Not Dead Yet

Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 7.36.30 PMI love Monty Python line “Not dead yet,” That’s my favorite line. I feel that way when summer comes and it’s time to make my doctors appointments. I always forget who I’ve seen, when, and who is due to come up in the batting order. This year, I called for all my annual physicals except for my eye doctor–they were out to lunch. Literally. Figuratively, they’re pretty on the ball. The eye ball. Apparently–I can see most of the time.

That’s what always happens–I get cards in the mail and call answering services, get messages, or the “lunch is between…” rejection and never get to schedule all of them. Invariably, I give up on a few, only to forget which ones and whether I tried again this year.

The ones I do go to see figure I’ll never come back again, and schedule eighty follow-up visits so we can become best friends again. Or say, “You should see Dr. Payne about that,” and generate another set of doctor’s appointments.

One doctor squeezed me in August. I said, “I think it’s that time of the year again.”

“We haven’t seen you in three years.” Oops. Then I revert to my old fall-back line from Monty Python, “Not dead yet.” I made the appointment.

Another said, “Looks good,” and scheduled me for next year, two were out to lunch, one stated, “I don’t need to see you, you’re right,” The last one said, “Back in two weeks, and call this one.” This One didn’t take insurance, so This One is crossed off the list. I like to use my insurance. It’s the reason I go to the doctors.

In some ways I feel that going to the doctors is fun. I always wanted to be a doctor until I failed to dissect my tenth grade frog or fetal pig or something to the satisfaction of the other biology teacher. It wasn’t my biology teacher. Mine always said, “Nicely done.” The Other One recognized the clear and present danger to humans should I get into med school. “Good thing you’re not a surgeon. People would die.” He must have been glad when I started to teach, “Can’t kill anyone teaching. And if you can’t cure stupidity, well, soon there’ll be an app for that by then anyway.”

So, I’m starting to feel like I don’t get a summer off, I just get a summer of appointments and co-pays, but as a teacher co-pays are the benefits I enjoy most. When I started teaching, there was no co-pay. It was the thing I loved best. I had just had surgery leaving Corporate America, and there was a co-pay, a co-share, and you had to leave a tip when you saw the doctor. No one ever went to see the doctor as a result.

Teachers could go any time they wanted–no co-pay. You could go just because you were in the neighborhood or the doctor was cute or you wanted to check a hangnail. Getting to use your benefits was almost like giving yourself a raise. When the world stared attacking medical benefits and we had to pay a five then ten-dollar co-pay, I was the first to whip out my wallet and jump for joy, “I got this.” It still seemed free to me. At the dentist, I said, “Are you sure?” In response to a ten-dollar bill for services. When I worked for Corporate America it was a couple hundred and I had to fight the insurance company to get twenty or thirty bucks back.

“Oh, yes, it’s ten dollars for the fluoride toothpaste.” I wanted to give her $15 for her time, but I handed over the $10 and walked away.

Co-pays are higher these days and they add up after a while, especially when you get older. One doctor for aches and pains, one in case you can’t see, another to make sure you haven’t been standing out in the sun too long without your SPF 1000, and still more to make sure you are, in fact, the gender you say you are.

Too many. And I still have one more appointment to make. But at least when I get them to pick up the phone, I’ll be able to say with metaphysical certitude, “Not dead yet,” and enjoy using my benefits one more time.

Blueberries and Pickles–No, I’m Not Pregnant

Rocky Point Blueberry Farm, Warwick, RI

Rocky Point Blueberry Farm, Warwick, RI

Last week, I picked blueberries in the rain. It wasn’t that pleasant. I was cold. When I reached into the bush, water shook from the leaves, soaking me to the bone. I got colder and wetter. I started to frown. There was one drop of rain on my glasses I couldn’t get off. When I wiped it on my wet shirt, I smeared both lenses until I couldn’t see the blueberries. And I had a migraine. Annoying.

