Mom to the Left

I'm a mom who tends to live just to the "left" of most of the people around me here in Indiana.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Going Green

Yesterday I mentioned how our church had given us a list of things we could do as a family to lessen our environmental impact. I noticed that just after Earth Day Ms. Kitty posted a list of things she was doing to "go green". I thought I'd share what we either already have been doing or are planning to implement soon.

- switching to cloth napkins and towels from paper
- reusing (double-siding) scrap paper
- having our names removed from 3rd class mailing lists
- start composting kitchen waste
- switching from disposable to reusable plates, cups, utensils
- recycling glass, paper, cans, plastic, cardboard
- starting to recycle batteries and plastic bags
- buying products made of recycled materials
- wrap our water heater
- set hot water heater at 120 degrees
- change our thermostat setting (2 degrees warmer in summer)
- gradually switching all lightbults to compact fluorescents
- cooling hot leftovers before putting in fridge
- washing and drying only full loads
- rinsing with cold as much as possible
- buying locally grown produce
- buying organic when possible
- no longer buying meat (especially red meat)
- seal windows and doors
- checking tire pressure regularly
- not using drive-thrus (not eating meat helps with this one) ;-)
- not allowing vehicle to idle more than 30 seconds
- watching environmental films such as An Inconvenient Truth
- reading The Great Turning (a book endorsed by our church)
- planting a garden
- planting a tree
- fixing water leaks around the house
- using low-flow toilets
- installing low-flow showerheads
- reducing amount of water used on lawns/gardens
- reduce number of times flushing by half
- turn off water when not actually being used (washing hands, teeth, etc.)
- reducing shower time
- washing dishes by hand in sink half the time

There are other items we'd like to do like buy new Energy Star appliances, start buying green energy, etc. But those things will have to wait until our financial situation is on a little better footing. Right now we're doing what we can.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Fast Food Nation

I've been meaning to add a blog post about this for a week now, but I was finishing up my one-month stint as a full-time teacher. Between that and evening activities with the family, I haven't even had the chance to check my email for days, let alone post on the blog. But it is now Saturday and I'm finished teaching so...

A couple of weeks ago we started up a membership to Blockbuster Online which is their equivalent of Netflicks. Anyway, one of the first movies we watched was the movie Fast Food Nation, a fictional story based on the non-fiction book of the same name. I will just say it was very disturbing. Even if only part of what they say is true (and I think it is), the process of meat packaging and distribution in this country is disgusting and takes advantage of migrant workers from Mexico. Now, I could imagine people (especially those who stand to profit financially from the meat industry) would counter with this detail or that. But I have to admit that nothing anyone could say could erase from my mind the image of cow feces ground in with ground beef. Or of human workers losing a finger or an arm or a leg because the process was being rushed through to up profits. I know that in the last decade or two our country has become all about the mighty dollar. That is what companies care about and they will exploit whatever animals and/or cheap labor they can in order to increase their profits. And I just don't believe their claims to the contrary.

So after we saw the movie for a day or two, none of us could get it out of our heads. Little J came home from school and said he had to have a salad for lunch because he just couldn't stomach eating meat. Big J and I were talking and we felt the same way. We just *couldn't* bring ourselves to do it. So ever since then we haven't eaten meat. Each week I've had to scramble to find new vegetarian recipes. We've been trying out some new things. Some have been hits and some have been less than appealing. It is like starting to cook all over again. But it has been surprisingly easy, for me at least. Meat (including chicken) just doesn't have the lure it once did. I don't necessarily feel opposed to eating meat. If I could find meat locally that I felt was grown and processed in a sanitary and humane way and was within my very limited budget, I'd make it and eat it. We've been checking out the meat counter at the Whole Foods (which is an hour away from where we live, btw). But it is much more expensive and if we totally go that route, our grocery bill will definitely feel the shock.

Coincidentally (or not) last Sunday was Earth Day. Our church has adopted the Green Sanctuary philosophy and are currently candidates for that title. Anyway as part of a much larger Earth Day discussion about what we as a congregation and as individuals can do to make changes in the current climate risks, we were given checklists for our homes listing things we can do as families to reduce environmental impact. We sat down after getting home from church and discovered several things we're already doing as a family. We also identified several new things we can implement fairly easily. We are becoming more aware of what we spend our money on (products made of recycled materials, food grown locally and organically, cleaning materials that are safer for the environment, etc.). All this means that between not buying meat, adapting new vegetarian recipes, and selecting organic foods, my grocery habits are making major changes. I'm hoping I can make the changes without too much stress. Last week I bought a week of groceries that included no meat but lots of organic produce (and other things) for about the same amount as what I used to spend. So maybe it won't be such a big shock after all. And I feel so much better about it.

