Just be mindful!

Provide water source for native bees.

Tragic events fill the headlines. That’s not new news!

I retire in the evening to bed, only to make the mistake of looking at my news feed to learn of yet another attack, this time in Nice, France. I awake to my news feed analyzing the latest shooting, explosion or tragedy.

Gone are the days when news traveled slowly. Decades ago, often, something happening on the other side of the world never made it to our newspaper or radio. If it did, it most likely wasn’t accompanied by photos or graphic video complete with audio or articles followed with a vitriol of hateful and hurtful commentators that only fuel the divide.

What’s worse is that breaking, tragic headline news will be replaced with another breaking, tragic headline, often in less then 24 hours. The prior tragic event will drift away from the headline. Will anything have been learned? Will anything ever change?

Technology has made the news that is newsworthy hard to distinguish from all the background stories. I want to keep informed and to be educated on current local, national and global events and research outcomes. But, I haven’t figured out how to sort through all the information that this vast news highway is constantly streaming onto my screen.

I need my screen. My screen has become my phone, my camera, my bank, my electronic mail, my calendar, my alarm clock, my entertainment and my modern day rolodex. At least it fits my concept of minimalism.

Back to the news: so much hate, so much miss understanding, so much lack of empathy and lack of compassion passes before my eyes. How can I make sense of it all?

Can we just stop and look deep into the eyes of the one we fear or hate or judge? Hold their gaze. Look at each other. What do you think you’ll see?

In most instances you will see another human being. Someone who is loved and is important to others. Someone who is trying to get by in life: to have the minimum of shelter, food, clothing and maybe a bit more. Occasionally you will unfortunately see fear, anguish and imbalance.  This is when we must show our most vulnerable side, continue to look into that individuals eyes with the greatest amount of compassion you can find. Look back with empathy. Offer to just listen. Sometimes this maybe all that we can offer. It’s hard to do. It’s a lot easier to just avoid or pretend they don’t exist or maybe worse, tell them how wrong or messed up they must be.

Many of the individuals who have committed many of these acts of violence, I believe, most likely have a mental imbalance. They have a fear or hatred that has festered and grown out of a lack of education and understanding. Often it seems we learn that most of these acts are acts by individuals acting alone. The blame maybe put on a particular group or a particular group may take credit for the act.

As FDR said the “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”

We can’t give up on fighting for everyones rights. Collectively I pray that our individual voices will be the change. I maybe only one voice. I will do what I can. I continue to write to my elected officials on issues that resonate with me.

I continue to seek renewal through nature so that I can provide what little support I can to those whose lives maybe in need of compassion when our paths cross.

I would rather have written today about providing water for bee’s or another poor food labeling job on a product not disclosing hidden gluten. But, I had to free these thoughts, so I can continue to move forward and be a small part of the change, the amount of change that one, just one person can be.

As the generations before us have said, history repeats itself. When will we learn from the past? Haven’t we seen this all before?

Thank God My Toilet Bowl Cleaner is GLUTEN FREE!

GLUTEN FREE TOILET BOWL CLEAER

Oh my gosh, I am so relieved to know that my TOILET BOWL CLEANER is GLUTEN FREE.  I plan on drinking my toilet water! NOT!

So, let me get this right, my bacon and ice cream, because they are meat and dairy products, DON’T have to be labeled if they are processed on equipment or in a facility with wheat, or contain added gluten according to the FDA. But my toilet cleaner is labeled?  

GLUTEN FREE TOILET BOWL CLEAER
GLUTEN FREE TOILET BOWL CLEANER

Guess what? Processed, even just sliced and packaged products of meats and ice cream are known to contain enough gluten to make me sick.

I’ve been having vague tummy issues so I’ve been trying to narrow it down to what I’ve eaten lately.  In doing so, I emailed Trader Joe’s the following:

How can I verify if products are produced in a gluten free facility? Are your Uncured Bacon Ends & Pieces and French Vanilla Ice Cream Gluten Free?  They are on not on your Gluten Free Online pdf list.  I am Celiac and am trying to figure out what I am reacting to.

