Saturday, March 10, 2018

My Vegetarian-to-Vegan Journey

Hey everyone! I'm so excited to introduce my first youtube video for the blog. This is very old school--just used the app on my laptop. No editing or anything. Very minimalist, yes? 

The video chronicles the background of my vegetarian journey, which began over 20 years ago, and where I'm at now with newly becoming a vegan. I hope you learn something new and feel inspired to be a better you!! 

If you enjoyed the video, please "like" it on youtube! Thanks for watching, and I'll be doing more videos on this topic, so stay tuned...

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Multum Non Multa--Just Follow the Books

Today I'm thinking, once again, about that Latin phrase, multum non multa. This translates as "much not many" and embraces English maxims such as "quality over quantity" and "less is more." Multum non multa encourages us to choose depth over breadth and is aptly applied to education. I think that minimalist homeschooling is a reflection of this classical principle. We can think of it in terms of simplicity.

In my "Catholic Vintage & Minimalist Homeschoolers" Facebook group (, a member surprised me with the comment that her homeschooling was going so much more smoothly simply as a result of using Catholic Heritage Curricula (CHC). To her, this was homeschooling minimalism. 

An open-and-go curriculum like CHC is often billed as good for newbies who need to have their hands held. Once one is a seasoned homeschooler, however, it's expected in many circles that you design your own curriculum and/or follow a more "real" method of learning, such as Charlotte Mason, unschooling, or classical. Traditional programs which use a text/workbook type format are considered school-at-home and are met with a derisive attitude. But let's take a closer look.

Are you necessarily doing school-at-home if you use a traditional program? 

First of all, a traditional Christian homeschool curriculum will not duplicate the type of content and methodology being utilized in the secular humanist U.S. public schools, with the cradle-to-grave indoctrination agenda known as Common Core. If you're using a Catholic program like Seton Home Study or CHC, the Faith, rather than a politically liberal, consumerist scheme, permeates the curriculum. Both of these educational providers emphasize personalizing the plan according to the needs of the individual child. You can use as many or as little of the resources as you would like. Even if you have a large family, you can provide ample one-on-one tutoring and small group lessons, which simply isn't possible in today's large classrooms. I think it's safe to assume that most of you are not standing at a chalkboard giving lectures. 

There are many more distinctions that we could make, but I think the point is clear that homeschooling, whatever the curricula and methods used, is a far cry from the typical school experience. Learning involves the totality of family and community life and is not limited to school books. Also, using a traditional program need not mean a cookie-cutter approach. 

Is a traditional curriculum less "real"? 

You will hear the argument from some homeschoolers that a traditional Catholic program is not really traditional; that it follows certain changes made away from the earlier classical model, which occurred in the public schools in response to the Industrial Revolution. Catholic schools then adopted the new progressive approach. I think there is a certain amount of truth to this position. Yet it's also true that in providing an education to all people, not just the elites, and in accordance with changes in the societal structure and the growth of the middle class, there was wisdom in broadening the methods used to teach a more diverse body of students. We know as home educators that one way does not suit all. And if we reflect on Catholic schools in the 1950s, before the secularization that has followed Vatican II, we see that the Faith permeated every subject, and that students were well-educated both in terms of religion and academics. 

Traditional programs such as CHC and Seton have retained the classical philosophy in a truly Catholic sense--following the scholasticism of St. Thomas Aquinas. Living books and hands-on activities are incorporated into such programs, along with classical features including memory work, copy work, dictation, classic literature, Latin and other foreign languages, journaling and essay writing. These curriculum providers and others like them also use reprints of vintage Catholic school books. I think of programs like these as presenting a classical-traditional, liberal arts education--what I like to call, Vintage Catholic Homeschooling. That's real to me!

So let's all let go of this argument, once and forever, over what is real, classical, traditional, etc., and be about the business of living our homeschooling lifestyle to the fullest, rather than dwelling on some perfectionistic ideal. Let's keep the focus on helping our children to become the unique persons that God has created them to be.

The multum non multa path I'm on right now is to simply follow the books.

I've spent way too much time trying to conform to a particular pedagogy and attempting to cover all-the-things. (I'm looking at you, Charlotte Mason!) I've discovered that as my child has entered the teen years, being a seasoned homeschooler is now about focusing on those areas that need the most attention before we hit high school (Mother of God, pray for us!) and going more deeply into them. I've chosen quality books from Seton and CHC, as well as other resources that reflect the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, and I'm trusting what they present. I'm doing things by the book, if you will, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. 

That doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with designing your own curriculum. In fact, I still do! I simply rely more upon those resources that take the guess work out of the process; and which present the Catholic worldview along with the ideas and skills that make for a well-rounded education. I have pared down the books for each term, and I resist the temptation to supplement the curriculum

Let enough be enough. 

My plan is to set my schedule (see the previous post), sticking to it for the duration of the term, and let the books do most of the work. My job is to be diligent and to facilitate the learning process as my child becomes more independent. Choose good books and follow the course, just like Dorothy and her yellow brick road, and you will arrive right where you need to be.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

February Freak-out & Vintage Catholic Homeschool Schedule (Winter 2018 Term)

Our Lady of Sorrows

In the past I've heard that February is the most difficult month of all for homeschool teachers; yet I don't think I've really experienced this myself. Until last Thursday. First, the dogs started barking as soon as we had begun our lesson time. Then my beloved daughter Beezy's attitude about going over the vocabulary for the chapter she was about to read was the opposite of enthusiastic. I had a meltdown, and not just one that day.

Since becoming Catholic, I don't think I've ever gone through Lent without some sort of tragedy or personal crisis occurring. This year, right on Ash Wednesday (also Valentine's Day) there was yet another horrific school shooting, this time in Florida, leaving 17 people dead. Following the news surrounding this event has left me with frayed nerves and a broken heart, as I'm sure it has most everyone else. Maybe another contributing factor to my explosiveness is the detoxifying process of giving up coffee and dairy. We've seen very little of the sun lately. None of that is any excuse for being unkind and severely critical toward my child, and I'm having a hard time forgiving myself.

My saving grace is that I know that God works all things for our ultimate good, and he is helping me to see the areas where my family needs to grow and function better together. And today this idea of February being "homeschool burnout month" crossed my mind. By this time of the school year, we have been working hard for many months, and we still have a few months left before we can take a long, much needed break. Perhaps we haven't progressed as far as we had planned, and we're beginning to panic about reaching our goals and finishing the year in good stead.

I think that this month is also the time that many of us begin to look ahead to next year--and the state of feeling overwhelmed sets in. For me, the upcoming year is 8th grade, which is the prep year for high school. With that thought, I am no longer in the present moment. I'm no longer resting in His presence. I'm already feeling frantic, trying to plan all four year of high school in my mind.

We can only live one day at a time, my friends. Yes, we want to be prepared for the future. But we can only be prepared for tomorrow by focusing diligently on our work for today.

Since I decided to take a minimalist approach to homeschooling, I've felt relieved of much of the pressure that trying to present the ideal Charlotte Mason education had put on me. Yet I still don't feel like we've been able to make enough progress with those subjects that I deemed as top priorities. I think this has to do with the fact that I stopped following a set schedule. Things seemed to be humming along fine, with simply moving from one book to another in our ancient history unit studies. After much prayer over the last few days since my freak-out, I've decided to get back to a weekly schedule and having the satisfaction of checking items off the list.

There are three subjects to be done daily, four days a week--math, cursive writing, and piano practice. The subjects listed under alternate (the verb) are put into pairs. One item of each pair will be done a day. In other words, the subjects in a pair will be alternated every other day. For example, Bible History will be done on Monday and Wednesday, and Cleopatra of Egypt will be covered Tuesday and Thursday. There are a total of 6 alternating subjects. So 6 subjects are covered each day, with a total of nine for the week. The weekly category is composed of activities outside the home.

We are technically working on the ancient Greece unit, but as I've written before, the Cleopatra novel encompasses the entire region of Egypt, Greece, and Rome. In world history, we are covering the chapters on Greece. When finished, Beezy will choose another art project from Draw and Write through History. Most likely it will be the drawing of Alexander the Great's horse! I would like to get back to the nature study book we used in the fall for the upcoming spring term, but for now, here is the schedule:

Vintage Catholic Homeschool Schedule, 2017–2018

Term 2, Ancient History Unit Studies (Greece)


- Saxon Math
- Piano Practice
- Cursive Writing (Seton)


- Bible History (Seton)
- Cleopatra of Egypt (Hornblow)

- CHC Grammar & Composition
- Intermediate Language Lessons (Serl)

- World History (Seton)
- Religion (Seton)


