Posts Tagged ‘life’

Top 10 Kitten Toys – No purchase necessary

Our house has begun to remind us of the book Where the Wild Things Are.  We have 2 monsters who collide, jump from far distances, run at top speed from end to end and scale walls.  Dylan wanted to name then after the monsters in the book, but their names are among the likes of Emil, Aaron and Bernard – not the best kitten names.  When we first got the kittens I was almost lured into buying them those cute cat nip mice at the pet store (they even had “all natural” eco friendly ones), but boy am I glad I didn’t fall for that.  Here are Mister and Miss’ top 10 list of things to play with:

10) Dry leaves

9) Anything and everything that dangles – including my hair

8) Laundry piles

7) House flies

6) Dust bunnies

5) Crumpled up paper

4) Backpacks on the floor – so many buckles that make noise!

3) Socks

2) Tin foil balls  (Upgrade by tying it to the end of a string)

1) Another kitten

And, as a side note, in an effort to maintain our sustainable living goals, we’ve opted out of the “temptations treats” and instead, we shake a jar of their usual all natural kibble to get them to come inside and give them a treat of sardines! (A sustainable seafood choice). I can’t believe I just added a category to my blog titled “cats”….my apologies for the dog lovers out there but I can promise I’ll keep these cat posts to a  minimum. Chances are it’s just cat lovers still reading anyhow, and in that case, here’s one more picture of my latest love affair 🙂



Yesterday we had a snow day. A 100% snowed-in-and-can’t-go-anywhere day. Major highways, schools, business, and public services were all closed. (I wonder if the soup kitchen managed to open). This isn’t the first snow day of the season. We had 3 “snow days” last week and 2 this week where buses weren’t running and people were advised to stay off the roads. Those were the kind of snow days that even people in the city get, where you can get out if you need to, so you at least go somewhere, or you can walk somewhere, and most people power through it anyways. Monday, the OPP were asking people to stay off the roads unless it was an emergency. I had a meeting not too far from home, so I ventured out and I saw 4, maybe 5, cars on roads that are usually well traveled. I was lucky to have stayed out of the ditches through the white-outs and made it home before dark. I was also lucky that no one else decided to give it a go because I spent a lot of my time on the wrong side of the road and blind.

I was likely experiencing cabin fever that day, because yesterday, around the same time, I proposed to Dylan that we go out somewhere. One listen to the OPP warnings on the radio and we wised up. There was a snow drift on our road that a few people were already stuck in and no one could get by, and the roads we would need were closed anyhow. Speaking to a colleague on the phone while stuck in the cabin, he used the word surrender to describe how one must accept these kinds of days and it rang true to me the whole day.

We spent the first 4 hours of the morning debating if we were going to get out today, various strategies of doing so, whether or not we would make it home and listening to the radio updates. When we finally surrendered to a snow day it was blissful. Weighted in by the snow, yet having space to work in, isolated us from all possible external distractions and allowed us to work with what we had. You dream of having a whole free day to __________ (ie. cook, build, fix, etc.) and when that day comes, you don’t have any of the resources on hand and you can’t get them. So you are forced to be creative and work with what you’ve got. So we did exactly that and even better yet, we did nothing. We relaxed. Laid around, read our books, did some yoga, and made an awesome mid-day veggie soup with potato scones to dip. There was nothing else to do and it was liberating. No TV and no internet is also quite liberating, because otherwise I’m sure we would have fallen back on them for some mindless entertainment that is not true relaxation, and soaks up the hours fast. I could have put in a full “work” day if I had the internet. When 4 o’clock rolled around it was sad to know that our snow day was coming to an end, until we realized we had already cooked for the day, so we still had the evening :). The day felt endless and re-energizing. Admittedly throughout the day, there was a gentle tugging notion that occasionally surfaced prompting me to do something, but it would subside when my mind reminded itself to simply surrender. I had to accept that nothing could be done and that everything would be there tomorrow and the day after, waiting to be done, none-the-wiser that it was being done a day later. It’s tough to know that life is carrying on as usual and you are not participating in it, something I’m sure many people experience in many different ways. But there is beauty in that, and the keys are acceptance and surrender.

The Value Village/Dollarama Conundrum

Our new place is not entirely furnished and having led our Gypsy way of life these past few years, we own very little in the household department.  In need of some of the basics, we made a trip to Guelph with our friend Riley to hit the Value Village, Thrift Store, Winners and some antique stores (“Shopping for yourself at this time of year?” you ask?  Yes, keep your eyes peeled for a post on how we’ve managed to completely avoid the gift frenzy of Christmas this year).

