consumerism, voluntary simplicity

Paying it forward

I’ve been trying to think of the right way to celebrate this holiday season without spending my money on gifts that are not needed. There are many worthy organizations to give to, including Heifer International and Oxfam. Then I was catching up on some of the many blogs that I enjoy but don’t get to read often enough, and I came across this post at Red Thread Studio that hit me just right.

So dear friends and readers, I have donated a sewing machine to Women for Women International in your honor. Thank you for your friendship and support over the years.

I wish you all a Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) full of peace and joy.

coffee pot posts, consumerism, critters, voluntary simplicity

Saturday morning coffee pot post

This week has been consumed by studying (I’m pretty sure that I aced the final exam) and the arrival of my new laptop. I’ve been limping along for a long time on old computers that can’t quite handle the new technology, at least not well. My husband loves to gather up old computers and reassemble the working parts together to make a new computer. He bought the laptop I previously used for $60. It was a good deal, but it was just about to kick the bucket. Now I have a CD/DVD player that works and a battery that charges and a processor and memory that can handle more than one thing at a time. I can use iTunes again. The only thing left to do other than finish transferring my files (in progress) is to hook up the wireless to our router.

It finally turned cold here and the Back Forty is done except for broccoli, kale, parsley, and various lettuces and mustard greens.

It has been funny watching the competition for Top Cat play out. The social hierarchy is different for the various cats. Jazz is the tiniest and the oldest. Lucy is the biggest and the youngest. Theo is the newest and next to the youngest and next to the heaviest. Poor Guido is just confused.

Jazz and Theo’s new pecking order:
1. Jazz
2. Theo
3. Guido
4. Lucy

Guido and Lucy’s new pecking order:
1. Theo
2. Guido
3. Lucy
4. Jazz

I’ve been exceptionally lazy and a bit depressed about my continuing problems with pain. Last night I managed to get it together enough to do some cleaning and some laundry, make a soup that is kind of like clam and corn chowder, but low-fat, fire up the woodstove, and read some good books instead of watching Hulu or farting around on Facebook all night. I finished A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman, and began Ordinary Magic, Everyday Life as Spiritual Path, a collection of essays and excerpts from some of my favorite authors such as Thich Nhat Hahn, Natalie Goldberg, and Frederick Franck. I hope that this will give my spirit a positive boost and improve my perspective, which can only be described as kind of blah. I don’t really feel much of anything.

I do feel some irritation toward people who have totally equated Christmas with shopping. Maybe I’m more sensitive to it this year. It’s hard for me to keep my smart-ass mouth shut. For example, a woman from my childhood on Facebook is outraged because a Walmart near her has not decorated for Christmas and is not playing Christmas music. Doesn’t sound true to me, but whatever. She is a Sarah Palin fan, if that explains anything. I want to say – Miss ******, what does Walmart have to do with Christ’s birth? Isn’t it actually LESS offensive if they are not tying in with Christmas? But the paranoia of the folks who have been convinced by the right wing that the libs are trying to take Christ out of Christmas is deep-seated now. They don’t trust anyone else, so I try to stay out of it, other than voicing my opinion here. But it is hard, and sometimes I don’t succeed.

I am a little excited about some woodcut ideas that I have, and I hauled my woodcut and printing supplies from the studio in the back (which I think will be converted over to storage) to the second bedroom where I have set up a workspace. It has to do with family history and autobiography in visual terms. I want to make some Christmas cards too.

Tomorrow is supposed to be a cold rain again (we are weary of it here, but our drought seems to have been broken) and I plan to get together with a good old friend that I haven’t talked to in years. So I do have a bright spot on the horizon to look forward to.

coffee pot posts, consumerism, Festivus, voluntary simplicity

Sunday morning coffee pot post

Actually, I wrote a long one yesterday that I lost and didn’t have the heart or the patience to rewrite it.

We are in the middle of the holiday season, which brings out the imp in me, because I love to bug people who love to shop and who hate the phrase “Happy Holidays,” so I try to use it as often as possible.

My favorite holiday of the season is Festivus, celebrated on Dec. 23. From Wikipedia, here is the story of the origin of Festivus according to Frank Costanza.

Frank Costanza: Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way.

