Monthly Archives: May 2015

“Completely Disposable Lunch” or Getting a Global Perspective

Kepler’s class went to the zoo on Thursday and the instructions were to pack a completely disposable lunch. When we went to the park the other day, we were instructed to pack a completely trash-free lunch. Both instructions make sense for the respective destinations, but I really hate plastic water bottles. I’ll probably be able to find peace by sending him a bottle of juice, even though the bottle will most likely not be recycled. (Oh, boy, first world problems, much?)

Sometimes when my more immediate worries quell, I think about the ocean and how much trash we are putting in that incredibly valuable resource. It’s like I want to go on a tirade or a crusade or a parade to get everyone to 1. stop using disposable plastic water bottles, 2. recycle everything they possibly can, and 3. get completely serious about Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

This is a great resource for solutions to reducing how much waste we are producing.

Some of my favorite ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle include the following:

1. Buying no disposable plastic water bottles.

2. Using a commuter mug for Starbucks drinks, although honestly I occasionally get something in one of their cups and then reuse it.

3. Recycling as much as possible. It is very difficult to buy food items that do not utilize packaging, so I recycle whatever I can.

4. Composting.

5. Reusing water from the dehumidifier in our table top fountains and our humidifiers.

6. Donating what I can rather than throwing it away.

7. Being conscious of how my usage impacts the rest of the world, as well as the earth itself.

8. Always looking for new ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle. There are times when I have a lot of energy for that, and other times when I am not able to focus on it as much.

9. Using my own reusable grocery bags and reusing the few plastic ones that I end up getting.

10. Reducing my usage of plastic bags. I still have a long way to go in this area because I find the whole washing and reusing thing to be cumbersome.

Erased all that because, yes, they are ways I like to reduce, reuse and recycle, but I wrote them a few days ago and then this morning had an experience that informed this post considerably. I volunteered with my son at Matthew 25 Ministries.

Matthew 25 Ministries

M25M is a worldwide shipping corporation and ministry that repurposes corporate items that would otherwise be discarded, provides relief for victims of natural disasters and helps empower people living in poverty around the world. I bet M25M isn’t perfect, just like no organization is, but what I saw got me excited about being involved in a very practical way of addressing the very real issue of children living without electricity, running water, and other basic necessities.

We began with the “global village tour.” I’ve never been amongst actual ruins from a hurricane or a tornado or flood. Pictures are not quite the same as looking as the ruins themselves. Something about the 3-dimensional aspect of the displays touched me deeply. I was in tears by the end as I thought about how great the need is, and how glad I am to live in the same city as this organization that is doing so much.

The son I was with is doing his court-ordered community service there, and invited me to go along. (One might say a silver lining in the cloud of dealing with the addiction and recovery process.) At the end of a life-changing week, I was totally surprised to discover this gem and to feel the pull it has on me to volunteer there and make a difference. I have the time and the resources and the desire. We only spent two hours there, but as we left, I realized THIS is my favorite way to reduce, reuse, recycle. Be a part of something that is making a difference in the lives of people in need. Even if it means providing plastic water bottles of water to people so they don’t have to, like, drink out of a filthy dirty puddle.

This is Water

Today, Maria Popova tweeted that this is the 10th anniversary of David Foster Wallace’s remarkable commencement address at Kenyon College. I am linking to her post about commencement addresses, as well as the 22 minutes “This is Water” speech. I first learned of DFW through this speech, and it was the beginning of a wild admiration and love for the brain and thinking of this writer. Some days I think that sharing the thoughts of others on my blog is just fine. Today is one of those days.

Do consider watching the commencement speech, even if you do not typically click on my links. This speech is simply wonderful, full of wisdom and heartfelt transparency which speaks directly to the hearts of his listeners.

Maria Popova on Commencement Speeches


After rave reviews from my sister, I decided to attend the online conference “The Red Tent.” Tonight I learned that we all start with a point of view, to which we add our values and standards, things that just are automatic and seem true to us. The sum of these things yields our conclusions or beliefs about what we are looking at. To our conclusions, we add our goals and dreams, then implement actions and attitudes, which yields the sum of our results and sense of satisfaction. Why is this so ground-breaking, earth-shattering and I feel the earth move under my feeting?

