Categories
Book Review Building Sustainably Environmental

Utilities Use – Water

What about Water?

Using less water means that first we need to identify where we use the most.  In the bathroom, kitchen and laundry room we can reduce the amount of water we use without compromising anything else. We can look at the toilet, the shower, sinks and the washing machine as large water users. The steps below can reduce the water your toilet uses by 25% and what water pumps through your shower head by a 30% reduction. (see book for full disclosure of % calculations) A little knowledge and investment in conservation methods saves more money in the long run that it costs to replace parts in the beginning.

To use less water in the toilet, all you need is a soda bottle and pebbles. See this Wiki Step by Step for how to use less water when you flush if you have an older non efficient toilet. One step up, for about $50, is to install dual flush converter.

The book offered a dual flush converter by Brondell. The image below shows how this works.

Next, I learned about the new wave in water conservation from Water Saver Technologies. Their AQUS, a grey water system, recycles water used from the sink and pipes it to your toilet.

Oh, and get this, some states will actually give you money if you replace your existing toilet. Check out Toilet Rebates in your state here.

If you want to consider a Whole House Gray Water System, look at case studies on homes and commercial spaces that have integrated this type of plumbing.

Shower Water Savers:  Evolve Showerheads Oxygenics AquaHelix Or, start a ripple with the Ripple Shower Timer From Ripple.

Not that I am a big proponent in consumption, but if there are ways I can acknowledge what I am using to use less, then I may weigh the purchase against that.

How about Electricity to Heat Water?

If you are building new and want to recover water to use again, or the heat in that waste water, here are a few resources the book offered:  Clivus Multrum   ReWater Systems    EcoInnovation Technologies   RenewABILiTY Energy Inc   ReTherm Energy Systems   WaterFilm Energy

A simple solution to keeping water hotter after it leaves your water tank is to insulate the hot water pipes or the tank itself! Or, have you ever thought about only heating water when you need it. If you work away from home all day, or sleep a normal nights rest, do you really need hot water at 3am or at 1 in the afternoon during the week? There is a green solution for this! A programmable thermostat. I found one at Cardellos, a local Wheeling WV store for $60. You may also want to check the temperature. 123 degrees is ideal and for every 10 degree reduction you can save  3-5% in the energy that it takes to heat that unused hot water.Wrapping your hot water tank in a blanket of insulation allows you to turn the tank down 2-4 degrees… which means that you can do a math problem with your electricity bill to figure out the rate of return in the savings it allows you once the 3-5% energy cost reduction equals the cost of the insulation blanket. Warm up with this idea from recycled cotton to hot water tank blanket from Bonded Logic.

Call your local utilities to find out about rebates on your conservation efforts and check out DSIRE for state incentives, or call your local architect! 🙂

Solar Hot Water Heaters:    EnerWorks Inc. Heliodyne, Inc. North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners Solar Energy, Inc Taylor Munro Energy Systems Inc.

Hot Water Heaters:

The Gas Tankless saves more!  It is more difficult to install though because running a larger gas line is probably necessary.  And, if you plan to have a radiant heating system underfoot you needs a conventional tank, or use a conventional tank to be a fire burner.  Some rebates and tax credits are available.  Eternal Water Heater – These tankless models by lasts twice as long, at 20 years!

Solar Hot Water Heater- you’ll need 10sf of roof space per person in the house. There are three types of collectors and they are the batch, flat plate and the evacuated tube collector. The most efficient being the evacuated tube collectors. The simplest is a passive system, where no pumps are needed. Use pylene glycol as solution in cold weather climate as a closed loop system. This method of water heating will run 3,600 – 9,000 big ones.

What’s this about?  NABCEP.org

Water Bottle fact: It takes 2-3x the water to make a plastic bottle compared to what the little plastic guy holds. Invest in a filter. I researched a few different kinds and came to an easy solution with PUR’s Mineral Clear faucet attachment.

What about water conservation in the yard? The book discussed drip irrigation and using native plants in your yard instead of tending to a lawn.

In drip irrigation, water is run through pipes (with holes in them) either buried or lying slightly above the ground next to the crops. Water slowly drips onto the crop roots and stems. Unlike spray irrigation, very little is lost to evaporation and the water can be directed only to the plants that need it, cutting back on water waste. –USGS’s Water Science for Schools

Our Ohio offers some advice for getting your lawn off of grass, and gives advice on planting native plants. Or, we could all be a bit more like Damali Ayo and plant your entire yard as your edible garden! You’ll have something to do with all of that compost if your community ever initiates a Pay-As-You-Throw program.

Think about rain water harvesting for showers, laundry, and  plants. You could consider investing in a rain barrel to water your yard or garden. Make sure that your roof is made of non toxic asphalt tile, metal or plastic.

Hope you are enjoying all of these Green tips from Green $ense!

Categories
Architecture Book Review Building Sustainably Environmental

Utilities Use – Electricity

How to help the fact that we need light!? Solution: arrange what functions you do in houses and buildings to take advantage of natural light. A window facing south will give you light 2.5 (x) the height of the window  into the length into the room. Clerestory windows are best at the ceiling height because they bounce the light right off of your ceiling, illuminating your room. Or, install a solatube, which can tunnel light to where you need it if the only thing between you and the sun is your roof.

and at night…

Plug load of light bulbs reduce by 75% when switching to LED and CFL bulbs. CFL rebates are available as are recovery centers for all bulbs.

Installing occupancy light sensors may be the best option in commercial settings, when no one person in in charge of turning off, say, the conference room lights when not in use. Wattstopper has a power strip that senses people and turns plugs on just like light sensors do. See the strip here and others from Smart Home USA. Light Occupancy Sensor Resources are listed in the book: Evecto GreenGate Levitron Lutron Sensor Switch , or take a look at WattStopper’s Energy Saving Calculator.

Sometimes the easiest way to understanding consumption of energy is to determine what you use. Like eating less when you count calories, a Kill a Watt may be plugged in an outlet like a power strip, and will display the power usage that anything you plug into it may be pulling.

“You can calculate your electrical expenses by the day, week, month, even an entire year. Also check the quality of your power by monitoring Voltage, Line Frequency, and Power Factor. Now you´ll know if it is time for a new refrigerator or if that old air conditioner is still saving you money.” From P3 International.

Begin by analyzing your home room by room. Look at your dryer and think of how often you use it. Most of us spend 10% of our energy bills on the dryer. It could be a good time to visit the Urban Clothesline site.