When we are shopping, our ethics and values bring us to look for things that are:

1) Previously loved

2) Made in North America

3) Of high quality – long lifespan still

4) Made of renewable resources (ie. wool, untreated wood, glass etc.)

5) Healthy to have in our home

6) Functional for me, design pretty for Dylan

7) Amazing, one-time-in-your-life finds

8 ) Ridiculous

9) Recylcable, repurposable, re-giftable or biodegradable

So, in that order we set out and I remembered that I had offered to find a client 12 sets of office pen holders second hand and under budget (a personal challenge for myself and a way to bring sustainability to even the smallest of purchasing decisions in a small organization).  On the hunt, I came across some small glass jars at Value Village that were good for the job and looked at the price – $1.99.  Not terrible and if I could find 12 for that price I’d be successful.  However, curious to see where they had originally come from, I peeled back the Value Village price sticker to reveal that they were initially a product of Dollarama and thus, brand new, these things had only sold for $1.  I was to pay a 100% markup for a second hand piece of glass from China.

Saying my thoughts out loud, I said to Riley that I may as well go across the street because there’s a Dollarama there.  Thank goodness I have some very mindful friends and she wisely pointed out that then I would be voting for making low-quality, cheap goods in China, whereas buying it here, I am not bringing new material into the world, it already exists.  But paying 100% more.  And, now we get into the fact that Value Village is a for-profit organization owned by U.S. parent company Savers Inc.  Check out the comments in this blog post for a response from Value Village to the myth that they are owned by Wal Mart and a discussion on whether or not they benefit non-profits and charities.

So, I put the jar back down and opted for the copper container stamped by a blacksmith in Canada for $1.99 as well.  Nonetheless, there’s something pretty off about this system.

How to Save $9000/yr ….. and the world.

Did you know that it costs an average of $9000 per year just to own a small car? That is not including the cost of purchasing the car itself, but just the gas, maintenance, insurance, license, etc. each year.  I don’t know how much a truck or large vehicle could run you, but I can imagine.  What this tells me is that when considering a salary that I need to live comfortably and sustainably, I can pretty much take $9000 less than anyone owning a car and survive quite well!  This is awesome news.  So, if I thought a $50,000/yr salary would make life easier, I can take a $41,000/yr salary and still afford those $3 local organic carrots!  What this also means is that if you can find a job close enough to home to walk/bike/transit, then you can save $9000/yr by selling your car (make sure to get rid of it, the $9000 still applies if it’s sitting in your driveway even).  This may be easier for households with 2 cars (Dylan has his beloved Land Rover, so tasks like buying watermelon aren’t so exhausting!), because you would still have one vehicle to get around in, especially if you live in either a suburb (designed for cars) or the country.  I love knowing that I’m saving $9000/year! Amazing.

Me vs. My Ego

As I was biking home from town this morning, a car pulled up a few meters ahead of me and the driver flagged me down.  I get strangely excited when this happens – I love it when people ask me for directions.  This is either due to an intuitive love for sharing knowledge and teaching, or my childhood best friend was right and I am a “know-it-all”.  Nonetheless, I am a compulsive sign reader, I don’t know why, I just read any word that comes into my visual range and thus tend to be of some help.  Well, he wasn’t asking for directions.  He was stopping to pay me a compliment and ask if I’m single. He had actually been traveling in the other direction and had turned around. Upon learning that I am not single he stressed that I must tell my boyfriend how lucky he is and that he must earn it.  I warmed up to him when he asked if I was happy and I smiled and replied “very”. I said thank you with as much humility as I could and he smiled and drove off.

Once my ego was done patting itself on the back for wearing the blue shirt, tights and wellies, I was able to objectively ponder on this encounter.  I used to place a lot of importance on events like these.  Not consciously of course, but male attention could be said to be 90% of the reason I would put on a nice outfit and mascara in the morning. It’s not a mystery that men may be a bit like children and Christmas gifts – if it’s wrapped well they choose it.  For 30 seconds, this man made me feel like the most special person on the planet, but the “me” that was feeling that was on the inside, in my head, and the object he was speaking to was just the outer shell.  And thus the outer shell that I inhabit should receive the compliment, however the skin, hair, bones, eyes do not have the ability to emotionally receive such an abstract concept. The mind and thought center just try to steal it up, grasping onto anything that feeds the ego, relevant or not. The mind may be responsible for how I dressed this morning, the shape of my body, the cleanliness of my hair etc., which could have led to the compliment, however the mind does this all in vain, in hopes of attention, thus using and abusing the body.  Anyhow, what I’m getting at is since the object that this man was speaking to (the body) is not capable of receiving dialogue, it is like he’s speaking into a phone and there’s no one on the other line.  His words are lost to the universe, and the mind can not rightfully eat them up – even though it does, faster than I can stop it.

