Monday, March 30, 2009

Earth Hour 2009

This post is cross-posted at Peregrin House, the homeschooling blog...

Saturday night we participated in Earth Hour. We turned off the lights from 8:30-9:30pm and sat around the kitchen table telling stories with grandma & grandpa, who live upstairs. Mango set a recorder on the table, and now we have some fabulous recordings of grandma and grandpa telling stories. Mane was enchanted by the candles and by the quiet, warm atmosphere. It really was beautiful and made us want to have Earth Hour every night.

However, on Sunday morning we spent some time researching the carbon emissions of candles or oil lanterns versus electric light bulbs, and we found that even a single candle may give off more carbon than a 60 watt light bulb. Mango says we need to stick with using candles only occasionally for ambiance. They're not a better environmental alternative. What *is* a better alternative is turning off lights whenever we don't need them, unplugging cell phone chargers when they're not in use, turning off the computer when we're not using it, turning off the receiver amp when we aren't listening to music, and using the city bus and our bicycles more.

Mane spent some time on the Earth Hour Kids website, and then we watched a NOVA movie on global warming and more energy efficient choices. We heard all about electric cars, solar panels, wind farms, and reforestation. The options are all so expensive right now, and, with kids, we have to focus on the things that are within our reach. So, we're helping Mane remember things like turning off lights and reminding her that if we all work together, we can make a difference, which was a key message of Earth Hour.

We also spent some time reading about how a group called Engineers Without Borders is working on helping to replace oil lanterns in developing countries with solar powered LED lanterns. It's a good example of how technology can be used to reverse some of the negative effects that earlier technology created...and how environmental concerns interplay with world economics and poverty. Because people in developing countries are less likely to have electricity, they're more likely to use kerosene lanterns, and this contributes to health problems from soot and carbon monoxide, as well as the more global problem of greenhouse gases and global warming. The article we read even pointed out how reading is difficult with less light, making it harder for children to get an education, and, if they do read by the light of the kerosene lantern, they're more likely to get sick from the lantern emissions. It's strange how something as simple as lighting can have such a huge effect.

What struck me most about Earth Hour, though, was the number of places where lights seem to serve very little purpose, yet it was such a huge deal to turn them off Saturday night. Of special note was the Coca Cola billboard in New York. Do we really need to light up billboards at night? Isn't it enough to see them in the daylight? Also, several bridges, including the Golden Gate Bridge, turned off their "decorative" lights, leaving only the necessary lights to help people drive safely. What are we doing leaving all those lights on all the time anyway? The lights were turned off on the pyramids in Egypt, the Colosseum in Rome, and the Eiffel Tower. I can understand lights for security reasons, but the sheer volume of lights is questionable. It left me wondering how much we could "save" in terms of CO2 emissions if we all gave some hard and careful thoughts to which lights are really necessary.

We seem to honor things by lighting them all day and all night (the pyramids, for example, and the statue of the Virgin Mary in Rio de Janeiro), which raises a myriad of other questions for me. Why? Why do we do that? Do we think the pyramids know they're being honored with lights all night long? Why is it so disrespectful for them to sit in darkness? Perhaps they want to rest at night, too. I don't have such a hard time thinking about turning the lights off on the pyramids, but I cringe to think about turning them off on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. (I have no idea if the lights were turned off on monuments in D.C., by the way). Why is that? Why do a feel that it's disrespectful to turn out the lights on the list of names? It's not really. It doesn't dishonor the dead to let the names rest a while, especially when nobody is there and the people have left this life long ago.

Earth Hour gave us plenty to think about. I have at least three other blog posts floating around in my head, but this seemed the simplest to get down in type right now. If this is simple, I don't know how I'll ever get to the rest. ;) ...stay tuned...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Thoughts on Parenting

To understand how I think about parenting you have to know that I believe parents need to be on the same team as their children. Maybe coaching, sometimes playing, always on the same side. I've never stepped in line with the advice that says your children don't need to like you, they just need to do what you say or that a parent's job is not to be their child's friend. See, if your children are going to do what you say and live by those things, internalize your advice and make it their own, they pretty much need to like you. ...not that our children don't get angry with us or think we're being unfair sometimes, but that we need to nurture genuine relationship, actual fondness and liking between ourselves and our children in order to have a long term impact on them.

Ok, so that's the background. Here's what I keep running into: How to not feel like a failure when the "team" isn't functioning all that well. If we're a team and there isn't some big authoritative gap between us, how do I not internalize my child's failures? How do I not take it personally when they're angry with me.

...or, um, maybe I need to take it personally, but in a different way. Is this complicated or what? I need to take it personally, in that I need to care how my child is feeling and make an effort to repair the relationship, just as I would with anyone else. But I don't need view myself (or them, either) as a failure when the "team" isn't playing very well.

Maybe I hit on it right there. Having crabby days, complete with that disrespectful voice, foot stomping and eye rolling doesn't make anyone a failure...not me, and not my child. Yeah, it's my job to teach, to help my children learn what's ok and what's not in the way we treat other people and the way we live our lives. But failing to do it right or do it well doesn't make us failures. It makes us humans who are learning and growing every day.