Trader Joes Reply: Thank you for contacting us with your product inquiries.  In response, both of the products referenced do not contain any gluten ingredients, however, they have not been tested for possible cross contamination.  Therefore, we do not make a “gluten free” claim for these products.

They didn’t answer the first part of my question:  Are they produced in a gluten free facility?

Duh, I can read the ingredients label and know that gluten wasn’t added but I’m asking about cross contamination.

Trader Joe’s used to be one of my favorite stores.  But over the last couple of years I find I am buying fewer and fewer of their products for this very reason.

Back to making more homemade ice cream, homemade granola, my own baked goods and buying real food that I can identify the species: a banana, an egg, a zucchini etc.  I’m realizing that meat “if packaged” may not be safe.  I can usually get a straight answer from the butcher at the local market.  Did you know that a packaged  “fresh” turkey or packaged bacon can contain gluten?  And as mentioned, legally  ice cream doesn’t need to be labeled.  Dairy and meat are exempt from the FDA lbelling law of the top 8 allergens.

 

Minimalist, minimize, simplify, declutter – Help someone in need.

Ok, so if you’re been reading my blog (http://gatoraceae.com/2016/04/my-minimalist-journey/) you know I’ve been on this decluttering obsession for nearly 4 1/2 years now.  I don’t do things fast. I like to think things through and mull them over for awhile.  And, I certainly don’t like throwing things out or putting them into the landfill.  I will hold onto things until I find someone who will buy the item or who can use it or if the item can be recycled, reused or repurposed, then I see that it is taken to the appropriate place.

Yes, sometimes, I hold onto things for an absurd amount of time. Take the large grocery sized bag of feminine hygiene products that I had set aside about four years ago. (Thank you Costco size packages) My daughters have long since moved out and I don’t have a need for these products anymore. Feminine hygiene products aren’t cheap. I wanted to donate them to a shelter but hadn’t until last week. I finally researched where I could take these items. I discovered a homeless shelter that I had not know about that isn’t too far away that had these items on their wish list. I’m sure they will be greatly appreciated. In the past I had taken things to another shelter several communities away but I don’t often go that way. This place is much closer.

Well, this got me thinking. There are other items that the homeless need.

I’ve been on this home “inventory project” for a few weeks now, since I read Joshua Becker’s book The More Of Less. My home inventory app makes it very obvious when we have multiples of the same thing. I discovered that even though I had donated some old car camping sleeping bags a few years ago, we still had held onto two bags. We also have a collection of various backpacking and camping tents. We don’t need all of these bags, tents or sleeping pads.

Ah ha! Light-bulb moment! I now know where I could take these items and they can be used rather then stored in my garage.

My life will become simpler and my/our “stuff” that has cluttered up closets, drawers and garage will be of use to someone truly in need. It doesn’t do anyone any good to hold onto this stuff.

We are getting much better at the rule we now try to follow, for each new item in, one item must go out. If we replace something or update with a newer product, send the older item on its way.

I’ve lived in this home for 30 plus years and we have saved things for “just in case!”.  Well, that “just in case” rarely ever happens and if it did, chances are we forgot we had saved the item let alone have any chance in finding it when we needed it. Its better to recycle, reuse or donate items ASAP.

Thank you for reading and here’s hoping you’ll look at the “stuff” you have and realize how freeing it will be to pass the items on, give them a 2nd life or help someone in need.

Shelter Donated Items:

sleeping bags

tent

sleeping pads

LED camp lantern

Day packs – REI hiking day packs

camp sleep pillows

socks

T-shirts

hygiene products

Forest Walk

McKenzie River

Day two of our weekend get away to McKenzie River area of central Oregon found us deciding between taking a walk through the forest or riding out near Cougar Reservoir.

We had thoroughly enjoyed a slow morning, plenty of fresh coffee, a delicious breakfast prepared by our BnB host, Sharon, of the McKenzie River Round House BnB.  We enjoyed the company of the host, her husband, the other guests including a pair of cyclists who are riding their bikes across America.  They are a delightful couple from Munich, Germany.  The other guests were a math professor from Rutgers University and his family.  We had the most interesting morning conversations with them.

BnB hosts and German bike tourists riding across America
BnB hosts with the German bike tourists riding across America

We said our goodbye’s to the German couple after exchanging blog URL’s.  You can check out their progress at QuerDurch!!