Speaking of feeling better, I also feel pretty good physically. I've lost 3 lbs. since going vegetarian. Obviously, losing weight wasn't a motivation for the diet change, but it is a pleasant by-product of it. Last night, Big J was going to a memorial lecture about Kurt Vonnegut and didn't have time for the roasted vegetable dinner I made so he backslid for the first time and got a double cheeseburger at McDonalds. He hadn't had any meat in almost 2 weeks. He was shocked at his body's reaction. It really messed up his stomach and he spent much of the evening (and even this morning) in the restroom. Seeing how much just one burger can disrupt your body renews my motivation to stick with the vegetarian diet. This is new territory for us, but it is kind of exciting.

I'm now collecting tasty veggie recipes (i.e. that kids will eat) that take around 30 minutes to make and don't involve expensive ingredients.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Thinker blogs

Working really cuts down on my blog time. If it weren't for weekends I wouldn't be able to blog at all. So this morning I quickly jumped online to start catching up with all my blog friends. Imagine my surprise when my friend Yogamum over at Yoga Gumbo included me in a list of her "Top 5 Blogs That Make Me Think". Gee, no pressure there, huh? And here lately all I've been able to choke out is rambling about Survivor and my haircut and my feeble job search.

This Thinker Blog thing is all part of something started at The Thinking Blog. Basically, the idea is if you are nominated you can apply an award to your blog page (which I hope to figure out soon). Then you go on to nominate 5 blogs that you consider to be "thinker blogs". Then they continue the process. On and on.

So I've been doing some thinking about who to tag myself. I have several blogs that I like to read. Two of my favorites are Yogamum's who nominated me and another friend that Yogamum already nominated: Just Making It Up. Since they were both already nominated, I wanted to choose 5 others. Hmmm...

It's hard to narrow it down to just 5, but here goes...

1. Ms. Kitty's Saloon and Roadshow - a Unitarian Universalist minister

2. Peacebang - another Unitarian Universalist minister who moonlights as fashion advisor to the clerical world

3. Spirituality and Sunflowers - a Unitarian Universalist who, like myself, has a passion for reality TV interspersed with deeper contemplations about life

4. UUMomma - the name alone should tell what I have in common with her ;-)

5. A Blog of Mystical Searches - this one isn't specifically Unitarian Universalist, but it is a great one for delving into religion and spirituality

Very heavily loaded with the Unitarian Universalist stuff, but right now that's what I gravitate toward. Don't let the fact that they're UU mislead you. Each of these blogs contains info that could relate to anyone else who considers himself or herself a thinker. I wish I didn't have to limit it to 5 because there are many more I could add.

Anyway, check out the links if any of them are new to you. I think you'll like what you find.

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Job search saga continues

The elementary school principals had their annual staffing meeting on Thursday morning to determine their openings for next year. (All 5 schools do it together as a group rather than individual schools doing individual hiring.)

Yesterday at lunch my principal came up to me to tell me that there are 3 projected openings at the elementary level in the entire corporation for next year. (Yes, only 3 - WOW! So much for the media-announced teacher shortage in 2007!) They are interviewing only 5 people for those 3 spots...and I am not one of the five. He told me not to take it personally...they are only interviewing those people who did at least a one-semester leave this year. My one month in special ed doesn't count.

This makes the third school year in a row that has ended with me being passed over for an interview. You cannot just apply to this school corporation and expect to be considered. You have to figure out how to worm your way into a long-term sub position (being related to someone important or becoming their "pet" doesn't hurt).

The only thing I'm holding onto right now is that there are a couple of temporary (one-year) openings next year. One of them is my sister's job. I think I've mentioned before that she's taking a sabbatical. For the past 3 years I have been the preferred sub for her because I know music and I know her routine. For the longest time I had students (and even some teachers) asking if I was a music teacher. If the current principal were hiring for her job for next year, I'd have a really good chance at it due to my experience. But he is retiring and another guy is transferring over from another school in the corporation. He knows me too, but not necessarily in a music context. My name won't pop into his head immediately. My principal did say he'd talk to the new guy about me.

I'm not certified in music - just general elementary education. However, I was in instrumental music for 11 years including marching and concert high school bands and marching and concert bands for 4 years in college. Plus I took music history and theory as electives in college. So for one year I feel like I could do the job.

