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Out with the Old, In with the New

And lo, we have arrived. Twenty fourteen. Which, among other things, means that Josh and I have been engaged for two years now. We should probably add “get married” to our list of things-to-do this year, yes? Yes. Let’s work on that. But that’s not all. I’m still trying to be more intentional about the way I spend my time, and so I like to make some resolutions every year that line up with my free time priorities. Here’s a list of what I’d like to accomplish this year (in addition to matrimonial knot-tying), along with a quick report on how 2013’s resolutions went.

Eat Food

2013 Resolution: Limit ordering take-out to once per week.  I was pretty successful here, at least during the week. The weekends? We still ate out a lot. BUT we were eating in the restaurants rather than taking out. So I totally nailed this one, technically speaking.

2014 Resolution: Resurrect the garden. Josh put in raised gardening beds in 2012, and then we had an unusually unsunny summer and our yield was kind of sad. So we showed the sun who was boss by not bothering to plant anything in 2013. And that year, when we had no seedlings poised to benefit from it, the sun shone and shone and shone all summer long. Because the sun is an asshole. This year, we’ll make some modifications to the beds and try again. We will plant. We will harvest. We. Will. Eat!

Be Green

2013 Resolution: Make a batch of homemade deodorant. Done and done. And it works GREAT. The recipe is here (my most popular post of 2013, so I guess that means you guys like it too). I made one batch, and it lasted me the entire year.

2014 Resolution: Homemade shampoo. In addition to 2013’s homemade deodorant, I starting washing my face with oil. Both changes were wildly successful (and saved money to boot). I already use eco-friendly shampoos, but this is the year I’ll be brave enough to test out some homemade recipes. I’m mentally preparing myself for the terrible hair days ahead – and you should too, since you’ll be subjected to the photodocumentation.

Make Stuff

2013 Resolution: Pick a project and make it. Success! I made some things. Mostly to give to other people for Christmas presents, but that still counts.

2014 Resolution: Make 6 lovely things, at least one of which requires a sewing machine. I don’t have anything specific in mind yet, so I just gave myself a quantity of made items to work toward. I will consider them lovely if I want to show them off when they’re complete. This may not mean that they actually are lovely, but good enough to inspire shouts of “Hey World, look what I made!” should count for something.

Get Out

2013 Resolution: Have one adults-only outing every month. Fail. Fail. Fail. Oh, did I suck at this one. I’m trying to recall how many times Josh and I had something even sort of resembling a date night, and I can only think of two: one in February (a concert) and one in December (a play). I also squeezed in a couple rushed coffee dates with friends, but all in all it was an abysmal year for adult time.

2014 Resolution: One. Adult-only. Outing. Every. Month. I’m just re-upping this one.

Read Books

2013 Resolution: Finish reading two fiction books and one non-fiction book. Nailed it, plus extra credit. Books finished in 2013:  Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins, Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.

2014 Resolution: Don’t buy any new books. That sort of feels like an anti-resolution, but I have stacks of books I already own that I haven’t read yet. I’m trying to get through that stack before adding to it. I am still perfectly willing to accept new books as gifts, however. Just so we’re clear.

Learn Stuff

 2013 Resolution: Learn to open a bottle of champagne, for chrissakes. This was the first resolution to get marked off my list, since I opened the New Year’s bottle of champagne precisely one minute after 2013 began. I’m pretty certain I’ve since forgotten how to do it, and I’m entirely certain it still makes me shriek because I’m convinced the cork is going to take my eye out. But still, I’m considering this one complete.

2014 Resolution: Participate in a writing workshop. Along the same lines as the champagne, I’d originally resolved to learn to use a drill. But, really, I know how to use one, I just don’t know how to use one well. (My drill holes are always wobbly and drunk looking.) I just need practice, and that’s a lame resolution anyway. Instead: a writer’s workshop. I already signed up for this YEAR-LONG one, before I had time to think too much on it and lose my nerve.

Get Involved

2013 Resolution: Finish my PTA Legislative Chair position off strong. Done. It was a semi-strong finish, at least. And then I started a new term as the Legislative Liaison at Riley’s new school. So there.

2014 Resolution: Bring the kids along. We’ll do some sort of volunteery thing as a family. A beach clean up. A weeding party at a park. Organize donations at West Side Baby. I don’t know exactly what yet. But we’ll figure it out, and do it. All of us.

