Environmental Impact: Commitments

As those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know, I make a yearly commitment to reduce my environmental impact or advocate for social justice in some consumer way. This past year, our family replaced the use of plastic straws with stainless steel or glass ones. When I tell people what we do or when some people see our straws, a common response is, “I could never do that because…”

  1. I’m too disorganized.
  2. I never remember those type of things.
  3. Who cares about straw use, it’s so small after all.
  4. I have too many other things going on so I just can’t commit to do another habit.
  5. Fill in your own excuse.

When I hear these responses, I want to empathize because I’ve had those same thoughts, especially in January and February when my habit isn’t established. But sometimes I have another response, especially when I visit other countries who have amazing environmental consciousness like Italy, which is, “How typically American.” In the entire planet, 20% of the people use 80% of the world’s resources. In case it isn’t clear, US citizens are in the 20%. Yet, if I can put aside judgment and offer encouragement my response is usually, “developing habits is guaranteed to change your person in unexpected ways so that you will benefit personally far more than whatever your impacting.” So selfishly, I continue to commit year after year to care for the environment or “my neighbor” across the ocean or next door. After all, what impact does eliminating one straw a day really have? An estimated 500 million straws are used in this country EVERY SINGLE DAY. So not much, but if we all start thinking about our straw use and start making a difference maybe we can cut our country’s use in half and then another half and another half until our straw use is a fraction of the 500 million.

This past year, some of you have asked about how we got started and developed our habit. So I’d like to offer some tips.

  1. Purchase straws – Amazon offers many options. If you’re like me and try not to use Amazon, www.byolongbeach.com has great prices. You can also go to her website and check out Southern California events to get them in person, which is even better.
  2. Store your straws in your car or purse.
  3. Buy double the straws per people in your family of the sizes you use often. In my family of four, it is rare we are all out for a smoothie together. Instead, three of us are often out so we have six boba/ smoothie straws. We also have four regular size straws. This is for when we all go out to a restaurant. Notice it isn’t double, this is because I almost never use a straw in a restaurant nor does Dennis so only two people use straws.
  4. Buy a special cleaner for the straws. (Many stainless steel straws come with them at purchase.)
  5. Have a bag for the used straws, which you wash out along with the straws, and this goes in your purse as soon as everyone is done using their straw. Otherwise, the straws get left in the car. Gross.
  6. Have a clean bag that you use to place the clean straws in. This also goes either in your purse or near your car keys so you get them back in your car (unless you store them in your purse).
  7. If you forget to bring them in the store, but they are in your car, make yourself go get them. You’ll never remember if there isn’t an incentive such as inconvenience to help you develop this new habit.
  8. Think about your motivations for developing this habit and it will likely increase your motivation for following through and making it a habit.

Environmental Motivation: From the Be Straw Free campaign, here are some facts. Americans use 500 million drinking straws every day. To understand just how many straws 500 million really is, this would fill over 125 school buses with straws every day. That’s 46,400 school buses every year! Americans use these disposable utensils at an average rate of 1.6 straws per person per day.

What we gained as a family. It’s hard to identify everything we learned as a family through this discipline. One parenting victory with my 10 year old was when we started discussing our new habit, he gloated when we were out and he was using a plastic straw. He loved (and loves) moving against the rest of us. Our strategy was to teach him how to respect other’s opinions and not gloat about his different decisions rather than convince him about the need to reduce plastic use. (Of course, if we were out some where and had our straws with us, he needed to use a stainless steel straw but it was when we didn’t have them that he would be delighted to use a plastic one.)

Luckily, his school weekly news summaries addressed the issues of using straws and plastics. He began discussing with us what he was learning about plastics. He and I began watching a few Ted talks that had great information about plastic reuse (one discussed India’s reuse of plastic by converting it into roads and another one showed the ocean’s “plastic island.”). Slowly, he lost his delight in plastic straws and began asking if we had the reusable straws. He also became excited to share with friends that he was reducing his straw use.

For my 16 year old daughter, she also told her friends what we were doing – informing them on the “cool” straws we use as well as developing a lovely mindfulness and intentionality around this habit. In the beginning she would be bummed to go back to the car, but as the months went by, she went less often and it wasn’t a huge deal to do so.