Look at the setting in your refrigerator, or just keep all of your cold items in a tupperware bin outside through the winter. (I’ve really wanted to do this!) You should set your temperature between 35-38 degrees, and keep the freezer at 0. Green $ense referred to: Absocold   ConServ Equator MicroFridge    Summit Compact Refrgerators, Sun Frost as models to reference.

Dishwashers:  Ariston   Asko   Bosch   Danby   Miele

Oh, and lets not forget hot to get rid of old appliances… Energy Star Refrigerator Recycling program Recycle.. it’s the perfect ending.

I’ve recently gotten cash for my electronics through BoneYard.

Do you know that in Rhode Island several communities have adopted a Pay-As-You-Throw program to manage the excessive waste of trash? You have to pay for the bright orange trash bags for trash disposal. The program aims to reduce waste and increase recycling. It allows residents to gauge what comes in because of the price attached to what goes out.

Energy consumption in heating and cooling the places where we live and work is astronomical! Later, when a good building envelope is discussed, we can learn how to keep our inside air in places where it should be. But, as far as how to make a comfortable environment in the first place is another story.

During the summer, when most places are hot, our home attics are extremely warm.  If your house isn’t a passive house which would direct that hot air through natural ventilation, you may consider a few natural ways to let the hot air out by letting it rise. The book discusses solar powered attic fans by Sunrise Solar and I’ve seen them by SolaStar as well. A whole house fan is another option, and Green $ense offered one by Jet Fan USA.

A programmable thermostat is a great idea to consider. In Ohio right now Columbia gas is offering in home Audits for $50. With that a programmable thermostat is offered in the package. This allows you to have heat when you need it most. Not when you aren’t at home, and not when you are under the covers. If you are thinking about building a new home, imagine your house broken into temperature zones. Places where you have a lot of southern light will be warmer, and tend to need different air conditions than do the shady Northern facing rooms. A good architect 😉 can make sure your temperature zones are ducted to properly. See more at the future House Warming post.

The book discussed a fireplace heat exchanger upgrade or and EPA certified insert which I looked up on E How to try to understand a bit better. The idea is that you can insert a new energy-efficient unit into your existing hearth and allow the heat generated by the fire to help generate heat into your home through a blower door.

Inserts for wood-burning fireplaces improve the safety and efficiency of the unit. An insert is a metal firebox, often with a glass door for visible flames, which fits within the fireplace opening, allowing the smoke to be vented through the existing fireplace chimney.-E How

The next idea after lowering consumption is to consider creating your own power using the sun, a local stream, or passing wind.

The hubbub about Solar Panels: Think of them as an appliance you can move with you. the DSIRE is a great website source that offers the most up to date incentives for renewable energies.

Micro-hydropower uses a water to be a generator of energy.

Micro-hydro power systems use an intake box to divert water from the stream and prevent debris from flowing into the system. The water moves through a pipe that is connected to a turbine. The pressure of the water rushing through the turbine causes it to move, which generates electricity. Excess energy is then stored in batteries or diverted to a dump load. –Acreage Anywhere

You must contact several authorities before doing this, such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (here), the Army Corps of Engineers, the local county engineers office,   and the system may cost between $5,000-20,000. But, before dismissing this all together, think about cost holistically. The cost of what you are paying your electric or gas company, the cost of what they are possibly doing to the air where they make your power, what is lost in translation, etc. Gauging all factors makes things a different story.

I’ve recently been introduced to the Fujitsu Mini-Split heat pump by a friend who uses the system to create a warm room in his super-insulated home. It is a ductless system that runs coils through your walls to a wall or ceiling mounted unit that heats or cools your air for comfort.

How cool! or… warm?!

Come back Monday for the next series post!

Categories
Architecture Book Review Building Sustainably Environmental

Green Sense Book Review

Book Review

of Eric Corey Freed and Kevin Daum’s book

Green $ense for the Home

I’ve been greenwashed! Not by this book that I chose to read, but in my magazines with new products, with emails and commercials. Everyone is All Natural now (what were we?), I am buying Artisan Bread, I can breathe easier, my soaps are Locally Made… yeah yeah yeah, but is all of this good?

That is the most difficult question because being Green and living Sustainably has so many facets. In my own practice I try to weigh a Green Thing by questioning:

  • What’s in it?
  • Where did it come from?
  • Is it something I could make or do myself?
  • Is this a product being marketed as good only to make a buck?
  • How does it add up on the grand scheme of my lifestyle?
  • Is it something I could use in my work or home?
  • Will it or the idea of it make life easier? Less complicated?

Green $ense made me look at their green solutions in two important categories:

The Building Envelope    &   Utilities Use

The book breaks down contents of going green into three categories: 16 green home projects you can do today, 21 you can do tomorrow, and 13 green home projects you can do when building new.  Conclusions are given after each topic after Eric the Architect and Kevin with the financial perspective go back and forth. They call it the bottom line.

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I have decided to split up this post over the course of a few days to help in understanding the sheer amount of information it contains. So, tomorrow we can begin with the first part of Utilities Use!

Categories
Book Review

The Power of Community. Curious?

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 Tonight is the Third Thursday of the month!

That means that the Environmental Book Club at Oglebay is meeting. Tonight we will watch the

Film Viewing of The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil at 7pm with special guest, director of the film, Faith Morgan!

~I hope you can join us another time too~

Click to download a Poster – 2011BookClub


Categories
Book Review Environmental

Eco Book Club at The Schrader


I hadn’t finished reading Davis book when our environmental book club met last Thursday night to discuss it.  But, it was such an interesting book that I did finish it within the last week and now have some additional thoughts to share.

A full synopsis of the book and discussion points can be found on our Environmental Book Club Blog at ecobookclub.wordpress.com

When I hear a grave environmental fact, like Global Warming, the warnings of GMO’s and pesticides that are in our food, or what leaches into our ground water I am always equally and defensively greeted with an opposing opinion from someone who I may bring it up with next.

Why?  Why don’t we error on the side of being safe? Is there too much information to know what to do, and what to do right?

Well, after reading this book a little bit of that grey area was swept away with the rain pouring facts Devra Davis provides throughout her book.

What I hadn’t realized before reading the book was that controversial issues are just so because the scientists that are figuring out what is unsafe for us, are being disproved by other scientists who are being supported by those companies creating the problems. This is a central struggling theme throughout Devra’s surprisingly positive book. Positive because it is enlightening and knowledge is powerful. I’ve recently heard that Dr. Laura talk, Follow the Money, and I think it’s on cue. It’s the first time I’ve heard of her –Dr. Laura Schlessinger.