- Religious Education Class
- Piano Lesson
- Co-op Choir & Musical Theater (Mary Poppins)

Please let me know if you have any questions. For inspiration to get you through this tough time, here's a link to a blog post that inspired me today:

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Rethinking the "Daniel Fast" and Refocusing on Lent

I am rethinking the "Daniel Fast." In trying to figure out how I would eat, poring over the recipes, and wondering if I'd be able to cook for my family since my previous post, anxiety set in. 
Anxiety is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

I liked the idea of giving up everything--sugar, processed foods, caffeine, alcohol, and dairy. (All meat, including poultry and fish, is also prohibited, but I'm a vegetarian, so that wasn't an issue for me.) But it's even stricter than that. Only whole grains are allowed (no white flour), and only flat breads. No yeast or fermented products. No beverages but water. Not even unsweetened fruit juices. 

Some of the recipes in Kristen Feola's The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast are very labor intensive. Many of the ingredients, such as strawberries and zucchini, aren't readily available. Even so, I could probably do it just for myself, but I don't think I could feed my family this way. Also, the "fast" does not emphasize organic, locally grown, and in season foods, so it isn't taking into consideration the poor nutrition content, chemical pesticides, and GMOs that may reside in the plants--which would certainly not be aligned with following the biblical approach to food that's implied.

When I told my husband that I was going to modify the "fasting" guidelines, he asked, "Then why bother to do it?"  "For God," I replied. And here is the crux of the matter. My whole reason for doing the "Daniel Fast" was to make it a part of my Lenten observance (and to follow the leading I feel toward a vegan diet). The purpose of Lent is to prepare oneself for Easter, the greatest feast in the liturgical year. This truth was getting lost in the shuffle. I'm finding that I need to refocus my efforts on putting my Catholic Faith first. 

During Lent we seek to weed out those things that distract us from God. Lent is a time of penance, and the faithful are encouraged to give up something. Typically this may include a favorite food, such as chocolate; a substance one is addicted to, such as cigarettes or caffeine; a sinful behavior; or media, such as Facebook. We deny ourselves something from which it is difficult to abstain, so that we may rely more completely on the Lord. 

The 40 days of Lent are in imitation of Jesus' 40 days of fasting and prayer in the desert. In a true biblical fast, he took no food or drink. No doubt such a fast requires extreme supernatural assistance. Most people would die. The Church does not ask such extremes of us. We have two days of fasting during Lent--Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. 

By the Church's definition, a fast in this instance means eating no more than two small meals and one larger meal, which is not bigger than the two smaller meals together. No snacking in between. I believe that the only beverage allowed is water on those fasting days, and no meat is allowed on Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent. Fish is not considered meat and is permitted. 

Lent is also a time for concentrating on charity. We can give more to the poor and needy from the funds we save by fasting and abstinence, and more of our time is available via reducing our distractions. The "Daniel Fast" has become a huge distraction for me even before Lent has begun! 

I think that in my case, completely giving up caffeine, dairy, and wine (the only alcohol I drink) will be more than plenty. In addition, my family will be cutting out junky sweets and reducing added sugars and processed foods (we don't eat much that is highly processed anyway), as much as is reasonably possible. The sweets we do use will be sparing and natural--organic cane sugar, local honey and maple syrup, and agave nectar. We already eat mostly whole grains, except for pasta, which just doesn't taste good to us. However, we do buy organic pastas. I will probably try the unleavened bread recipe in the book, but I'm not going to follow the ordinance against yeast. 

I've asked my husband not to bring anymore candy, ice cream, or sugary cereals into the house for Lent. Our teenage daughter is not happy about this at all. But I think it's really important for her not to expect to have daily doses of chocolate cereal (even if it is organic!), ice cream, and candy. 

In a nutshell, I want to obtain a good balance this Lent, and I want most of my food observances to be a permanent way of eating. I will likely have a little chocolate now and then after Lent, and the occasional glass of wine at dinner, as I currently do. I want to drastically reduce my cravings for highly sweet foods. My hope is to continue abstaining from dairy, ultimately for the whole family-- though an occasional cheese pizza might be necessary for family harmony! As for the caffeine, I don't want coffee or tea to be a daily thing anymore, but if I have days where I need a little to get by, I might occasionally indulge after Lent. 