I don't want to parent out of fear...fear that my children won't turn out well if I don't do everything right, fear that I'm a failure if my kids aren't conducting themselves all that well fear of what other people are going to think of me or my children. I think it's when I parent out of those fears, actually, that I make the most mistakes. I react in a way that's intended to get whatever behavior to stop but not in a way that actually teaches anything. When I'm afraid of what other people are going to think, I get controlling, threatening, angry. When I stop and think about what I'm teaching rather than getting all wrapped up in appearances and fears, I gain some patience, humor, and grace.

I want to play on the same team with my kids. Together we can learn what we need to know to get through this life.

Friday, March 20, 2009

to clarify

I just wanted to clarify that the previous post was not intended as advice for anyone considering having another baby. This is the place I'm in. It's where my head is at right now and how I'm thinking about babies for me and my family. My thoughts were prompted, in part, by Heather of the EO, who is talking about having another baby (see here ), and by the fact that my good friend at stories i tell just had a beautiful, sweet baby girl. But my post is not a reflection on either of them, either. It's just where my brain and my heart went with everything.

Thanks for reading my clarification. You may noW return to your regularly scheduled programming.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Let it Go

I've been musing for some time about babies...about baby cravings...about the way we women, especially, love those tiny hands and feet. We love those hot little bundles. And, I, at least, love those sweet little cloth diapers, the teeny clothes, the socks and blankets. Babies are beautiful, even irresistible.

And, from time to time, I think I might want one. A baby, that is. In part, I think I want one because I feel like it would be different this time. I'd try to enjoy being pregnant more. I'd actually take pictures of that big round belly. I wouldn't be so worried about getting everything right. I'm convinced I'd be able to relax and enjoy the baby more, convinced that I'd be able to really be in the moment. So I could remember. So I could take those things and ponder them in my heart. I think, too, though, that I just enjoy the baby softness, the sweetness, newness, innocence. Babies are just so special.

But I'm realizing something. As with most truly beautiful things, babies don't last. You'd have to have a new one every year to get to experience that uniquely "baby" specialness. I suppose God made us that crave babies, to want to feel that babyness one more time. But, like sunsets and the ocean and camping trips and autumn colors, eventually we have to let go. We can't take them home in our pockets. So, we take pictures and memorize the moments and pray that we'll always remember, knowing we won't...not everything.

I know there won't be another baby of my own, barring some major act of God. Sometimes I'm sad about it. But I'm learning that our cravings for beauty, for newness are endless and insatiable. I'm not sure another baby would satisfy the craving. When that one grew up, I'd still be nostalgic for those tiny hands and feet. Always nostalgic, remembering.

And I'm learning something else about myself. When I look back, I always wish I had been more present, payed more attention, really enjoyed where we were at. I am continually reminding myself to just be here, just be. Because I know when I look back, I'll wish I remembered more, that I had taken it all in.

It seems we are given each moment, each beautiful poignant page in time, only to let it go. No single moment ever comes again. We can't keep any of them, can't hold on, keep the little ones small, keep the sun from setting, keep the leaves rustling in the trees in that particular way. We can only live that moment. And live it once. It's up to us to live it fully.

The balm is in the knowing that more moments will come. Life keeps coming. Pages turn. Our children have children. The opportunity to live is continually available to us until we take our last breath.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Infinite Love

I found a passage from Mister God, This is Anna that was so profound and so full of sense that I posted it in my sidebar, and I'm posting it again here.

"Mister God is different from us because He can finish things, and we can't. I can't finish loving you because I shall be dead millions of years before I can finish, but Mister God can finish loving you, and so it's not the same kind of love, is it?"

Sometimes I sit and listen to the sounds of my house, I look around at the beautiful faces that surround me, rest my head on Mango's shoulder, close my eyes, breathe the familiar smells of home, and I know I can never, ever finish loving these people. Nothing I can say or do or even think or write is enough. Not even music and pictures can say what I cannot say. Long hours of late night conversation, fresh enchiladas, head massages, notes hiding in Mango's suitcase, Valentine balloons...none of them will ever tell the whole love story.

But God. God can love us all the way, completely, fully and to the end. God is infinite while we are only finite. Human. Small. Fragile. Incomplete.

I have a thought, though. A very small thought because I'm finite.

Maybe, God's love is different because it's infinite, and if we abide in God, God will draw us into infinity, too. And, in that infinitely, we will be whole, strong, complete, and able to finish love God fully, to love each other fully. We will be there in the middle of God, engulfed by the God who is love. And then we can know what love is.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

i carry your heart

Mango's brother read this e.e. cummings poem at our wedding over ten and a half years ago now...

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

...and I thought of it today as I watched Mango disappear through security at the airport. He's at a science educator's conference until Saturday. As he walked away I wondered how it can always feel like my heart is going out from me. And, yet, there's so much comfort in that, in knowing my heart goes with him, and his is with me, and we are all mixed up together.