Our group was lead by Dr. B who had done extensive noting and question-asking while reading the book himself. His full synopsis and in-depth discussion points are located on the EcoBookClub Blog here.

Our group talked about how scientists think. I thought about how I think. Dr. B described how a lawyer’s thoughts were to boil it down to the essence, to defend a case. While, as a scientist, he would want to include the loose (and sometimes extraneous) thoughts.

I’d taken a thirty-minute walk before our discussion through the wood chipped forest. Some barkless tress were laying across heavy needled pine branches that never lost their green luster. Spring wasn’t budding yet but I was able to wear short sleeves. I thought about a scientist’s children.

Beautiful big-eyed wonderers

children of a scientist

trees unwrapping, pulling down their canvases

heavy limbs

light in the sky, but heavy on the earth

looking dainty and effortless,

fragile without their leaves.

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A few portions of text that struck me are below.

In a story of The great London Fire of 1666, Devra talks about John Evelyn pg 39.

With nearly a blank slate, the city could have been redesigned. Evelyn had urged that the major producers of smoke be located in a common industrial zone, far from where most people lived. But he failed to reckon with the traditions and convenience that kept these same businesses as they were. Despite his friendships with those in power, Evelyn was no match for the economic forces of the day. In the seventeenth century, as in the twenty-first, pressures to keep things as they have always been could be far more powerful than well-founded suggestions for improvement.

The capacity of people to get  on with what they have been doing all their lives, even when they know it is not in their best interests, is a marvel. Denial is one of the strongest human emotions. It gets us through the shock of chronic illness or sudden deaths, and often it is what keeps us from making changes in life. Thus it is not enough to have a good idea of even a great one to bring about social change. People have to believe that the problem being addressed is so bad that something must be done, and they must believe that something can be done.

Stop expecting Prince Charming. We must rescue ourselves. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.  -Bella Abzug

The book gave me a way to defend the facts of Climate Warming by better understanding climate change and the two types of gasses generated by humans -chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) and greenhouse gasses. Next, in the same chapter, was the recipe to save us all from toxic products.

pg 256

The story of how the planet finally took action to get rid of CFCs provides an important lesson. Three things were required: the finding of the ozone hole provided sufficient proof that the planet faced  grave and imminent danger; industry had found a way to profit from making major changes in production of the source of the danger; and governments saw that the costs of persisting were much heavier than the benefits of acting. Only when all these were in place did actions to phase down CFCs begin.

In thinking that we must not only calculate the cost benefit of continuing like we do, but consider the cost benefit to prevent what we will have to pay in health and money through the future, I think:  Money or Health. We need both. What could you be doing right now to save yourself or, at least to save your children?

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Have you seen Annie Leonard’s video on The Story of Cosmetics? If not, check out my friend’s review of it on her blog, and view the video she has linked on her page.

A great site that I’ve found to see what’s in your cosmetics is the cosmeticsdatabase.com website. I look through it when I think of something else in my house that I could substitute to have less chemicals if it’s something that I can’t make at home myself.

 

 

Categories
Book Review Environmental Poetry

On account of Thoreau; Walden

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I have noticed that Walden, by Henry D. Thoreau is frequently referenced in news media. Architectural Record has mentioned the book at least three times in different issues through out the last year (Robert Ivy, Cabin in the Woods, and a recent Record Homes issue), ‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Rubin mentions it and I’ve read reference to Thoreau’s time in the woods in House Beautiful Magazine too. In different accounts of finding your own spirit, the humbleness in building one’s own house, and in the action of filling out the creases, finding your own character, Walden represents an acute account of the life that surrounded Thoreau while in the forest.

He writes, ‘The earth is not a mere fragment of dead history… -not a fossil earth, but a living earth; compared with whose great central life all animal and vegetable life is merely parasitic.’ ‘You may melt your metals and cast them into the most beautiful moulds you can; they will never excite me like the forms which this molten earth flows out into.’ (From the chapter Spring p334-335 in the Edition by Yale Press 2004.)

For two years, two months, and two days, time did not matter. What did was instinct. Thoreau moved to the forest around Walden Pond July of 1845. Having built his home that spring, March 1845, at the age of 27. He farmed beans, made loaves of bread, bathed in Walden, and perceived life in the forest. He built a chimney before winter. He watched the lake and measured the boundaries. Discovered ice and placid waters for looking to the bottom. He marveled at the colors of fish, at perfect round stone temples at the bottom of Walden lake and witnessed a fearless battle of the red ant versus the black ant nation. He spoke heroically of their manners and watched the black ant win (all other red ants around him had died), and then leave without antennas and with crippled legs.

165 years later his accounts of society and tradition are still pertinent if not more so complicated and diffused. He moved to the forest to ‘transact some private business with the fewest obstacles.’

Thoreau’s book begins with the chapter titled Economy. He describes philosophy, luxury, and the toll of ownership. ‘I see young men, my towns men, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of.’ p3 ‘What is the nature of luxury which innervades and destroys nations? p14

I began to read Walden during the travels of a month-long honeymoon. This is what I wrote upon reading the first few pages. It is here that I am seven days into spending time as I wish. Fulfilling my days with challenging hikes, reading and writing to reflect. Drawing and learning to color. Challenging myself to keep track of the mountains and relate them in drawings. My husband draws the landscape. We eat and drink often. Time doesn’t matter. We are aware of our few belongings and are taking better care of them and one another. I think I own too much at home to myself to take care, and do not work as apart of my community or neighborhood to feel kinship or pride to stand together.

What society celebrates as success is a form of acquiring methods to bind your freedom. When you own land, a house, manage a family and animals, crops, or when you become a vice president, receive position on an authority board, -people, buildings and organizations depend on your opinion and presence. Late in Thoreau’s book he describes a man being appointed to town duty, -how he may not take vacation… because of his commitment.

I wrote a poem about success while reading the book.

Success

Is success in your picture

the recognition of your face?

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Is it all you accomplish in your week,

do you remember?

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Is it the parties, champagne

and fine toasts?

Is success quiet or loud?

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Is success praise and good doing?

Is it alone or together?

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Can you define it with

metals, trophies, or certificates?

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Is it a glitter ball signifying

the turn of a new year?

Is it what we wear

to define our character?

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Is it found in hard formulas

or in the last line of poetry?

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Is it the wrinkles on a face

or the exhaustion in your voice?

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Is it a word at all that can be defined to

so specifically a cause,

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a word to describe

survival or wealth?

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Does happiness have a place

within its parameters?

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Do you remember what

you are chasing, who

you are and where you

are going?

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Has success been a

purpose for going?

