Nov 24, 2010

So Thankful...

So thankful for time spent with family and friends, for the comfort of knowing that every year - no matter what has transpired - we will all gather in this time and in this place. And sometimes we might cry a bit, remembering years past and those loved ones who are no longer with us, but we always will come around to a place of laughter, and celebration, and love. Anyone who has ever spent a Thanksgiving at my family's house knows that it is a time that is not easily captured in words, or pictures, or even memories... it's kind of one of those, "you had to be there" things. And for those of us who have been lucky enough to gather together year, after year, after year, well, we all know that we are blessed beyond measure. So thankful this is my family; so thankful this is my home...

Sep 29, 2010


I wrote the following years ago as part of the introduction to my undergraduate thesis - And They Were Heroes: A Collection of Family Stories.

I sat in my grandmother's study sifting through volumes of family documents as the sound of my grandfather's favorite Bocelli video concert drifted up the stairs. As my mind wandered from the stories in old letters and immigration documents to recollections of my own family experiences - a memorable family vacation, the smell of my mother's famous spinach stuffed shells (marking her once-a-month culinary creation) - I could not help what wonder what the stories of my family's past would mean to me, and what the stories of my own past would one day mean to future generations. Why was I so interested in the stories of my ancestors, of my great-grandparents, of my grandparents? How did these stories of memories past fit into the fabric of my own life?

Sometimes people have a tendency to believe the stories of their own lives are less important than those they read about in history books or hear about on television. And sometimes people believe their own stories are more important than the stories of people around them - friends, neighbors, strangers. It was my grandmother who taught me that all individuals and all families have their own important stories to tell; not stories that make them greater or less than anyone else, but stories that make them unique, stories that bind them to their pasts and connect them to their futures. Stories can be the powerful links that connect generations otherwise disconnected by the barriers of time and distance and memory. To find insight and light among a trunk filled with torn, yellowed letters and postcards; to see resemblance in a smile shining through a dusty old photograph; to discover a hidden strength in the stories of long lives well-lived - these are the qualities that compel me to tell my family's stories - stories that have given me a greater understanding of not only who I am, but also of where I have come from.

Aug 25, 2010

This Guy is Pretty Darn Amazing

Read this. It will, hopefully, make you think a little bit today about the consciousness (or lack thereof) of the choices we all make everyday.

Aug 24, 2010


... I guess if my brother can reenter the blogging world after a notable absence, so can I. Life has been busy around here, but no matter what I'm doing, thoughts of simplicity are never far from my mind.

I'm thinking right now about the ways in which our conscious thoughts become ingrained habits, and what that means for my simplicity journey. For example, my recycling system is now a habit - something we just do without thinking much about it. So are my monthly (or more) trips to Goodwill to drop off donations. These things may seem simple, and they are, but they are also things that not-so-long-ago I had to concentrate on, think about, and even write about.

So I guess this is progress, because when I no longer have to think about these small tasks, I've then cleared some space in my mind to focus on other things - like my new business, and the book projects I'm working on, and my health, and my family.

Aug 6, 2010

Jumping Back Into the Blogging World...

So, if any of my few readers noticed, I've been VERY absent from the blogging world. I think I'm ready to start getting my feet wet again. No promises. We'll see.

I'm going to start with a post that I drafted back in January. I'm not even going to edit it... I'm just going to post it. I've been working on letting go of my perfectionism, but that's a topic for a future post.

Anyway, I don't have the link to Katy's blog post that I'm referencing, but if you want to check out a consistent and solid blog about non-consumerism, check her out.

Here's a glimpse into where my mind was at the beginning of January.

This post was inspired by Katy's post over at The Non-Consumer Advocate.
I'm proud to have finally made the transition from vegetarian to vegan a couple of months ago and I'm proud that my eating finally aligns with my beliefs. I'm proud that we keep the thermostat at 58 degrees and that I've learned how to layer my clothes and deal with a little chill in the air. I'm proud that I no longer work 60+ hours a week and know I never want to work that much again. I'm proud that I exercise and take care of myself. I'm proud that I've cut down on my consumption and that I've vowed to do the compact again, even if I'm only starting with a one-month commitment. I'm proud that I devote some of my time to working with kids who really need the love and support I have to give. I'm proud of the fact that I donate a lot to charity. I'm not-so-proud of the fact that we don't compost and that we don't recycle everything that we can. I'm not-so-proud of the fact that I drive too much and don't ride my bike when I maybe could. I'm also not-so-proud of the fact that I stopped tracking my spending and that I have a lot of student loan debt and that I don't give as much to charity as I know I could. And I'm not-so-proud of the fact that I don't volunteer and I bought too many new clothes and books this last year and that I went to Wal-Mart three times even though I told myself years ago I'd never go there again.