Cosmo Kramer: What happened to the doll?

Frank Costanza: It was destroyed. But out of that a new holiday was born: a Festivus for the rest of us!

Kramer: That must have been some doll.

Frank Costanza: She was.

Excuse me while I get a tissue. This lovely story gets to me every time.

In our house, after the airing of the grievances, we have to pin Miss Jazz, which makes it a fairly stress-free ritual.

I have not yet erected a Festivus pole, but there are actually such things for sale. Yes, even the sacred holiday of Festivus has been sullied with commercialization. I guess I could buy one of those leg lamps to illuminate it.

I would love to celebrate Buy Nothing Christmas if the others in my family would go for it. Mostly, they have, but we still buy presents for my mother, my grand-nephew, and my brother-in-law. Two of these have been covered.

I don’t mind buying a perfect, unexpected gift for someone but the obligation of having to buy something for somebody on a particular day no matter what really bugs the crap out of me. Especially if they are difficult to buy presents for. My mother usually is a toughie, and will let you know if your present is not up to snuff. It’s more of a respect thing with her, I think. She grew up in the Depression and gifts mean more to her. Fortunately, she told us exactly what she wants this year.

Gifts to charity don’t do it in these cases. Personally, I would love a gift to a worthy organization like Heifer International or Oxfam in my honor.

When people stress over the dozens of gifts that they “have” to buy each Christmas, I thank God that my family has never emphasized “stuff” at Christmas. As kids, we got presents but never loads of stuff. We would much rather get together over a good meal, sometimes in a nice place at the beach, than worry about shopping for each other. We are not rich, but we know that we are blessed, and that is enough.

consumerism, voluntary simplicity

Buy Nothing Day

Take the Plunge:
You know what they say: a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. You feel that things are falling apart – the temperature rising, the oceans churning, the global economy heaving – why not do something? Take just one small step toward a more just and sustainable future. Make a pact with yourself: go on a consumer fast. Lock up your credit cards, put away your cash and opt out of the capitalist spectacle. You may find that it’s harder than you think, that the impulse to buy is more ingrained in you than you ever realized. But you will persist and you will transcend – perhaps reaching the kind of epiphany that can change the world.


agoraphobia, depression/anxiety, voluntary simplicity

Well, I certainly have come a long way from eight years ago when I was diagnosed with panic disorder and agoraphobia. When I found any decision to be so difficult that I agonized over passing someone in the hall at work, because I couldn’t decide whether I should say hello or not. When it was difficult to drive across town, or down the same highway that I’d driven for years to my hometown. When I often had to pull over driving to work or class because I would get dizzy, and if there was a lot of traffic I’d go into full-fledged panic with nausea, breathing difficulty, and an enormous sense of doom.

I just made airline reservations to go by myself to Journalfest, an artist retreat near Seattle.

Take that, agoraphobia. Bam!

The tickets from Greensboro to Seattle were less than $300 round trip. And I’ll get to study with L K Ludwig and Dan Essig (again) if I get the classes that I am signing up for. I am THRILLED to take classes from L K Ludwig because of this book, which I love.

In a setting beside Olympia National Park on the Puget Sound. At a very reasonable price.

And I can pay cash for it. Why? Because I put $100 a month into a saving account for this stuff and I wear rags and drive a 92 Tercel. I walk to work and I don’t have a satellite dish and I get my hair cut at the beauty school. I don’t have children and I love myself enough to let myself do this.

It’s well worth it. I’ll just have to eat out less and stop buying art supplies that I don’t need and books to save more money for Italy again. I like rice and beans and cereal. I have a garden. It’s all cool. I’ll do this AND go to Italy.

Has anyone asked you to quickly say, without thinking about it, what you would do if you could do anything in the world? Mine would be to go on art retreats and take classes, all the time! I finally have the courage to pursue my happiness. I am happy.

voluntary simplicity

The Five Mindfulness Trainings, Part Two

I didn’t want this comment by David Conway under this post to go unnoticed, because it is beautiful and helpful, too.