For me, I find it spiritually rewarding to get outside of myself and make decisions where I personally aren’t necessarily gaining from my choice. Instead, it’s likely the future generations will see the benefit of decreasing our 500 million straw a day habit. However, I do find a reward in developing habits – internally, It’s sticking with something until it works (remembering to bring our straws) and being successful is motivating and feels good. I believe it also reflects a pace of life that means I’m not so overwhelmed that I an’t fit something new on my plate. For me, it brings me great joy to be participating in a greater good – reducing plastic and being mindful of our planet’s resources.

What’s up next? We’re going to create a habit of bringing our own containers for dining out, and when possible bring our own containers to the salad bar items at our local grocery stores.

2018 Yearly Reflections

  1. What did you do in 2018 that you had never done before?
    For a birthday gift to myself, I went canyoneering in Utah as part of a photography workshop with National Geographic photographer Steve Matera and Get In The Wild, both experiences I’d never done before. It was an amazing adventure and fed my love of the southwest, a place I used to backpack every year before our children arrived.
photo credit Stephen Matera
Photo credit: Stephen Matera

2. Did you keep your New Year’s Resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I didn’t make any New Year’s Resolutions last year. Instead, I kept my focus on my goals that I create every September with my business group, Thrive. Here we focus on both habits/ daily practices and goals. I have felt really good about the progress I’ve made and I’ve found this structure is much more effective for me than New Year’s Resolutions.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Dennis’ fabulous assistant, Esther, gave birth to a baby boy and our cousin, Emily, gave birth to a lovely baby girl.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

January 6th, my dear friend, Danielle Montiel died from breast cancer. See here https://countrygirlinla.com/?p=1087 for more details. She is dearly missed by all who knew her.

5. What countries or new places did you visit?

Italy!!! Oh my goodness, what a fabulous trip this summer. We visited Florence, Rome, Siena, and a small town in the Italian Alps. I fell in love with food, wine, art, festivals, the people, the beauty, and well everything. I love this country. I can’t wait to return.

6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?

I need to prioritize physical activity. I have an occupation that is primarily sedentary. As a result, lots of tight IT bands, hips, etc. I need to be more intentional about stretching in between my clients and even taking a walk in the afternoon – not for exercise sake but for movement’s sake. I’d like to do more of this so I can keep away the hip pain that appears when I’ve sat too long.

7. What dates from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Being with Danielle as she passed away on January 6th will remain etched in my memory. It’s a great privilege to be with someone and many of their loved ones as they leave this world. Shared grief feels like your whole being is surrounded by a community movement communicating one thing and one thing only – “You are not alone.”

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Fun! I created a lot of space for fun and creating memories this year. Some of it was intentional – attending concerts (U2, Fall Out Boy, Lorde, Halsey to name some), theater shows (Dear Evan Hansen, Come From Away, School of Rock, Beautiful), sporting events (Angels, Ducks) or events (Pageant of the Masters). Other fun was spontaneous as we practiced the Sabbath as a family and often created space for times of enjoyment with one another or friends.

Coffee Shop Adventures

9. What was your biggest failure?

Hum. I continue to struggle with creating space for my writing. I tend to fill my time with office visits, workshops and other items that are more direct service to people. I hope to better value my writing this year. I’ve taken the steps to do so by applying and now attending a writing intensive which meets every three months in Santa Fe with Natalie Goldberg and Rob Wilder. So hopefully I won’t be writing the same thing next year.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Yes – same situation caused both. My right shoulder is vulnerable to injury. I healed it last year after an 18 month struggle. However, my canyoneering trip re-injured it after our longest outing – primarily due to transitioning through slot canyons so narrow that I had to carry my backpack out in front or back of me since I couldn’t fit through with it on my back. After that trip, I somehow got bacteria that three days later started traveling up my arm. This landed me in the ER without a wait (meaning highest risk patient). Luckily some strong antibiotics knocked it out.

11. What’s the best thing you bought?

We bought a Tesla!! This is our second electric car, our third alternative fuel car. We love the auto drive in LA traffic!

12. Where did most of your money go?

Mortgage. We live in the Los Angeles area need I say anything else.

13. What did you get really excited about?

Crew! This year was our first season of competition and it was so exciting. This is such a “guts” sport. Fabulous to watch and who doesn’t like spending a day by the water.

