Monday, February 28, 2011

Here's where the rubber meets the road

This is it: my last night of internet/TV freedom. It feels good. I'm going to spend the rest of the evening playing "Bejeweled" and call it a night. And then tomorrow, no computer. I've decided my emailing will be limited to Saturday evenings for an hour, so if you need to reach me...

The one thing that gives me a slight pause is I'll have a poem going up at Boston Literary Magazine on March 15, but of course I'll post a link on my sidebar April 1. I can wait two weeks, right?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Eight days to go

This weekend I started pre-media-fast mode. I figured it would be easier to start scaling back now, so it wouldn't be such a shock to my system on March 1.

I pared back my blogroll by more than half. I stopped following blogs of anyone I've never met IRL (except Super Happy Girl at Mas Cowbell, because I just know she is somehow my separated-at-birth-by-the-border sister).

I started checking my email less, particularly during the earlier part of the day, when I need to focus on teaching Jimmy his lessons.

I watched NCIS with Jim, knowing it would be the last time for while, and then he called to cancel our satellite service.

I also un-friended a lot of people on Facebook. This is the second time I've done a massive un-friending; the first time was about six months ago. I was surprised back then how one person immediately sent me a message asking what they had done to offend me--and then I didn't hear anything else until about a week ago, when another person sent me a message asking that I re-request them. If it takes you six months to notice someone's not on your friend list, it's probably best they're no longer on it.

We'll see what happens with this go-round. I'm still on the fence about the possibility of completely quitting Facebook, because I recognize it's a useful tool to stay connected to people who are a) far away or b) hard to reach in other ways. I love being able to keep up with my brothers and sisters, see pictures of their kids, and feel like I'm part of their lives. But I also like having my boundaries, and there are some people with whom I don't want to share the details of my life.

Ah--the eternal quest for balance!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Fuzzy valentines

An acquaintance posted this today on Facebook:

"My thoughts may seem heartless but I'd like answers: I love animals as pets... but seriously, what good does it do to save homeless domestic animals? I'm talking about TV commercials that want donations to help them. Honestly, I'd much rather donate money to saving wild animals. What's the good in saving them as apposed [sic] to euthanizing? Don't we have enough of them already?"

But seriously? I don't understand her point of view. My response to her was, "Every December we go to the local animal shelter with our kids for our Christmas service project. It's been a real eye-opener to see how little money they get from adoption fees vs. their operating costs. We donate food, cleaning products, and lots of love to the animals. Maybe a more hands-on approach would make a donation more meaningful to you."

Then she posted, "
Hmmm... I'm not convinced yet. I think they should be 'put out of their misery'. I know that may sound horrible, but I'd want to go to heaven if my life sucked. God can take much better care of a creature that's not contributing to the earth in a beneficial way."

The practical part of me immediately responded: "That's what happens to animals that aren't adopted, but euthanizing them still takes money, often more than shelters receive from their regular sources of funding."

In my heart, though, it goes so much deeper than that, so far beyond just matters of practicality--understanding that it takes money and time to help animal die humanely as well as to live humanely--and I've been stewing about it all afternoon. I want to reach out, grab her by the shoulders and shake her. I want to say:

"I have a few more thoughts. Have you ever had to put an animal down? I did, just last week: a cat we adopted from a shelter 11 years ago, and who has had a long, happy life with us but who recently had kidney failure. We put him down right after we found out because we knew there was no remedy and we didn't want him to suffer. Having done it, it's hard to think in a cavalier fashion about putting down animals who 'aren't contributing' to society or who might be better cared for by God. You say you are looking for answers to something that perplexes you, but it almost sounds like you want your answer tied up neatly with a bow on top, absolving us all of guilt or the responsibility for caring for animals that have been neglected--by 'putting them out of their misery'.

"The thing is, there are no easy answers to this issue. Life on this earth is messy. Wild animals are no more or less deserving than homeless domesticated animals, or any others, for that matter. So, we do what we can do, what we feel comfortable doing, what we have the means to do, we guide our actions as much as possible with compassion and integrity, and we make peace with the messy parts of life we can't control. But there are no neat bows, no easy answers, and for us, as stewards over the animals of this earth, no right to make the decision to put down an animal for our own convenience that does in fact have a chance for a healthy, meaningful life in which it feels joyful and loved."

I was all ready to cut and paste, to post my opinion on her wall--but then I stopped. I honestly think there's no point; I think she just wants someone to tell her what she wants to hear. If that's the case, I'm not going to convince her of all the holes in her argument, and I don't want to get all het up if it's not going to do any good. I can only feel sad for her, really sad. She just doesn't get it.

