I'm not more advanced than you. You are you, and I am me, and it's all okay. I'm learning, and processing, and sharing what is working for me and why I think it's working.

The thing about having a blog is tha tI share all of this crazy stuff, with no idea (most of the time) how it's received. I find it a lot more fun to share pictures of blooming tulips or a freshly tilled garden bed than I do all the weeds in other parts of the yard...but trust me, we've got weeds. Lots of them. I hope the neighbors don't complain!

With this environmental thing, all I can say is that it's important to me, and I'm working on it. Some stuff, I think I'm getting "right." Some stuff, I'm still muddling through. Some stuff, I'm not even aware of yet. And some stuff, I just might be off base. So, we'll see. It's all a journey.

Signing off!

PS In the "failed experiment" list: "healthy" deodorant. I've tried Tom's of Maine and Alba varieties, and I think they (I!) stink. Back to my paraben filled old stuff. ;-) I am proud to be granola, but I don't want B.O. Really, I've got my limits!

PPS We are leaving tomorrow for Spokane. We're THRILLED to spend time with the Weitz cousins and family, and to share their lives for a bit. We're also really excited to see Caley graduate from Whitworth. It will be a fabulous time. We'll be gone Fri-Mon, so I'll be offline until then.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


That is the sound my body is making today, after a few more hours of gardening.

The front bed - the one with tulips - had become really neglected due to all this attention to the vegetable bed. Several hours later, it's looking much better. I am, once again, startled at how much work this is.

I put in some cosmos, the squashes, and some wildflowers (which actually aren't in the front bed, they're between the rhododendron and the camelia). I also put in a few nasturciums; I have this image of serving salads with edible flowers in them (we'll see!). As I planned, we now have summer and winter squash growing right next to the rose bushes and lavendar. Crazy! But why not?

I also thatched some bare areas in the back yard, and filled in a small hole that Shep started, and put grass seed out. The ground is nice and wet, and it's supposed to be hot this weekend, so with a little luck it'll all come together. The back grass doesn't look too bad but it's pretty heavily used between dog and children (our one plus many others) so it'd be nice if it started the summer pretty strong.

But mostly I just weeded, weeded, and weeded some more in the front yard. I was horrified, but not surprised, to see how quickly wild grass has moved back in to areas I weeded a while ago....I'd completely cleaned out one area, and now it's full of nasty grass again. (Why is it so hard to get grass to grow in a lawn, but so easy to make it fill up a flower bed?)

And don't think that it hasn't occurred to me that MANY people have been doing this much gardening, and much more, for years and years and years and that this isn't exactly new. No, it's as old as agriculture itself (10,000 years if I'm not mistaken) but it's still new to me.

And new to my body. Good aches and pains, but aches and pains none-the-less!

I had intended to go to a yoga class tonight for "my" night but I think that since my body might just keel over from the additional shock, I'll head to a quiet place to write in my journal instead. Sitting sounds really, really good right now.


I'm gearing up for a busy Wednesday.

This morning, Tessa is going to have a playdate with Anna, and I'm going to rush about doing chores and taking Shep for a nice walk (even though it's still damp and cold looking outside). I need to buy a new water pitcher, because we gave up the Brita and our old, small one from Ikea broke yesterday, so I'll need to trek to Bed, Bath & Beyond or Marshall's to buy a new one. (That annoys me. I don't want to drive, I don't want to buy things, but it is what it is, and our family wants cold water to drink.)

This afternoon, we're watching Jessie, and I'm hoping that the weather is nice so that the girls can play outside and I can get some more gardening in. I need to prep the flower beds - removing weeds and dead tulip stems - for planting squash.

Tonight after family dinner I'm going to do a yoga class - ahhhh.

Nothing unusual, just another day, but I'll be busy. And on that note, Tessa needs her breakfast, so I'm off.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Food waste

A thought just occured to me.

Maybe it's so easy to waste food when you don't have to work very hard for it.

I am breaking my back and worrying and reading and learning and watching and waiting and watering my garden, and every little carrot sprout feels precious. I have never felt this way about food before - food has always been something I just get out of the grocery store. But now, food is something I'm laboring over, and it becomes more precious in the labor.

