Happy Holidays

Yesterday was Christmas. Yesterday it snowed. My family had a lovely day and last weekend we saw my mom’s side of the family, which was great. Since I’ve started this journey, I’ve gotten nothing but support from my family. I’ve learned so much over the past year about the environment and about appreciating my family. All of them, make me want to do better. Be more creative, to work harder to do things even though they’re less convenient and to just generally carry on even though I don’t think it makes much difference, which is the hardest thing for me to do.

This weekend was full of upcycling and crafting while keeping the environment in mind.

We made reindeer ornaments out of corks.

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And bottle cap ornaments…out of bottle caps, which we had to cram seven people into a bottle cap size circle to go into the bottom bottle cap. We haven’t exactly finished that.

Everyone, even the guys, were totally on board with these crafts, which is interesting because when my aunt and I try to get them to do stuff at home it doesn’t work out quite as well. But there they were like Martin Stuarts!

I got a solder from my grandma and an awesome upcycling books book from my aunt.

My great aunt made me a lamp from a glass coke bottle that she found in the lake and popcorn bucket from the theater (I don’t think it was used).

028 And she made adorable bird feeders for my mom and aunt made from terracotta and old license plates.

My mom got me cruise control added to my car, which is a gift that keeps on giving and a ‘keep it green’ shirt  and more love than one could ever hope for.

I appreciate all the effort my family goes into caring about the things that I care about.

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Flash Mobs

Mothers truly are the best and I am truly best to have a wonderful mother. She still listens to me complain, makes me feel better when I am sick and makes the best French Silk Pie, chocolate chip cookies, granola bars, and the like. When others would have kicked me out or sent me to a farm, she stuck with me and loved me no matter what. She has had lots of life experiences and somehow she always has a story that will make laugh and feel better about my own predicament. She knows everything one could ever know and she never gets half the credit she deserves, nor does she ask for anything in return. I hope all the mothers and children out there had a wonderful Mother’s Day.

I found some hope this weekend. Believe it or not, I do actually like hope. I don’t like to be dragged down by the weight of the world, humanity and its pollution. I like joy, dreams and aspirations just as much as the next person. I find it harder to accumulate than some others, but when I do it was well worth the bumpy road. I don’t know where you find hope, but I find it in others who have passion, goals, opinions, in people who care more about others than getting the latest electronic or the most money. People are working to make the world a better place, small acts of kindness, and a lot of random happy things, people who can make us stop and think about something other than ourselves, those are the people and things that give me hope. Sometimes hope is a bad thing. It allows us to think that we can keep going as freight train, destroying everything in our past or it will allow us to kill ourselves trying to obtain something that can’t be obtained. It keeps holding on when we should only be letting go. Hope just by itself can destroy you, but right now I don’t feel too destroyed, so I’m going to share my hope with you.

Flash mobs. A flash mob (or flashmob) is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression. I know what you’re thinking. Flash mobs? Really? Yes. I don’t know why, but everything about them screams that it’s just going to be okay. These people go out on a limb, put their self-esteem on the line and just give us something to focus on besides our problems and the weight of the world. I don’t know about you, but I get so bogged down with negativity. I don’t think negativity is a bad thing. Discontentment is the first step. You have to be discontent with something in order to come up with an idea to make it better. The world would be stuck in its suckiness if there was never anybody being discontent. It’s a good thing, but sometimes I need some relief and some hope that it won’t all be for nothing. Besides, there are so many people walking around hopeless. I read an article about global warming. It talked about how people had this naïve and pathetic way of imaging that if we just stick our heads in the dirt that the world would just get better, that we could continue tearing down everything in our path thinking we won’t suffer the consequences. It said that we are definitely digging our graves and we were killing ourselves in them by believing that and for it to change we must become hopeless. We must believe that there is no more light at the end of the tunnel in order for us to finally change our ways.  That is my paraphrase, of course. There is still too much hope and pretty soon it will be too late for us. Sometimes though, people just need a little hope. Just enough to know that someone is on your side, to know that someone out there cares and all they want to do is a put a smile on your face or to focus on the bigger picture and not get so bogged down with the irrelevant things in life and again, to know that all of it won’t be for nothing.  It may be lame, but that’s what they mean to me anyway.