I thought about homesteading. How I planted my garden, how my husband chopped the wood, how we try to get off the grid. How the stuff we can’t do–produce eggs or meat–we get from the farm around the corner. About how close I am to getting rid of boxes, store jars, and tin cans. As I sat in the middle of rainy blueberries wishing the weather would clear, I thought, “A couple hundred years ago, I wouldn’t have had a choice to make homesteading my…(dare I say)…hobby.”
Not picking very fast. Pioneers didn't check email while farmingI never thought of homesteading as a hobby. It’s a good activity–I started out intending to save money, produce better quality food, and maybe stop global warming, prevent a few small nations from blowing each other up, or attain enlightenment. It doesn’t save money. Farming is expensive and I give stuff away.  Friends visit and remind me they like my peach salsa.
“Homesteading” is cool, though. What people once mocked me for, comparing me to their grandmother, is now chic, hip, and in. I’ve never been any of those things–I’m enjoying my fifteen minutes of fame.
But whining about wet blueberries–weak. I could never be a real homesteader on the prairie…I felt somewhat disingenuous. The pioneers didn’t have an option. They would’ve picked blueberries in the rain. And been grateful. The work would’ve been there every day. No one’s great-grandmother in Oklahoma would have skipped a day because of a weather, a lunch date, or a migraine.
Because if they did, they would have died. I watch homesteading shows on the Discovery Channel. The Alaska ones are cool–no one comes to their rescue. “Excuse me Stop & Shop Peapod…can you deliver?” I think not. Conversely, I watched a few shows where modern families pretended they were pioneers–shows where people dress up and cry after the first few days. The Alaska people never cry. I have to toughen up and be more like them. Today, In the true spirit of Alaska, I’m weeding my garden and making pickles again because I killed my last crock of kosher dills.
“HOW did you ruin pickles??” asked my friend of Russian Jewish descent. No Russian ever ruins food–that might be the last vegetable you’d see until the reincarnation of Lenin. And a Jew ruining a Kosher Dill? Heresy. Doesn’t happen.
“I didn’t weight them down. The top ones molded.” I asked around, “Can I eat them anyway?” I was so looking forward to them–I’d just eat one off the bottom. My husband said no, it’d kill me. I rationalized that cheese is mold, and the life insurance is paid up…would the pioneers scrape off the mold? They wouldn’t have had mold to begin with. Because if they did, they’d have starved.
Prairie women. My heroes.

Prairie women. My heroes.

I googled in case everyone was wrong. Google said, “Don’t eat it, moron, you’ll die.” Not trusting Google is sort of like not trusting Jesus or the threat stated in a chain letter. I tossed the pickles.

I’d be a crappy homesteader. I didn’t pick enough blueberries–too busy finishing off a text conversation and dictating ideas into Siri. Pioneers wouldn’t have stood for such behavior. And I killed the pickles. I’d have eaten them anyway because Google wouldn’t have been there to save me. I must drink some imported french-roast coffee and contemplate ways to improve.
The weather cleared midway through picking.  I remembered why I love it. I go deep into the middle of the bush, where lazy people don’t pick. Then, I crawl under the bushes, where no one goes, either, except the grandmothers who are serious about their homesteading, and little, tiny kids.
When I’m  looking under the bushes, I see an entirely different view. Seeing the berries under the leaves where no one goes reminds me of teaching. The berries at the top shine for the world. They hog all the sunshine, tasting nice and sweet. But when you climb in and under the bush, you see the berries the world forgot. They’re there, clumped together waiting for someone to pick them. I like those best–they’re bigger and sweeter because they were left alone to grow at their own pace. They leap into the bucket with excitement ready to become part of something great. This reminds me of my students, the ones who get left behind by traditional academics and need someone to peel back the branches and leaves to let them see the sunlight, too. But when they do, it is always magic.
Maybe I’m a bad pioneer and homesteader, but thinking about the blueberries this way, I decide I’m a pretty good teacher.
I smile. And I pick one more bucket before it’s time to go home.
[image 3: candgnews.com]

Good Old American Day at the Outdoor Store

Declan with a cowbell looking like a low-class Paul Revere about to be snack for that giant River Monster behind him.

