breaking point

Update time on The Year of Buying Nothing. (Technically, the kids have only agreed to six months. I hope to stretch it.) If you don’t know what I’m talking about and you’d like to, see the January 12 archive.

This is when it gets daunting. I could handle not buying new clothes. I toughed it out with old pens. Until Easter, when I made several subtle-as-a-Dick-Cheney-firearm hints that I’d better find some serious roller-gel power in my basket. I do, after all, still write longhand, not on the computer.

In truth, this not buying anything new has not been that difficult. That, in itself, should give me some pause, because it sounds suspiciously like we had way too much “stuff” to begin with if we have not missed getting new stuff. So far, it has been far less hardship and far more freeing to not have to shop or say “no” to pleading eyes (the kids’, not the dog’s).

But now, it’s spring. Spring, to me, means one thing. Trips galore to my favorite nurseries. Ecstatic visions of the perfect flower bed while I peruse the plant catalogs. I will go through serious withdrawal if I cannot at least drive by The Growing Place and take a long breath. What shoes and purses are to other women, plants are to me. I am just not sure if I will make it through spring without buying plants.

Anyone want to be my partner in accountability? I can call you up if the sudden urge to use those coupons for ten percent off your total perennial purchase becomes too much? If the car suddenly takes over and heads off toward Spring Bluff Nursery completely of its own volition? Is there any way I can find a loophole here? Mental health exception? I fear not. I just hope the detox doesn’t get too ugly for my poor family.

When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other. ~Chinese Proverb


I have something awful to confess on Earth Day. I have bag envy. A few years ago, when my daughter convinced me to try those canvas shopping bags and say good bye to “paper or plastic,” I doubted. I’d leave them in the car (I did). I’d forget them at home. (I did.) I’d feel silly. (I did, for a while.)

But now, ask that same child how I feel about reusable shopping bags. You will get a response something to the effect of, “My mother is a freaking insane OCD nutcase about her shopping bags.” I make them go back out to the car if I forget them. I will buy a new one rather than use plastic. I keep one in my purse at all times. I have been known to carry out six items in my hands along with a purse, water bottle, and netbook just to avoid scarring the planet with another plastic bag. Yes, I am a freaking nutcase. But at least I don’t feel silly about it.

I do have some nice bags. I have green bags, purple bags, bags with blueberry photos, bags colored all over in Sharpie marker, bags that display San Francisco markets and flower gardens. And my Chicago Cubs bags are carried with pride. I personally have a blue bag that is the envy of many because of its incredible sturdiness. And I gloat when someone else wants it, because I bought it at a food co-op on Cape Breton Island, and I know those jealous shoppers will never have this bag.

But every once in a while, someone comes up behind me in line, and there it is. The perfect bag. And I want it. It is not enough that I have approximately 43 bags in various places between three cars, my purse, bedroom, and hallway. Hers is perfect. It is still fresh. The little plastic bottom has not yet broken. It has a picture of some place I’m sure I’d like to go. I want that bag.

Is there a recovery program for this? A twelve step process? Is this a call for help? Or a justification? And by the way, do you have a favorite shopping bag? Celebrate Earth Day by buying some and learning to use them. Or by telling me about your bag that is the envy of everyone in line. I promise not to covet it. Of course, you probably won’t trust me, seeing as I’m a freaking insane nutcase.


When I looked at the calendar and saw that it was National Weed Day, I thought about a humorous column on dandelions and other invaders from outer space. But then I realized, belatedly, that this is not at all the kind of weed for which the day was christened. Not particularly wanting to celebrate that day, I was prepared to write about something else. But I’ve changed my mind.

I have been blessed with the friendship, on Facebook and in real life, of a large number of teenage girls. I do call this a blessing. I never ask them to be my friend on Facebook because I understand that that is awkward for some teens. But if they ask me, I am honored and thrilled. They are an amazing group of girls. So to them, on this day, I want to say–just don’t do it. It’s not worth it.

Life in middle school and high school can sometimes really, well, suck. There’s no good word for it. Those years are hard, and don’t let anyone tell you to brush it off and “wait until you get into the real world.” You have good reason to sometimes feel like you’d just like to get away from it or feel better. But I am begging you as a friend who loves you, don’t do it with drugs. I’ve seen what happens, and I’m telling you now, it isn’t the easy thing people tell you it is. I’ve seen it in more than one person I love, and I’ve never seen a good outcome from that first little “experiment.” So, just a few things to think about–