A path and direction

for finding yourself?

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Thoreau writes

‘The life which men praise and regard as successful is but one kind. Why should we exaggerate any one kind at the expense of others?

If I were to define my purpose under the influence of Thoreau I would say that the point of life is to keep up ourselves without running debt and reach for the heavens.

Thoreau writes that he went to the forest to ‘transact some private business with the fewest obstacles.’ The fewest expectations, the fewest interruptions, -a living forest and lake that ask nothing of you, -just that you live with them. In the chapter Pond In The Winter (p314-315) Thoreau describes the laws to which he found he was part of in the forest. ‘If we knew all the laws of Nature, we should need only one fact, or the description of one actual phenomenon, to infer all the particular results at that point. Now we know only a few laws, and our result is vitiated, not, of course, by any confusion or irregularity in Nature, but by our ignorance of essential elements in the calculation. Our notions of law and harmony are commonly confined to those instances which we detect; but the harmony which results from a far greater number of seemingly conflicting ,but really concurring, laws, which we have not detected, is still more wonderful. The particular laws are as our points of view, as, to the traveller, a mountain outline varies with every stop, and it has an infinite number of profiles, though absolutely but one form. Even when cleft or bored through it is not comprehended in its entireness.’

Thoreau describes society. p147 ‘Society is commonly too cheap. We must meet at very short intervals, not having had time to acquire any new value for each other. We meet at three meals a day and give each other a new taste of that old musty cheese that we are.’ (That made me laugh.) We have had to agree on a certain set of rules, called etiquette and politeness, to make this frequent meeting tolerable and that we need not come to open war.’ ‘Certainly less frequency would suffice for all important and hearty communications.’

‘What sort of space is that which separates a man from his fellows and makes him solitary? I have found that no exertions of the legs can bring two minds much nearer to one another.’ p144

(I think this is comical too.)

‘It is a ridiculous demand which England and America make, that you shall speak so that they can understand you. Neither men nor toad-stools grow so… As if there were safety in stupidity alone… The words that express our faith and piety are not definite; yet they are significant and fragrant like frankincense to superior natures. Why level downward to our dullest perception always, and praise that as common sense? The commonest sense is the sense of men asleep, which they express by snoring.’ p352-353 He asks men to ‘soar but a little higher in our intellectual flights than the columns daily in the newspaper.’ p115

Silence plays a large role in securing the availability of Thoreau’s thoughts. He would spend his day… ‘After hoeing or perhaps reading and writing in the forenoon, I usually bathed again in the pond, swimming across one of its cover for a stint and washed the dust of labor from my person, or smoothed out the last wrinkle that study had made, and for the afternoon was absolutely free.’ p182

Our book club discussed what the modern life takes away. One member talked about the dross, the useless information the average person wastes their time knowing. We entertain ourselves with thinking this useless information is important, and it takes up all of our time. TV.

I began to compare silence and expectations. Thoreau’s phrase ‘I came to the forest to transact some private business with the fewest obstacles.’ made more and more sense to me as I continued reading. It was odd that this reading coincided with my own searching for a way to unplan my life -in order to take in the moment and free my thought. The rules, and regulation, fees and traditions, social expectations strip away the free thought -the trueness of acting in the moment -so I’m trying not to make commitments, as a commitment to my happiness and well-being.

He speaks of being alone. p 146 ‘I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company , even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating.  We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our own chambers.’ He says this I think to explain the reason he should live alone in the forest, without the expectancies of people.

Here is what Thoreau has to say of weaving a basket, so as to avoid the necessity to which the basket has been made for disheartening purposes. p 19 ‘The poor Indian man can weave a basket and thought it be the rich man’s duty to buy one’… Thoreau weaved one and studied avoiding the necessity to sell one. He talks of trade. p75 How it seems he would commonly do, but would then be expected to… so therefore was like business.. ‘to stay away from if at all possible for fear it may consume all of your time.’ He describes depending on money or work to trade. p56, (On earning wage to travel, or to travel by getting there by your own two feet.) ‘On living somewhere to earn a wage, so that you may move and live the life of a poet… at what point did we decide to separate the earning a living from living -why not marry these two? If you being down the path of earning life and it becomes complex and entangled… you can’t get out from under the earing because you’d built your life on top of it. It is easier not to begin earning a lot and enjoy the benefits of living like that.’

Which makes me think of earning your experiences. ‘The student whose cures his courted leisure and retirement by systematically shirking any labor necessary to man obtains but an ignoble and unprofitable leisure, defrauding himself of the experience which alone can make leisure profitable.’ p53 (Like climbing a mountain, and exhausting yourself, to see the high view!)

Our book club group and Thoreau discussed Higher Education under these terms of learning your experiences and I repeated a discussion between my husband and I about the necessity / requirement of higher education for our children… at the expense of it. It is like I took 5 years off to think and learn around others, to draw, read, and write -to find myself and what I like, what I am like. I was at that time spending borrowed money that I then had to get a job (that required my purchased diploma) to pay off over the next ten years post graduation. Perhaps it was worth thousands to learn how to learn. My college education was hands off, allowed me to travel Europe for three and a half months, taught me to be more self motivating as it came to my work, and taught me that I wasn’t the best. There was a lot of competition between very different people. There were so many people, you had to find yourself to be comfortable, and confident. After graduation, my profession urges other ways for me to spend money. Architects have at least two professional organizations to join. The AIA status requires that one takes exams to earn the credentials of the three letters after your signature. There is a yearly requirement to keep up this registration with continuing education. Why should we ever stop learning? I do not disagree with that. Neither does Thoreau. Why stop learning when we are children? Why stop learning when learning becomes a fascinating endeavor that we can act on as adults?  Time should be cut out for learning, not only earning, once we get to work as our full time employment. I’ve sometimes debated the complexity of such a system that demands more and more time and money to organize and upkeep the requirements, to the need for it myself. The more I make the more I owe. The more responsibility, the more insurance I need. The more I reach the more paperwork I need to order. I like how things are currently, I understand the general upkeep I need to manage and have under control. What new way is there of growing within this? I don’t know what I’ll suggest for my children as they graduate High School.

In Economy Thoreau discusses the purchase of one’s home. p 23 He makes an analogy for spending more than half our life paying for our home. The cost of your house requires that you spend between 15 – 30 years to work to pay for it. I am still wondering what it is worth? Can you create a house for yourself, build it with your own hands so to cost less money? Will your effort make your home more worthy than the exchange of money would have to ask someone else to build it for you?