But if I've learned anything over the last three years, it is that I can't count on anything. My self-confidence and self-esteem are so low right now. I know on paper it looks like it isn't personal. But the "cut-off" they imposed on who they will interview was arbitrary. They could just as easily have widened the search to include anyone who'd done multi-week sub gigs. They chose not to...even after I had emailed the principals personally. I can't help wonder what role that played in the whole thing.

I'm trying not to think about it too much. I am depressed. It isn't the first time and I doubt it will be the last. It's hard to constantly feel like you keep failing no matter how hard you try.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

The people have spoken

Well, as you can see I've chosen a new photo for my profile. Between blog comments and personal emails, the general consensus was that the second pose is good but too blurry to make a permanent fixture on my blog. Plus the first one, I think, conveys a sense of playfulness and attitude that fits who I am and where I am right now.

So now you know...

Mama G will be watching you...


Saturday, April 07, 2007

New haircut

In honor of the season, I've decided to breathe new life into my hairstyle. I've gone from long, straight, and blah to short and perky. See?

Photo 1 = Playful Teacher

Photo 2 = Spiritually Contemplative

BTW, please comment and let me know which of these two shots I should use as my new official blog picture. I'll collect votes before I make my decision. Thanks!

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Speaking of TV

I don't usually double-post in one day, but I feel compelled to make a couple of comments about my TV-watching this past week.

First, there were a couple of people who totally rocked! (At 40, am I too old to say "totally rocked"? LOL).

On Survivor - Yaoman is a beast! He's the oldest and probably least muscular person on the show and he consistently nails the challenges. Plus he has the immunity idol. I just love that guy so much that I find myself tuning in just to see him.

Who else rocks? Dwight on The Office! For eight years he has brought pepper spray in to work "just in case". He is too hilarious and yay for setting Roy back a few paces. Angela is all a-twitter. (And I have to give a nod to Michael in his cross-dressing suit. Clueless and perfect.)

My personal favorites of the week were last night on TLC. Two thumbs up to the Behind the Seams (a.k.a. scenes) episode of What Not to Wear. WNTW is one of my absolute favorite TV shows in the world so I was really excited for the Behind the Seams episode. I've fantasized about being on the show myself, so seeing how it is done was a real treat. I love Stacy and Clinton and have learned so much from them. Going shopping since I've started watching them is so much easier and I feel like I have a better idea of what looks good and what doesn't. Last night was also the premiere of Stacy's new show: Shut up! it's Stacy London. I enjoyed it mostly because I really like Stacy and feel like her fashion advice is right on target. This new show is in a talk-show format on the fashion and beauty theme. I liked it but found the intensity level similar that that of an infomercial. They need to tone it down just a tad IMO.

Finally, on a sadder note, we bid farewell to Laverne, the nurse matriarch on Scrubs. Having become Scrubs addicts in this household, we were literally moved by Nurse Roberts' death. Yes, it is just a show and the actress probably wanted to move on to other things, but her biting tongue and motherly advice will be missed. Sniff.


The best of intentions

I had every intention of spending this week thoroughly cleaning my house. Ideally I'd return to work on Monday with a spotless house. Guess how that turned out...

Now, as I mentioned the other day, my master bathroom is spotless. I cleaned it top to bottom and it looks like it did when we moved in. I love to go and just sit in there and smell the clean. It's the cleanest room in the house. The rest of the house...well, it's exactly the same as it was last week. I got sidetracked early in the week with having to run errands (doctor appointments, hair appointments, etc.) and when I got back home I was too overwhelmed to deal with any cleaning.

We had originally planned to get together with my extended family today for Easter, but since it is in the 30's outside (and I don't think my mom wanted all 7 grandkids cooped up inside her house), Mom decided to postpone our get-together for a couple of weeks until it gets warmer and the kids can play outside. So my only real plans for today include coloring Easter eggs with the kids. Besides that I feel obligated to clean something. I think I'll work in the kitchen. Realistically I need to clean the big appliances (oven, dishwasher, and fridge) and deep clean the floor. But I don't think I have the energy to tackle all of that today. Maybe I'll just focus on the floor for now.

It is so much easier to clean when it is 70 degrees outside and you can open the windows!


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Pop-UU angst

Kinsi over at Spirituality and Sunflowers has coined the term "Pop-UU" to refer to those of us UU's who are more interested than most UU's in popular culture. It all started with a post he made last winter and then my response to it. He has recently posted more on the matter here. His post reminded me of how I felt at church this past Sunday so I thought I'd blog about it a bit.