On our way back from the McKenzie Pass summit ride the day before we had stopped at the local bike shop in McKenzie Bridge to check it out.  I had noted that they sold a good selection of maps.  Not knowing where to hike we stopped in again in the late morning to pick up a map and to inquire where we could hike and hopefully avoid the crowd of folks hiking into the famous Blue Pool. It was now a weekend day and we had heard about the hordes of people that had descended  on the area the weekend before and the overflowing parking area.  Not the kind of scene I enjoy being a part of.

The young man in the shop had some ideas.  One which sounded promising was a hike out Rainbow Ridge Trail leading to a rock outcropping and potential view of a distant waterfall.  Sounded good to us so we headed up the road and made the turn onto a dirt road.  We continued for a few miles and found the well marked trailhead.

The following are a selection of photos from our hike/stroll through the forest.  What was most delightful about this hike is that we did not see another sole the entire time until we drove back out on the dirt road.

Flowers carpeting the forest floor.
Flowers carpeting the forest floor.
Water droplets covered the vegetation from recent rain.
Water droplets covered the vegetation from recent rain.
A true walk in the woods.
A true walk in the woods.
Delicate flowers offset by the darkness of the forest.
Delicate flowers offset by the darkness of the forest.
One of many creatures living on the forest floor.
One of many creatures living on the forest floor.
One of many fallen trees covered in lush moss.
One of many fallen trees covered in lush moss.
Rock outcrop, Rainbow Falls way off in distance, lunch stop.
Rock outcrop, Rainbow Falls way off in distance, lunch stop.
I loved the filtered light through the vine maples.
I loved the filtered light through the vine maples.
An opening in the forest confirming we really were walking along a ridge trail.
An opening in the forest confirming we really were walking along a ridge trail.
Noon light hitting the forest floor.
Noon light hitting the forest floor.
Meandering trail often hidden by the vegetation.
Meandering trail often hidden by the vegetation.
Banana slug, it's Oregon!
Banana slug, it’s Oregon!
Natural moss covered arch.
Natural moss covered arch.
I'm thinking this is a native fly.
I’m thinking this is a native fly.
Another pollinator of the forest.
Another pollinator of the forest.
Sahalie Falls (After our hike, after the crowds had dissipated.
Sahalie Falls (After our hike, after the crowds had dissipated.
Yes, the water was this blue.
Yes, the water was this blue on the McKenzie River.

 

 

Koosah Falls
Koosah Falls

Our McKenzie Pass Ride Photo Essay

NE View - Black Butte Mnt.
Ready to ride, looking forward to the day.
Ready to ride, looking forward to the day.
Beginning in a fir forest.
Beginning in a fir forest.
Stops to enjoy nature
Stops to enjoy nature
Native Rhododendron
Native Rhododendron
Botanizing
Botanizing
We must be on the right path.
We must be on the right path.
Our first view of lava, popping out of the forest.
Our first view of lava, popping out of the forest.
Two more miles
Two more miles
We made it to the summit.
We made it to the summit.
Road was closed to cars and open to just cyclists. View of road from Dee Wright Observatory
Road was closed to cars and open to just cyclists. View of road from Dee Wright Observatory
NE View - Black Butte Mnt.
NE View – Black Butte Mnt.
Incoming Hail. Yep, about to get a facial
Incoming Hail. Yep, about to get a facial
Heading down, with rain, wind and hail, yet we still have smiles because we made it.
Heading down, with mixed snow and rain, wind and hail, yet we still have smiles because we made it.

The ride up to McKenzie Pass from the west side proved to be far easier then either of us expected.  We realize we underestimate the grade and difficulty of Mt. Diablo which we use to train on weekly.  I really felt over prepared which is not a bad thing.  Our original plan was to ride from McKenzie Bridge over to Sister’s and then back the next day.  However, turned out this was the week of the Sister’s Rodeo and I was finding suitable lodging in Sister’s hard to find.  So we decided it would be just as fun to ride up to the pass and back down the same way.  We stayed at a delightful new BnB in Vida, OR called the McKenzie River Round House BnB.  The next day we had planned to do some more riding but instead found a great hike through the forest along Rainbow Ridge Trail with a view of Rainbow Falls.  We later drove to see two more water falls.  I will post pictures of our hike and the falls in the next blog.  This ride convinced us that we will be doing more touring.