I’ve never seen one in a real life and before I stumbled onto through other searches, I had only seen that AT&T commercial where the guy with a non- AT&T service breaks out into a random dance and then after he realizes that he’s alone he gets a text message saying that the flash mob will start later. That’s the first and last time I had ever heard of them till now, but I have become pretty obsessed with them and I appreciate the people who do them. Since I don’t have the add-on to be able to have videos, I’ve have just put the links to my favorites down below. I’ll give a brief description of each one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=gww9_S4PNV0 This one is the first one I watched. It has the Copenhagen Philharmonic playing on the subway. It’s pretty amazing and the people’s reaction is my favorite. They look peaceful, even if for just a second, before they go on with their crappy day.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EYAUazLI9k&feature=related More than 200 dancers were performing their version of “Do Re Mi”, in the Central Station of Antwerp.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OawiTae0bA&feature=related I don’t think this is a flash mob, it seems planned, but it’s inmates dancing to a Michael Jackson song. I think prison should be the worst place on earth. If people are doing things just so they can live on the taxpayers money and get a free ride in life then it’s not bad enough, but I also think that they should be rehabilitated and after they do their time, instead of condemning them forever, we should help them if they can be helped. I think stuff like this can be therapeutic and while it seems a bit too fun, I would rather them work on this than beat each other’s heads in.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrEk06XXaAw One of the first professional symphony orchestras ever Copenhagen Philharmonic did a flash mob at Copenhagen Central Station. They played Ravel’s Bolero.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KOevkUjRTU&feature=related I just like this one. There wasn’t much information about it like what it was called or anything. It was in Georgia, Tbilisi and I think the song maybe Jesus is a Keeper or something.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed and it made your day a little brighter!

One Man’s Quest to be Penniless

I hope to be like this man some day. Maybe not totally like him, but more like him than I am now.  This isn’t the first story like this that I’ve heard. It was a movie that watched, Into the Wild. I was hugely inspired. There a few things that I’m holding on too tightly to for that to happen, but since I have been doing this I have let go of somethings that I never thought I could and also there are a lot of things I still have to learn how to do.  It’s a process of being so tired of being under someone else’s control. One day that day will come when I am done, worn down. He’s a quite inspiring fellow and I found hope in this story. The original site I got this from said that 26% of the people that read this story found it inspiring,too. 11% found it depressing and 4% found it boring. Anyway, here’s his story. http://abcnews.go.com/Business/utah-caveman-quits-money/story?id=16273605

Daniel Suelo is 51 years old and broke. Happily broke. Consciously, deliberately, blessedly broke.

Not only does he not have debt, a mortgage or rent, he does not earn a salary. Nor does he buy food or clothes, or own any product with a lower case “i” before it. Home is a cave on public land outside Moab, Utah. He scavenges for food from the garbage or off the land (fried grasshoppers, anyone?). He has been known to carve up and boil fresh road kill. He bathes, without soap, in the creek.

In the fall of 2000, Suelo (who changed his name from Shellabarger), decided to stop using money altogether. That meant no “conscious barter,” food stamps or other government handouts. His mission was to “use only what is freely given or discarded and what is already present and already running,” he wrote on his web site, Zero Currency.

The question many people wonder: Is he insane, or a mooch, or simply dedicated to leading a simple, honest, dare we say, Christ-like existence?

They’re good questions. And depending whom you ask, the answers vary.

Suelo wasn’t always a modern-day caveman. He went to the University of Colorado and studied anthropology, at one point considering medical school. He lived in a real house, with four walls, a window and a door, and shopped in stores, not their dumpsters.

But over time he says he grew depressed, clinically depressed, mainly with the focus on acquisition. “Every time I made a resume for a job, signed my name to a document, opened a bank account, or even bought a banana at the supermarket, I felt a tinge of dishonesty,” he said.