August 9th, 2009 at 6:24 pm
Thay has implied in a talk that these revised trainings were produced by the fourfold Sangha. You may be interested to know that this is not the case. Hundreds of retreatants worked deeply at Plum Village in a process started on November 15th 2008 and lasting across three retreats at Plum Village – Winter, Francophone and 21-Day. The fourfold Sangha produced a new version on June 14th, quite different in spirit and tone from that which has recently been published in their name. I thought you might like to see it and have therefore posted it below.



The 5 mindfulness trainings are guidelines for an open-hearted response to life’s challenges and for caring for our world. They are also doors that open to peace, joy and freedom.

Based on the insights of interbeing – the dynamic and supportive interdependence of all things – the trainings express the realization that our suffering is not separate from the suffering of others and that our happiness is not separate from the happiness of others.

Aware that all actions originate in the mind, the trainings invite us to embody understanding and compassion in our thinking, speaking and acting. They are to be practiced with compassion, skill and flexibility, conscious that our understanding is still developing and that circumstances may call for new insights and ways of acting.

Each time we practice a training, we offer a priceless gift to the world and to ourselves.

First mindfulness training: Respect for life

Aware of the suffering caused by lack of respect for life, I am committed to cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and the Earth.

Knowing that harmful actions arise from incomplete understanding, I am committed to developing my insight into the nature of reality. I will practice recognizing and transforming mental states that cloud awareness, such as fear, anger, intolerance and dogmatism. I am committed to practicing non-attachment to views and will listen with an open mind to those who hold perspectives different from my own. I will also try to understand and enter into dialogue with those who seek to impose their views through means such as war, fanaticism or terror.

Aware that I harm myself when I harm living beings and the Earth, I am determined to reduce suffering and nourish in my community respect for the diversity and preciousness of all life.

Second mindfulness training: Generosity and Justice

Aware of the suffering caused by self-centeredness and greed, I am committed to practicing generosity in my thoughts, words and actions.

Knowing that true happiness comes from caring for myself and others, and not from the pursuit of wealth, fame, or power, I will live a simple sustainable life and practice joy on the path of service.

I am determined to take only what is freely given and I will choose the products I buy and use with awareness of their impact on other beings and our precious Earth.

I am committed to finding ways to stand with and share my resources with those who are in need. I will work with others to create just and generous societies.

Third mindfulness training: Cultivating loving relationships

Aware of the suffering caused by the unmindful use of sexual energy, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to promote loving and respectful relationships.
I will generate joy, kindness, compassion and inclusiveness, in myself and others – these are the foundation of true love and intimacy.

Knowing that sexual activity motivated by craving harms myself and others, I will be mindful of the source of my desires. I am aware that sexual energy is sacred and at the base of all life. I will learn appropriate ways to express my sexual energy or to transform it into the energies pf service and spiritual growth. If I choose to engage in a sexual relationship, I will do so only when there is love, mutual respect and a commitment to deepen the relationship. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I will be mindful of the consequences of my actions, and I will respect my commitments and the commitments of others.

I will work to create a world in which every child, woman and man is loved and protected, where there is tolerance and compassion and in which there is reverence and support for both sexual and non-sexual relationships of love and respect.

Fourth mindfulness training: Compassionate listening and loving speech

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen, I am committed to cultivating compassionate listening and truthful loving speech, in order to bring happiness to myself and others.

I am determined to listen with my heart, recognizing the suffering in myself and others, and to speak truthfully and kindly. I will look into the sources of my views so that my thoughts and words are not distorted by wrong perception or strong emotions. I will choose words that inspire compassion, confidence and joy. I will endeavour to resolve all conflicts, however small. I am committed to working for peace and reconciliation in my family, community, nation and the global society.

Fifth mindfulness training: Nourishing peace and joy

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to looking deeply into the consequences of what I eat, drink, use, purchase and allow into my consciousness.

Knowing that everything I consume has the potential of nourishing happiness or suffering, I am committed to consuming only items that nourish well-being in my body and consciousness and in the collective body and consciousness. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant.

Rather than seeking to escape unpleasant feelings by losing myself in entertainments or other distractions, I will practice recognizing, embracing and transforming the perceptions and memories that give rise to my unhappiness and cravings. I will breathe and walk mindfully so that I am able to touch the many wonders of life that are always available.

voluntary simplicity

The Five Mindfullness Trainings

Thich Nhat Hahn’s teachings were my first introduction to mindfulness, and my first steps in healing my frantic soul. He is on Facebook (yes! really!) and posted this today, which I’m sure that he would like for me to share with you.