  • Think. Think about how your little brothers or sisters or parents will feel if the police come for you, or if they have to visit you in jail, or if they see you high and get scared. I adored my older brother as a child, and he could do no wrong. Until the night I saw him smoking a joint, and my world crashed in. I can’t tell you the how deep that hurt went down. Think before you do that to a younger sibling who adores you and looks up to you.
  • Think about the beautiful faces, voices, and minds you have. Maybe you don’t believe that right now, because adolescent girlhood is a time to doubt yourself. But I believe it. And you will do damage to all three. I love hearing your voices in song and laughter. Keep them strong.
  • Think about what you’ll want to do for the next thrill when that just isn’t enough. They say weed isn’t addicting. I don’t know if that’s true physically, but it is definitely not true mentally. Take it from a man who knows–a friend of ours who spent most of his adult life in prison. He told me once that weed has a strong emotional addictive quality–you just become convinced you need it to get through a situation. Then, you become convinced you need something more, because the nature of any addiction is that it needs more in order to be fulfilled. It has to get bigger and better. Think and ask yourself if you’re willing to take that risk to lose yourself to bigger and better thrills, because you will lose yourself in the deal. You will no longer know who you really are. Who you are now is pretty cool.
  • Think about someone you trust to talk to and hold you accountable when temptations come. If you decide on that person now, you’re more likely to look for her or him later when you need help.

You have such beautiful lives. Get high on life–then let others be jealous of what you have, because that’s the best high there is.

a difficult choice

This week presents a dilemma. I fail to see how I can observe both Monday’s holiday and today’s. Personally, I lean toward Monday’s. I lean toward that most days.

Monday was officially Vote All the Lawyers Out of Office Day. In a strange twist of fate, today is Be Kind to Lawyers Day. I’m guessing that one of them threatened to sue over Monday, so organizers threw them Wednesday to make them go away.

Also coincidentally, this week for our small group assignment we are supposed to write, in one hundred words or less, how God changed our lives. My first draft was only ten words. “I was headed to law school. God intervened. Enough said.”

A friend and colleague suggested not long ago that we overhaul the entire US government system. He provided solid statistical support for the notion that, if we randomly chose a couple hundred citizens in good standing and “drafted” them to Congress, we could not possibly be doing worse. When their terms were up, we’d draft some more. The idea has some appeal. My dad used to tell his friends that I was going to law school and would one day be “the” senator from Illinois. Good thing he didn’t predict governor is all I can say. It would be challenging to keep up this blog from prison, which does seem to be the local trend.

In point of fact, I planned to be either a constitutional lawyer or an environmental lawyer, neither of which would likely have landed me in any capitol residence. Sometimes, I wish I had pursued that plan, because I wish I could be doing something for the world on a grander scale. Did I throw away the talent for brokering peace in Africa or at least getting them decent drinking water to settle for this? Honestly, at midlife, it’s a tough question. I try to remember that none of us knows the ultimate scale of what we do. Maybe one of the kids I taught will do those things. Maybe one of my kids will. I don’t know.

In any case, to all my lawyer friends, I love you. I know it’s not your fault. And if I meet any lawyers on Be Kind to Lawyers Day, I promise not to trip them. I don’t want to get sued.

the luxury of shoes

Well, I was set to tell you there are almost no interesting holidays to celebrate in April. (Except the obvious–I hope you had a very blessed Easter. We did here.) Then, I heard about this event on the radio while dropping child #3 off at school. I have been hearing about this company on the radio for a while, and what they are doing is so unusual, so uncomplicated, so–unlike business as usual for corporate America.

Today is One Day Without Shoes Day. I hope is becomes a national day. I hope it becomes a worldwide day. On April 8th, TOMS Shoe Company is challenging people across the world to go a day, an hour, ten minutes, whatever they can, completely barefoot. Why? A few reasons they offer:

· In some developing nations, children must walk for miles to school, clean water and to seek medical help.

· Cuts and sores on feet can lead to serious infection.

· Often, children cannot attend school barefoot.

· In Ethiopia, approximately one million people are suffering from Podoconiosis, a debilitating and disfiguring disease caused by walking barefoot in volcanic soil.

· Podoconiosis is 100% preventable with basic foot hygiene and wearing shoes.

Those are just a few of the startling and sad facts. Shoes are a luxury. Who would have thought? We certainly don’t give it a consideration when we throw on the flip flops or lace up the Skechers.

As one of the company’s interns puts it: “Now you’re probably thinking, “Why would a SHOE COMPANY encourage folks to go BAREFOOT?” Easy. TOMS is not just a shoe company; TOMS is a movement, an advocate for change. We want to raise awareness for the MILLIONS of children around the world who go every day without the luxury of something as simple as shoes.”

In fact, this company donates one pair of shoes to those who need them for every one pair they sell. Not ten percent, not “a portion of our profits,” one for one. That, to me, is amazing.

So, today I am going barefoot. I don’t know about where you live, but here there is a chance of snow flurries predicted, so this should be interesting. I am guessing I’ll have to put on shoes to go into stores. Those health laws and all. Join me?