He was born into an Evangelical Christian home in Grand Junction, Colo., and took his religion seriously. Eventually, he started wondering why “professed Christians rarely followed the teachings of Jesus–namely the Sermon on the Mount, namely giving up possessions, living beyond credit and debt–freely giving and freely taking–giving, expecting nothing in return, forgiving all debts, owing nobody a thing, living beyond payback of either evil-for-evil or good-for-good, living and walking without guilt (debt), without grudge (debt), without judgment (credit & debt), living by Grace, by Gratis, not by our own works but by the works of the true Nature flowing through,” he said.

Although he considered himself a Christian, he discovered that the same principles applied to Taoism, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Islam, Mormonism, Shamanism, and Paganism.

One year he went to Alaska and worked on the docks. But that, too, he says, felt dishonest. Instead, he and a buddy decided to live off the land—spearing fish, foraging for mushrooms and berries. (Think Castaway, but with snow). Suelo (which means soil in Spanish) eventually hitch-hiked back to Moab with $50 in his pocket. By the time he arrived, his stash had dwindled to $25. He realized that he only needed money for things he really didn’t need, like snacks and booze.

He began toying with the idea of living full-time without money. He traveled to India, and became fascinated by Hindu Sadhus, who wandered without lucre and possessions. He considered joining them, but then he realized that “A true test of faith would be to return to one of the most materialistic, money-worshipping nations on earth, to return to the authenticity profound principles of spirituality hidden beneath our own religion of hypocrisy, and be a Sadhu there,” he said. “To be a vagabond, a bum, and make an art of it – this idea enchanted me.”

And soon, that’s exactly what he did. He says he left his life savings—a whopping $30—in a phone booth, and walked away.

But he didn’t do it in a vacuum; he maintained his blog for free from the Moab public library. Rather than just sitting on a mountain and gazing at his navel, he wanted to have an impact on others, to spread his gospel.

In 2009, Mark Sundeen, an old acquaintance he’d worked with at a Moab restaurant, heard about Suelo through mutual friends. At first, “I thought he must have lost his mind,” Sundeen, 42, said in a telephone conversation. But then he began reading his blog, and grew intrigued. Sundeen divides his time between Missoula, Mont., and Moab, where he was once a river guide, and he paid a visit to Suelo’s cave.

Gradually, he said he realized that much of what Suelo was saying made a whole lot of sense. This was right around the time the economy crashed, and “It felt like a lot of what he was saying was prophetic,” said Sundeen. “That money is an illusion, an addiction. That resonated with me after the collapse for the economy.”

Sundeen was so intrigued that he decided to write a book about Suelo, The Man Who Quit Money, which was published in March.

While the book reviews have been generally positive, Suelo has come under fire by some who say he’s a derelict, sponging off society without contributing. They are valid criticisms: This is a guy, after all, who has gotten a citation for train hopping (what would Jesus say about that?). And he’s not opposed to house sitting in winter–not exactly living off the land.

And besides: How is he actually helping others by going without? It’s not like he’s solving world hunger, or curing cancer.

Sundeen disputes these arguments. “He doesn’t accept any government programs—welfare, food stamps, Medicare,” he said. “The only ways in which he actually uses taxpayer funded derivatives is walking on roads and using the public library. So in that regard he’s a mooch–he’s using the roads and not paying taxes. But if you try to quantify the amount of money he’s taking from the system—it’s a couple of dollars a year, less than anyone’s ever used.”

Instead, he is actively promoting “his idea that money is an illusion,” Sundeen said. “The Fed just prints it up, it doesn’t mean anything and it’s going to lead us down the road to serfdom.” Suelo simply doesn’t want to contribute to that, and so he lives life on his own terms.

That said, Sundeen wouldn’t live the way Suelo does. “The appeal to me is the living outdoors part, but I feel like I got my feel of that working as an Outward Bound guide,” he said. “At this point I have other priorities.”

Suelo, for his part, has no plans to bring money back into his life. “I know it’s possible to live without money,” he said. “Abundantly.”

How to Celebrate Earth Day

As you probably know, Earth Day is April 22. It’s right around the corner. I try to celebrate the Earth every day, so I’m not really sure what I’ll do to make April 22 extra special, maybe dumpster diving or maybe throw myself out of my comfort zone and make a recycling convert. Since I don’t go very many places on Sunday, I may have to settle for doing that on Friday. I don’t know yet, but I’ll let you know.