Today it poured rain....wet and miserable. It's supposed to be 80-90 this weekend. To me, that seems like an ideal combination: first, soak the soil, then let the sun come and warm things up to help things to grow. We will be in Spokane this weekend for Caley's graduation and I hope that when we come home things aren't completely toasted!

I've never worried about stuff like this before.

And on another note...
Not every inch of our yard is vegetables, fruits, or grass....we do have some borders and beds with flowers and whatnot in them. Yesterday, Tessa and I planted some columbine seeds in the back, and we planted two hanging planters (because I just couldn't bring myself to pay $20-40 for them; instead, we used potting soil, seeds, and flower starts and created two baskets from baskets purchased in previous for the front, one for the back....right now they're spindly but hopefully in a few weeks they'll be more full and lush). It actually felt weird to plant flowers - where's the food? Funny.

Speaking of flowers and food, I picked up some squash (summer and winter) seeds, and the packets said that they would grow best if we attracted bees to polinate them, and suggested planting cosmos in the same garden plot. This sounds lovely to me! I'm actually going to plant the squash in the front beds - the ones with roses and lavendar in them. During the spring, those beds are filled with tulips, but in the summer they're pretty bare, and I think it'll be cool to have the squash growing along the ground, with lavendar plants bordering them, and roses coming up from the middle. I'll throw in some cosmos, and maybe Grandma Tess's daisies will bloom....and we'll have a crazy garden. Crazy like me, I guess...pumpkins and roses. What a combination.

Public service announcement - Pets on hot days

(Picture of Shep in our front yard. The yellow rope is to keep him from running into the street ever again! The front isn't fenced, and he likes to be out there with us when we're gardening.)

City of Seattle
Gregory J. Nickels, Mayor
SUBJECT: Keeping pets safe during hot weather.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 5/13/2008 10:05:00 AM
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Christine Titus (206) 386-4293 Katherine Schubert-Knapp (206) 684-0909 Kathy Sugiyama (206) 684-0909
Seattle Animal Shelter offers tips to keep pets safe during hot weather
SEATTLE – With temperatures expected to hit 80 to 90 degrees later this week in the Seattle area, the Seattle Animal Shelter reminds pet owners to exercise good judgment and use common sense when it comes to protecting their pets from the heat.
“Every year, we receive hundreds of calls about pets locked in cars on hot days,” says Shelter Director Don Jordan. “Many pet owners are unaware that cars left in direct sunlight turn into lethal ovens, reaching fatal temperatures of 130 degrees or more within just a few minutes. Even dogs left in cars in the shade with the windows cracked on hot days, are at risk of brain damage or death. Dogs must cool themselves through panting and their systems simply can’t handle high temperatures.”
If you must travel with your pet, Jordan advises carrying water for your pet, and avoiding trips where you have to leave the pet in the car. “It’s not worth the risk,” he says.
Jordan offers the following tips for protecting pets during hot weather:
· Never leave your animal chained or penned up in direct sunlight. Provide a shady area where the animal can retreat such as a doghouse, porch or under a shady tree. And always provide cool water.
· If you leave animals indoors, open the windows, keep a fan running, provide plenty of water, and if possible, leave them in a cool location.
· Never leave dogs or cats unattended in a closed, locked car. Temperatures can exceed 130 degrees in a matter of minutes. Animals do not perspire like humans; they cool themselves through their lungs by panting. Hot air can lead to brain damage or death. Also, be aware that vinyl seats in vehicles get hot under animals’ feet and prevents them from perspiring through their paws. Remember, with the movement of the sun, a vehicle originally parked in the shade may soon be in direct sunlight.
· Avoid overexerting your animal in hot weather. Exercise is fine when taken in moderation, but obesity, old age, underlying disease and previous bouts of heat stroke can predispose an animal to the condition.
Feathered friends:
· Take caution and place the bird's cage away from direct sunlight during the intense heat of the afternoon.
· Provide water and fruits and vegetables with high moisture content.
Pet owners can be held criminally liable for committing cruelty to animals if a pet dies, or is found suffering from heat prostration. If you see an animal that may need help, or if you have questions, contact the Seattle Animal Shelter at (206) 386-PETS (7387).