Someone won’t be pleased by this picture but this so captures the relief when the race is done. This girl was stroke for a 3 mile race and pleased her coach with her pace.

14. What song will always remind you of 2018?

Psalm 46 (Lord of Hosts) by Shane & Shane. This song really reflects the activity of my heart with so many tragedies, political divide, inequality, death, conflict and loss at my church, I’ve needed to sit with God’s presence with us, with me in this world full of brokenness.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:
—happier or sadder?

  better at holding both – sadness and happiness.

— thinner or fatter?

the same but I’ve made some wonderful discoveries with my health – eating gluten and dairy free has helped clear out the “brain fog” I often experienced every day. I thought it was due to my thyroid, which hasn’t properly worked since 2003 but once I cut out gluten it left.

— richer or poorer?

Richer. Business was good and we have a good savings plan, especially since I was paying off my student loan for decades and couldn’t save much.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Hiking and camping. We didn’t do much hiking but did manage to get in our yearly camping trip even though it was poorly attended by other families. This year we had a wonderful campsite at Union Valley Reservoir. Magical. We had the entire area to ourselves likely due to the fires in Northern California but our air quality was great.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Dealing with paper – I hate opening mail unless it’s a letter or magazine. :-). And our family has a lot of moving parts, which makes coordinating, paper shuffling, etc. challenging for this busy business owner and mother.

18. How did you spend Christmas?

We had a great time with Dennis’ family playing games, eating amazing food (the gravy was incredible), decorating cookies, and then we drove up to one of our family’s favorite spots, Sedona, where we spent several days and even got snow!

Snowman Credit: Elisha
A tree I love along Oak Creek, on the property where we stay in Sedona.

19. What was your favorite TV program?

Netflix’s show Patriot Act by Hasan Minhaj. I’m in love with his person. If you don’t like swearing, don’t watch. However, if you aren’t offended Hasan won’t disappoint. He discusses important and relevant issues for our country using his comedic style to inform his audience. I confess, I just love observing his mind.

20. What were your favorite books of the year?

It’s so tough to pick my favorite books as there are so many I fall in love with. However, here are my picks for this year, the first two being older books I didn’t read until this year. Favorite Non-Fiction was the 2017 award winning book, Evicted, by Matthew Desmond. See his website for information – http://evictedbook.com. Favorite Fiction was 2016 book, Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly. This book is set around World War II and weaves the lives of three different women together. It’s riveting. My favorite spiritual book was Paul: A Biography by N.T. Wright. I love how this author weaves in humor with his academic knowledge of the life of Paul. Definitely has influenced my understanding of Paul’s epistles. My favorite personal growth book was Why Won’t You Apologize by Harriet Lerner. I enjoy her ability to make simple – deeper psychological concepts as well as her vulnerability in her writing. I wonder what would happen if every high school student had to read this – would we be a kinder and more connected country?

21. What was your favorite music from this year?

I really wish I could like cool, layered music but I’m really just not that hip and probably to a musician like “unsophisticated junk.” However, here it goes with my mainstream taste.

I couldn’t get enough of James Arthur’s music even though his album is two years old. I loved his new singles and am waiting impatiently for him to drop another album and tour. I think with his voice he could sing me the phone book and I’d be mesmerized. Another album favorite was Fall Out Boy’s Mania. However, I found their concert in Anaheim dissatisfying. As a concert lover, they seemed awkward on stage and at times it appeared as if they were going through the motions. Disappointing. I loved Thirty Seconds to Mars new album and hope I can finally see them in concert in 2019.

Best concert this year was predictable -U2. It’s a spiritual experience to be with this band. I’ve seen them four times and leave a better human being each time. Taylor Swift’s Reputation tour though was probably the most entertaining. She knows how to bring it and with guest performances from Troy Sivan and Selena Gomez – over the top.

