Monday, March 7, 2011


The mission of The Freecycle Network is "to build a worldwide gifting movement that reduces waste, saves precious resources and eases the burden on our landfills while enabling our members to benefit from the strength of a larger community."
Every day the group does just that, preventing more than 500 tons of items from ending up in the trash. As The Freecycle Network points out, that would-be trash amounted to five times the height of Mount Everest in the past year alone. With Freecycle, you list items three ways: Wanted, Offered, Taken. You know that when you let go of something that no longer serves you, someone who really wants it will receive it. Collaboration that makes it easier on our sweet Mother Earth.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Space For Grace

Studies show that we secrete the stress hormone cortisol when our surroundings are in disarray. I know that when I am feeling stressed, the first thing I do is to start straightening and pruning things and a trip to the nearest Goodwill store goes a long way towards putting me back on track. I feel good when I know someone else might use the things that are no longer contributing to my sense of beauty or usefulness. Less stuff leads to more serenity. I've been inspired lately by reading articles about the minimalist movement. It means looking at things with fresh eyes and letting go of possessions that you have too many of or that don't bring as much joy as they once did.

I recently went through my pantry and came up with a small box full of things I bought but will never prepare. These went to our local food pantry. I disposed of duplicates in my kitchen drawers. Pulled clothes from my closet that I haven't put on in months. Some people have experimented with wearing only 33 items of clothing (or less!) for a certain amount of time. Most report that they were perfectly happy and few people seemed to notice they were rotating the same items. I'm not going that far but I don't need five pairs of black pants.

The gentlest way to declutter and move toward a less stressful environment is to use the Swiss Cheese approach, introduced by famous time-management specialist, Alan Lakein, in his book "How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life."

Very often people prefer to postpone complex or unpleasant tasks than to start doing them. According to Lakein, “the underlying assumption of the Swiss cheese approach is that it is indeed possible to get something started in five minutes or less. And once you’ve started, you’ve given yourself the opportunity to keep going … Swiss cheese is supposed to lead to involvement.”

Try to do a small part of the task even if you have 5-10 minutes of free time. Returning to the task again and again during the day, week or month, you will notice that the task is moving along. And you might be amazed at how much you can accomplish with these bite-size chunks of time. And see if this doesn't boost your mood.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Thanks for the Memories

My father was a romantic. He proposed to my mother via trans-Atlantic phone call from London, where he was working for his great-uncle at a paper mill. She was living in Westfield, NJ and he sailed home for their wedding, a civil ceremony in her parents’ living room. I always wondered why such a simple wedding when she was Catholic and her parents were fairly well off. My grandfather was in the grocery business during the Depression.

I didn’t learn until my own marriage, that my father wasn’t her first husband. She would hardly tell me anything about that marriage. “A mistake,” was all she would say.

My parents sailed back to London for their honeymoon. Letters my mother wrote while sitting in a deckchair described how happy she was. She thanked her father for buying her clothes for her new life. She and my grandmother had gone on shopping trips to the City. Elaborate trousseaus were a sign of wealth and social standing during the Victorian era, before she was born:

"The society woman must have one or two velvet dresses which cannot cost less than $500 each. She must possess thousands of dollars worth of laces, in the shape of flounces, to loop up over the skirts of dresses... Walking dresses cost from $50 to $300; ball dresses are frequently imported from Paris at a cost of from $500 to $1,000... There must be traveling dresses in black silk, in pongee, in pique, that range in price from $75 to $175... Evening robes in Swiss muslin, robes in linen for the garden and croquet, dresses for horse races and yacht races, dresses for breakfast and for dinner, dresses for receptions and parties..." from "Lights and Shadows of New York" by James McCabe, 1872.

"A visiting and reception dress was of maroon velvet, trimmed with wide bands of cocks' feathers of the same shade. A second rich costume was of black brocaded silk and plain silk …" -- from "Miss Vanderbilt's Trousseau," Harper's Bazar, December 15, 1877

My mother’s trousseau was not nearly as grand as during Victorian times, but I’m sure it was very elegant.

My father had managed to find them a flat in Dolphin Square before he left London for his wedding. Dolphin Square is a block of private apartments built near the River Thames in London. It was completed the year they were married, 1937. A.P. Herbert, 'Dolphin Square', 1935, described the Square as 'a city of 1250 flats, each enjoying at the same time most of the advantages of the separate house and the big communal dwelling place'; the provision of a restaurant made him fear that 'fortunate wives will not have enough to do. A little drudgery is good for wives, perhaps. The Dolphin lady may be spoiled'. This booklet was produced as a promotional puff for the firm that owned and built the complex. On purchasing the site, Richard Rylandes Costain remarked to a colleague: ‘in two or three years we'll either drive up to this spot in a Rolls-Royce, or we'll be standing here selling matches.’