Raise Citizens

2013 Resolution: Teach Avi new songs and guide Riley through a summer service project.  Done and done. Avi learned most of his new songs at preschool rather than directly from me, but it still counts. And Riley raised and donated over $400 to World Wildlife Fund to help endangered gorillas. Because he’s awesome.

2014 Resolution: Have the kids complete one Good Citizen Deed each week. This has been a trickier project to put together than I anticipated, but I’m giving the kids 52 assignments to complete throughout the year. The assignments vary from simple (pick out a can of food at the grocery store to donate to the food bank) to more involved (research a topic important to your community and write a letter to your state reps about it). All of Avi’s are pretty simple since, you know, he’s only 3.

Be Well

2013 Resolution: Complete three workouts/week. Didn’t happen. Me and exercise just aren’t getting along regularly right now. I squeeze it in when I can. I know it’s important for my physical health. But you know what? So is sleep. And on those rare days that I have a little extra time to spare, sleep wins. Moving on.

2014 Resolution: Go to the doctor(s) and write one day/week. I haven’t been to the doctor in a long time. I’m overdue for a pap, breast exam, glaucoma screen (family history there), glasses that actually correct my eyesight. And the dentist? Haven’t been there in over a decade. Don’t give me that look. I’ve had the shit shitty shittiest insurance that only medical emergencies have been dealt with. But now? Obamacare, yo. I can finally afford this. And for my mental health, I vow to get myself away from children once a week for some focused writing. Wish me luck on that one. I’ll need it.

Life List

2013 Resolution: Go to the dentist. Nope. No money. Shit insurance. We’ve covered this.

2014 Resolution: Give new life to an old piece of furniture. I have piles of old furniture in the basement that I refuse to sell/donate/take to the dump, because I am convinced I can rehabilitate them. This is the year that I try, at least once.

Lighten Up

2013 Resolution: Ride in the Fremont Solstice Parade. Yeah, the naked part.  I did it! I did it! I did it! It was fun. You should do it too.

2014 Resolution: Yell less. Like, waaaaaaay less. This one’s for you, Avi.

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This post’s song: Best Year by Elk and Boar

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The Problem and the Solution for Gorillas

The following post was written by my 12-year-old son, Ry (making him FreeTime, LTD’s first guest blogger!). He’s working on a summer service project to help save endangered gorillas, and I’m loaning him my blog to talk about what he’s working on and why. Also, my kid is awesome and look!, look!, look! at the awesome thing my awesome kid is doing! (I am maybe feeling just a little bit proud of him.)

Did you know wild gorillas live up to 35 years of age? That’s longer than most rock stars. Did you know gorillas also share 98.3% of their DNA with humans, making them our closest cousins after chimps and bonobos? Did you also know that there are only 880 mountain gorillas left in the wild? All gorillas are facing poaching, lost habitat, and Ebola disease that is wiping them out. While rock stars are probably a lost cause, we can actually do something to save these gorillas.

Some Background

There are four different subspecies of gorillas: the Cross River gorilla, the Mountain gorilla, the Western Lowland gorilla, and the Eastern Lowland gorilla. They have human characteristics like mourning lost family, showing signs of happiness and anger, and using tools just like us. Gorillas, like humans, have one baby at a time and raise it for several years before having another. This slow reproduction rate makes it hard for them to recover from population declines.

The Problem

Poaching

The biggest problem for gorillas is poachers. Poachers illegally hunt and kill gorillas, usually to sell the “bushmeat” (wild meat hunted in Africa and Asia).

Habitat loss
Gorillas are also facing habitat loss. Vast areas of forest have been cleared by logging companies for mining, oil, and gas industries that are moving into gorilla territory, forcing the gorillas to leave. This is bad because gorillas are forced into much smaller areas of the forest, along with other displaced animals. This leads to increased Ebola disease in the gorillas.

Ebola disease
Fruit bats are a natural host of Ebola disease. As gorillas and fruit bats are forced into smaller areas of the forest, they naturally interact more causing gorillas to catch the Ebola disease. In 2003, scientists estimated 1/3 of the gorillas died of Ebola disease. The symptoms for wild animals with Ebola disease are vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and nose bleeding. Ebola is bad because it doesn’t just affect gorillas, it affects humans too. Remember that illegal bushmeat? It gets sold to humans who eat it and then get Ebola too.

Solution

Eighty-three percent of gorillas are living in unprotected areas. Many organizations are working to make larger sanctuaries for gorillas.