May 6, 2010

Take the Time...

Take the time to reflect, to think, to breathe. Take the time to exercise and fuel your body with healthy, plant-based foods. Take the time to read good things and tell the people you love how much they mean to you. Take the time to find your purpose in life and then take the time to live that purpose with intention. And take the time to write... it's a powerful form of reflection.

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Mar 9, 2010

Compact Update

I can't believe it's already March! At the beginning of the year, I took on a personal challenge to abide by The Compact and buy nothing new for a month. Well, January came and went, along with February, and I am happy to report that (which a few notable exceptions like personal care products), I am still going strong. Here's a few simple times I've learned along the way:

1. It's much easier not to shop when you stay out of commercial establishments.
2. It's also much easier not to shop when you don't own a TV or watch TV. No commercials = less temptation.
3. It's also easier to get over those desire-to-buy-something urges (if you, in fact, have these urges) if you have a good, local thrift store to stop by every once in a while.
4. Most things are not as hard as seem at first... especially if you tackle challenges in small, reasonable steps.

Want to know more about The Compact? I think Angela does a great job of explaining it here in her first post.

Want to join me? Jump on in. Commit to buy nothing new for a week, a month, a year. Reflect on your progress along the way. I can almost promise you that you'll see some unintended positive results in the process.

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Feb 20, 2010

If You Are Having a Hard Time Getting Started...

I read this great post this morning from Leo over at Zen Habits. I mention his blog frequently because I am impressed with his ability to make things seem so darn simple. He talks about how some of people's best ideas never make it to completion because they are just too complex.

A friend of mine mentioned this post from Leo in an email she wrote me this morning and asked why it seemed like we were able to apply these principles to some aspects of our lives (like finishing our dissertations in a year), but not to others (like getting going on those books we both want to write). Something about what she said really struck me as important and got me thinking. This is what I've come up with -- one simple piece of advice to get you going.

If you are having a hard time getting started on a project, think about a time when you have been successful in the past. Really think about it. What steps did you take? What kind of attitude did you have about your project? Who did you ask for help? What decisions or sacrifices did you make in your life so that you could focus on something that you deemed important? Think about, and then apply what made you successful in the past to your current project. Don't procrastinate. Do it now.

In order to complete my dissertation, I spent a year saving up every penny I could so that I could afford to take a year off (and then ultimately leave for good) a high school teaching position that, in many ways, was a perfect job for me. I had to ask my family and friends for support in ways that went against my fiercely independent nature. And I had to trust the process.

A quote that Leo began his post with, that I think is also fitting here, comes from Wu-Men, who wrote that "If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, then this is the best season of your life."

I'd love to hear from you. Feel free to post a comment in the comments section below.

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Feb 17, 2010

3 Tips on Tackling Student Loan Debt

I have to admit that my student loan debt has been consuming me lately, especially because at the beginning of February I started paying back my doctorate loans (in addition to loans I'm still paying on my B.A. and M.A. degrees). I am no financial expert and it is my natural instinct to run screaming AWAY from anything having to do with finances, money, budgets, etc. That being said, here's some advice I DO have to offer.

1. Recognize that your student loan debt is, largely, a result of the CHOICES you have made... Unlike, say, medical debt that might result from treating a terminal illness.

It's easy to feel sorry for yourself, to feel like you're being punished because of your decision to get an education. It's easy to feel resentment towards people who, because of large trust funds, ingenuity, different life circumstances, or different choices, are walking around with the same education that you have without any of the debt. If you are feeling any of these negative things, make the choice to stop. Switch your thinking. Focus on how amazingly lucky and privileged
you are to have been able to choose to get an education. Use your education to make the world a better, more positive place. And don't take that education for granted. Ever. If you, like me, are paying very large student loan payments every month, you are lucky that you have a monthly reminder of just what that education cost you. Don't waste the education that is, largely, a result of the choices you've made and the opportunities you've been given.