They were very happy at Dolphin Square. It wasn’t long before my mother announced to my father she wanted either a baby or a dog. They named their black cocker spaniel Dixie and my mother dressed in one of her many new outfits, complete with a feathered hat, to walk Dixie around the manicured gardens.

They would have stayed in London if the war hadn’t intervened. Soon, nerve-jarring air raids and impassioned pleas in telegrams from my grandparents convinced them to sell their possessions and book a spot on the last peacetime journey of the Queen Mary to New York City before it was converted to a troopship. They left England on Aug. 30 and by the time they landed, the Second World War had started.

Bob Hope and his new wife were also on that voyage, which had a military escort. An impromptu show was arranged in one of the lounges to calm the jittery passengers. Hope and his wife, Dolores, were scared to death on the trip home because the Germans had started torpedoing English ships. He debuted his signature song ‘Thanks for the Memories’ that night.

I don’t think my mother ever got over the loss of that life she left behind. My father became a partner in a corrugated shipping container company in the Midwest. She negotiated for three children and was a housewife in a small town far from her family. She donated her evening gowns to the Salvation Army. She suffered a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized in her 40s but recovered with the help of electric shock therapy, a popular treatment at the time. My mother didn’t talk much about her days in London but I always loved it when she asked me to “post a letter” for her.

When she died, I found a menu from the cruise on the Queen Mary and a photo of my mother at dinner, wearing one of her glamorous gowns with a fur stole. She was smiling, imagining her future.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Decluttering Can Lower Your Stress Level

This is a good article from on the connection between clutter and that feeling of stress and overwhelm.

When you're so stressed you can't think straight, take a quick look around. See lots of clutter? Consider it a sign.

In her book, The Superstress Solution, physician and author Roberta Lee writes that a disorganized, untidy, clutter-filled home is not only a symptom of stress but also a source of stress. Clean up the litter and you'll dial up the calm.

The Science of Stress and Clutter
According to Lee, research shows that we secrete the stress hormone cortisol when surrounded by disarray. Bad news for your body. But the good news is that you know exactly what to do about it. With a quick tidy-up, you could reclaim both your surroundings and your serenity. Don't know where to start your spring clean-out? Try these tips:

* Take baby steps. It probably took a long time to accumulate all your clutter, so give yourself time to clear it out. Break up the task into manageable chunks, starting with one room, one corner, one junk drawer, or one cupboard at a time. (Find out how few minutes of clean-up time you need to boost your mood.)
* Set a schedule. Whether you do 20 minutes a day or reserve a whole weekend to declutter, set aside the time you need, and stick to your schedule. (Can't seem to find the time? The real problem may be energy management, not time management.)
* Write it down. Lee recommends keeping a journal to help you set goals and record positive changes you've made to your environment. Ask yourself what's cluttering your life, why you keep it, and what parts of your life and house seem out of control. Then, list concrete steps for changing it.
* Reach out. Articles and self-help books from people who've been where you are can help you get organized and make decisions on what to toss, what to donate, and what to keep.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How To Escape a Boring Life

How To Escape a Boring Life

Go into a cave the end of March
Lie down next to the sleeping bear
Throw your arm softly around her
Listen for her heartbeat

Throw a rock at the neighborhood bully
Watch the blood soak the rag he puts to his head
Wait a minute before turning to run
Down the dark alley

Get on a bus and end up in Mexico
Walk down the streets with your backpack
Left open a little and bulging
Don’t walk very fast

Let the Hell’s Angel come to your place
For a drink or to look at your books
Have him stay over and fix him some eggs
Ask him to let out your dog

Stand on your chair
At the French restaurant
Make up a song for your lover
Get the others to join you

Open your coat to the rain
Step into the fountain
Grab the change at the bottom
And spend it on peonies

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Our Tribe

Our tribe members are those people who accept us as we are and gladly accompany us on our journeys of evolution.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Happy Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day
By Lynn Ungar

Celebrate this unlikely oracle,
this ball of fat and fur,
whom we so mysteriously endow
with the power to predict spring.
Let's hear it for the improbable heroes who,
frightened at their own shadows,
nonetheless unwittingly work miracles.
Why shouldn't we believe
this peculiar rodent holds power
over sun and seasons in his stubby paw?
Who says that God is all grandeur and glory?

Unnoticed in the earth, worms
are busily, brainlessly, tilling the soil.
Field mice, all unthinking, have scattered
seeds that will take root and grow.
Grape hyacinths, against all reason,
have been holding up green shoots beneath the snow.
How do you think spring arrives?
There is nothing quieter, nothing
more secret, miraculous, mundane.
Do you want to play your part
in bringing it to birth? Nothing simpler.
Find a spot not too far from the ground
and wait.