Declan with a cowbell looking like a low-class Paul Revere about to be snack for that giant River Monster behind him.

You know you’re going to have a great day at the local outdoor store when they are giving away cowbells to every little kid who walks in the door like it’s Yankee Cap day at the Stadium. Cow bells. Fantastic! I’d expect that from the tractor store, but not the outdoor goods store. How about something a little quieter, like BB guns or ammunition? Or even a good old-fashioned slingshot?

There’s never any mistaking where I am when I’m at the outdoor store. When I see one happy family dressed from head to toe in football hats and jerseys looking at fishing poles in one aisle, and another the next section over with a preteen daughter asking, “Is that hollow point?” I know I’m at the outdoor store.

I’m a bit out of my element, but truth be told, I like this store a lot. Though I pass by the field-dressing Food Saver that allows you to marinade deer jerky at the same time as you cut Bambi to pieces right in the woods and store him for the winter, I still see some pretty good gadgets I like for cooking over an open flame or smoking tofu. But that’s what makes America great. The fact that people from every walk of life can go to the outdoor store, look at fish and turtles together and smile on a sunny weekend afternoon, no matter what their walk of life or philosophy of living.

I’ve got to be honest, though. I can’t say that I didn’t beam with pride just a little when my son said, “Hey, that’s not good for you,” every time he saw people eating junk and “SODA! YOU’D BETTER GET RID OF THAT, IT’S GONNA GIVE YOU A CAVITY!!!” to the guy with the Super Big Gulp. I’m surprised he didn’t say, “That’s not LEGAL in New York City! Look over there. It’s the MAYOR… Gottcha!” That would have been funny, indeed. Instead, I made him apologize for being rude.

“He’s a bit of a hypocrite. He sneaks candy.” That’s what I told the people when I made him apologize…But I smiled inside.

I even bought him a container of popcorn so he could join the rest of America in its pursuit of snacking and the great outdoors. He ate the whole thing.

I knew I had to leave, though, when I saw a food I couldn’t identify. I thought it was a piece of cake with the number 13, but when I picked it up, it was heavy as lead.

“What’s this?” I asked the woman.

“Oh, that’s fudge. Taylor Swift fudge. It’s her favorite colors and her favorite lucky number 13.” I wondered how Taylor Swift got her fudge in the outdoor store–the pork rinds weren’t named after Gabriel Iglesias or anything. I love Gabriel Iglesias. I’d name something after him first. I discovered Taylor Swift was doing the concert next door. We had to leave quick before the traffic hit.

And so we left the outdoor store, the only place where boys run around the toy section all day with plastic bows, arrows, and guns pointed at each other and don’t get arrested by Homeland Security, deported to a country they can’t spell because it’s not part of the Geography Common Core State Standards. We left without Taylor Swift fudge or chicharones that should have been named for one of the funniest men alive. God Bless America, the outdoor store is great, but we had to get out of Dodge quick before the Taylor Swift fans arrived to fight over her last two pieces of six-dollar fudge.

Popcorn in hand, and a few shirts in a bag, it was a family day well spent.

 

 

 

“Don’t You Have To Be Organized to Talk about Organizing?”

Screen Shot 2013-07-25 at 6.36.00 AMIt’s time to declutter. Decluttering is an art. It’s not the same as cleaning or arranging. It’s getting rid of the piles of crap that stifle your life. Sometimes it’s hard to get rid of the crap. We’re busy and we need to let go of things so we can have room for freedom and new experiences.