I think the most important thing is to prayerfully consider what God is calling each of us to do--and not to do--during Lent. The basic focus on prayer, fasting, penance, and charity is common to all, but the details will vary for each of us. The "Daniel Fast" sounded like an answer to my prayers, but we must always test the spirits. For one thing, I was too focused on the end goal of losing weight. I suppose one could "give up" ten pounds for Lent, but weight loss is not what Lent is about. The "Daniel Fast" is a spiritual practice and is not designed for weight loss either, but that element simply became too important to me.

It also doesn't appear that the "Daniel Fast" is even a biblical fast, which is why I've been putting it in quotes throughout this article. It's based upon the first chapter of the book of Daniel and chapter 10, verses two and three. In neither case do we find the word, fast. In the first chapter, a 10-day food test is described, and in chapter 10, a 21-day period of mourning is recounted. In both cases, we can only speculate of what Daniel's diet specifically consisted. 

In chapter 1, he eats only "vegetables" and drinks only water. Some scholars believe that "vegetables" refer also to fruits and whole grains. At any rate, this seems to be Daniel's regular diet. There is no period of fasting indicated here. And while one might fast during a time of mourning, one can fast without mourning, and one can mourn without fasting. 

Daniel does specifically fast in chapter nine: "I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. I prayed to the Lord, my God, and confessed... We have sinned..." (verses 3-5).  So we see that there is a difference drawn between biblical fasting (traditionally going with no food or drink or consuming only water), and the other two cases of dietary restrictions on which the "Daniel Fast" is based.

The "Daniel Fast" guidelines seem somewhat arbitrary as well. Bible translations vary, making it even more difficult to discern exactly what Daniel was eating. In chapter 10 of my 1963 Confraternity Version of the Holy Bible, it reads: "I ate no savory food, I took no meat or wine..."  Savory means "pleasant to the sense of taste esp. by reason of effective seasoning" (ninth collegiate Merriam-Webster). (Notice also that during this time of mourning, Daniel did not anoint himself--did not groom/clean his body--for the duration of the three weeks. Yet this practice forms no part of the so-called fast!)

In the "Daniel Fast", according to Kristin Feola's book, you can use "date honey" made by boiling dates down to a sauce, but you can't use natural sweeteners like honey from bees or maple syrup. Why is this? You can use salt, herbs, and spices, which surely fall under the category of savory. Recipes in the book using date honey, cinnamon, and various herbs and spices, such as oatmeal raisin cookies and corn muffins, definitely have a savory quality. And why are herbs allowed, but not herbal teas?

My concern is that this Daniel diet is being billed as a biblical fast, which it is not, and being marketed as a specifically Christian practice. (Mega-church pastor Rick Warren's book, The Daniel Plan, has apparently sprung from the original idea. He and his co-authors all have dangerous, New Age associations, but that's a whole other can of worms!) 

The "Daniel Fast" was created by Susan Gregory, who bemoans that her plan has been hijacked (; and it appears that she has grounds for being upset. Though her intentions seem good, I'm concerned about her premise: 

'I started teaching Christians about the Daniel Fast in 2007. If you’ve read my book, The Daniel Fast: feed your soul, strengthen your spirit and renew your body, then you know that this all came about when I received a word from the Lord to “write about the Daniel Fast.” And my greatest desire is to support and guide men, women and teens so they can have a successful fasting experience.'

I don't doubt that some people benefit from following this plan. Yet if Susan's guidelines are not in reality based upon the biblical fasting of Daniel, if the idea is confused in the first place, as I've illustrated, then we should be wary of believing that it came from God. (Kristen Feola, likewise, believes that God inspired her to use her recipes in service of this plan.) 

The "Daniel Fast" appears to have become trendy, with many churches and individuals jumping on the bandwagon for various reasons. I think it will eventually fade and give way to the next, new thing. It has the potential to become a magical formula, and an idol. In and of itself, I don't think following this diet is harmful, but it does not constitute a biblically-based fast, and I would tread this path with care.

So, Catholics and other Christians, whether you practice Lent or not, do not feel obligated to follow this "Daniel Fast", at all or exactly as prescribed. It can certainly serve as an inspiration to make healthier choices and to treat one's body as the temple of the Holy Spirit that it is. The main benefit I'll take from the book is in using some of the recipes to help me with the transition to a vegan diet, which is a topic for another post. 