Gluten Lesson Learned AGAIN!

Lesson Learned AGAIN!  I should be blogging about my vacation but here it goes again….

Gluten? Is it hiding in that prepackaged Tri-tip sold at Costco?  The ingredient list looks fine. But the packaging doesn’t say anything about allergens.  Ok, google the product name and gluten free.  Nope, don’t come up with anything. Hmm, there’s a phone number on the package. Ok, I’ll call.  The person on the other end of the line, says, “I’m pretty sure it’s fine, it’s gluten free. But let me check and call you back”.  (This is a local distributor in Huntington Park, California)

This whole Tri-tip issue came up because on our recent travels we stopped to visit some friends who wanted to feed us/me.  They tossed a prepackaged Tri-tip from their Costco in Medford, Oregon onto the grill. The brand sold in Oregon is pre-packaged but WAS labeled Gluten Free.  Unfortunately, after inquiring about cross contamination, I knew I could not eat their offerings.  They have heated wheat rolls on their bbq and clearly they have gluten food products in their kitchen.  I’m really getting tired of trying to explain to kind friends why I can not eat their offerings.  NO, pouring boiling water over your cutting knives and utensils DOES NOT MAKE THEM GLUTEN FREE. Maybe washing several times and scrubbing with a never before used scrubber would work. I don’t really know how to make something gluten free except to NEVER expose it to gluten.

I had not realized until today that meat products are exempt from the labeling law.  What the HELL?

Food Labeling Requirements: On August 2, 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a new regulation defining the term “glutenfree” for voluntary food labeling. This new federal definition standardizes the meaning of “gluten-free” foods regulated by the FDA. Foods regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including meat and egg products, are not subject to this regulation. The regulation requires that any food with the term “gluten-free” on the label must meet all of the requirements of the definition, including that the food should contain fewer than 20 parts per million of gluten. The FDA rule also requires foods with the claims “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “without gluten” to meet the definition for “gluten-free.”

Well, I finally decided while walking around Costco while waiting for phone confirmation if the Tri-tip in my cart was safe, to not buy it.  I wouldn’t receive the confirmation phone call until much later, after I had left the store.

The answer from the company, the certified Angus Beef, Steakhouse Beef Tri-Tip from American BBQ Company distributed by www.GWFG.com is not gluten free.

Once again, an excellent reminder of why I should NEVER eat other people’s food unless they are also Celiac and their kitchen is 100% gluten free.

I was a bit extra cautious this time because recently I had once again slipped up on my diligence of being safe.

I hadn’t been to a Starbucks in years except to purchase a bottled by Coke Cola Starbucks Mocha Frapuccino, which are certified gluten free.  It had been my birthday the day before and I still get those kind emails from Starbucks saying I could get a free drink “on them” for my birthday.  We were traveling and had a very early start.  I was sleepy.  I had a free drink gift certificate.  I goofed up.  I stopped at a Starbucks and redeemed my free birthday coffee certificate.  I splurged.  I got a vanilla latte.

Oh no!  That’s right, Starbucks coffee’s are NOT GLUTEN FREE.  NO PREPARED DRINKS CAN BE GUARANTEED GF AT STARBUCKS. Repeat to self, Starbucks coffee’s are NOT GLUTEN FREE.  Not even a plain regular cup of coffee.

In about thirty minutes after thoroughly enjoying my vanilla latte my stomach began to feel a little off.  Hmmm……  google Starbucks again and gluten free.

Damn, the mix Starbuck’s uses for the vanilla flavor contains gluten.  Oh, and a reminder, ALL of Starbucks teas contain gluten.  Yes, you read that right.

Lesson learned.  Lesson learned until I forget AGAIN!

Food From a Celiac’s Point Of View

Food, it sustains us.

Food, it can even be enjoyable to eat.

Food, shouldn’t be feared.

Food, consumption shouldn’t be a chore.

Sometimes, I’m just sick of food.