My goal

My goal is to raise at least $200 that I will donate to World Wildlife Fund to help create new gorilla sanctuaries. To earn the money, I’m going to make a lemonade stand and I have also set up a Piggybackr campaign (like Kickstarter, but for kids).

Will you help me?

Here’s how to help:

  1. Visit my Piggybackr fundraiser page and donate. It’s really easy. Click on the “Give Now” button. You can either select one of the sponsorship levels OR you can enter your own amount. 
  2. If you’re in Seattle and want to come to my lemonade stand, make sure I have an email address so I can let you know when and where it is. You can leave your email address using this blog’s contact form. Or you can follow FreeTime, Ltd. on Facebook or Twitter for updates. (I will also be posting updates to my mom’s personal Facebook page, so you can keep track that way too if you’re already friends.)
  3. Please share this post and/or my Piggybackr fundraiser page with your friends!

 

Sources: World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and National Geographic.

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The Gorillas are Coming

When he was 4 months old, I held him with outstretched arms toward a holiday giving tree. I let him bat at the cards dangling from the branches, waiting for his tiny fingers to curl around one and yank. That was the year we added “Lincoln Logs for a 5-year-old boy” to our shopping list.

He’s selected a giving tree card every Christmas since then. Every six months (at least), he goes through his room and pulls out clothes, toys, and books to donate. He puts a portion of every allowance into a charitable giving piggy bank, and then donates the savings at the end of the year (with Mom matching his donation) to a charity of his choice. He contributes generously to the annual food drive at his school. He even occasionally buys copies of Real Change with his own money.

I started early with him. Some would say too early. It’s not like he had any concept of what was going on with those Lincoln Logs, after all. But I wanted it to be a habit both for him and for me. I wanted teaching this to be something that I habitually incorporated into my parenting, so that he would grow to habitually incorporate it into his life.

Charity. Empathy. Generosity. Activism. Giving a shit.

We have been making good progress along these lines, I think. But he’s 12 now, and this summer I wanted him to get more involved in something. For the most part, our activities up to this point have involved writing checks and donating things. I wanted him to find something to get involved in that would allow/require him to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty; to actually participate rather than just fund. (He did, for several of his preschool years, accompany my mom on her volunteer shifts at a nearby nursing home, visiting with residents and becoming their unofficial Wednesday afternoon activity. But he only vaguely remembers that.) And so, I gave him an assignment: pick a cause and figure out how you can get more involved.

In retrospect, I should have specified a local cause – or at least a cause with a way to participate locally. But he really wanted to help protect endangered gorillas in Africa. And the best way for us to help here is by sending money there. So we’re back to writing a check. Sigh.

BUT! He’s earning the money himself and learning a bit about activism along the way. He’s been working behind the scenes on this project for the past month, and we’re almost ready to kick it off. I’ll be “donating” some space on this blog and its related social media outlets, so don’t be surprised by the sudden uptick in gorilla talk.

AND! I’ve been learning a bit about guiding a child through a project like this. And by “guiding,” I often mean “forcing” – it is summer vacation after all, and somebody doesn’t always think it’s fair that he’s being required to do “school type work.” I have used the phrase “like pulling teeth” far more often than I thought I would, but we’ve also had a lot of fun working on certain parts of this project. And that in itself has been a valuable lesson for both of us: learning which parts of this have felt like “work” to him, and which parts he naturally enjoys. (Of course, his natural preferences are almost exactly the opposite of mine. This has made things challenging at times, but has also made us a pretty well-balanced team.) I will have much to share on this particular topic at project’s end, so stay tuned for that if you’re interested.

In the meantime, sit back, grab yourself a drink, and prepare yourselves for some gorillas. And thank you, in advance, for playing along. You are part of the audience on which my child will cut his activist teeth. It takes a village, yo, and you are now part of it. An unwitting village, sure, but still: thank you.

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The Resolutions of 2013

Fireworks at the Space Needle

Happy New Year from Seattle (photo by Great Beyond)

I have a love/hate relationship with resolutions. I love them because I love making lists. I hate them because I love checking things off my glorious lists. And my resolutions lists? There’s not usually a whole lot of checking off happening.