If you do practice Lent, follow the Catholic Church's guidelines and take advantage of her other spiritual offerings this season, and seek the Lord in prayer. Remember, on Ash Wednesday we are admonished to turn away from sin. The ashes rubbed on our foreheads remind us that from dust we come, and to dust we shall return. Don't be distracted by an overly scrupulous "fast" designed by man, not God. May the grace of the Spirit be yours this Lenten season. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Daniel Fast and Lenten Plans

(Note to readers: After publishing this post, I did more research to learn the origins of this "fast" and looked more closely at the Bible readings associated with it. Please see the next post, Rethinking the "Daniel Fast" and Refocusing on Lent.)

Have you ever wanted to change your life entirely, all at once? I've had fleeting moments of inspiration in which I say to myself, Self, this is the day I'm going to change everything! Beginning with giving up coffee. Then later, say, two hours maybe, I can't stand it, and I grab a cup of java. Waste time on the Internet. Never take that walk that was going to be my first walk to begin a habit of walking every single day. The life I picture seems so close, and yet so far...

Enter the Daniel Fast. I just heard about this a couple of weeks ago. I was talking to a friend on the phone, and I asked her if she'd seen that horrible story about the Turpin family and their 13 abused and starving children in California. She said she had only glimpsed a headline of the story but hadn't followed it, because she was taking a media break during the Daniel Fast. 

Upon hearing "Daniel Fast," my mind suddenly latched on, and I had to know all about it. Evidently this is an annual practice based upon the fasting of the Old Testament figure, Daniel. Churches around the country participate. The official, three week period of the fast has ended, but I am gearing up to do it for Lent. Whether I do it only for three weeks or for the entire 40 days of Lent remains to be seen. 

Basically, I will be purging everything that I've been wanting to cut out of my life in terms of food--caffeine, sugar, dairy, and processed foods. If you are a meat eater, that goes too. And alcohol. I'd been considering going vegan but wasn't sure if I could take the plunge. The Daniel Fast is my chance to go cold turkey in a major way and finally make all of the changes I dream of. 

In The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast by Kristen Feola, you will find over 100 recipes and 21 daily devotions. The pictures of the food look very appetizing, and the recipes seem pretty simple. Feola includes shopping guides and weekly meal plans. The hardest part might be being limited to unleavened bread (whole grain bread without yeast, sugar, or preservatives). I'm going to learn to cook and eat in a whole new way! 

Am I scared? No. I'm terrified. The thing to keep in mind is that this is ultimately a spiritual practice. Lent is a time to cut out distractions and draw closer to the Lord. It's a time of sacrifice, charity, and penance. It's an imitation of Jesus' 40 days in the desert. Needless to say, I expect to be tempted. 

One benefit that I think will keep me going is the guarantee of weight loss. My friend lost 10 pounds in 21 days, and that was without incorporating exercise. I plan to walk and stretch daily. And if I do the fast for the whole 40 days, a loss of 20 pounds seems reasonable. 

I'm going to do a partial Internet fast during Lent as well. I receive at least one email per week from our homeschool co-op, so my plan is to only check my email the day before co-op meets. I want to blog about this process, so I'll probably be posting weekly. I will only use Facebook to share the blog posts. I will do my best not to look at the Yahoo News headlines, which unfortunately pop up when I close my email. Absolutely no Internet surfing!!

The last part of the equation is to finish my home decluttering and deep cleaning project. My mother-in-law is coming to visit early in May, so that gives me incentive to do this thing once and for all. 

Have any of you done a Daniel Fast? Please share your experience!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Technology and the Lost Art of Listening

This morning at church Father Dave made an astute observation. The technology of texting and online social media has made communication fast and easy; but it has almost completely destroyed the art of listening. I sat in my pew amazed, because just yesterday I had a very nasty experience on Facebook. And only a few days before that, my daughter had her heart broken by a "friend" who betrayed her on a social media site called Hangouts. 

My daughter's tablet is taking a long vacation. And it's not just to avoid the problem of mean girls. I've seen that being on her tablet is addictive. Research has shown that internet activity stifles creativity and actually, physiologically rewires the brain, scattering our attention like nothing else and rendering us increasingly helpless against our impulses. This truth negates the belief that technology is morally neutral, that a person's heart is the problem, not the technology itself. Do we really have the control that we think we do over our use of the internet and devices like smartphones? As with any addiction, denial is rampant. 