Sometimes, I really don’t want to cook.

Sometimes, I hate having to think of what to eat.

Sometimes, I wish I could eat anything, anywhere, prepared by anyone.

I know folks mean well when they offer or prepare food for me.

But how can I explain the risks of cross contamination? 

Your cutting board has traces of gluten. Your grill has traces of gluten. Your kitchen sponge and dishtowels have traces of gluten. Your pots and pans may have traces of gluten. Did you remember to wash your hands after you ate that cracker?

Yes, you read the labels. But did you buy the product labeled “gluten free” or just the one that didn’t list any obvious gluten ingredients? Are you sure you know all the ways gluten is hidden in common everyday foods?  What? Gluten in tea? salad dressing? ice cream? cheese? sausage? lunch meat? canned vegetables? soup broth? The list is shockingly long.

Did you google the company to verify if the product is produced on a wheat free production line or wheat free facility?  I do.  Every time I buy a processed food product I check the label, even if it was labelled safe last time.  If I can’t find a satisfactory answer, I don’t buy it and I don’t eat it.

How can I explain what gluten does to me? Even the tiniest trace amount can cause me to not feel well.  I may need to know where a bathroom is for sudden tummy issues.  I may get a migraine that lasts for a couple of days. Afterwards, I may be exhausted for a few days and suffer from brain fog. My joints will hurt. I may feel bloated.  The list of symptoms is long.

Please don’t be insulted when I bring my own food.

I’m sorry I have to pick the place if we eat out.

The list of restaurants that claim they could fix me gf is getting very short.  I may eat at a place 2 or 3 times, but then the next time I may feel I was “glutenized”. Seems like every place I thought was safe eventually fails.  This includes restaurants that have gluten free menu’s.  It is one thing to offer gluten free foods. It is totally another thing to understand how to prepare food and keep it gluten free.  There are extremely few restaurants that have been trained in gf food prep. It includes a separate prep area, separate pans and utensils and safe food handling techniques.

Please try to understand why I don’t register for lots of events that provide food. I can’t eat the food included and no where have I seen events let you pay a reduced price to opt out of the food offerings. Why should I have to pay the same price and or even more if I need the gf option?

And yes,the food at events looks and smells so heavenly. But, having to ask about ingredients and prep area questions and then to wait for answers and clarification just make me look like a “snobbish jerk”. But unlike a lot of people who “CHOOSE” to eat gluten free because they think this is the latest and greatest fad diet, THIS IS NOT A CHOICE FOR ME.  THIS IS SURVIVAL.

When these people make a huge fuss at a restaurant to have a gf meal and then order CAKE for dessert, they hurt Celiacs.  Just like when someone uses a fake service dog or try’s to pass their pet off as a service animal, they hurt true users of highly trained service animals.  And then it comes down to faith.  Can I have faith and trust that the chef and staff “get it” and will do everything possible to make sure the food they serve me is safe.

Please, don’t tell me it is in my head or maybe “you just exercised too much” or “you’re dehydrated”. Or “it can’t really be that bad.” Or “you can’t really be that sensitive to gluten”. I have lived with this disease my whole life and with an understanding of the diagnosis these past 5+ years.  I now know, and have been validated by others with the disease, this is not in my head. I’m not crazy. I’m did not make it up all those years I was not feeling well.  How do I know?  Because now that I eat gluten free, I feel 99% better most of the time. Of over 30 plus diagnosed medical conditions that I had when eating gluten, now eating gluten free, most all of those ailments and conditions don’t occur regularly anymore.

I know when I’ve been “glutenized” or cross contaminated with gluten. Only I can understand how I feel.  Please be patient with me while I fret over where my next meal will come from.

Don’t think I can’t read your body language, your eye rolls, tsk’s and sighs.  I know I frustrate you and you wish I’d just get over it and deal with a little gluten.  Tell that to someone with a nut, shellfish or other food allergy.  My symptoms just aren’t as visible as theirs, but they are no less serious.

Give thanks that you don’t live with this disease.

I give thanks for the gift of a second chance at life.  I give thanks for the most amazing husband that does his absolute best at helping to keep me healthy and gluten free.  I give thanks for the friends who understand I still want to socialize, but I don’t want to eat their food.  I give thanks for the friends who still include me in dinner party’s and other food centric social events.