1.      Plant a tree in your back yard: Besides being a fun activity for your family, planting trees help to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and they provide a habitat for a variety of other plants and animals. Go to your local nursery, and pick out the perfect native tree for your yard. Lifetime trailers make it easy to haul the tree home. More trees in your yard can actually lower your cooling bill by providing shade over your house. Everybody wins when they plant trees.

2. Make pine cone birdfeeders- Bring birds right to your yard and watch them as they enjoy a healthy snack. Making pine cone bird feeders is a fun and easy activity for children. click here for instructions. Keep in mind, birds from different areas need different nutrients, so do your research before buying bird feed. Also, try not to hang the bird feeder in front of a window.

3. Visit a nearby recycling facility- Recycling processes are fascinating and fun to watch.  By visiting a recycling center, you can see how super, duper easy it is. Just give it that chance. If you save up recyclable materials to drop off during the visit, you’ll earn some extra change you can use to pick up ice cream cones afterward (our city’s recycling center doesn’t pay, but some do. We take our cans to a metal recycling center and we get paid for that.)

4. Sit with the family and set specific goals to recycle and save energy- It’s often as easy as changing your light bulbs, adjusting the setting on your fridge, or making a routine trip to a nearby recycling bin.

5. Plant or renew your vegetable garden- April is the perfect time to plan your garden. Section off an area of your yard or use a Raised Garden Bed, and decide what you’d like to grow this year. If you don’t have a yard, window boxes and large pots work just as well. Home grown vegetables are pesticide-free and help you save money. You can also nourish them with recycled kitchen scraps and grass clippings, using a composter. Let the children choose new types of fruits or vegetables to try out each year, and give them responsibilities in the garden.

6. Plant flowers at a local non-profit organization, church or community gardens- Contact the organization prior to planting. Most are thrilled when someone offers to beautify their grounds.

  1. Go on a nature hike- Nature hikes are a great way to appreciate the details of our beautiful earth. Pick a park or nearby trail, or visit a new place every year on Earth Day.
  2. Ride a bike or walk- Take some extra time out of your day and ride or walk to work or whatever activities you’re doing this Sunday. It’ll help you get energized, feel accomplished, get you ready to take on the day while helping the environment.
  3. Clean up litter at a local park- Parks provide places for everyone in the community to enjoy nature. Unfortunately, litter detracts from their beauty, and can be dangerous to people and animals. Bring some large bags and gather up trash to revive your park. Use sticks to pick up the litter you don’t want to touch.
  4. Attend an Earth Day event- Earth Day events are held across the nation, and are full of fun activities for both you and the kids. Pick a place close to you, events can be seen at http://act.earthday.org/ .
  5. Cook a special Earth Day meal using all non-processed foods- Invite the friends and family over to share a healthy, home-cooked meal. Get creative and decorate in an ‘earth day’ theme using leaves or potted plants, and let each guest take a plant home to add to their garden.  Here are some good websites for ideas on how to throw an eco-friendly dinner party: http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500171_162-4946088.html

http://www.sheknows.com/living/articles/803355/throw-an-ecofriendly-dinner-party

http://www.articlecontentprovider.com/articlesubmit/Article/Designing-an-Environmentally-Friendly-Dinner-Party/216772

12. And last, but not least, contact corporations, your local representative in congress, anybody who practices something that you would like them not to. Green4u has information on how to contact your representative in Congress. As a celebration of Earth Day, they also have posted companies that use Styofoam and ways to contact them and ask them to stop.

I contacted Chic-fil-a and Jumba Juice. I didn’t just ask them to stop, but why they should. With additional details, basically I said Styrofoam is just a bunch of chemicals, they give cancer, other health risks like death and they’re terrible for the environment. Some stores have a recycling bin the styofoam, so they at least care somewhat about the  environment, but they’re reasoning for keeping the styofoam cup is that people are constantly praising their insulating abilities and until they find a cup that does that just as well, they’re not changing anything. It’s nice to know that people and companies have their priorities straight. You can’t put a price on a ice cold beverage. Actually, you can, it’s called cancer, death and a destroyed environment. I have still yet to contact anybody from congress. To be honest, it’s just the fact that I don’t know what to say. They make me so that if I started then everything would just be a rant  and that’s not what I want. So, I’m mulling it over.