Consider the observations of Rod Dreher, author of The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation:

   "We think our many technologies give us more control over our destinies. In fact, they have come to control us. And this opens the door to the more fundamental point about technology: it is an ideology that conditions how we humans understand reality. To use technology is to participate in a cultural liturgy that, if we aren't mindful, trains us to accept the core claim of modernity: that the only meaning there is in the world is what we choose to assign it in our endless quest to master nature...
   If we can use technology any way we like as long as the outcome results in our own happiness, then all reality is 'virtual reality,' open to construal in any way we like. There are no natural limits, only those that we do not yet have the technological capability to overcome. This point of view is ubiquitous in modernity but profoundly antithetical to orthodox Christianity." (emphasis mine)

Technology has become a worldview (the medium is the message) which trains us to privilege what is new and innovative over what is old, traditional, and familiar. Like listening. We've lost the ability to comprehend whether we should or should not accept a particular technological development. I've seen smartphones in the hands of babies. We need to wake up before it's too late! Society's addiction to television is bad enough, but when devices with internet access are appendages to our bodies, we have a serious problem. 

And what about me? I've given up Facebook before, largely due to cyber-bullying, and only set up a new account when my grandma died, and I wanted to keep in touch with fellow grieving family members. Now having my own mean girl experience, would it be letting evil win to throw in the Facebook towel again?

I think most of us are at least peripherally aware that our data is not kept private by Facebook (but we shove this knowledge into our denial folder). I was particularly perturbed yesterday because I was unable to remove unwanted, harrassing comments from a birthday fundraiser that I have set up on Facebook. And the "report a problem" option was not functioning! The offender could not be removed from the event. Facebook's guidelines on their page for reporting a problem were to do it at the initial site of the problem. I'm amazed that I didn't tear my hair out. 

There is also the issue of general dependency on the internet for financial reasons. My husband and I have a home-based business largely operated online, and Facebook is one of our avenues for generating income. FB has sometimes removed my husband's posts, and then they were negligent in communicating with him, leaving the issue unresolved. My husband also relies on Twitter to support our business. 

Is being a FB member not only often a monumental waste of my time and potentially damaging to my brain in a real, physiological sense, but is it also being complicit with a company which is negligent, does not guard my privacy--is, in other words, morally questionable? That is something I'm still discerning. 

I'm not saying that internet technology doesn't have many positive uses. For example, one reason I've stayed on Facebook is to respond to people's prayer requests. The internet is an enormous help to my homeschooling vocation (though, due to information overload, it's also a huge distraction and can result in much confusion.) The use of internet technology is not necessarily immoral in and of itself, but it very often presents what is called a near occasion of sin, which you can read more about here: Christians are obligated to avoid occasions of sin. The problem is, again, denial. Do we have the humility and self-awareness to admit that we are deeply addicted to smartphones, social media, and internet surfing? 

I now know the ugliness of a cousin's heart who I thought was very sweet, thanks to her posts in my charity fundraiser. I would rather not have known. Social media has an undeniable tendency to bring out the worst impulses in people and is notorious for the ruination of relationships. As science has confirmed, technology is not neutral. 

There is much more to be said on this topic, but for now I'll conclude with a few suggestions. 

1.  Just today I downloaded Chrome to my laptop and added their Facebook Newsfeed Eradicator feature. I now receive inspirational quotes instead of a newsfeed! This frees you up from distractions which impede your work productivity and concentration on managing your groups. I'm sure Facebook is mad as h*ll about this, because you don't see their advertisements anymore. You can also find many good suggestions for controlling your smartphone use online, which I can't personally advise you on, because I have a flip phone! Consider replacing your smartphone with a flip phone. I dare you. Double dog. Bet you can't do it, you addict, you. 

2.  Very few people have my cell phone number, and the message box is not set up. I do not text. Consider actually dialing up a number and talking on the phone. (Consider, even, having a landline with a cord! Bet you can't sit still for 5 minutes.) I can think of no circumstance in which texting would be necessary. And when you are on the phone, do not multi-task. First of all, multi-tasking is an illusion. The scientific reality is that we can't give adequate attention to more than one activity at a time which requires concentration. Don't surf the internet or watch TV while on the phone with a friend. Do not put people on speaker phone so you can do something else at the same time. I can always tell I'm on speaker phone. Turn off your phone when you are visiting in person. This is all a matter of basic manners, but we need to be reminded, because we are no longer a polite society.

3.  Our children, including teenagers, should not have smartphones, period. Get your kid a flip phone. Babies should not have smartphones in their hands. These, I believe, are unquestionably moral considerations. 