Truth is, I’m a disaster. Years back, I discovered a website that gives people fifteen minute tasks to organize their lives (flylady.net). It’s sort of fun and addictive, because it gives numbers of things to toss, small areas to clean, and little goals. I’m self-competitive, which means if there’s a goal out there, I usually want to beat it by one or two, so the little games became a bit of a healthy addiction. The site talks about “CHAOS–Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome.” and is mostly dedicated to “Sidetracked Home Executives.” I’m not a home executive…I work, and I’m not really sidetracked. I’m off the tracks. I blew up the tracks. Sometimes the pile in the corner just doesn’t seem as critical as lesson planning, writing, or, well, eating, so I let it get out of hand. You have to be careful with clutter… if you don’t get rid of every last piece, it multiplies. It’s like mice or cockroaches…if you see one, you have a million. Clutter breeds.

And so, it’s time to declutter again. The little piles have taken over their respective areas.  I think it’s fair to say that after six months to a year, I’m not going to finish that book on my nightstand or that half-done project on my dresser. I’ve lost interest and moved on, but the piles have not.

I’m certain beyond a reasonable doubt that I will not need the freshly pressed 90’s track suit that matches the sneakers I only wear when I’m mocking students. When I don a dress people ask me if I have a wedding or a job interview–they don’t need to take up real estate in my closet. I really use a few things on a regular basis.  If I had to pick seven or eight things to keep in the case of home confinement, I could do it.

What I can’t do–sort through a pile that is threatening to take over the corner of a room.

So, I created a Learnist board to embarrass myself and show off my show off my clutter corners to the world. In a day or so, there’ll be a victorious “after” photo to show off, too, showing those corners shiny and new. If I get distracted, this could take a week, but with an audience holding its breath waiting to see the surface of the corner bookshelf, there is a much greater chance of victory.  I’ll do it for the paparazzi.

But there will always be critics.

“Don’t you have to be successfully organized to give organizational advice,” emailed my friend.

“No.” I replied. Who’s really organized besides Martha Stewart and God anyway? The rest of us are inferior by design. No one wants to feel like a lesser human being. That is precisely why you need a disaster like me telling you how to organize. If you fail, you can say, “At least I’m not like her.” You might even look at my chin-up on the bar of organization and be inspired. “If she can organize, I know I can be successful.”

We’re all on this journey together. I set up a low bar and a low-risk environment for the world.

Organizing is no different from anything else at which I suck. I’m a terrible athlete. In order to improve, I had to study and practice.  I shot a million shots, I came hours early, and worked on the fundamentals. Most of all I tried to avoid falling on my face in public. I was so bad in high school basketball I had a fan club. “We just come watch you because you’re funnier than The Cosby Show.” In my day, that was about as funny as it got. LouisCK wasn’t even around yet. He was home watching The Cosby Show.

Organizing is no different. It’s a struggle to practice and learn. Our ineptitude frustrates those good organizers who live with us. It falls under the “Don’t you have any common sense?”

So, to answer my critic, who I’ll call “Jen,” I do not have to be organized to teach about organization. It’s actually better that I’m not. It makes everyone feel they can do it, too. If I can help the nation to simplify by embarrassing myself on a Learnist board then redeeming myself later, so be it. If not, I’ll add some photos of the mountains of papers escaping the corner and swallowing up my town. Lets hope it doesn’t get to that.

 

Have Tons of Kids: It’s the New Social Security

That's a lot of kids.

That’s a lot of kids.

I make fun of my friends with large families. I say insensitive things like, “Here, take Declan. You’ll never know he’s there. You have too many kids to count anyway.” I’ve said that twice this summer alone. Just this week I said it to my friends up from Texas… They’re amazing. They have three boys that eat vegetables, go to bed on time, and march around in an orderly manner being polite and stuff. AND they don’t even have cable TV. Incomprehensible! They’re much better parents than me.

My three nephews, by contrast, do not march around quietly… visiting there puts me in the middle of a cyclone of activity that moves so fast, it’s where Dyson got his vacuum idea.  I love when my nephews fight and don’t eat their dinner, because I feel like a better parent myself.