Earth Day reminds us we all share the same planet. Sharing Earth means taking responsibility for what we use and how we use it. It is a day to think of the environmental challenges we face and how to solve them. Protecting Earth is every person’s and every country’s responsibility.

Cat Tales

Well, I’m on spring break this week, so I’m out of town. I didn’t know I would have access to the internet the whole time and I wasn’t sure if I would have enough time to do research for anything. Although I’m inspired by the vacation and kind of want to right about the different effects that traveling, hotels, so ons have on the environment I don’t have enough time to actually sit down and research it all, so I’ve decided to write about…my cats.

Yep, I’m imagining everyone rolling their eyes. Cats are not the more popular pets, but I can’t help it. I love them, I miss them, and so I’m going to write about them.

Harmony- Melody and Harmony are sisters. They look almost exactly alike and they’re inseparable.  Right now they’re being boarded at their doctor’s office. I know, what a horrible place to have to sleep. It would be like having to sleep at your doctor’s office. Harmony has to take medicine everyday, which she hates, because she has kidney problems and since I don’t trust anybody, but myself or parents to get it to her then we figure that the vet would be the next best option. Melody is there with her so they won’t have to be away each other for so long. I still feel guilty. She’s the only one who has to take the medicine, but she’s the only one who won’t eat it. Anytime I get it on the floor the other cats just come and lick it up, but not Harmony. Harmony is very ungraceful and she’s rotten to the core. When I let her in my room, she has a tendency to walk along my desk and knock everything off.  When she was younger, not so much anymore, she had habit or trying to cover up the water or food bowl with the mats that we always put their bowls on. She would also put toys in the bowl. One time we bought some toys at PetCo around Halloween and one was a pair of eyes and it was covered in feathers. The feathers were all torn off in a couple of seconds, but Harmony took the eyes and put them in the food bowl. It was a pretty weird sight. I thought it was funny, but my mother didn’t really appreciate it.

Harmony

This is one of her favorite spots in my room. She's laying on a huge stuffed tiger that I got for Christmas one year. My cat's really like that tiger for some reason.

Melody is her sister and she’s definitely got the naughty gene. I’m sure her and Harmony are wreaking havoc at the vet’s office right now. Both sisters have a slight weight problem; Harmony more so because of her kidney problems. Melody at one point was more overweight, but she lost it all so now she has a flab on her stomach that flags back and forth when she runs. It’s pretty funny. When Melody and Harmony were kittens they used to watch tv with me, like literally watch it. Now they just sit on my books or homework or whatever I’m trying to write. One time I had my laptop open and I left the room, but when I came back a whole bunch of the keys had been ripped off. I don’t even know how they did, but it sure was annoying.

Melody

Melody in the dryer. Enough said.

Melody and Harmony

Mr. T- Mr.T and Mystique are brother and sister. Their mother had been hit by a car at my old high school and the kittens had been found by some of the teachers there. The principle had told a janitor to put them in a trash bag and kill them. One of the teachers knows my mom stays home for her home day care and called her to ask her if she would keep them. The teacher’s husband brought them to our house. At the time we had a mother cat that was nursing. It was a cat that had been having litter after litter of kittens, so we kept until she had them and as soon as we could we got her spayed. The mother helped my mom and my mom helped her. We had nine kittens then, so we had to come up with names that described how they looked so we could keep them all straight. Mr. T had a white T down his nose and across his mouth. On the left side just above his mouth he has a black spot that is about the size of a pinky. It looks like half a mustache. It’s adorable. Mr. T is extremely nervous around the kids and around people in general. He was too scared to ever go outside like the rest of our cats so he usually stays in the garage. He’s a long haired, black and white cat. He’s a sweetie pie.

Mr. T