22. What was your favorite film of the year?

Avengers: Infinity Wars was my favorite film of the year. The ending. Gutsy. I loved it. Again, I idealize those who watch independent films but I simply don’t create space to go to the movies that often. When I do, it’s usually for the special effects that only come from the big screen. Films I really wanted to see but didn’t – “Wont you be my neighbor,” “Free Solo” and “Mission Impossible: Fallout.” One of my favorites from year’s past was Hidden Figures. I might be able to watch that every year and not get enough of it.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I worked on my birthday and Dennis made me a great dinner. I also got a fabulous massage from Laura, my favorite. I really celebrated in April when I took my birthday adventure trip to Utah for canyoneering and photography. I was and am 48 years old.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Having cancer wiped off the face of the earth. My friend Danielle died on January 6th. My friend, Gina is fighting Stage 4 colon cancer as is my childhood friend, Liz, fighting her own version with a recurrence of breast cancer. They are blessings to this earth. It makes me so mad that they are suffering with these diseases.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?

Comfortable, yet colorful with sometimes the unexpected (think leopard print with stripes). I love jewelry so usually accessorize with a local artist’s piece (you will find no commercial jewelry on me – vintage or local artists is what I wear). I usually will choose comfort over fashion unless I know I’m going to be sitting and hence not maneuvering with uncomfortable clothing or shoes (the later being more of the issue with my narrow feet).

I’m definitely less cool than these two sic beauties.

26. What kept you sane?

My sanity may be debatable but if we are assuming I’m sane then it’s likely due to practicing the Sabbath. Committing to take a day off a week is paradoxically energizing and makes me more productive and present for the rest of the week. My kids love it, especially because they don’t need to do dishes. Even though I will move on to another spiritual practice, we will continue to integrate the Sabbath into our lives. I think my family would protest if I took away our weekly practice as they’ve all come to look forward to it.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018.

The present moment is the greatest gift. Too often I think, “I can do that later” but the reality is that I don’t really know I can do it later. So each time I workout, I see someone, or have time to connect -I try to take advantage and remember that I simply don’t know if I’ll ever be recreate the moment again. As well, I learned that my mindset can really impact my experience of the present moment. So, I’m trying to recognize how I’m thinking in order to either change it or cultivate it depending on my emotional state. In other words, “what mood is my mental life creating and if I don’t like it, what is needed to shift it?”

28. What new habit did you develop to decrease your environmental footprint?

We purchased stainless steel straws and decreased our use of plastic straws. I stored them in my car, which made them handy while eating out or grabbing a smoothie. We are still trying to remember to say, “No straws” when we eat out because it’s inconsistent as to whether you automatically get a glass with a straw, which of course is disappointing to those of us who are eliminating the one time use of plastic items.

Eden’s response for considering next year’s habit -“don’t we do everything there is to do?” As parents, either we’re doing lots of things right or we’re missing the boat on this one.

Happy New Year, Everyone. May I be around next year to reflect once again on my year.

Yearly Reflections

What did you do in 2017 that you had never done before?

I walked 39 miles in the Avon Walk for a Cancer Cure this September.

Did you keep your New Year’s Resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I kept almost all of my New Year’s Resolutions except for my blogging goals.  I’ve had to rethink my blog because my writing time has mostly gone towards finishing my memoir, which I’m still working on.

  1. Did anyone close to you give birth? (I can’t fix these numbers without a great deal of time so please forgive them.)

Cousin Emily Joy gave birth to a baby girl, Lila Joy, in December, whom we haven’t had the joy of meeting yet.

2.  Did anyone close to you die?

No but a church family, whom we love, lost a son in April and several good friends lost a parent this year.

  1. What countries or new places did you visit?

Had a business trip to Midland ,Texas and I’d never been to West Texas as well as Grass Valley in Northern California.

  1. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?

Consistent paper organization and zero email box.  At the end of 2017, I finally got my email box down to zero and have a new mail/paper system.  The challenge for me is to keep up my system and continue to remain organized.


What dates from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

April 16th – the day Dylan Stump died.  Although I didn’t know Dylan, I love his parents, who have been a part of my church family for 20 years.  Death of a 19 year old devastates us all.