Still, I like having an idea of what I want to accomplish in any given year (or month, or week, or day, for that matter). It seems an especially important act of reflection at the dawn of 2013, since I felt overwhelmed and exhausted for most of 2012. I didn’t do a very good job of staying focused on my FreeTime Priorities, and I want to change that in the coming year. With that in mind, I’ve made one resolution for each of my priorities – some big, some small. Wish me luck!

Eat Food
We’re a whole foods kind of family and, for the most part, we’re pretty good at it. But this year my toddler’s nap schedule started to interfere with my dinner-making schedule, and we ended up ordering in more than I’d like.
Resolved: Limit take out to once per week.

Be Green
I’m just coming off a year of not buying any new clothes (more on that successful 2012 resolution later), so I’m going super easy on this year’s green goal.
Resolved: Make a batch of homemade deodorant. Bye bye, Tom’s.

Make Stuff
I have a list a mile long of things I’ve been wanting to make.
Resolved: Pick one of those things and just make it already!

Get Out
See a movie. Have drinks with friends. Go to a concert. Attend the theatre. (I spelled it the fancy British way so I’ll remember to wear heels.) And do it all without children in tow.
Resolved: Have (at least) one adults-only outing every month.  

Read Books
I used to read at least two books a month. I’m pretty sure I’ve been reading the same two books for two years. I am not okay with this pace.
Resolved: FINISH reading two fiction books and one non-fiction book.

Learn Stuff
I have never opened a bottle of champagne. Why? The cork comes out with an audible pop. An AUDIBLE pop. Describe to me anything more terrifying.
Resolved: Learn to open a bottle of champagne, for chrissakes.

Get Involved
I am currently serving as the Legislative Chair for the PTA of my son’s elementary school. I chose to take on this role during an election year. I am a little burnt out. But there are more big things ahead, like tracking Washington State’s revised education budget efforts in response to the successful lawsuit (against the state) requiring a correction to years of inadequate funding. And the demonstration at the capitol. And Washington State PTA’s response to the NRA’s call to arm teachers. And so on and so on and so on.
Resolved: I shall finish out my term strong. 

Raise Citizens
My toddler needs new songs to sing. I will teach some to him. Ones with lots of silly hand gestures. (Yes. Singing with my children is part of making them good citizens. Duh.) My 5th grader needs to do some service work. With the addition of the toddler two years ago, our charitable activities devolved into simple check writing. We made snowflakes for Sandy Hook a few days ago, and it reminded me that I need to do more active charitable work with him.
Resolved: Teach toddler new songs. Identify a charitable project that requires the kid to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty (figuratively or literally). 

Get Fit
I spent a lot of time writing about fitness in 2012 (for EveryMove, which you should check out if you haven’t already). Turns out, writing about it  is not the best way to stay in shape. Who new? 2012 showed me one possible future, and that future is called Mom Butt. I do not like that future. Instead, 2013 will be about Wedding Butt and Naked Butt (see “Lighten Up,” below).
Resolved: Three workouts/week, with one of those ideally being a yoga class.

Life List
I had intended to pick something fun off my Life List, but then I remembered item #19. Not fun, but LONG overdue. This is the result of having shitty health insurance for so many years.
Resolved: Go to the dentist. Bonus points for also going to the gynecologist, dermatologist, and optometrist.   

Lighten Up
I sort of committed to get naked and ride my bike through the streets of Seattle. I don’t know if I can get much more lightened up than that. 
Resolved: Ride in the Fremont Solstice Parade. Yeah, the naked part.

 

Have you made any resolutions for the year?

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Snowflakes for Sandy Hook

This afternoon while the toddler napped, my 11-year-old and I shared the last of the Christmas rootbeer and  snipped bits of paper into festive snowflakes.

Except they weren’t very festive.

For one thing, our paper was too thick and our scissors too dull. The resulting flakes will most likely be described as awkward. Festive would be generous. But perfection was not the point. We made them for the students of Sandy Hook Elementary. It was an act of remembrance for those who lost their lives, yes. But it was also an act of compassion for those who didn’t; those who will be returning to school in January missing 26 from their community.

The National PTA and Connecticut PTSA are asking for help in creating a winter wonderland for the students of Sandy Hook, who will soon be returning to school in a new building. Parent volunteers will be decorating the halls of the school with as many unique snowflakes as possible. To contribute, make and send your snowflakes to the address below by January 12, 2013.

Connecticut PTSA
60 Connolly Parkway
Building 12, Suite 103
Hamden, CT 06514

Financial donations are also being accepted.

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