You can also go to the Plum Village website and the Mindfulness Bell for more about Thay’s teachings about Buddhism and mindfulness.

The Five Mindfulness Trainings

Sisters and brothers in the community, this is the moment when we enjoy reciting the Five Mindfulness Trainings together. The Five Mindfulness Trainings represent the Buddhist vision for a global spirituality and ethic. They are a concrete expression of the Buddha’s teachings on the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, the path of right understanding and true love, leading to healing, transformation, and happiness for ourselves and for the world. To practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings is to cultivate the insight of interbeing, or Right View, which can remove all discrimination, intolerance, anger, fear, and despair. If we live according to the Five Mindfulness Trainings, we are already on the path of a bodhisattva. Knowing we are on that path, we are not lost in confusion about our life in the present or in fears about the future.

Reverence For Life

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating the insight of interbeing and compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life. Seeing that harmful actions arise from anger, fear, greed, and intolerance, which in turn come from dualistic and discriminative thinking, I will cultivate openness, non-discrimination, and non-attachment to views in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.

True Happiness

Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to practicing generosity in my thinking, speaking, and acting. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others; and I will share my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. I will practice looking deeply to see that the happiness and suffering of others are not separate from my own happiness and suffering; that true happiness is not possible without understanding and compassion; and that running after wealth, fame, power and sensual pleasures can bring much suffering and despair. I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy. I am committed to practicing Right Livelihood so that I can help reduce the suffering of living beings on Earth and reverse the process of global warming.

True Love

Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. Knowing that sexual desire is not love, and that sexual activity motivated by craving always harms myself as well as others, I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without true love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. Seeing that body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness – which are the four basic elements of true love – for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others. Practicing true love, we know that we will continue beautifully into the future.

Loving Speech and Deep Listening

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people, ethnic and religious groups, and nations. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord. I will practice Right Diligence to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.

Nourishment and Healing

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness. I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations. I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear, or craving pull me out of the present moment. I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing myself in consumption. I will contemplate interbeing and consume in a way that preserves peace, joy, and well-being in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth.

I definitely could practice the last two more.

coffee pot posts, voluntary simplicity

Saturday morning coffee pot post

I love these crisp mornings that we are finally beginning to have. But even more, I love that I was able to sleep late this morning. This is rather new for me.

I’ll go to the curb market a little later and do a bit of shopping, but I’ve mainly been living off what I bought earlier this year and put in the freezer. It was packed and I need to make some room. I also have to remind myself that frozen food doesn’t stay good forever and not follow my mother’s footsteps in making my fridge and freezer into a museum of food.

Here’s what I like about the Back Forty right now. Picking butterbeans and field peas is like a treasure hunt. They are unruly and I have them planted in different places all over the garden. The willow and Loudermilk beans have crawled up to the top of the fig tree. I will have to get a ladder to pick them! Every time I walk through, which is often, I try to lift up a tangle of vines in a different spot or look at it from a different angle, and every time I find more that I missed. There will be ones that I miss even so, and those will be saved for next year’s crop.

Yesterday I sat and read in the playhouse, and Miss Peanut meandered back there and hung around nearby. I am always thrilled to see any sociability from Miss Peanut. She used to be more friendly before she lost her eye, still not wanting to be touched, but if I was sitting quietly in the back yard she would lay down nearby, even to the point that once I was on a blanket on the ground, and I looked up to see her laying on the blanket with me. I knew that she would like the cement pavers. I have them outside the playhouse now, and they generate warmth and are a little rough so that she can roll on them.

So I talked to her a lot and she responded. That is a family trait that she shared with Mama Kitty and Squirt and Ozzie. Mama Kitty taught them all to meow conversationally. Now she is the only one left and I know that she must be lonely, so Sandy and I sit and meow with her now and then. She relaxed and I watched her wash herself. A cat washing her face is one of the cutest things ever, but it is particularly nice to see Miss Peanut do this because she was so sick and looked so terrible for about two years after her eye accident, matted and dirty and there wasn’t a thing that I could do about it. Now she is plump and clean, and her bad eye no longer looks like a poster from a horror movie.