Because when we don’t get the results we want, we usually back up one step and try adjusting our actions and attitudes. We try many different things because we are convinced if we just change our actions and/or attitudes, it will change our results. But no. Eventually, we may decide that it’s our goals and dreams that are really the problem, so we try to change them, or deny them or just pretend like we don’t really want them anyway.

When that doesn’t work, we try changing our conclusions. You know, looking at the bright side of the situation even if it isn’t feeling very bright to us; trying to find the silver lining in the cloud of our conclusions. After that doesn’t work to give us the results and sense of satisfaction we want, we back up one more step and try to adjust our values and standards; try to fit our square peg self into some round hole; decide that maybe we are just wrong about the things that seem true to us.

Here’s the kicker; the plum that little tommy tucker or whoever the hell it was pulled out of the pie; the piece de resistance; the answer. The problem is the point of view in the first place.

These talks are being given by the author of the book The Queen’s Code, Allison Armstrong, and are primarily focused on relationships between men and women.

Allison asked us to complete this sentence: Men are ______. Her experience with thousands of women over the years is that there are three top answers given across cultures, across ages, across all demographics. The top three answers are … wait, let me clarify that the point of this exercise is to help women and men find more juicy, more satisfying relations and understanding some things about men and women are essential for that to be able to happen.

I’m at my most vulnerable here when I tell you that being married, even to a wonderful man, is hella hard work. And because we both believe in the gift of marriage and the incredibly refining crucible that it is, we continue to try to adjust our understanding of each other. It’s a big job, and when you add in the normal stresses of life and perhaps a few abnormal stresses as well, the process can be pretty daunting.

I really don’t think I can do justice to Alison’s message here. I will link to her website, and I would be glad to answer any specific questions, but I don’t know how I can express here the impact of this information on my understanding of why Greg and I function like we do, and what this understanding might mean for a brighter future together. This learning is like a sacred vessel to me and I want to treat it as such.

This link is to the videos on Alison’s page: videos.php Before I heard Alison speak in person and experienced her beautiful feminine warmth and wisdom, I had tried reading some of her book but had a little trouble getting into it. Tonight is day 3 of her talks in the Red Tent Revival online and I WILL be there. I cannot think of anything I have ever learned in my entire life about men and women that has impacted me the way this has.

My Fascination with Actor Idris Elba

I blogged about HBO NOW the other day and was all distressed about the programming I had encountered during my trial period. HBO came again to my attention today as I had sampled a Netflix show called Luther. It stars Idris Elba, whom I first knew as Stringer Bell on the HBO show “The Wire.” There are many people who think The Wire is pretty much the best show ever to be on television and I would have to agree that it is one of the best I have ever seen. (I think it may have had some unfortunate consequences for Baltimore as the show is a fictionalized (obviously) portrayal of the drug trade in that city and the efforts of the Baltimore PD to end the trade. I’ve never been to Baltimore myself, so I’m afraid much of what I “know” about Bmore comes from this television show.)

I found Elba’s Stringer Bell to be an extremely compelling character. He’s basically a businessman at heart who is the head of a huge drug operation. As far as I knew through my watching of the five seasons, he was an American African-American actor playing this role. But when I turned on Luther this weekend, here was Idris th-fronting for all he was worth. In case you’re not familiar, th-fronting means they say “bave” instead of “bathe” and “wevvah” for “whether.” (Russell Brand is another well-known person who naturally speaks with th-fronting.) When the Luther character opened his mouth and revealed his Britishness, I was shocked! Never one to be ahead of the curve when it comes to well-known info about celebs, I was very surprised to hear him speak so differently from Stringer.

Elba also starred as Nelson Mandela in the 2013 film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Although I have not seen it yet, I intend to watch this film at least in part because I want to hear Elba do a South African accent as well! I found this YouTube interview with him from 2013 which I think really captures his winsome personality as well as shows his versatility through clips from both The Wire and Luther. The most captivating comment he made was that he based his perception of Nelson Mandela on his own father, who is a dignified British man with silver hair. What a legacy his father has given him!

An additional clip of Idris Elba from The Wire can be seen here:

And in Luther here:

I would guess that most of my typical readers would not be interested in The Wire as it is quite intense, plenty violent, and oh, the language. But it really is a great show. Have you seen The Wire? Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom? Was this post interesting to you if you’re not a fan of Idris Elba?