2. Pay your bills on time. Every month. And look into loan consolidation or federally-sponsored programs to help alleviate debt.

Again, I'm no expert here and so I won't offer much in the way of specifics. Loan consolidation has been a good way for me to alleviate at least a little of the monthly burden and not feel like I have to rush out and get some job I don't want just so that I can make my loan payments every month. It has also been a way for me to have some flexibility in terms of how I spend my time and which professional opportunities I choose to accept and which I choose to pass by.

3. Live a simpler life and do not accumulate additional debt.

Although I am not often proud of the amount of student debt I have accumulated, I am proud to say that I have paid off all my consumer debt. And I continue to take steps everyday to simplify my life so that I have more available money to go towards paying off my student loans. I want to be debt-free as soon as possible, and to do that I know I have to pay off my loans as quickly as possible. That becomes easier because I choose to drive a used car, clip coupons, save money on my grocery bill by eating lots of fruits and veggies, little processed food, and no animal products. Although the sole purpose of making these choices is NOT monetary, having extra money to pay off my student loans is a nice by-product of some of the conscious decisions I make.

I have a long way to go and am far from perfect, but I thought I'd share a few things that I have learned on my journey. There isn't a day that goes by that I regret the decisions I've made about my education. I know that a large part of my growth and development as a person is due to the educational opportunities I've had. And I don't want the amount of my student debt to diminish for me the value of my education. Ever.

If you would like to comment on this post, or just introduce yourself as a reader, please do so in the comments section below. I would love to hear from you.

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Jan 22, 2010

Checking In...

I've been inspired recently by my brother, whose example of transitioning to a vegan diet heavily influenced my own decision to become a vegan. You can read up on his progress here.

I'll be back soon to post some updates on Personal Challenge #3, which has to do with taking care of some financial business. I'll also be writing about my January Compact journey and what I'm learning throughout the process.

Jan 18, 2010

Injustice Anywhere...

Today I've been thinking a lot about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I've been thinking about the life he lived and the legacy he left behind.

This morning I was watching t.v. coverage of an MLK event taking place at the church in Atlanta, GA where both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his father were pastors. And I listened to Dr. Cornell West speak and I wish I could have recorded his speech or wrote it down because he said so much, so powerfully that I was actually moved to tears. Among many other things, Dr. West talked about how one of the things Dr. King was concerned about was the question of what it means to be human and to live a life of service. Dr. West also spoke about how love, when it is brought into the public sphere, becomes justice.

I'll leave you today with a few of my favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes:
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
"At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love."
"History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."

And a question: What have you done, are you doing, or will you do to keep the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. alive?

Jan 12, 2010

Personal Challenge #3: Take Care of Financial Business (Week 1 of 4)

I'm back. Really. I am. And my third personal challenge is going to be all about getting my finances fit. Each week I will focus on one or two pressing items. This week, my focus will be:
1. Getting a handle on my student loans, including consolidating some of them (so that I can pay well above the minimum payment, but do not have to if a tough month or two comes up);
2. Resuming a committed effort to tracking my expenses.

My intention is to blog a few times this week about what I've learned that I think might be of use to others. Other than that, I'm also almost halfway through my month-long commitment to participate in The Compact and buy nothing new. It's been easier than I expected. I even returned a few unwanted items today and EARNED myself $33. Whoo, hoo! And I didn't even have the urge to walk around the clothing store... in, to the counter, nice exchange with a nice salesperson, and out. It was that easy.

Update: I'm still doing well at my first personal challenge, which is to donate/get rid of ten items a week. The second challenge, 10+ minutes of yoga/meditation a day has been harder for me to stick with, but I am recommitting myself this week. I'll let you know how it goes.

Jan 8, 2010

One Simple Way to Change the World

Since I've become a vegan, I've tried to be careful about not talking about it too much, not pushing my ideas on others, not coming across as all-knowing or off-putting. And then I watched this video. And I remembered that it is important to not only live your values, but to talk about them once in a while. Please watch it here. It will take eleven minutes of your life, but it might just show you or remind you about one simple way that you can change the world.

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