Fuzzy valentines need our love even more than we need theirs. It's a privilege to be loved by them, as well as to love them in return.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Station identification

Over the past few days I've been reading this General Conference talk by Dieter F. Uchtdorf. I don't know which came first--my idea of a media fast, or what I read about concentrating on the "things that matter most"--but here it all is, in a nutshell:

My dear brothers and sisters, we would do well to slow down a little, proceed at the optimum speed for our circumstances, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes, and truly see the things that matter most. Let us be mindful of the foundational precepts our Heavenly Father has given to His children that will establish the basis of a rich and fruitful mortal life with promises of eternal happiness. They will teach us to do “all these things … in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that we should run faster than we have strength. But it is expedient that we should be diligent, and thereby … win the prize.”

Brothers and sisters, diligently doing the things that matter most will lead us to the Savior of the world. That is why “we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, … that we may know to what source we may look for a remission of our sins.”
In the complexity, confusion, and rush of modern living, this is the “more excellent way.”

Friday, February 11, 2011

Media fast

I've had this idea floating around in my head for a while now: take a break from the internet and TV to unplug from all the excess... everything... and reconnect with the most important parts of my life: family, writing, faith, creativity.

Suddenly, the opportunity has presented itself in the form of our imminent disconnection from our satellite service, which happens next week. I think March may well be the perfect month to take a break from technological distractions and focus on really being present with my kids, and maybe even making a dent in that stack of half-completed projects languishing in corners around my house. Then in April I can do NaPoWriMo without feeling like my life is careening out of control.

I'm not sure if I can go completely cold turkey; I use email in lieu of the phone for a lot of what I consider necessary communication with family, friends and acquaintances. Hmmm. Gotta spend some time figuring out how to make this happen, instead of finding reasons it won't work. Jim's suggestion is to set aside a certain time each day to do email and limit it to just then, which I think is a good option in keeping with the spirit of a fast.

I've just been feeling lately like my immersion in an alternate reality--especially the internet--is way out of proportion. It's time to hit the RESET button.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Got peanut?

We do! I'm 7½ weeks along and lovin' (yes, I do mean lovin') every fatigued-broken-out-queasy-swollen-ankled minute of it.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Goodbye, sweet william

Loved 1999-2011. Missed forever after.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Tightwad tuesday: cheap suds for your duds

It's been a long time since I wrote a Tightwad Tuesday post, but I finally have a worthy topic!

Recently I was chatting with my friend Vicki, a fellow frugal mom, and she mentioned she makes her own laundry detergent. I was intrigued, so Vicki sent me a link to The Family Homestead, a homemaking blog, where she had found the recipe. She swears by it; her husband is a fishing boat captain, and she says it gets all his dirty, greasy work clothes sparkling and smelling fresh.

Last Thursday, on my usual grocery day, I purchased the necessary ingredients from the laundry aisle of my local grocery store for a whopping $8.04 (remember, though, that these quantities make multiple batches, so that works out to a lot less per load, as you'll see).

Right after lunch today I decided to whip up a test batch of the homemade detergent. I halved the original recipe and modified it as follows:

1/4 of a 5.5 oz. bar Fels Naptha laundry soap
1/4 cup Arm and Hammer laundry soda
1/4 cup Mule Team Borax
(I also added 1/2 teaspoon of lemon essential oil for fragrance, although the scent of the Fels Naptha overpowered it)

This makes 1 gallon of liquid laundry detergent, so I had a clean container that held at least one gallon--and that had an airtight lid--ready before I began. I grated the soap on the smaller holes of a cheese grater, then dissolved it in 3 cups of water on medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the soap was dissolved, I added the Borax and washing soda and stirred until it had dissolved. Then I turned off the heat and set the soap mixture aside. I poured two cups of hot water in a large bowl or pan (one that held more than a gallon), then stirred in the soap mixture. I added another 10 cups of water and stirred. The last step is to let the soap sit over night to set up into a sort of chunky gel consistency. (I skipped that so I could test it out right away.) Use 1/2 cup per load.

Lately I've been using Costco's Kirkland Signature Clear and Free detergent for the kids' laundry (they both have eczema), which rings up at about $16.50 a bottle, and washes approximately 110 loads (probably less for us because we have hard water and my kids get pretty grungy). That comes out to about 15 cents a load.

The homemade soap works out to about 53 cents for the half-batch I made, because here in the 'burg, a 5.5-oz. bar of Fels Naptha is $1.28, a 76-oz. box of Mule Team Borax is $4.38, and a 55-oz. box of Arm and Hammer washing soda is $2.38. Divide 53 cents by the thirty-two 1/2 cup uses yielded, and the cost per load is an amazing 1.6 cents per load (in case you missed it, that's one-tenth the cost of the Kirkland soap per load).

My first test load came out pretty darn clean--though I admit, it wasn't the kids' laundry, so the true test will come on Friday when I wash all their perma-stained pants, shirts, socks and underwear. I'll keep you posted!

Update (2/7/11): I used this all last week for every load of laundry, and I must say it gets the job done. Gotta love the winning combination of cheap and effective. Oh, and did I mention fast? This takes ten minutes to make. If you double or triple the recipe, you only have to make it every couple months. Wash your clothes on the cheap, and use the savings to buy yourself a new dress or pair of shoes.