Ditching any unnecessary obligations seems to have done me some good. I still have a few left – I promised to do a Slow Food table at the market on Oct. 11 – but dropping my Sierra Club duties and dropping my class helped a lot. I’m going to talk with Anne-Marie later today about our upcoming annual election for Slow Food and try to come up with a plan for my replacement for at least a year. I’ll still be the techie, but I need a break from folks thinking that I’m the point person (I am the list mama and send out the emails, but I’m not the leader). The new Slow Food chapter structure suggests four year term limits, and I think that’s a good idea as long as someone will come along to replace the person! And I’m at the end of my four years. I don’t want to get totally burnt out.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my wants and needs. I still don’t have a solution, but I know that I have a great life and a great situation, and that if I concentrate on the present moment, I feel pretty good. So I think that it’s more of an attitude adjustment that is needed. And I need to do more art, but I want to think about it more than I want to start doing it. “Start” is the key word here. If I can just get started, I am off and running.

Anyway, I’m feeling better.

voluntary simplicity

What I wouldn’t give up

Sitting here, drinking my coffee, killing a little bit of time before the stores I need to go to open this morning. I had to take the morning off to run these errands because I killed the battery in my car AGAIN. I don’t even know why I turned the headlights on, because I didn’t drive it after dark. Tch. So, I need to use the Honda before Sandy takes it to work this afternoon.

The only reason that these things can’t wait until this weekend is that we’re leaving early Saturday morning for Lake Waccamaw, where we’ll be until the following Sunday. And I’ve decided that now that Verizon offers a pay as you go cell phone, it’s time to do the cell phone thing. The lake house doesn’t have a phone, a feature that I like quite a bit, but there have been times when we have needed one, and it’s hard to find a pay phone these days. Plus we need some kind of way for the pet sitter and my family to reach us in case of emergency. I’m not giving out the number to anyone else (except friends that I expect to visit us at the lake) and it will be turned off except for long trips and the lake house.

Oof. Cell phone. Ugh.

Also have to stock up on cat food and some local/organic food supplies from Deep Roots Market. I did sign up for their Eat Local America challenge, which I have to say that I haven’t thought about much. When I’m at home I eat local most of the time anyway, and this week I’ve pretty much been living on green beans and potatoes and peanut butter. The peanut butter ain’t local, but what can I say. I cannot live without peanut butter.

All this reminds me of the meme that Robbyn tagged me with: What wouldn’t you give up to save Mother Earth? I’ve seen several bloggers do this one, and my answers won’t be much different. At one time, a cell phone would not have been on this list.

Time – I need a lot of downtime for myself to read and do artwork and garden and just relax. It is very tempting to throw myself passionately into every cause that I feel is important, but I’ve learned the hard way that doing too much backfires and shuts me down.

Computer – I love my laptop and the Internet and my life has been greatly enriched by all the people that I’ve come to know through blogging.

Air Conditioning – We lived without it for fifteen years, and we still do when the heat is not oppressive. But as I got older I found that I have much less tolerance for heat, and a good night’s sleep is essential for my mental and physical health.

Medication – Birth control and anti-depressants have made my life so much better that I can’t even begin to explain it. Natural remedies did NOT work.

Books – I love books and I always have. It surprises me that I didn’t seek to become a librarian. And the library’s great, but I love to own books, take my time with them, go back to the best ones again. I managed a book store and worked with wholesale and retail books for a total of nine years. I still miss it and dream about it. I seldom buy a new book unless I want to support the author – and I hit the free shelves at Ed McKays with alarming frequency. Every now and then I turn in several boxes and get credit to buy more!

One car – right now we own two, but we could get by with one. I grew up way out in the country where public transportation is non-existent. I could manage in Greensboro without a car if we had to, but I am attached to the freedom that owning a car gives me, even though it has a lot of other baggage.

Okay, there are others, but it’s time for the stores to open. Gotta go spend some money – not one of my favorite things to do. I’m not tagging anyone at this time – if you want to play, go ahead! It’s a good prompt, I think.