“My kid’s whining, but their’s just popped each other in the head.” It’s what I like to call the “judgment free zone.” I get to relax, and not worry how bad I am as a mom. One. Two. Three. Four. Everyone’s alive and inventoried. If I left Declan behind, nobody would notice there either…just one more boy running around in circles not eating peas.They’d shove a baseball glove in his hand and he’d be off on a field somewhere, catching fly balls instead of mayflies. Easy enough.

What's bigger than a minivan? The Partridge Family bus!

What’s bigger than a minivan? The Partridge Family bus!

How do you know how many kids are too many? The minivan. Buying a minivan is a commitment to expand the human birth rate. It has no other purpose. It neither races nor looks cool.  Growing up, I was trained to laugh at minivans. Several friends, among them a somewhat manly man and two cool women have said, “Once you try a minivan, you don’t ever want a car again.” Could I, without a large family, be the one out of step with society?

I have a couple friends with four kids. That’s nothing next to my hometown friends with the family of twelve. They had to eat really fast to avoid getting their food stolen by someone hungrier.

Four kids–The respect and awe I feel battles with my desire to make minivan jokes. Four kids is almost a basketball team. Impressive. Especially when they eat vegetables and go to bed on time.

When Four-Kid Friend Number One was contemplating Kid Number Five, she sent me an article to read. It was an in-depth commentary that professional families were indeed having more kids. That it was a trend. She was part of the norm, not bucking society’s expectations to reduce the surplus population.

Yet she didn’t have a farm, so she didn’t need those kids. In fact, she lived on Long Island where reducing the surplus population gives you a greater chance you won’t have to cuss someone out for a parking space in five or ten years.

I was mystified. Researching further, I realized she did need those kids. It wasn’t all about love and raising a family.

Here’s the bottom line. Having kids is like gambling. You don’t know the outcome. We can’t afford college for them, and some turn out bad. It’s like playing the long odds in Vegas. You put all your chips on the black 22, or the big green 0, and if it doesn’t hit, Screen Shot 2013-07-22 at 8.10.03 AMyou die a poor shriveled geriatric whose pension is enough to eat a can of cat food while you watch Wheel of Fortune. The more you play, the greater the odds you might win once.

Higher birth rates are important to your future. Nobody invests enough in retirement, college breaks the bank, and Social Security pays out enough to buy you the postage stamp for your back tax payment. After the Baby Boomers spend all the money in the coffers and Congress votes itself a big, fat pay raise with the last few coins in Ft. Knox, I’m going to need some way of taking care of myself into old age. Thankfully, I’m already starting to forget things, so I may, by that time, forget I have no money. Just in case, I’m planting vegetables. I’ll have lots of cucumbers, tomatoes, beets, carrots, and corn. But that’s hard work.

My friends did it right. They had tons of kids. When you have tons of kids, you are, in fact, increasing the odds that one will do really well.

“We love all our kids equally.” You can say that, but you really have to put a couple more eggs in one basket. The kid who’s going off trying to create world peace is impressive and worth bragging about, but, let’s be honest, that’s not the one who’ll pay off your mortgage like the one who wins American Idol. Much more important to get that one singing lessons than pay for Yale for the first one, I think.

I’m not having any more kids–I’m too old, and having a ton of students makes me feel like I have a million kids. I have a couple who said that if they ever make it rich, they won’t forget me. One’s in Hollywood right now. But by “forget” do they mean “send me a spare million after their episode of MTV Cribs airs” or “give me a shout out on national TV?” It makes a difference. I need to plan my financial future.

Just in case, I’m going out to plant my fall crop now. I don’t have four kids, and so I’m going to have to make my way…all on my own.