  1. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Eliminating the hip pain I’ve had for nine years.  I have lived with hip pain of an unknown cause since 2008.  I’ve tried more interventions than you would care to read about.  The last piece of the puzzle was a massage therapist recognizing my gait was off, which led to a discovery that my left toe had been jammed for years – creating issues all the way up to my hip.  Once I got the toe moving (which took my toe from no pain to tremendous pain), it took four months of daily stretches before I eliminated the pain – (toe and hip).  I identify this as my biggest achievement because while I was in the middle of it I had no idea whether I could live without pain and it was a exercise in grit and perseverance.  There was no glory, no prize, no internal motivation except for a determination to keep trying to live pain-free.  What kept me going: regular appointments with my skilled massage therapist for deep tissue release, stretching and exercise routine created by my chiropractor from regular assessments of which muscles were overworking or weak, taking turmeric capsules and asking for external accountability to stretch daily.

  1. What was your biggest failure?

My garage is still a mess and I didn’t finish my memoir.  I made progress – it’s three parts and I’m 100% complete with part 1, 80% done with part 2 and 5% done with part 3.

  1. Did you suffer illness or injury?

In addition to hip pain, I had a shoulder injury from a snow weekend that turned out to be deeply inflamed and required creative modifications and finding natural anti inflammatories (turmeric, fish oil) to help reduce the swelling.

  1. What’s the best thing you bought?

I love my new car – A Chevy Bolt.  I love never going to the gas pump but most of all, I love my back-up camera which gives me a bird’s eye view so I can see the LINES.  As someone who loves parallel parking, it has taken my game to elite status.

  1. Where did most of your money go?

Mortgage – I live in Southern California need I say anything else.

  1. What did you get really excited about?

I got excited about developing organizational habits in order to stay organized, efficient and eliminate avoidable stress – and so far have maintained it for about 45 days so I’m encouraged I’ll be able to maintain it.  I have also been excited about creating fun and meaningful memories with my children.  My daughter, a freshman in high school, is a concrete reminder of how little time I’ll have with everyone living at home.


  1. What song will always remind you of 2017?

‘Issues’ by Julia Michaels epitomizes my mental world this year.  The older I get, the more I realize I will forever fall short of the type of character I’d love to possess.  What’s different for me now, is I’ve come to accept myself within my limitations – impatience, at times intellectually arrogant, undisciplined in some areas, and critical.  I’ve developed enough self-compassion not to like these things that show themselves when I’m at my worst but at the same time, not have an overactive internal judge show up when they’ve been present.

  1. Compared to this time last year, are you:

—happier or sadder?

Neither…I’ve had ups and downs.  Up – celebrating my 20 year anniversary and we’ve never been happier.  Down – walking with a friend who has stage 4 breast cancer.  This is a difficult road to journey and we’ve had a lot of sad news to navigate as treatment after treatment has failed.

— thinner or fatter?

fatter – hormones and carbs caught up to me.  I gained more weight this year than I ever have.  Luckily, with the help of my nutritionist who I’ve used for pre-diabetes threat, we discovered how to eliminate the weight gain.  Now the job of losing the weight I gained…more positive results regarding health though is I am no longer pre-diabetic – dropped my levels .2.

— richer or poorer?

richer.  Business was good this year and we live with a budget.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Read great fiction books.  This year I didn’t read a ton of books.  Most of my reading time was spent on professional non-fiction and magazine articles.

17.  What do you wish you’d done less of?

Driving.  Last spring I spent 20 hours a week on the road.  My son’s school is about 30 minutes away, which gives he and I time to listen to non-fiction audio books together, which we both enjoy.  But this year, I may try to sneak in some juvenile fiction.  (He may not go for it -non-fiction is his favorite.)

18. How did you spend Christmas?

I spent Christmas in my hometown in the mountains of Washington. It was a splendid white Christmas with lots of family time.

19.  What was your favorite TV program?

I don’t watch much television except sports (can’t wait for the Olympics!) However, I have watched a few things on Netflix this year.  Though I’m only on season 2, I’ve enjoyed Parenthood – love the relational and family dynamics at play.  Confession: I really want to watch This is Us but I haven’t spent the time figuring out how to watch it since I’m behind and need to first watch the first season.

20.  What were your favorite books of the year?

Though an older book, I read The Martian by Andy Weir for the first time and loved it so much, I had my husband read it (edited) to my nine year old who LOVED it, too.  The tone and style of the narrator captured me and drew me in as he overcame trial after trial.  Other favorites were How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overcoming Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims (highly recommend for parents with middle school students or above) and I reread and enjoyed the newest edition of John Gottman’s The Seven Principles for Making Healthy Marriage Work.  (great reminder of what helps cultivate intimacy and goodness in marriage.)  