Is it more about the requirement that you continue paying for it until it is bought, or that it would be the same as renting.. the same money spent to hold yourself under shelter with nothing to show for it after the many years of having done so. Because we must be sheltered… or is the cost of rent or mortgage out of scale with what shelter should cost us? It is a basic human privilege. Think about what we weight against one another; promised time that will turn into money in exchange for our shelter. Think about what you need compared to what Thoreau says about someone rich. p23 ‘or shall we say richer, who could do with less.’

So, what could be the purpose of his free time? To write and to think. I enjoy his observations. p88, On what you get out of a farm…’I have frequently seen a poet withdraw, having enjoyed the most valuable part of a farm, while the crusty farmer supposed that he had got a few wild apples only. Why, the owner does not know it for many years when a poet has put his farm in rhyme, the most admirable kind of invisible fence, has fairly impounded it, milked it, skimmed it, and got all th cream, and left the farmer only the skimmed milk.’ p215, On pity the farmer…’who loves not the beauty of his fruits, whose fruits are not ripe for him till they are turned into dollars.’

Time away meant time to be natural, adhere to the natural rules which man may find in the forest. Living in the forest allowed him ‘To be truly awake -those first few moments of morning -to which no mechanical means should awaken us.’ p 96

In the chapter Sounds he describes ‘My days were not days of the week, bearing the stamp of any heathen deity, nor were they minced into hour and fretted by the ticking of the clock.’ p120

This time for each of us can be spent reflecting and fulfilling our thought and innate gestures. ‘Soar but a little higher in our intellectual flights than the columns daily in the newspaper.’ p115 ‘True wisdom to read with the intensity in which it took to write.’ p106

‘Follow your genius close enough and it will not fail to show you a fresh prospect every hour… when my floor was dirty I rose early.. it was pleasant to see my whole house hold effects out on the grass.. they seemed glad to get out themselves… It was worth the while to see the sun shine on these things and hear the free wind blow on them; so much more interesting most familiar objects look out of doors than in the house.’ p121

On encountering people more naturally, on communication with an old man, an excellent fisherman, ‘Our intercourse was thus altogether one of unbroken harmony, far more pleasing to remember than if it had been carried on by speech.’ p190

Thoreau had time to make these observations and give them to us, his readers. ‘I have been surprised to detect.. a shelf like path in the steep hillside.. worn by the feet of aboriginal hunters…This is particularly distinct to one standing on the middle of the pond in winter, just after a light snow has fallen, appearing as a clear undulating white line, unobstructed by weeds and twigs.’  p197

‘Circular heaps, Indian mounds of rock that floated to the bottom… These lend a pleasing mystery to the bottom.’  p202

‘Walden is a perfect forest mirror in which all impurity presented to it sinks, swept and dusted by the suns hazy brush…’ p206

Our time is free, but quickly gobbled up. Why not enjoy the poetry that crosses your doorway… why does it seem that the simple pleasures go unappreciated, or not noticed at all… can we not believe in such free gifts?

On White and Walden Pond ‘If they were…small enough to be clutched, they would be, carried off by slaves and like precious stones.. but being liquid, and ample, and secured to us and our successors forever, we disregard them, and run after the diamond of Kohinoor.’ ‘Talk of heaven! ye disgrace the earth.’ p218

On being hungry and enjoying food… ‘Who has not sometimes derived an inexpressible satisfaction from his food in which appetite had no share?’ p237

‘You only need sit still long enough in some attractive spot in the woods that all its inhabitants may exhibit themselves to you by turns.’ p249

Or, the loon games Thoreau played across Walden.

In the chapter House Warming ‘…maples turned scarlet… many a tale their color told…Each morning the manager of this gallery substituted some new picture, distinguished by more brilliant or harmonious coloring, for the old upon the walls.’ p261

‘I was waked by the cracking of the ground by the frost…in the morning would find a crack in the earth a quarter of a mile long and a third of an inch wide.’ p296

Of the placid lake, ‘peering into it for a winter drink… it closes its eyelids and becomes dormant for three months or more… Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.’ p307

‘I meet the servant of the Bramin, come to draw water for his master, and our buckets as it were grate together in the same well. The pure Walden water is mingled with the sacred water of the Ganges. With favoring winds it is wafted past the site of the fabulous islands of Atlantis an the Hesperides, makes the periplus of Hanno, and , floating by Ternate and Tidore and the mouth of the Persian Gulf, melts in the tropic gales of the Indian seas, and is landed in ports of which Alexander only heard the names.’ p322

Then he wondered about measuring characters, set to mountains. ‘I laid a rule on the map lengthwise and then breadth wise, and found, to my surprise, that the line of the greatest length intersected the line of the greatest breadth exactly at the point of greatest depth… Is not this the rule also for the height of mountains, regarded as the opposite of valleys?’

‘If we knew all the laws of Nature, we should need only one fact, or the description of one actual phenomenon, to infer all the particular results at that point. Now we know only a few laws, and our result is vitiated, not, of course, by any confusion or irregularity in Nature, but by our ignorance of essential elements in the calculation. Our notions of law and harmony are commonly confined to those instances which we detect; but the harmony to which results from a far greater number of seemingly conflicting, but really concurring, laws, which we have not detected, is still more wonderful. The particular laws are as our points of view, as, to the traveller, a mountain outline varies with every step, and it has an infinite number of profiles, though absolutely but one form. Even when cleft or bored through it is not comprehended in its entireness.

What I have observed of the pond is no less true in ethics. It is the law of average. Such a rule of the two diameters not only guides us toward the sun in the system and the heard in the man, but draw lines through the length and breadth of the aggregate of a man’s particular daily behaviours and waves of life into his coves and inlets, and where they intersect will be the height or depth of his character.’ p313-315

‘The old man, who had been a close observer with Nature -told me, and I was surprised to hear him express wonder at any of Nature’s operations for I thought that there were no secretes between them.’ p328

‘Few phenomena gave me more delight than to observe the forms which thawing sand and clay assume in flowing down the sides of a deep cut on the railroad through which I passed on my way to the village, a phenomenon not very common on so large a scale, though the number of freshly exposed banks of the right material must have been greatly multiplied since railroads were invented. The material was sand of every degree of fineness and of various rich colors, commonly mixed with a little clay. When the frost comes out in the spring, and even in a thawing day in the winter, the sand begins to flow down the slopes like lava, sometimes bursting out through the snow and overflowing it where no sand was to be seen before. Innumerable little streams overlap and interlace one with another, exhibiting a sort of hybrid product, which obeys half way the law of currents, and half way that of vegetation. As it flows it takes the forms of sappy leaves or vines, making heaps of pulpy sprays a foot or more in depth, and resembling, as you look down on them, the laciniated lobed and imbricated thalluses of some lichens; or you are reminded of coral, of leopards’ paws or birds’ feet, of brains or lungs or bowels, and excrements of all kinds. It is a truly grotesque vegetation, whose forms and color we see imitated in bronze, a sort of architectural foliage more ancient and typical than acanthus, chicory, ivy, vine, or any vegetable leaves; destined perhaps, under some circumstances, to become a puzzle to future geologists…’ p 330 – 331  ‘Man…a mass of thawing clay.’ p 333