End of the Year Dance Recital

Saturday was Kepler’s spring recital for his dance class. I have no pictures to post today because they are all on the cameras and phones of other people. I chose to leave my phone at home and off on Saturday. I was just really tired of the non-stop pull toward my phone. Without my phone attached to me, I was aware of how often my thoughts went to using my phone for something or other. It was a nice respite, and I may do it more, but I do feel it is important for me to be accessible to my family, and that means having my phone handy.

At any rate, Saturday was the big day. The dance studio we go to is a highly competitive, very popular place. It’s also not close to our home at all. We make the drive because they offer the class for kids with special needs and Kepler loves everything about it. His dance was about halfway through the program and his group got some seriously enthusiastic applause and cheers. I loved seeing him up there, center stage, waving enthusiastically to us. I don’t even know how he could see us, but he did.

Prior to Kepler’s dance, I found myself growing more and more dismayed and disgusted by what I was seeing and hearing onstage. Even my 16yo daughter noticed that the dances did not seem appropriate at all for the ages of the girls. I went back and forth about this in my head because it has become more and more obvious to me that I’m not in the happening generation and I’m beginning to understand how and why older people have complaints about how younger people act, speak, dress, and exist.

The problem as I see it is that little girls were up there shaking their little booties, and doing other movements and motions that seemed very sexualized to me. The trend in dance is to have highly made-up faces, large glue-on eye designs, sparkly SPARKLY outfits, and lots of accessories like shiny gloves. Here’s a photo of a couple of girls from our studio:


Does it affect a little girl’s childhood to be regularly dressing like this and dancing like this? There was one group of girls who did basic ballet, and they were dressed in more traditional tutus. That seemed beautiful to me. The rest of it just seemed mostly trashy, not to mention the pounding dance party music that was blasting through the speakers while the little girls “shook their thang.”

Do we actually want children to have a childhood? What does that even mean anymore? My daughter is in a show choir now at 16 and dances. Even her choreographed dances are more tasteful than what I saw on Saturday. She has never taken dance classes, and I looked at her Saturday and said well, I guess we made the right decision because there is no way I would have ever been ok with this. (N.B. I made no decision — it was simply a matter of not deciding to make dance classes happen — there are dance classes that are wonderful for children that I would have been happy for her to be a part of.)

Perhaps there are feminism issues at play here. I’m not sure. I’m all for little girls dancing, and exuberantly at that. I am just wondering if we parents might want to think about what we are promoting when we put our precious little children on stage, dressed like strumpets, to the music of Snoop Dog, imitating Beyonce’s dance moves..

Tip for Anyone who Deals with Depression

Read this this morning:

Instead of making decisions about what to do today based on what I feel like doing, I will instead decide based on how much I am capable of doing. I think that’s a little work-around for the mental processes of depression. Most of the time, people dealing with depression don’t feel like doing much of anything. But sometimes they can at least do something they are capable of doing.

I know a few people read my blog every day and there are a few who read it occasionally. I wondered today if there is any point to my blogging. Friend Estelle posted yesterday about whether we are sharing too much information in general. Although I believe she was referring mainly to twitter and Facebook, it did raise the question for me as to what this blog is for, and whether I am sharing too much information, as in the quantity by posting every day.

I am willing to share deep stuff. Although I do not often get to talk about these things in real life with readers or others, I think there is something to be said for sharing. On the other hand, I feel less and less capable of attending to all the details that I need to attend to, let alone all the optional ones. At this point, I don’t think my blog is something that will ever catch on with any large group of people, and that’s ok, but I simply must simplify the amount of stuff that I take in.

Successful bloggers not only blog material which resonates with large groups of readers, they also utilize social media and engage in networking to grow their readership. I’d say the larger bloggers that I have seen are either getting paid somehow for doing it, or they are using their blog as part of their brand platform to sell something; their writing, a product, a service. Mine seems to be nothing more than a vehicle to express my thoughts. Maybe that’s ok. Maybe it’s not when my thoughts are clouded by depression.

And that’s all I have to say about that today.

Hurry Up and Wait

Do you know Maria Popova? She is the curator of the weekly newsletter Brain Pickings. I first heard of Brain Pickings from an online friend in a group I used to be part of. I now follow Maria on Twitter (@brainpickings), as well as receive the weekly newsletter.