21.  What was your favorite music from this year?

My favorite album was Imagine Dragons’ Evolve and Ed Sheeran’s Divide.   I’ve also been enjoying U2’s new album, Songs of Experience but haven’t listened enough to say it’s a favorite.  Songs on repeat were ‘Believer” by Imagine Dragons, “Back to the Garden” by Crowder, ‘If I Told You’ by Darius Rucker and ‘Walk on Water’ by Thirty Seconds to Mars.  I indulged in about six concerts this year – favorite large concert was U2’s Joshua Tree Tour and smaller venue was Needtobreathe’s House of Blues concert.

22.  What was your favorite film of the year?

Again…Star Wars.  Though The Last Jedi has had mixed reviews, I really enjoyed it.  I know this isn’t a deep, rich choice but when I go to the movies, I long to escape some of the realities in the really world.  So, living in this world that I’ve known since my childhood, satisfies my soul.  I will confess as I sat in the theater during the credits (one of five of us who stayed to the end), I couldn’t help shed a few tears about Carrie Fisher’s death.  I grieve we’ll miss a “good-bye” film with her like we’ve had with Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill.

23.  What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I had a small gathering of friends the night of my birthday.  I worked my birthday weekend in Texas so wanted to keep it low key but meaningful.

24.  What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Having a personal cook.  Making meals at the end of the day and having prepared lunch was a challenge this year.  Loved ordering Blue Apron to help me out when I was in a pinch to buy ingredients for a yummy meal.

25.  How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017?

Boho – still.  :).  I have yet to give up bright colors.  I enjoy bohemian style, one of a kind, comfortable clothing.  I love supporting LA designers and haunting sample sales occasionally where a person can find unique items that never made it to mass production.  “Comfortable feet” was a value — purchasing several styles of “non-athletic” tennis shoes – white Eccos, red Munros, gray and black Josef Seibels.

26. What kept you sane?

Keeping my calendar steady but not over committed as well as learning how to manage all the information coming at me that needs to be organized and kept track of…definitely hoping to continue to improve this type of organization.

2017 Day Timer

27.  Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017.

Be present in the moments you have.  Live well and full.  You never know when your life is going to be turned upside down.

28.  What new habit are you developing to decrease your environmental footprint?

We purchased metal and glass straws in order to decrease our straw use.  In the US, we use 500 million straws every day.  For the last 15 years, I have made different choices, created habits in order to help my environmental footprint.  I realize I’m only one person but I’m modeling for my children how to think outside of their own convenience, ease or financial benefit.  Some of our choices over the years have been: changing out our gas vehicles for alternative fuel, reusable bags (for the last 10 years), for a year – buying new clothing from only social and environmental justice sources but mostly buying from consignment stores, don’t buy from the $1.00 bins at Target – almost guaranteed – fair wages and/or environment impact isn’t being considered for cheap items, fair trade chocolate versus commercial chocolate, using cloth napkins and towels instead of paper napkins and paper towels and changing out chemical cleaners with environmentally “pure” cleaners.

Hope your new year is starting well!

14 Years Together

dsc_1053It’s hard to believe 14 years ago today this “little one” came out, greeted me and her dad with huge observant blue eyes as she struggled to hold her head up while examining us.  Since her appearance, we’ve had the privilege to come alongside and watch her observations and astuteness grow into some beautiful character traits.

This is a girl who stops to digest the sunset, noticing the different nuances of color that never repeat themselves.

img_5079-001She notices when the perfect “handstand” log makes itself available.  In the Redwoods.  Ten feet up.img_5192She takes in how her decisions impact others — even those across the ocean.  Since 9 years old, she stopped eating chocolate that isn’t fair trade — even if she has to go without, which is a huge sacrifice to this chocolate lover.

She’s developed a gentle spirit, compassion for others, empathy, where she allows herself to imagine being in someone else’s shoes — even if they are the shoes of an overseas child laborer toiling in unbearable conditions. (In 2015 she bought only clothing from consignment stores or Patagonia — a socially and environmentally responsible company as a protest to the human trafficking that permeates our clothing industry.  I’m not sure I could have made the same choice as a then 13 year old.)  She isn’t shy to speak out about human trafficking, telling peers about her choices and why.