‘It was pleasant to compare the first tender signs of the infant year just peeping forth with the stately beauty of the withered vegetation which had withstood the winter.’ From the chapter Spring (my favorite.) p 335

Natures rules play a part in my understanding of what I think I know. Like the mountain at every step, the form is the same, but I see a different character around every bend. I am but a small imbecile beside this great rock of earth. How the rules of nature influenced Thoreau after his time at Walden can be found laced throughout his later work, and in how he chose to live after being alone in the forest. Our experiences shape us, what we read and think, discuss and try. Thoreau says that traveling should influence your character, and after a month abroad, I am making the effort to settle in with what I have learned. (p 348, 359, 347, respectively below)

‘Travel your thought.’

‘Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.’

‘The universe is wider than our views of it.’

.

This book was the October Selection for Oglebay Institute’s Environmental Book Club held at the Schrader Center every third Thursday of the month at 7pm.

Then, I Wiki’d Thoreau

Born July 1817

He was also deeply interested in the idea of survival in the face of hostile elements, historical change, and natural decay; at the same time imploring one to abandon waste and illusion in order to discover life’s true essential needs.

Age 16-19 Thoreau studied at Harvard University between 1833 and 1837.

After he graduated in 1837, he and his brother John then opened a grammar school in Concord, MA in 1838 called Concord Academy.

He met Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson took a paternal and at times patronizing interest in Thoreau, advising the young man and introducing him to a circle of local writers and thinkers, including Ellery Channing, Margaret Fuller, Bronson Alcott, and Nathaniel Hawthorne and his son Julian Hawthorne, who was a boy at the time.

Age 23 On April 18, 1841, Thoreau moved into the Emerson house. There, from 1841–1844, he served as the children’s tutor, editorial assistant, and repair man/gardener.

Thoreau returned to Concord and worked in his family’s pencil factory, which he continued to do for most of his adult life.

Age 27 – 28 In March 1845, Ellery Channing told Thoreau, “Go out upon that, build yourself a hut, & there begin the grand process of devouring yourself alive. I see no other alternative, no other hope for you.” Two months later, Thoreau embarked on a two-year experiment in simple living on July 4, 1845, when he moved to a small, self-built house on land owned by Emerson in a second-growth forest around the shores of Walden Pond.

Age 30 Thoreau left Walden Pond on September 6, 1847. At Emerson’s request, he moved immediately into the Emerson house to help Lidian manage the household while her husband was on an extended trip to Europe. Over several years, he worked to pay off his debts and also continuously revised his manuscript for what, in 1854, he would publish as Walden, or Life in the Woods,  recounting the two years, two months, and two days he had spent at Walden Pond. The book compresses that time into a single calendar year, using the passage of four seasons to symbolize human development.

Age 31 – 32 In January and February 1848, he delivered lectures on “The Rights and Duties of the Individual in relation to Government” explaining his tax resistance at the Concord Lyceum. Thoreau revised the lecture into an essay entitled Resistance to Civil Government (also known as Civil Disobedience). In May 1849 it was published by Elizabeth Peabody in the Aesthetic Papers.

At Walden Pond, he completed a first draft of A week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, an elegy to his brother, John, that described their 1839 trip to the White Mountains. Thoreau did not find a publisher for this book and instead printed 1,000 copies at his own expense, though fewer than 300 were sold. Thoreau self-published on the advice of Emerson, using Emerson’s own publisher, Munroe, who did little to publicize the book. Its failure put Thoreau into debt that took years to pay off, and Emerson’s flawed advice caused a schism between the friends that never entirely healed.

Age 44 Dies May 1862

Categories
Book Review

Italy, India, Indonesia

If a picture is worth one thousand words, why is a motion picture always missing something? Monday night was girls night out to see Eat Pray Love. I enjoyed the movie and wondered why it received unfavorable reviews, why it left one person praying for it to end? I read the book when it came out four years ago and was glad to have some background knowledge on Elizabeth Gilbert. While the movie tried to place her quickly in marriage, the book left me with a more desperate feeling of Liz crying on the bathroom floor, more frustrated in stagnant life to leave it. The movie picked up as we shared in the first views of Italy. The bridge scene looked like something more from Florence than Rome, but she was in Rome by  sun down.

The two-hour film was enjoyable, Liz finding a group of friends in Italy, running the streets to learn language with your body, tripping over the t’s, rolling the r’s. She found a balance of people to be thankful for as she filled up on food. The food in the book tasted better, or maybe the book described eating more often, and more enjoyably than I saw in a simple spaghetti plate with basil. In the book I was more in Elizabeth’s mind, instead of watching her from my Napoli window. Elizabeth Gilbert had more dialogue with herself, the voices in her head, and when she overcame her relationships, found balance in meditation, so did I.

Before Elizabeth left for her year-long trip, four months to eat in Italy, four months to pray in India, and four to close out the year in Bali, Indonesia, we got a glimpse into why. Her travel box was a collection of maps, notes and starfish. It was a point at which she stopped walking down the American sidewalk, stopped in her tracks, and began to wonder what life would be like if she lived each day reaching for what amazed her. Within the first few scenes of Italy, Elizabeth finds herself laughing in a barber shop, learning the social problem of Americans, that an American doesn’t know how to enjoy doing nothing well at all. Ah, but Italians do- smiles, loudness, bluntness, finding desert in business man packed cafes, eating pizza with a girlfriend, watching soccer in the piazza, then buying bigger jeans to fit it all in. Elizabeth curls up one late evening with her asparagus and sunset on a thin pink rug in her flat and considers just this.

Just at this cozy point we are shifted to busy,  stranded, starved, filthy streets, through all of these pan-slamming passage ways of India to an Ashram Shrine. It is here in the book that she begins to release her guilt, release herself from expectancies of the tight rope, straight line, straight-laced marriage agreements her husband and she held up for one another under vows. We sense that in the touching moments she spends with her new-found friend from Texas, up on the rooftop as morning comes to the Ashram.