Play

The importance of play is being lost. At our fundamental core we seem to know that children need to play but more and more we are cramming parent/teacher driven structured lessons onto our youngest children all day long. We have forgotten that children learn through unstructured free play, not just parent or coach driven activities. What’s even sadder is that adults have forgotten the importance of play in their adult lives.  We all need play.

As an Early Childhood Educator, through years of observation, it became obvious to me that a vast amount of learning occurs through play and repetition at the earliest of ages.  There have been numerous studies and scientific papers detailing the early cognitive development in infants and young children in support of the need and power of free play. The role of a good ECE teacher is to mediate, guide and support play. This is done by providing guidance, direction and materials to facilitate play, taking play to new levels of discovery, to guide and nurture social and emotional development.

I could get into a long posting about the detriments of technology, social media and television but that isn’t what I’m thinking about today.  I’m thinking about what is often closest to my heart, the need for all people, no matter what age, to spend time in nature, time at play. (Bonus link if you make it to the end of this post). Combine the two and you have the perfect formula to guide our spirits to a place of balance.

Give me a group of children in a structured classroom setting and after a short period of time I bet I’d be able to identify which children have had nature in their lives and been allowed to play freely.  They will be calmer, more observant, kinder, more compassionate with other students and more respectful of both objects and others.

Heck, if you see an upset, angry, anxious, emotional, frustrated or stressed adult,  recognize that they are probably dealing with more issues then anyone should possibly be handling.  Get them into nature, out to play and watch the stress start to leave their body and mind as they relearn to “let go” and to reassess the issues they are dealing with in their lives and to reconnect to what is truly important for our time on this earth.

By losing play and time in nature not only do I think we are seeing the effects in the increases of behavior issues in young children, but I believe behaviorists and researchers have successfully documented this occurrence.

In adults we are seeing increased levels of anxiety and depression.  It is just as important for adults to play. To spend time in nature. To step away from technology and the 24×7 connection.  We can’t forget to let go and just be present in the moment. If you are interested in learning more about the importance of play for adults and what constitutes adult play, search the topic at TEDxTalks (https://www.ted.com/watch/tedx-talks)

It is so magical to witness the innocents of a child discovering and exploring on their own. There is no better way to learn then to see them self teach through experience.  In my last post, Parenting Philosophy, I shared a favorite quote from  The Training of the Human Plant by Luther Burbank.  It’s worth reading again.

Children and adults that have learned through play and continue to play are more creative, better problem solvers and happier.

Many years ago I attended a training seminar for ECE teachers.  One of the sections I attended was lead by Diane Gordon a local bay area advocate for children and adults in nature.(http://www.childrennatureandyou.org)

She left us with this recommendation on what to teach a child to prepare them for formal schooling.

What to Teach a Child by Diane Gordon <— click for link to original

When I was a young kindergarten teacher, prospective parents would ask me what they could do to prepare their children for kindergarten, expecting I would give them a list of reading and math exercises. As I look back now, I can see that my responses were vague and far from satisfactory. Now, these many years later, I would say something like this:

They will need to know their colors – the blue of the sky, the green of the grass, the colors of the rainbow. And numbers. Count with them: the squirrels in the park, the petals on a flower, how many acorns can be held in one hand. In two hands.

Share with them the wonder and the beauty of the world around them – the sliver of the moon that grows night by night until it is full and round. The snail that travels with his house on his back, and leaves a silvery trail wherever he goes. Or the spider who spins beautiful, intricate patterns overnight.

Encourage them to be creative and different. Walk in the mud together with bare feet. Howl at the moon like wolves. Wriggle or slide through the grass like worms or snails.

Teach them tenderness as they gently stroke a kitten, or pick up a worm after the rain, and replace it carefully in the soil. Encourage their sense of responsibility as you plant seeds together and tend them regularly.

Teach them to read – to read the weather and tell if it will be windy or rainy today. Or to read the world around them – the changing colors of the leaves, the many kinds of seeds, the many colors of flowers.

Introduce them to the magic of stories, both listening to them and telling them. Let their imagination soar. Do this, and I can teach them to read!