I love her enjoyment for all things fun — roller coasters, being scared…

img_6426 img_6428img_6949And of course there are her quirks that make her…her.


Ballet Performance

img_2663I can’t wait to see what this year holds for her, and us.  Whatever it is, I can guarantee it will have a twist of her precociousness.


Happy Birthday, Eden!  I love you.

Community Parenting

dsc_0687If you’ve been following my blog for long, then you probably remember we camp every summer with a large group of friends who have become family.  The actuality of this group of friends is that the faces in the picture change depending on who is available during the five days we camp (with the exception of about four families who have made every trip).  This reality is unimportant because on this camping trip we operate as one big community regardless.  We cook dinner together.  We powwow about adolescent behavior and how or how not we will intervene.  We contribute in unique ways whether it be bringing the raft, the popular game of the trip, researching the nearby hiking trails, organizing the camp fire activities, bringing the fishing gear, taking the kids fishing, and so forth — we all look for ways to contribute to one another, children included.

This year we had 37 people and 2 dogs.  We camped at Rancheria Campground on Huntington Lake in the central Sierra Nevadas.  It’s definitely a place to return.  First of all, the group site had electricity so we could all plug in our phones and electronic devices as well as blow up the air mattresses.  (I’m not quite so advanced yet, but rather inspire to someday invest in a mattress greater than 1 inch thick that actually blows up.)

dsc_0441It also had a good pizza place and ice cream establishment for all those who wanted to get away from it all — all the downsides of camping, that is.  Luckily, we have another nature lover among us so we also found the God-made hot spots — waterfalls and swimming pools!

dsc_0539dsc_0769dsc_0717 dsc_0730-001This is a group of people who are intentional about living well.  What this looks like camping is that we make choices when our kids can roam free and with what parameters.  We choose when they can ditch the adults and when they need to play our made-up campfire games and sing songs they may or may not want to sing.  Together, we communicate to our children — sometimes you have to do things you’d rather not do, but in the end, you may be surprised at how much you enjoyed it (or not — but it’s at least a memory of getting through something that seemed horrible at the time).

dsc_0493I think one of the highlights for me on this trip was seeing my son, who can tend to be different than his peer group, win the heart of another parent, who promised to build him a bedroom in his house when he reaches 13.  My son can be complicated.  He wants to be a vegetarian because he doesn’t want to harm animals, making it difficult to eat on a camping trip. (I assured him he could make this choice as soon as he learned to cook).  He will bend the rules however he can in order to believe he is both following the rules and getting his way.  He’s a fashion trend setter in his own mind – winter beanie even if it’s 80 degrees. (See below wearing said hat and feeling sad about a fisherman catching and keeping a fish).

dsc_0659What I love about this group of friends, which also includes all who have come on our previous camping trips, is that they are both for me and my family.  Loneliness seems almost an impossible phenomenon because these are people who have walked with me, and I them — for some, decades.  I feel like one of the the benefits of mid-age, which I’m enjoying, is being able to lean into the foundation you’ve built in the 20s and 30s, knowing it’s grounded and secure.

There are some that are missing in this picture, that should’ve been there in a perfect world — spouses who have died, who have chosen other partners, or who haven’t yet been found and children that didn’t live to breathe a breath on this earth.  Yet, those who live without this perfection are doing more than surviving; they (we) are finding ways to thrive.  With each other.  In community.

dsc_0492 dsc_0490 dsc_0482Until next summer!dsc_0887

February Reflections

This month was a blur.  It’s hard to believe we are already into month 3 of 2016.  I swear time is speeding up with age.  It was a month of trips, hockey games, and a front yard transformation — from grass to drought tolerant.

Photo Review:

From this…

IMG_4257 To This….IMG_4237IMG_4246IMG_4213Hockey in Two Different States…

Dallas Stars…

IMG_4314Anaheim Ducks…(A win in overtime!)IMG_4325And as mentioned in my previous post, Lake Tahoe…

IMG_4296Quotes/ Poetry Worth Chewing On:

Don’t Worry

Things take the time they take. Don’t


How many roads did St. Augustine follow

before he became St. Augustine?