Then, we ride through the Bali rice fields, the palm forests planted in successive years many years ago. The cinema photography is beautiful here, among the palm tree silhouettes. She has come here to love herself and ends up finding love that is opening, surprising and out on a limb sort of trusting. It is unconventional, she takes the advice of Ketut, balancing more than she sought out to.

The movie is at the pace of the book. It is slow in the most enjoyable way. You can’t find yourself quickly, and the journey you set out for will be different from what you expect. But, isn’t that is the point of reaching?

Categories
About Me Book Review

There are No Rules!

I began reading The Happiness Project the week before I got married. Being that I am a very motivated, goal-oriented person, and that most of the time I am happy, it seemed silly to begin setting another round of goals for myself to make myself more happy. How could I use this book to challenge what I was practicing? It seemed that the author, Gretchen, seemed to have the same hang up about her own life. She was a happy person, and had made life choices to take herself on a path of living the way she wanted to.  She spent a year researching happiness; read, took notes, and began to apply resolutions on a month to month basis. What she found was that by charting her resolutions with a gold star, creating a visual checklist, meant that she was more likely to obtain and be aware of goals she thought would make her happy! I find that happiness for me is self-awareness. I work well in a routine and also want to be flexible. I feel like I am in the middle of goals, so how am I to step out and begin with a fresh set to tackle if this is the secret to happiness?!

Though Gretchen spent the year prior researching happiness; Thoreau to Elizabeth Gilbert, scholars to school teachers, from Benjamin Franklin to Saint Therese of Lisieux, not until she began to live month to month resolution and research on herself did she come up with her Splendid Truths of Happiness. The first one is First: To be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.

I’ve spent a lot of time considering that statement. Know what makes you happy, what makes you feel bad, know what makes you feel right.

…in an atmosphere of growth. Challenge yourself with the things that make you happy. But, how do you evaluate this? Your very own Resolutions Chart! You can go to Gretchen’s website and begin your own online or create one for your home yourself.

Resolutions

Why Resolution and not Goal? Gretchen addresses this – because a goal ends with its completion and isn’t life more about the journey, not just the end? Isn’t life about the moments in days, not years? Resolution because it’s a constant challenge, something to continually make you better.

Gretchen writes that ‘one reason that challenge brings happiness is that it allows you to expand your self-definition. You become larger.’ ‘…loosing your job may be a blow to your self-esteem, but the fact that you lead your communities…’ What she is saying is that if there are many things that define you, when one doesn’t work out, in the whole picture of things, it doesn’t hurt quite as bad because you have something else to fall back on and be involved in. ‘A new identity brings you into contact with new people and new experiences, which are also powerful sources of happiness.’

With challenges and trying new things comes some failure. I enjoyed this quote from Gretchen the most – ‘If something is worth doing, its worth doing badly.’ If you fail by someone else’s standards, see that you did attempt something for yourself!

What about knowing what makes you happy and knowing what makes you feel bad? I write when I need to figure something out that makes me feel bad. I like the advice ‘fully explain the problem.’ Ask Why. After a full description of a problem, supply a solution.. fantastic! That seems like an easy way of dealing with problems, but more often than not, if I feel bad about a situation and I take time to sort it out in writing, I come around to seeing the bright side of the picture, because now I have fully defined the problem and typically have resolved a way in which to deal with it.

Life is about a balance. Balancing the things I enjoy every day with different tasks, deadlines, events. I write lists, and discuss with myself in my journal often about what things I am balancing. After this, the hardest thing for me is to act on the high list of expectancies. Do this, and that, every day, every week… I’ve just started to challenge myself one at a time, and keep track of how I’m doing with creating a challenge between another friend and I. I like to balance my marriage, health and exercise, work, creativity and fun, friends and family. For exercising I have agreed to run a sprint triathlon with a girlfriend I can train with 3-4 times a week. To write more and establish a consistent creative outlet by writing, another friend and I have agreed to 10-minute blogs. My husband and I are committed to learning Italian, which we decided to take in 10 minute Italian lesson sessions every day. But, without a chart we do forget after a couple of days of not being able to fit it in. So, speaking of, I’ll re-enact that tonight. If I don’t want a(nother) chart on my refrigerator then perhaps I need to set up happiness resolution reminders.. say in my events calendar at work! Hm. I guess all I needed to do was write it out to figure out a solution.

The point is to try. Try and do it badly, if that is the worst that could happen. Try something and come out of it with a different outcome than expected. That happens every day in my work. You begin with a design, find our more parameters that present challenges and turn out  a different solution because of the experience. Surprisingly enough, trying garners self-respect and the confidence to try again.

Challenges for 2010 that I think will make me happy. 🙂 And, I’ve just added this to August’s calendar, so that the first day of the month I will be reminded to:

~Keep track of food and exercise – How do I Eat & Exercise Better? Keep track of what I eat and burn calories on with  www.foodsdatabase.com as well as a homemade exercise motivation chart. Choose vegetables when given any choice, limit alcohol, eat out only 1-2 times per week, strength train and stretch my arms, legs, and abs with a quick 15 minute per day exercise.

~Develop my husband and I’s relationship by doing something creative together each week

~Collaborate on Writing – Take an hour each day to devote to creative writing on my blog, book reviews, or journal. At least write for five minutes at the end of the day, quick poetic lines of my day in my journal. Make an effort to join the poetry exchange in Pittsburgh the first Monday of every month to collaborate with colleagues.

~Write my Blog – Challenge myself with a friend to post most every day, dedicating 10 minutes to do so at the least!

~Keep in touch with friends and collaborate

~Meet a professional every week

~Develop my wardrobe and Art

~Visit someone or travel once a month

~Learn Italian – Ten minutes a day, work on speaking the language with my husband.

~Converse with one Italian a month

~Art Time / once per week

~Plan Italy / once per week

~Keep my house clean and orderly

~Build a better Interior’s Portfolio Take on the money commitment now, saving month to month on a project I want to do to my kitchen in 2011. Begin planning the textures, colors, and floor plans to garner approval and enthusiasm from me and my husband. I know that he doesn’t like doing house projects, or enjoy the duration, so I also need to find someone to help me build it in a timely manner.

~

To do all of this I begin Monday’s with in informal meeting with myself and balance my week in the following grid of timing.