 

[images: eonline.com, formerchildactors.com and firedoglake.com]

 

 

The Curse: How to Destroy Appliances Like A Pro

Screen Shot 2013-07-21 at 9.07.51 PMI’m going shopping for a new gas dryer. I don’t really want one. I want to hang my unmentionables over the garden fence to dry–give the neighborhood something to talk about. It’s not like I live in an area where people can see where I’d hang underwear anyway. No one will post pictures of my laundry on Instagram. If they do, they seriously need a life.

“Nothing to see, folks, move on.”

When major appliances break, my mind makes a twisted route to Plan B as if I lived in a third world nation. “I don’t really need a new dryer anyway.” I don’t want to buy one. Having a drier makes me feel guilty. I should be hanging my clothes out to dry. I could be saving the kilowatt for a part of the world that needs it.  I justify my use of the drier by saying, “Well, at least I’m not ruining the universe with drier sheets. They kill trees and produce fumes.”  I can justify my bad ecobehavior by putting down those who use dryer sheets. It works.

I do like fluffy towels that can only be achieved in the drier. They don’t have fluffy drier towels in parts of the world that need my kilowatt. That thought makes me feel guiltier, as does the fact I often use two towels. Instead of taking my clothes out of the drier right away, I often throw my wrinkly work clothes in the drier a second time for five minutes to dewrinkle when I could have ironed. Lazy, first world behavior! I am an ecocriminal, like when I forget to put my reusable bags in the back of my car before shopping.

I have lost three appliances this year, each one taking up several cubic feet in the landfill. The demise of every appliance followed a luxury purchase on my behalf. The dishwasher crapped out after I pushed the button on my first yoga retreat. The washer died two weeks ago, after my husband convinced me we needed a specific Japanese-style charcoal grill because we needed to Japanese-style charcoal grill everything, every day, for every meal. Incidentally, if your spouse convinces you that you need to charcoal grill your baking because it’s summer, leave your chocolate chip cookies out of your Japanese-style chic charcoal grill. Something about the wood-fired taste of–chocolate–that makes me want to barf. You can’t unexperience something like that once it’s hit your taste buds.

But anyway, that’s why the washing machine died. Because I bought something.

“Ha,” said the pop-up on my online banking, “You could have bought a washer!” Who needs a washer anyway? Hell, I lived in places laundromats didn’t even exist. I’ll hand wash those clothes! My family didn’t agree, so we bought a nice old tank of a washer that can wash every piece of clothes in the house simultaneously, using twice the water. I’m feeling farther away from green by the minute. If this keeps up, I fear I’ll lose my green card.

Three days ago, the drier broke–died of a broken heart because his partner of 30 years, the 70’s washer, passed. Or perhaps it was that I spent money on the next great yoga retreat my friend Marianne suggested we attend. Part of me wants to think appliances are like a parakeets that sing their swan song soon after their partner croaks. Romantic. They must go to Valhalla together. But I really think it’s the curse.

I’m superstitious. I believe this stuff. After I buy this drier, there will be no further purchases here, because I do not want to tempt fate. I’m afraid the next appliance I’d kill is my freezer. I need that for harvest season. After all, you only get to pick blueberries once a year. I’m going to need that freezer.

 

[images: denmarkandsonsappliances.com]

The Cheapest Girl in the World Stops Using Coupons

Screen Shot 2013-07-20 at 8.57.45 AMI might be the cheapest person on earth. I hate debt, though thanks to college, business, houses, and cars, I can deal. I love the “Three R’s: reuse, repurpose, recycle…” the essence of thrift. I own three pairs of jeans, and I’m contemplating skipping back to school clothes shopping altogether. Fashion and shopping, yuck. If I do buy something, it must be justified. The new grill, “happiness budget.”  Rusty loves it and the food tastes great. Yoga, “mental health budget.”  Yoga keeps me from imploding.   “Hot tub” couldn’t sell itself, so I skipped that purchase. “Athletic recovery?” I’m not a good enough athlete. “Personal hygiene?” I have a shower… No hot tub until I can mask the purchase like the US government budget office.