Truth is, I find her newsletter layout to be difficult to read because it so chock full of material. But I will acknowledge that part of the problem is probably the fact that I am often in a hurry. Which is what makes today’s post rather ironic, but also illuminating to me.

Recently, she mentioned a book called “Hurry Up and Wait” by Maira Kalman and Daniel Handler. I scrolled back through her Twitter feed to find the original tweet, but it did not appear through the entire month of May. But I trust that I heard about this book from her.

I had reserved it at the library the other day, and was whisking around cleaning up my front room this morning, saw the book, and decided to quickly read through it so I could take it back to the library. Not so fast. I began to thumb through the pages quickly, and suddenly the text accompanying the photographs arrested my attention. Page 20 “I was going to say something more about hurrying, but why take up your time? You have things to do. You can flip through this and go on to the what it is that’s waiting for you, the next thing.” Page 21: “And by this, I mean everything.” Suddenly, I got it. I slowed right down, and began to experience the process of reading the book, rather than just focusing on getting it over with.

Instead of whipping through a book and moving onto the next thing, I read it, and re-read it, and looked at the photo credits in the back, and took time to experience each photo and painting in the book, and I was reminded through it all that the time is now. The present moment is the one I am experiencing, and if I am spending the present moment thinking about the future, I am missing the now.

I notice myself scrolling through Facebook and Twitter kind of like thumbing through a magazine I’m not all that interested in. What’s next, what’s next, what’s next. Brain Pickings offers me the opportunity to ask what’s now, what is now, what is the now, what is in the now. Just like that, I shall slow down, at least until I’m distracted enough to start again to rush.

Page 55:

“How long can we stay here?

We hurry around for awhile

and then it’s time to go.

Time to go. Everybody says it.

Time to go.

And then we do.”

Knee-deep in Curriculum Research; Diving Right In

Today’s research yielded several possibilities for math and reading curricula to use with Kepler. It hadn’t occurred to me until today to use more than one curriculum at a time. I came across the blog of a homeschooling mom who has children with special needs. This most excellent post had links to several materials she is using simultaneously. It made so much sense to do this.

After investigating several possibilities, I have resurrected a program (Read, Write and Type) I previously bought, as well as got registered for free trials for a couple others.

So far, we have checked out the (Tiggly apps) on the iPad. These apps can be used with a set of capacitive pieces which have to be bought separately, or can be used by touch, which is what we started with today. He loves it.

Another program that I really like and Kepler does too is Reading Eggs. We went through two entire lessons of this today. This program works on the iPad, but not as well as on the computer.

Most of the curricula which are designed specifically for children with Down syndrome seem a little pricey, but I think we can add them as we are able.

Others that I am looking into include the following:

All About Reading

Explode the Code, which I did in workbook format with my big kids, but will do the online version with Kepler

A counting toy called Inchimals.

Possibly the math curriculum Numicon

And an online curriculum called Time4Learning

Will supplement with things I already have on hand and we’ll give it the old college try. At least that is the plan today. I’m sure things will develop as we go along, but we’ve got a decent start. Over an hour together working today, and that’s after an entire day of school.

U2 concert coming soon! 

In honor of the upcoming U2 tour, for which I have tickets, I’m reprinting today the story of how my friend and I met Bono back in 2009.-seems like it was just yesterday …

Dateline: Raleigh, NC October 3, 2009

Correspondent: Bono Fan

Our goal: Meet Bono. 
Our technique: Whatever it takes.

0100 hours. Stephanie finally arrives after her Duluth-Minneapolis flight is cancelled and she has to drive like a bat out of hell to catch her Minneapolis-Raleigh flight.
0200 hours. Stephanie and Susan finally go to sleep, exhausted on the one hand, and filled with anticipation on the other.
0900 hours. The fans wake up to a beautiful day. Will today be the day they finally meet Bono? The man himself? Could it actually happen?

Susan has gotten inside info from Cincy friend Deb about meeting the band outside the hotel, so this is where the Raleigh fans begin. First to the front desk. Asking if they know where the band would have stayed last night. After asking three people, get a small lead to the Downtown Marriott. 

Bono Fan #1A and Bono Fan #1B drive to downtown Raleigh to suss out the Marriott. They approach the valet parking attendant and begin their interrogation. “Did U2 stay here last night? Could you tell us if they did? Would you give us a different answer if they did than if they didn’t? Do you know where else they might have stayed?” The attendant stays cool for awhile, but finally cracks under the pressure. “I doubt they even stayed in Raleigh last night,” he says frantically. “Most of the big bands don’t. They fly in the day of the show and fly out after.” 