630-730- write

830-930- emails

930-1230-work

lunch

1:30-5:30- work

~

Then, there is the other side of Gretchen’s book that are lesson-like. These are the things I like to remind myself of:

Pursue a passion in September, which is for Gretchen BOOKS! Take your passion seriously, resolutions one at a time.. over the course of a year, tackle one book a month like a book club does. Take on a commitment and give yourself a time frame. Gretchen decided to write a novel in a month and gained ‘great satisfaction from the achievement.’ While reading Gretchen’s account of writing a novel she writes ‘usually when I’m writing I constantly question my work. With novel-writing in a month, I couldn’t take the time, and it was a relief to be free from my inner critic.’ And I had an Ah ha!

There are no Rules – is my first and most important lesson.

You want to do something, you want to be something? The whole book began to order itself around me and make sense! What is it that you want to do? What can you do to achieve it? Steps? Can you take on one a week, one a day? Be serious? Track your progression, track the commitment and be proud to accomplish it? It is like we all need a report card. I visited my sister’s house over July 4th and one her fridge is a month long work-out plan. I give it to her- she does get up at 5:30 to work out, and I see that she X’s things off one by one as she completes each day. She’s doing a resolutions chart and its making herself happy to do so without even knowing about this Happiness Project!

You come up with a profound thought every day! Believe that. There aren’t rules. You are your hardest critic. I tend to write things, then think ‘oh someone else would probably think that that is incorrect english,’ then I never post, or delay writing things because I don’t know who will be critiquing it. Blah! That is dumb, it makes me stagnant. I want to have a nicer Interiors portfolio, so why don’t I tackle my house like I am my own client? Invest, indulge toward my career, and build a portfolio all at the same time!

How many times do I try to brush my teeth, put on my jewelry, put away socks, close the kitchen cabinets, make my lunch in the morning, put on my shoes… all at the same time.  I don’t enjoy things when I try to fit them in and on top of one another. Lesson number 2 is do only one thing at a time, and do it now. After reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project I began to realize and listen to what I was telling myself everyday during my normal routine. Then, I began to realize that those sayings I would tell myself meant how I believed I could live better, fuller, and a more in-tuned life for myself.

Gretchen says that if a task (like bringing the garbage out to the can vs. carrying it out to the porch) takes less than one minute, do it now. My husband practices that too. Instead of letting things pile up, finish putting away the dishes, cut the bushes, trim the grass, hang up a coat, do it now. If I ask him to help me with something he says, let’s do it now. I like that attitude, because when I look at that thing to do a second time, and feel the nag to get it done, it makes the single task worse.  Seeing it once and taking care of it right away allows other thoughts to be in the place of nagging tasks. In acknowledging my husbands feelings about getting things done, I am reminded about another one of Gretchen’s realizations. Acknowledge other people’s feelings. (Lesson 3) We’ve all heard that one in treating others the way in which we wish to be treated. But, what she means is deeper than the surface, it is a way of communication that is so pertinent to how we treat one another, and how we wish to be treated. We all want to be in control of our lives, our own freedoms to make choices on what we eat, when and how we do things.  You may have been taught the wrong type of communication. Being told ‘No’ or ‘you don’t feel that way’ or ‘when you get older’ while growing up, it seemed as if your feelings were never valid for the current situation. Which, is really not accurate. I always resented being told that during my childhood from people who were older than me. How unfair do you feel when someone doesn’t acknowledge what you think?

How can we judge others when we don’t know what circumstances they are working under? Growing up I realized that I was annoyed when people would squash my feelings as ‘oh you’ll get over it’ or when you get older you will change your mind.’ This brought out in me a strong urge to understand others feelings by listening to them. Why assume you know what they are talking about? You don’t. I realized this even more when I work with visual images as an adult and when two people converse over sketches one realizes how often what we interpret is different from what they mean. When its drawn it is easy to articulate these differences of perception.

One thing about me is that I don’t like being pegged. Nor do I enjoy being told what I should do, hence, the above reasoning. I can make the best decision for myself. I believe groups make better collective decisions which may be different from my own, but there is only one of me to decide for me, and with adequate time I strongly stand that I’ve made the best decision for myself. That is why when Gretchen described communication with her daughter it really struck a chord with me. Under ‘Lighten Up’ Gretchen vowed to acknowledge other people’s feelings and in repeating what her little girl said between sobs, her little girl felt respected for feeling the way she did.

Which brings me to the fact that we can’t choose the way we feel, but can choose the way to deal or act on it. Know thyself. (who said this?) In my effort to understand other I become very frustrated when someone assumes they understand me, and acts that way toward me. I try to question, listen, perceive and respect others who treat me that way too.

‘Its more selfless to act Happy.’

Gretchen writes in August as she’s contemplating the heavens to understand eternity in order to cultivate a contented and thankful spirit. She describes the circle of her second splendid truth and focuses on the second line. ‘One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.’

She describes being happy.  ‘The belief that unhappiness is selfless and happiness is selfish is misguided. It’s more selfless to act happy. It takes energy, generosity and discipline to be unfailingly light-hearted yet everyone take a happy person for granted…he seems self-sufficient; he becomes a cushion for others.’

Other people cultivate unhappiness as a way to control others. They cling to unhappiness because without it they’d forgo the spiral consideration that unhappiness secures: the claim to pity and attention.

This circles back to thinking that in order to make others happy, you have to make yourself happy. Make yourself happy, and others will catch the bug. If you can find a way to make a situation better, why don’t you do it? Gretchen had a hair problem with her daughter. Instead of getting mad at the bed head, Gretchen decided to take action and ask her daughter for a brush, so that Gretchen could brush it for her. The situation didn’t change, but the effect of pretty hair made Gretchen happier.

Happiness in December: I just finished Gretchen’s book. In the end her husband describes her year-long happiness project. He says, ‘I think this happiness project is about you trying to get more control over your life.’ She replies (Yes!) ‘Having a feeling of autonomy, of being able to choose what happiness in your life or how you spend your time is crucial. Identifying and following my resolutions had made me feel far more in control of my time, my body, my actions, my surroundings, and even my thoughts.’

Resolve to do something every day to reach your resolution. Take them one at a time, and develop slow routines to happiness. I have found the easiest way for me to be proud of achieving my resolutions each day, each week, has been to involve a friend. My friend and I have challenged ourselves to compete in a sprint triathlon. We just signed up August first for the race at the end of a month, and in doing this, I feel a rising source of excitement coming on. I am excited, but it reminds me that I am also ready to compete! In trying to write more, I have entertained a 10-minute blog challenge with a long distance friend. We get to express our creative thoughts by ourselves, but then as a bonus, we get to read what one another blogs about, allowing us to live more closely and motivate one another in the process.

(bird necklace from Miss Vanda at Paraphernalia collection. Image used to create the first banner picture)