Gratitude Post #15: World Toilet Day Edition

Today is World Toilet Day, a UN effort to bring awareness to the lack of good, safe, sanitation around the world. Today, more than 4.5 billion people live without a toilet that will safely dispose of their waste.

So, as unglamorous as it is (and no matter how important my toilet is, I’m still not going to post a picture of it here with this post), today’s gratitude is for the privilege of household sanitation.

Do I remember to be grateful for my toilet everyday? No, I don’t. Do I love taking care of my septic tank and cleaning my toilet? Not usually, no.

But the fact is that life would be much harder without, as Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us in his book Work:

There are people who think, “How can I possibly be happy cleaning the toilet?” But we’re lucky to have a toilet to clean. When I was a novice in Vietnam, we didn’t have toilets. I lived in a temple with one hundred people and no toilet. Yet we managed to survive. Around the temple there were bushes and hills so we just went out on the hill. When I was a child at home, before becoming a monk, we didn’t have a toilet either. Only a very few people  were rich enough to have toilets. Everybody else had to go into the rice fields or up on the hill. At that time, there were twenty-five million people in Vietnam, most of them without toilets. Having a toilet to clean at all is enough to make us happy.

 

 

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Gratitude Post #14: Community

I’ve chosen these two pictures for community: the handouts from an advocacy How-To talk, and an empty casserole dish from a potluck. The many sides of community!

As much as I love home and my own small family, my purple house doesn’t sit alone out in a wilderness. The temptation to just shut the gate and ignore the world has been real in the past year, however!

Community is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot but may not have hard and fast definitions. When people say things like “The disabled community” or “The homeschooling community” they may just mean all the people that fit that category, whether or not they are in any communication or connection with one another.

Or people come to church saying they are “looking for community” and what they mean is often that they are looking for a network of people who think and act like they do where they can make friends.

I understand and appreciate both of those kinds of communities. Because I homeschool, I have a vested interest in staying part of “the homeschooling community” and keeping my memberships in advocacy groups up to date, and it’s always good to connect with others facing similar challenges as you are.

But the kind of community I am lifting up for my gratitude today is more of a broad community of mutually recognized interdependence and mutual obligation. This very broad definition of community means that my neighbor and I may not love hanging out with each other, but if we see smoke or hear unusual noises on each other’s properties, we will investigate and respond. It means that when a branch falls in the road or there is roadkill out there, either I or one of my neighbors will likely clean it up. That’s easy, simple neighborly community.

Pushing farther away from home, this kind of community means participating in local organizing, volunteering, and politics. It means that when there is a volunteer work party to plant trees or remove invasives in a local park, or when there is a hearing at City Council about a new ordinance, that folks show up, not just for the fun of it (although it can be fun) but also because we have a responsibility to the larger quality of life in our town. And it goes on and on and on ….

I’m fortunate to have a lot of community. I’m a member of a local women’s service and empowerment organization. My kids are both in scout troops. We’re members of a local homeschooling group. We have church. We have friends and workplaces that seek to foster postitive community in the workplace, and we have extended family. And we show up for and support many other community organizations and events and causes.

All of this contributes to my sense of connection and mutual obligation, and research indicates that it also contributes to my resiliency (AND, bonus, I’m contributing to the resiliency of others too!).

So, a big Thank You for everyone who creates community, and to everyone who shows up with both a willingness to help others AND for those who are in need and willing to accept help. It’s a beautiful big blanket of mutuality.

Gratitude Post #12: Technology

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I long for a simpler, more sustainable lifestyle and there are many modern conveniences I’m quite willing to give up (we’ve adjusted just fine to not having a microwave or a dryer).

But technology is still a very useful tool, and there are some recent developments that I am quite grateful for. Because of technology, I can be sitting in my car in a parking lot, ready to drive carpool for my daughter’s scout troop, and also be in a book club meeting with folks from around the country. Technology has enabled me to work from home and work remotely, which is a necessity for balancing my homeschooling parent, hobby farming, and full-time work. Technology also allows me to be part of collaborative teams with folks who are also working from home, in totally different parts of the country, and cuts the need to a lot of business travel.

There is also a negative to all this connection and fast-pace expectation, of course, and there is an impact on the environment. Nonetheless, there are these good parts that I really appreciate.

Gratitude Post #11: The Peace of Wild Things

Two images of moments I witnessed in the last two weeks, moments that reminded me of the beauty of the Earth.

No matter how busy or tired or sad or despairing I may feel at times, there is still the unexpected beauty of the world around us, and peace of the wild reality that does not live under my management or care.

It reminds me of one of my favorite poems by Wendell Berry, The Peace of Wild Things:

 

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 

Gratitude Post #10: Veteran’s Day Edition

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It’s Veteran’s Day, a day for honoring the service of all those who have volunteered or been drafted into any of the armed services (this is NOT the same as Memorial Day, a day to remember those who have died in armed conflict for our nation). It’s the same day as Armistice Day, the day that the War to End All Wars (WWI) ended.

Both my husband and I are veterans, and I am glad that I served. I gave 6 years to the Army National Guard, and then was a military spouse as my husband was activated and deployed to Iraq.  I gained so much from my service, for instance experience with both diversity and adversity. In very practical terms, I also received a GI Bill that helped me pay my way through college, and we have used a VA loan to buy our purple house.

I’m glad for our service, and we have benefited in many ways (not least because this is how we met each other). And we are the lucky ones.

My service was during peace-time. My National Guard time was forest fires, floods, riots, protecting tribal whaling rights, and sitting in an Armory on New Years Eve waiting to respond to Y2K. It wasn’t without sacrifice, but it wasn’t big sacrifices.

My husband didn’t have quite my good timing and his service was different (and I carried the sacrifices of the military family as well). It was hard, sad, there were friends and brothers-in-arms lost, and we still deal with the after-effects.

But we are still lucky. Because veterans all over this nation are still carrying wounds, still facing consequences, and still suffering. We had a good support network, a job that was kept safe while he was gone, and more … in many ways it worked the way for us it should work for everyone.

I wish it could be as good for all the veterans. It breaks my heart to know how many veterans are homeless, how many commit suicide, how many suffer. We need to do better by those who have served. We need to truly care about Veterans, not just on one day of the year, but all the time.

Gratitude Post #9: My Partner

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It’s the fifteenth anniversary of my handfasting ceremony with this guy, so today it feels appropriate to lift him up as my gratitude for the day.

This blog is called “My Purple House” because I focus on my own personal story and try not to overshare about the life of my family and respect their privacy. But I’m not on this journey by myself, and I couldn’t do any of this if I didn’t have the partner I have, someone who:

  • Shares the dream and desire to live this way
  • Wants the same future I do
  • Is equally committed to family and home
  • Lets me do things that others might balk at (purple house, for instance)
  • And is willing to try one lifestyle experiment after another

I got lucky. 🙂