If you’ve made it this far, here is a bonus video of the authors adult daughter and husband in a state of bliss, laughter, free spirit, joy and happiness which all equals PLAY and being BALANCED.

Click link to view my 10 second Youtube video of pure laughter and joy: Adult’s at play

Followed by a photo showing a time of peace, tranquility, observation, reflection,  nature, yet another form of adult play and balance.  There are many ways to play, many forms of play and for each individual, play will look very, very different. It’s not play if it feels like work.

What does play look like for you?

Parenting Philosophy

Parenting! Never easy and no two children are the same. Once again, I have been hearing about challenging children and challenged parents, parenting or NOT!  Maybe because last Sunday was Mother’s Day I’ve been thinking about what was my parenting philosophy.

Yes, I had my challenges with my girls. Days of doubt, frustration, anger and disappointment. But, as most any parent will tell you, they will do just absolutely anything for their child.  Parental love is “normally” a very powerful thing.  Parents do their best with the skills they have and the circumstances under which they live. We must be forgiving of the mistakes our own parents made, realize that we are not perfect parents either.  We all just do the best with what we know.  Again, as I’ve mentioned before, if we only could do it all over again, with the wisdom we gained from our mistakes from the first time.

The following is a quote from the book The Training of the Human Plant by Luther Burbank. Even before I discovered this quote, what it conveys was the foundation of my beliefs of what a child needs in addition to the basic necessities.

I recently came across this while minimizing my paper plunder once again. I think I need to get this book from the library. Enjoy!

Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, water-bugs, tadpoles, frogs, mud-turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb, brooks to wade in, water-lilies, woodchucks, bats, bees, butterflies, various animals to pet, hay-fields, pine-cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets; and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of his education.

By being well acquainted with all these they come into most intimate harmony with nature, whose lessons are, of course, natural and wholesome.

A fragrant beehive or a plump, healthy hornet’s nest in good running order often become object lessons of some importance. The inhabitants can give the child pointed lessons in punctuation as well as caution and some of the limitations as well as the grand possibilities of life; and by even a brief experience with a good patch of healthy nettles, the same lesson will be still further impressed upon them. And thus by each new experience with homely natural objects the child learns self-respect and also to respect the objects and forces which must be met.

My minimalist journey

Sycamore Valley Regional Open Space Preserve

My journey of simplifying/minimizing began about 4 1/2 years ago, when it appeared certain that my husbands job of nearly 30 years was moving us to Texas. He only needed about 5 more years before we could “conceive” of retiring early. We still had our youngest in college who most likely would need assistance for graduate school. My work was transferrable.

We had lived in the same house for that entire time, 27 years.

We decided we wouldn’t sell our home but rent it out and we’d rent a small apartment or condo in Texas for the 5 years we’d be there and then return to our first home for retirement.

But, what to do with all our stuff? What would be the minimum we could get by with in Texas? We needed to downsize and minimize our possessions.

I started with one drawer, shelf or box at a time.

I read books. My favorites became The Joy Of Less by Francine Jay and It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh. I began to understand the psychology behind why I had kept things. And, please note, I’ve never been a hoarder and in general we’ve had less stuff then most American families appear to have. We’ve never had a storage unit and our home is about 1,400 square feet which by today’s standards is considered small. We did build a one car garage in our side yard as a wood shop for my husband. Woodworking is one of his hobbies and I wanted our regular garage for parking the car. I don’t understand why so many store their worthless “junk” in the garage and park their valuable car in the driveway.

I went from one end of the house to the other more then once. I created lists and collections of items that could be sold, donated, recycled and last and my least favorite, added to the landfill.

What surprised me the most was the monetary value associated with my clean sweep (name of an early 2000’s tv show that I used to watch). I literally found money. Cash! I found gift cards. Lots of gift cards. Did you know you can sell gift cards that you don’t use or need? I collected all the coins I found during my clean sweep. I literally had over a hundred dollar’s in coins. I found a few hundred dollar’s of cash. Hey, my cleaning had become profitable.