I agree with what he says in his post. While American Idol or whatever your favorite TV show is may not be as world-changing as petitioning Walmart (as Kinsi mentions) or working to reverse the global climate change problem or whatever other "worthy" movement we are called to be a part of, sometimes watching these shows is fun. And I heartily believe that having fun is okay. It's almost like I sometimes feel that if we aren't actively working to make major world changes, then we aren't using our time wisely. Like I should feel guilty for tuning in to find out what is happening on Lost after working all day. And are people like us even welcome in UU communities who seem to have "more important things to do"?

This past Sunday I was co-teaching the 3rd/4th grade RE class at church. We taught the Samson and Delilah story and were talking about superheros and strength. The lesson plan that we were using suggested having a conversation about cartoon characters that the kids were familiar with and discussing superheroes and what their characteristics were like. To say I was hesitant to do this was an understatement. Now I know in a public school setting I could ask about popular cartoons and superheroes and I would be bombarded by kids raising their hands with different stories to tell. We had 7 kids in the RE class and most of the kids had blank stares on their faces. The most common response: we don't have cable. Even the woman I was co-teaching with said she doesn't have cable. Awkward silence. We go to the opposite extreme. We don't have cable - we have satellite.

I'm not questioning their parents' decisions which are probably well-intentioned. It is easy for kids to spend too much time watching junk instead of doing other productive things. But these kids don't have a clue about things that are mainstays in the majority of American kids' lives these days. They've never seen Spongebob, for cryin' out loud! I remember when I was in college and I met someone who said she'd never seen an episode of the Brady Bunch. I thought she was kidding. Surely a middle-class American-born girl can't have grown up in 1970's and 1980's America and NOT have seen the Brady Bunch. And there was the guy who'd never seen an episode of I Love Lucy. These things are just so ingrained in American culture that I cannot even imagine someone not being at least moderately familiar with them.

Anyway, in the RE class we stumbled through that discussion and it was pretty much a flop. One brother and sister said they had seen one cartoon - The Simpsons (gee, sure was a good thing they don't have cable, huh?). I suggested maybe they'd seen movies like Superman or Spiderman. Their reactions were lukewarm so I'm not sure if they'd seen them or were just agreeing for the sake of agreeing.

I'm so used to working with kids, that this reaction just seems bizarre to me. But the bottom line was that my son (and myself) were the odd ones. Remarks were even made which implied the "evils" of cable TV. These are the kinds of times when I wonder what I am doing in this community. I feel like I've stepped into the Twilight Zone and don't belong at all. When I get together with local (non-UU) friends we may swap stories about who got voted out of American Idol or Survivor or what happened with Jim and Pam on the Office. We laugh and I feel at home. In the UU community I get blank stares or eyerolls at the banality of common TV. Which do you think is the more welcoming of the two? ;-/

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Spring Cleaning - Day 1

So as we are on Spring Break this week, I am taking advantage of having some free time to thoroughly clean my house after months of neglect. Now you may shudder and think there should be a better way to spend my vacation time. True. A teacher-friend of mine is in Hawaii this week. Of course, she doesn't have any kids and has more money than me. I would love to go away somewhere warmer (although I am not complaining about our sunny mid-70's weather today). But since travelling wasn't an option and I'm sick of looking at this dirty house, I am cleaning. I won't have another chance like this until June after school is out. With the weather nice outside I'm able to open all the windows and air the place out. The occasional breezes that blow through along with the chirping of the birds outside make this a much more enjoyable task.

Anyway, my plan is to tackle one room each day this week. Today I am starting with the master bathroom. In addition to regular cleaning of the sinks and counter, I've cleaned the inside of the window (climbing up and down on a stool and cleaning the crevices with an old toothbrush). I just finished getting down on my hands and knees and going around the room wiping down the baseboards and cleaning the gunk that accumulates in the corners of bathrooms (dust combined with moisture from multiple showers). Of course, once I was down there I realized how I need to clean off the fronts of my wooden cabinets as well as the bathroom door inside and out. Those are the kinds of things that don't get cleaned in regular cleaning.

I also had Big J pick up one of those Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaners. You hang it from your showerhead and after your shower push a button. Cleaning spray comes out and rotates in a 360 degree angle to coat all surfaces of the shower. I don't know how well it will work, but I'm willing to give it a try. I absolutely hate cleaning that shower stall.

Yes, it is a huge job, but I'm already getting really excited about how clean the bathroom is looking. And I'm not even done yet! I haven't decided which room I want to do next. After today I may want to pick an easier room.