Week #4 in the Ashram: Escapes and Exams

Shortly after writing the week 3 post of my Ashram experiences, Dylan arrived at the Ashram and we escaped early Saturday morning to attend a dear friend’s wedding in Haliburton, Ontario.  Lots of driving, little sleep, a sip of wine, black tea and sugar (all things I had not been exposed to for 3 weeks) made for an interesting 24 hours out of the ashram.

Upon returning to the Ashram, everyone wanted to know “what it was like” (returning to what some call ‘reality’).  To be honest, it felt normal.  I didn’t feel like 3 weeks was long enough to get so used to Ashram life that outside life would feel strange.  It was the sugar, poor quality sleep, tea and driving that made me feel terribly hungover on Sunday….and every day since I have left the Ashram.

Our final week of our Yoga Teacher Training Course was pretty much our standard schedule of meditations, chanting, yoga and lectures, with some practice teaching and a few ceremonies.  I was initiated into a mantra so that I now have a designated mantra that I can repeat while meditating and also while walking, driving, cleaning etc.  On Saturday morning we wrote a 3 hour exam and then a bunch of us went to help prepare the evening Indian feast in the kitchen for 200 people.  Dylan and I were given the task of preparing the Sambar.  Well, we chopped the vegetables and stirred the pot as the chef tossed in the ingredients. 

Finally, on Saturday evening we all graduated.  There are now 26,000 Sivananda certified Yoga teachers in the world, I am number 25, 998.

“Can we pretend that airplanes, in the night sky, are like shooting stars…”

I was at a workshop a few days ago on sustainable food systems. It was no more and no less than a bunch of interested and invested members of the community coming together to discuss food. A quite overlooked vital force of life, now available in cans, buckets, bags, dehydrated, deep fried and deep frozen form.

In a breakout group, someone questioned why we use airplanes to transport food and how it seems unsustainable. This same person, however, was supportive of human air travel. “Airplanes, they’re never going away” she stated, “I love flying, I love traveling”. My heart sank. First, because in a self-righteous, “eco-purest” fashion, I wanted to pretend that I don’t fly, that I will never fly again because of the massive emissions that are spewed out, and that it’s not necessary. I lost a little bit of hope, thinking that we have become so addicted and dependent on air travel – going to far off places – that our blindness to the damage it is doing will be our demise. When collecting bonus air-miles I recently questioned why I’m still collecting them if I hope to never need to fly again.

On my way home from the workshop, I faced the truth. Of course, I do want to fly again. I want to visit my family in Holland. I want to re-unite with my Sustainability colleagues in Brazil. I want to play mas in the Trinidad Carnival again. I want to attend my childhood best friend’s wedding in Mexico. True, these are all wants and can be dismissed, but what if I actually will need to fly. I am trying to run a business off of a bicycle. I have no idea if I can make this work.

It’s been 2 years since I landed back in Toronto after 2 years of a lot of flying, and I’m getting tired of my carbon diet. I miss the thrill of going to the airport, waiting at the gate and then watching clouds pass by for hours. It would be relatively easy, no one would hold it against me, or give me dirty looks. I want to just mindlessly fly fly fly without the self-inflicted guilt trip that I know better, that I know that this is not satisfying a real human need.

So far, I’ve been good. I chose Montreal over Vancouver for my Yoga Teacher Training course in July, so I will diligently take the train or bus. I have stayed put for 2 years in Ontario and 7 of those months I’ve been in the same region using my bike as my primary form of transportation. I recently handed over the family car to my brother, so my partner and I share one vehicle…a “new” 1984 Range Rover with dreams of a diesel engine running on recycled cooking oil. And my work is to share the language and understanding of sustainability with organizations and individuals.

I figure I’ll continue with my sustainable life until a true need emerges to get on a plane. So far, I’ve been able to find perhaps more happiness by staying in the same place than when I was making great friendships far away and leaving them. I even believe deep down in my heart that I will be even more happy when I am a true part of the community I choose to live in. A sad farewell to my dreams of living in India, Japan, New Zealand, Holland and the Caribbean. A welcome to rural Canadian life. And when the time comes to decide to fly or not, I’ll have to justify it to my toughest critic….me.