Next, I started selling valuable items on Craig’s List. Sold our piano. My husband really wanted a keyboard anyway. I sold two clarinets, a flute and a guitar. Our old music teacher was a great help in finding owners for the old instruments. Why was I storing them? Someone could be using them and my daughters had the guitars they wanted. I sold old bed frames, old bikes, old camera’s, our jaccuzi, and much more. We had a garage sell. It was liberating.

Seriously, we still had the port-a-crib. I think guests borrowed it once in the decades I held on to it.
Seriously, we still had the port-a-crib. I think guests borrowed it once in the decades I held on to it.
The girls came home to help and to sell some of their stuff too.
The girls came home to help and to sell some of their stuff too.

If I couldn’t sell it, I’d offer it on Freecycling.com. Books went to the local book reseller, if they didn’t take them they went to Half Priced Books, if they didn’t take them, then what could be donated to the library book sale was donated. And last, some had to be sent to the book recycler heaven. Lucky for us, California is big on recycling. Just about everything can be recycled. Scrap metal was recycled. Toxics (old paints, fluorescent light tubes, garden chemicals) were delivered to the appropriate recycling center in our county.

I learned to ask each item, Why are you here? What do you do? Can something else do this too?

I began to organize like things together.

As things became more organized and surfaces in the house kept cleared, I was able to finally tackle the second to last thing that needed organizing. Paperwork. I had boxes and boxes of papers that I “thought” I had to keep. I literally burned out the shredder and had to buy a new one. I now only keep the most recent statements or last annual statements for things I feel I need a paper copy of or I have set up online accounts for as much as possible.

I’m now down to a few well organized binders, one small cart with drawers and one two drawer file cabinet with old tax returns.

My binders of important papers
My binders of important papers
Small drawer cart for papers
Small drawer cart for papers

Lastly, I have put off the organization and digitizing of photos. I have two top shelves in a closet dedicated to boxes of film negatives and photo albums. A life time of memories. This has got to be the hardest area of my life to organize. I know what and how I need to approach this monumental task but getting started and sticking with it is going to be difficult. Photos bring back memories and precious stories. I can’t go through them quickly and decide why are you here? What do you do? Can something else do this too? Photos are different.

I think I donated these on Freecycling. I don't think there is much of anything that someone out there won't take for free.
I think I donated these on Freecycling. I don’t think there is much of anything that someone out there won’t take for free.

I do accept and realize that I will hopefully always have my memories. I may not need to keep so many photographs. I did photograph just about everything we got rid of and honestly, I don’t miss any of it. But it’s still fun to look at the photos of all the “stuff”.  Did I really need to save all those Christmas tins? No!  Glad they’re gone too.

Recently, I was attending a mountain bike race and I wanted to capture and image of my daughter crossing the finish line. Well, she surprised us and herself and was a top finisher. I didn’t have my camera ready. As I saw her round the corner, I realized in an instant, it was more important to be fully present in the moment then to snap a picture.

Our garage still has too much stuff and I have more wine glasses then I could possible use at once. But they all fit nicely in the cabinet so there’s no pressing need to downsize further. So, this journey shall continue.

Oh, the good news is that one week before my husband was to sign the papers that we’d accept the offer to move to Texas to keep his job, he found another job within the company that would allow us to stay in our forever home. And, as of last year, our youngest graduated and managed to get full funding for graduate school.

Even better, I had simplified our home and reclaimed a surprising amount of money in the process. Finding things has became easier. Everything is more organized. Traveling and camping is easier because everything we need is in its proper storage place. We have a nice guest room now that gets used monthly if not more frequently. I’ve had time to redo my garden, something I truly enjoy. I’ve found more time for volunteering, photography, cycling and spending time with my husband.

We go for more bike rides and hikes now instead of going shopping, cleaning, doing yard work or fixing things. And we have time to have friends over more often, to truly connect with people. And, hopefully, when our days come to an end, we will not be leaving a mess for  our daughters.

If you’ve read this far, you maybe interested in checking out this website/blog: http://www.becomingminimalist.com

I started following Joshua’s blog a couple of years ago. I’ve enjoyed learning about his philosophy and I realize that becoming a minimalist is different for everyone and it is a journey worth traveling. I’ve preordered his book and have signed up for his course on decluttering. Let the journey continue.