Is this the right approach? Why can’t I just buy stuff?

When I lived in the city, I was a coupon master. The stores were twenty feet from my house. I matched coupons to sales, getting many products for free. Sometimes they’d pay me to buy things. Who can turn that down? I had bags of free products. I’d keep some for the family–toothpaste, shampoo, soap–and bring the rest to the shelter around the corner. I’d send out care packages with free stuff and when people visited, I’d make them take free stuff home. It’s fun giving stuff away. It’s especially fun at holiday time, when I could make baskets and gift boxes out of the free treat/fun stuff and bring that to the shelter. I always included a free toothbrush in the baskets.

At back to school time–right about now–I was coupon crazy. I’d match up every drug, department, and office supply store to coupons and sales. I’d note the limit, and I’d make the rounds twice–morning shift and afternoon shift. It got to be such that if I skipped a trip, Screen Shot 2013-07-20 at 8.59.33 AMI’d think about those 100 omitted pencils wondering whether they’d affect my job performance or my students’ future opportunities. I’d go to the teen that looked disinterested, “Listen, let’s cut to the chase. I see that there’s ‘limit 5,’ but I’ll come back eight times today. Can I buy 20 now?” They always obliged. They cared about the future of education. I still have 1 cent paper in a box from this hoarding period in my life. I’ve been sharing this with English teachers for years, and still have one case left.

It’s funny how scarcity makes you react.  At home, the fear left by the Great Recession made me garden and clip coupons. In school, it made me fill cabinets with supplies students should be bringing them themselves. This is no good. Neither gardening nor clipping coupons saves money when you run the real math, and supplying a classroom will break the bank fast.

Gardening is expensive when you consider the setting up of the garden, time, nets, and supplies that you need. Ends up being one expensive bell pepper. Couponing is worse when you calculate the cost of the papers, and time spent cutting, organizing, reading fliers, and shopping at a million stores. If I bill this at my current consulting rate, it’s quite a pricy tube of toothpaste.  This begs the question of “Do I need all this free shit anyway?” I do not. At one time, I had enough free health and beauty items to save us–worldwide–from teens with BO.

Doing things out of fear or scarcity is unhealthy and not productive. Simplicity is a much better approach. I stopped crazy couponing a couple years ago, finding I didn’t need most of that stuff anyway. My little bottle of Aveda shampoo and tube of Tom’s of Maine toothpaste–which is never on sale anyway–lasts me a full year. The last half-gallon of free Pantene in the shower now–three years later. Letting go of things, habits, and excesses reminds me of how little I really need to be happy. It’s a peaceful feeling.

This year again, I’ve tuned out of the back to school sales hype. I am letting go. For a couple of reasons. Classrooms should be supplied with the things they need to operate. End of story. In Corporate America, I walked over to the cabinet and got a pen. At my own business, whatever the team needs, the business supplies. I’ll still bring my students zen pencilstreats–it’s fun–but I’m not compelling myself to buy the basics anymore. When teachers systematically do this, they send the message that schools do not need to supply the basics. That’s wrong. I’ll do with less.

At home, I’m happier with less. Simplicity. Zen. I’m improving.

In school, I strive for the same mindset. What do I really need to teach? A room full of students and the creativity in my own mind. This year is all about doing more with less at home and school…still producing amazing results, and getting one step toward inner peace.

So, this year, you won’t see me at the Back to School Sale. I won’t be restocking paper… I’m trying to go digital and near paperless…

You will see me in the garden, however. That, to me, doesn’t fall under clutter. It falls under Zen. And yes, I have too much. Food, not Zen. I entreat you to come get a little of both if you’re passing on by.

[images: http://alongdaysjourneyinto.blogspot.com/2011/07/back-to-basics-my-frugality.html and desertcomfortmechanical.com and zenpencils.com]