— Mary Oliver

What This is Not

This is not just surprise and pleasure.

This is not just beauty sometimes

too hot to touch.

This is not a blessing with a beginning

and an end.

This is not just a wild summer.

This is not conditional.

— Mary Oliver

“Though bias seems like bad news all around, it’s a basic human trait.  It’s part of our wiring for survival, explains psychiatrist and professor Daniel Siegel, codirector of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center….The point is not to get rid of bias altogether — an impossible mission — but to get to know what biases we hold, acknowledge the damaging aspects, and learn to see, and do, things differently.  — Karin Evans Unconscious Bias:  Fear Less, Love More In Mindful Magazine, August 2015

“Self-care is never a selfish act — it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others.  Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.”

— Parker Palmer

“When the satisfaction or security of another person becomes as significant to one as is one’s own satisfaction or security, then the state of love exists.” — H. S. Sullivan

Songs on Repeat Mode:

Beautiful Addiction by Nate Feuerstein

7 Years — Lukas Graham

Hold Me Down — Halsey

Alone Together — Fall Out Together

Ugly Love — Griffin Peterson

On My Nightstand

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero

The Meaning of Marriage Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller

The Seven Principles for Making Marriages Work by John Gottman with Nan Silver

Felicity by Mary Oliver

Pinky Promise — This Year’s Environmental Intention

IMG_1825This year’s environmental intention came from a conversation about human trafficking in the cotton industry in many countries around the world as well as the poor wages typically given to textile workers in these same countries.  At the prompting of my niece, Brogan, and my daughter, Eden, we decided to be part of the solution against social justice issues as well as limit our use in this area, which also impacts the world environmentally by not using resources.

What is our solution?  NO CLOTHING SHOPPING for the entire year except at thrift, consignment, vintage stores or from Patagonia or Eileen Fisher, two companies who’ve committed to the entire clothing process being socially just and environmentally aware.  [Two Exceptions:  I am going hunting with my father in Wyoming this fall, while I will do all I can to buy second hand clothing, I’m not sure in southern California I will find “sound proof” rain gear, so I may need to buy from hunting apparel shop.  Second Exception:  bathing suits.  We won’t be buying used bathing suits but Patagonia has some, which may or may not work for my daughter who needs tween sizes but we are committed to researching companies before buying. What we know for sure, is Justice, which is usually Eden’s go to store for bathing suits, will not be our shopping destination this year]

You may, like many people, be saying, “What’s the big deal?” the environmental and social justice impact has already happened, the clothes have already been made.  This is true.  However, demand determines how much is supplied for the next season so if we limit our demand, then the supply (the amount ordered) decreases.  Here’s the thing.  Landfill is real.  If you throw something in the garbage it doesn’t just disappear.  It goes somewhere, most likely in landfill OR in a container to be shipped overseas to be reused by some poor country for newspapers or plastics, etc.  Also, your clothing goes somewhere even if you donate it.  We have an excessive amount of clothing that doesn’t have a home.  How do I know this?  For years, I was on a committee helping the Precious Life Thrift Store and I saw the excess that we, the thrift store had to give away because there was just too much coming in.  AND we were only one of four thrift stores in a 5 mile radius.  I’m sure we aren’t the only ones who have/ had this problem of excessive donations that couldn’t be used.  So I guess for me it comes down to how much is necessary.

Now, I love clothing shopping.  It’s like my art canvas.  This feels like a huge commitment to actually live this out but already I’m benefiting by this commitment in terms of saving money and time.  I’m also having fun focusing on what I have in my closet and mixing it up in ways I haven’t done before.  I’m sure the longer I’m committed to no shopping the more it will hurt but for now, I’m enjoying the sacrifice because it matches what I’m trying to become all about — My choices as a consumer doesn’t negatively impact any other human being on this planet.

I’m grateful for social justice organizations all around the world which are starting to bring awareness and attention to this problem as well as be part of the solution.  We’re monthly donors to International Justice Missions, an organization committed to helping with the human trafficking issue around the world in many different industries.

I look forward to the fruit I’ll see in both Brogan and Eden as we together learn what it means to choose not only for our desires in mind (what clothing we want) but also have our choices reflect our awareness of others’ desires around the world for a fair living wage and freedom.