4.  Recover the art of listening. You can't listen when texting. You can't listen when using social media. This means you can't have deep relationships with people. Think about it. Do you usually send a text or FB message because you really don't want to bother calling someone, because it's more more convenient for you? Even if it's your mom, daughter, best friend, or sibling? The truth is, many of us don't really want to talk to people unless we have to. I am arguing here that we have to. If you aren't in the habit of listening, you lose the ability, and you aren't really in intimate relationship with other people. We are literally losing our humanity.

5.  Set a timer when you get on the internet and give yourself strict limits. Avoid falling into the black hole where you lose all sense of time--and with it, reality. Social media is not real life. It's a place where people create fantasy selves. Rarely do people present a realistic portrait of their lives. 

6.  So many people document their status on social media all day long. And what's worse, their children have no choice but to have their lives plastered all over social media too. This is dangerous. And it is a serious violation of your child's privacy. I actually got a bunch of flack when my teenage daughter did not want me to post her picture on FB, and I respected her wishes. People, you're just not getting it. Limit your children's pictures, your own posts, and the time you spend on social media, your smartphone, and the internet. Let's get back to Life.

Compare this picture to the one at the beginning and seriously contemplate--which do you want to be the picture of your life?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Winter Deep Clean 2018

Happy New Year, everyone! I'd like to invite you to join me for a deep cleaning of our homes this winter. Typically you might think of spring as being the season for a thorough house cleaning, but I can't wait that long. Sure, some tasks, like washing windows and painting, will need to wait until warmer weather. But as it is so very cold right now, and you are not likely to be spending much time outdoors, why not clean the cabin and perhaps avoid cabin fever in the process? We'll be too busy purging and scrubbing to notice how cooped up we are, and we will be loving our homes again!

I spent Christmas and my birthday sick and in bed, so I had a lot of time to plan. I watched way too many youtube videos, but some of them did inspire me and helped me discern the tools I will need for this project. It seems that the minimalist challenge groups for this year are focusing on spending 15 minutes per day on a particular zone. A zone might be a room or set of rooms, or just part of a room. I decided to start with my upstairs bathroom. 

I gathered my supplies and set a timer for 15 minutes (see grimy vintage timer in pic at top!), planning to work on the medicine cabinet only. I figured it would take more than 15 minutes, but the idea is that once you get going, you build momentum. 

The first thing you want to do is throw away (or set aside to give away) whatever items need to go. I tossed expired medicines, products I wasn't using, and old nail polish. Unfortunately one of the bottles broke in the waste basket, creating a strong smell and making a mess. Dealing with this added extra time to the project, which leads me to the next point. Plan for your project to take longer than expected. 

Just the medicine cabinet took 55 minutes, and later I realized that I had forgotten to wash the outside of it, so it was really a full hour. I took everything out, discarded certain items, cleaned all the shelves and woodwork, and put the remaining things back inside, in an organized fashion. This is a built-in cabinet and has quite a bit of storage space. There is room to put some additional items in it, which may end up meaning that I need less storage space in other areas of the bathroom. 


Bring paper and a pen into the zone you are working on so you can take notes of anything you need to replace (like those expired medicines you threw away) and any additional supplies you may need to finish the job. I did the medicine cabinet on Jan. 1, then took my list to the store the next day. One thing I really needed was rubber gloves for cleaning. Yesterday's job, hanging a curtain on a new rod, cleaning the window frame, and cleaning the pedestal sink, also took longer than expected. 

Once you get started, you may feel more overwhelmed that you did initially, realizing how much work you actually have ahead of you. So just set that timer for 15 minutes. Do what you can in that time. Choose only a small zone to work on. When the buzzer goes off, set the timer for another 15 minutes if you still haven't finished the job. I'm not going to work past one hour each day, because I don't want to injure my back. 

Here's a recap of the steps:

1. Choose what zone you will begin with (think small).
2. Gather the supplies you will need, including your paper and pen for note taking.
3. Set your timer for 15 minutes (reset as needed).
4. Purge first. Pare down duplicates, throw away expired items, give/throw away products you don't use/don't like. Be relentless!
5. Thoroughly clean the area. 
6. Organize your remaining items.
7. Reward yourself with a break!

So who's going to join me? What zone will you begin with first? Imagine having your home decluttered and shiny clean by spring!!