The Bono Fans eye him carefully, considering the veracity of his words. They walk around the corner and sit at a table to consider their next move. After a few inquiries and phone calls to local radio stations to see if they can obtain press passes since they both are bloggers, they have to move on without passes. OK. Next stop: Carter-Finley Stadium, site of the upcoming concert.

Having already grilled one parking attendant at the stadium, 1A and 1B discover that the band will probably enter the stadium through the underground tunnel. Next step: find a parking place that doesn’t cost $20 and is open before 3 pm and find the tunnel. Ah, here we are on Peter Hermanos Junior Drive, on the approximate correct side of the stadium. And what’s this? A little parking lot, with no “NO Parking This Means You” signs? 1A and 1B pull in as another car pulls out and informs them that this is where one parks for will-call tickets. Sounds good. They park. 1A assures 1B at least 50 times that it is ok to park here. With their goal in mind, The Fans stride purposefully forth to ask the attendant where the will-call office is. No one said they actually needed tickets, did they?? 

1A and 1B can feel they are getting closer to the right place. Their next interrogation is of a security guard who says this is Vegas for these two fans and that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. 

I forgot to tell him I have a blog. 

The security guard can’t tell us anything. Except that somehow we convince him that we are not crazy people and we can be trusted, so he gives us a really big hint about where the band is right now. I listen carefully because 1B is still distracted because she is worrying that the car will be towed away. I reassure her 50 more times that it will not be towed.

We come upon an area that looks suspiciously like an underground entrance. We approach the security guard, but he is having none of our jocular banter, telling us he’s heard it all before, whatever THAT means. But we think we have hit the mother lode here. We see two guys across the way: By now we are completely comfortable going up to complete strangers to find out whatever we can in our quest to meet Bono. We walk over to the guys. I ask: “Hi. What are you guys doing?” And thus begins a beautiful friendship. We thought we were Bono Fan #1 and #2, but we’re definitely going to have get in line behind these two, who have met the man multiple times. These gracious guys, John and Robert, share their curb with us, and regale us with their U2 stories. We meet them around 1400 hours and settle in for the wait. 

Finally, about 415 (forget the military time, I’m too excited by now!) we notice a lot more police activity, and we believe the band is about to arrive. We have a good vantage point. We are in the right place, as I keep telling my friends. I am completely confident that Bono is going to stop and talk to us. As if he has heard me, Bono drives by, rolls down the window, and indicates that he will be back in a few minutes. 
Now we know he is actually going to come out and we are beginning to go crazy with anticipation. Suddenly, there he is. A person I have admired for over 20 years, have loved for the fact he is a husband and father, a follower of Christ, a lover of people, a giver, a broker of his celebrity to make a change in the world, and of course, the best poet of our time. And suddenly, we see him:

Although John and Robert, and Stephanie and I have been here for hours, there are those fans who find a way to cut line ahead of us. So, Bono first stops to take a picture with a woman who is shaking with excitement. After her, John is next. John is in the military and Bono perks up when he hears that. He personalizes a photo that John has of himself with Bono in Boston. He signs Robert’s Rolling Stone magazine.

And then, suddenly, Bono is in front of me. I am touching him. I can’t believe this is happening. I ask him if we can get a picture with him. He is so gracious. “Of course.” His attention is diverted by someone farther down the line who, ahem, isn’t waiting their turn. The picture is of me and Stephanie with him, but this is a cropped photo of just me with him since it’s my blog. 🙂 (You can see Stephanie’s half on Facebook – it’s her profile pic.)

He signed Stephanie’s hat and then moved on down the line. A moment I will never forget. I told everyone I saw for the rest of the day that we had met him. Everyone wanted to know how! We had met Bono, and we still had the concert to look forward to! What a day —

General Admission tickets this time, and we wanted to be close but not too close. We ended up in a perfect spot and made new friends Stefan, Cleidy, and Ben, from Germany, Brazil, and France. We thought WE had come a long way for the concert! Here are the five of us.

From beginning to end this was a wonderful day. The concert was fantastic. The moon was full. The friendship was warm. The weather was beautiful. The band was U2. And I was there.