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Truth and Right Relations

Today's WSUU sermon was lovely, and timely for me.

The children's story was about how to tell the truth - a child tells a lie to her mother and is punished, so she vows to tell the truth all the time. She starts to volunteer truth, some of which is not kind, and so the other children start to get angry and leave her out. As I listened, I thought, "is this the message I am meant to hear?" but the story continued. A neighbor says, "Isn't my garden perfect?" and the child hesitantly (remembering how the children reacted to her truth-telling) says, "Umm, it looks like a jungle." At first, the neighbor is upset. But the next day, the child comes by and the neighbor is working in her garden, and says, "You know, you were right, it had gotten pretty wild," and the neighbor and child happily work together to restore the garden.

The adult sermon was about right relations, and about "staying at the table" to have the difficult conversations. This, too, is about telling the truth in kind ways. But it is not about letting things smooth over, letting things that are troublesome slip by in an effort not to make waves. It is about being true to one's ideals, while leaving room to hear others' viewpoints. It is about honoring one's self, while being compassionate towards others. It is about openness.

The sermon posed the idea that when we just sit back, and remove our viewpoint from the conversation, we are being false, and ensuring that there is no depth to the relationship. The trick, it seems, is to remain true to one's own values while allowing others to remain true to their own DIFFERENT values, and to accept such differences.

The sermon also pointed out that this could lead to chaos, and usually does. Even when offered in the right spirit, with thoughtfulness and openness, stating one's differences can cause quite a reaction. The speaker (a guest reverend this week) stated that this is good, and perhaps even necessary, because through this chaos a new, deeper meaning can be found. She also acknowledged that new meaning was not always found,and that sometimes the chaos is the final result.

This is what I'm thinking about tonight. It's interesting, and comforting, and confusing (how does one know when to speak up, and in what way to speak up?) and I'm grateful for the oportunity to mull it over.

In thinking through speaking up for my own ideas, I think I need to ask myself:
- Am I being truthful AND kind?
- am I honoring myself and others by speaking up?
- am I willing to endure chaos?
- (and a subset of that one) in enduring chaos, can I stand tall and confident?
- is there a possibility for greater depth of relationship through the telling of such truths?

The trick, I see, is to be compassionate toward self and others at the same time.

I am so glad that I'm being given this information to think about. I appreciate the chance to work on the spiritual side of myself in a structured way, because without the structure I feel a little lost in wondering how to work it out and through.

Garden pictures

As I post these pictures, I'm somewhat amused by myself.

What are these pictures of, exactly? A patch of dirt, some wire and bamboo cages, a snaking hose? Tiny plants that have yet to bear anything....a big black dog and a bouncy blonde girl in the corners of some pictures. It's not much, and yet I'm so proud of it.

I really feel that in some small way our garden makes a difference.

It's certainly making a difference in how I spend my time! Ryan spent a full hour preparing the ground further for the tomatoes to go into it. He dug deep, tilled in compost, shook out weeds, and even sifted all the dirt to get the rocks out (apparently West Seattle dirt is glacial till - man do we have a zillion rocks). I spent a couple of hours weeding around the blueberries (not pictured here), planting tomatoes, basil, garlic, strawberries, and herbs. We have herbs in pots in the back yard - the oregano, parsley, cilantro, and rosemary are all going crazy; the chives look pretty good; and today I planted mint and thyme. I still want to plant basil in a pot in addition to in the ground (I have a plant in my kitchen that is ready to transplant), and I'd like tarragon and some others as well. Anyway, just snaking the soaker hose through takes time, and of course weeding all around....

I stand back and survey my work, and I feel good. Tessa is learning how food is grown, and I am learning, too. It has been so long since I got my hands dirty like this. My body is stretching, and my mind is, too. I see, at long last, why so many people find gardening to be a meditative practice. My back aches from stooping over (today I found myself crawling under our Japanese maple, by the blueberries, to get a creeping morning glory out), but my mind feels clearer from the whole process.

I believe that I am positively impacting the earth, too. We're enriching our soil with compost and vermicompost from our own scraps; we're going to be able to eat as locally as it gets if this stuff ever really grows into food. I say "if" because even though that is certainly the goal, I still have a hard time imagining such success. We're reducing our carbon footprints by growing our own food, even though the percentage is so small. Every bit helps, I think.

Our family is spending time together in this way. We tie Shep up so that he can walk all over the yard but not get into the street (it's been over a year since his accident but we will never forget how awful it was); Tessa dances around and picks dandelions for my "Mama vase," Ryan and I work, and chat. It has to be good. It feels good.

The universe hasn't shifted because I'm trying to grow food, but something has changed for me. I certainly couldn't have imagined myself doing this five years ago, or even two years ago. I've never successfully gardened before, and I think (hope!) that my lack of success in the past had more to do with inattentiveness, lack of understanding, and low priorities than anything else. Now I'm attentive, willing to read and learn, and promising not to forget to water. (Today was the first time we really watered, as in working the soil I saw that things were drying out. We've had rain, but nothing substantial.)

Garden updates

From this (a close up shot of the "lawn" on the other side of the garden....yes, those are dandelions.....yes, they drive me crazy):

We have created this:

Our little vegetable garden is in the ground, and I'm so happy with the small progress we've had already. Today Ryan and I did a couple more hours worth of work, weeding and planting, and at last the rows are all in.

Starting at the house, and moving forward to the street, we have:

- early cabbage (from starts, it's doubled in size)

- leeks (no noticeable difference from when I planted the starts; maybe they're working on roots?)

- rainbow Swiss chard (double in size since I planted starts)

- mixed lettuces (doubled in size since I planted starts

- two kinds of carrots (tiny little green bits poking through the soil now, all in a row)

- two kinds of onions (looks like they're thriving; they haven't been in the ground long and they're noticeably bigger)

- two kinds of sugar snap peas (these are the winners so far - the starts are at least double in size, and the seeds are poking their strong green heads out of the soil)

- radishes (just the first inkling of green coming up now)

- beets (nothing yet...but the seeds are in)

- basil (three plants in the ground as of today)

- garlic (I broke up a head and planted the cloves today)

- four kinds of tomatoes (planted starts today)

- six kinds of strawberries totalling 25-30 plants (many of which are bearing fruit already - it's green, but looks promising)

....and there are spots for the starts that are growing in the basement now, including two more kinds of tomatoes and one kind of sweet pepper. They're just not quite big enough to transplant so they'll grow indoors for a while longer before they move outside.

The soaker hoses are all hooked up and in place; I still need to mulch on top of them to keep them from cracking in the summer sun and to be most efficient with watering. I also still want to get a rainbarrel, and I need to do that soon, to hook up to the soaker hoses.

It makes me happy to see tiny little seeds turn into something green, even if it's also tiny. I can't wait to harvest something - anything! - although I'll have to be patient. Maybe strawberries in a few weeks?

Pictures from the weekend

The weekend was filled with busy adventures: our yard sale, Tessa's blessing, and Mother's Day Brunch. Here are a few tastes of our busy days.

From our yard sale: Tessa's lemonade stand. Tessa, Anna, and Cassie at the lemonade stand. They made over $40 for Habitat for Humanity, had a great time....and got to drink lemonade.
At Tessa's child blessing today.
The family! Mother's Day Brunch.

My mom (Mum) and I together on Mother's Day. Love you, Mum!

GG (Grandma) playing piano with Tessa - they did a duet (of sorts - Grandma played a tune, anyway!).Not the best picture, but it does show how much Tessa and Krystal love to bond. Joshua (Jockey) and Camille on the teeter-totter.Four generations of Dahl women: Krystal, Grandma, Mom, Tessa and I (on our back deck, after Mother's Day brunch at our house).
Cousin Caleb - he played monkey on the swingset and I loved watching his joy and antics.Pseudo-serious - Mike and Dad posing in our back yard.

Heather and I - with a passel of kids in the background! (And I can't help but noticing....ugh I hate the way my chest looks. In October, with the next surgery, it will be smaller. It had better be, anyway.)Sweet Camille and silly Kelton with his cow.