Tiny houses…

I just watched this short bit of a documentary on ‘tiny houses‘. I’ve read about a few different people and their tiny homes through some blogs I frequently enjoy, and I’m totally taken by the idea. I don’t necessarily think that everyone can or should live out in the wilderness in a 100 square foot house living off the grid, but the concept definitely makes me think about sustainable living, what’s really necessary in life to be comfortable and happy, and even just living choices!

As an urban dweller for many years now, I actually find it hard to fathom owning a real house with a garden and all the usual trappings, as well as needing a car, having to drive everywhere, etc. I suppose our current apartment is a rather small home, when compared to a normal house, or at least the type of house I’m used to. However, I absolutely love this apartment (except in the winter when it’s cold and I do want to build a fire-pit in the middle of the sitting room-but that’s a separate issue), and it’s convenient location within walking distance of work and all the shops we need on a daily/weekly basis . I know it’s all about what you’re used to, but this place feels quite spacious to me, although I can’t tell you how many square feet it actually is.

Thinking about the prospect of owning a house at some point in the future, one thing that I do want is the choice to buy something small, or at least smallish. It seems that houses just keep getting bigger and bigger, and of course, more expensive, but this really isn’t cool especially if you want to live in something a bit more snug. Maybe I won’t cram a family into 100 or 200 square feet, but still, just a few cosy rooms would really do the trick. Having less space also makes it easier to have less stuff, which is also a good thing in my opinion. Another thing I like about living in smaller spaces is that it means everyone in the house is ‘forced’ to spend more time together! There just aren’t as many places to hide! Or, on the other hand, as I even find in this apartment, being in a small space means you get out and about in the world more. When I find the apartment too small or too boring, it means I go out to a cafe or the park or wander around the neighbourhood a bit, people watching, enjoying the fresh air and the liveliness of everything happening all around. It’s an entertaining world out there and it feels good to get out and be a part of it, even if I’m mostly just a spectator.

Anyway, seeing examples of people building their own tiny houses is a great reminder that it’s possible to go against the trend of bigger=better. I read about one tiny house that a couple were building in the US and I think the estimated cost was around $35,000 for their own custom-built home! That tiny house also gets a pretty tiny mortgage, which is another huge perk! Fewer years of life working to pay off your house sounds good to me.

Well, here’s to tiny houses!

Tiny House Tour: Daniel Aragon’s “Ico” from TINY on Vimeo.

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Population, reproduction and the environment: a thoughtful discussion…

This is the first time I’ve ever seen/read/heard such a peaceful, thoughtful and nuanced discussion of the important issues of the environmental impact of human population and the ethics of having children in relation to this impact. Every other time I’ve read an article or heard people discussing it, it seems that most people take extreme views, one way or another, and aren’t actually interested in thinking about the very complicated and varied opinions involved in this issue. Most people seem to have their minds made up and aren’t interested in changing their thinking at all, no matter what anyone else has to say. It was SO refreshing and extremely thought provoking reading this blog post, and for the FIRST TIME EVER, actually reading the comments people made without becoming infuriated by people’s close-minded or judgemental statements.

I think this is a discussion that every one of us should be involved in, and preferably, with a compassionate and open mind. There is no doubt that the environment is effected in huge ways by human activity, consumption and waste production, etc. and I question the sanity of anyone who denies this fact. I am not completely convinced that population is the number-one problem, but I do think that the way we humans consume the earth’s finite resources and our failure to realize the actual impact of our consumption on the planet are having and will continue to have devastating consequences for all of us living now, as well as future generations.

One reason I don’t feel quite as concerned about population growth as the top environmental concern, is that as countries become more developed, with better education and greater wealth, etc., population growth stabilizes or birth rates actually fall. This has happened in the West (as you can pretty much see demonstrated by any Western European country), and is happening as countries around the world become more developed and affluent. I think consumption is a far greater worry, because as countries become richer, they follow the lead of the West and consume more, create more waste and pollution, and so much of cultural and societal identity becomes caught up in this dynamic. The number of people might not be the top problem, but our ravenous devouring of energy, natural resources and products is definitely a HUGE problem.

Anyway, I’m no expert on these issues, but I think they’re definitely worth considering. I am obviously choosing to have a child, and am very happy and excited about it. However, I think it is important to try to be as responsible as possible when choosing to have children, taking into account the potential environmental costs involved. I am starting to think about how to be as ‘green’ as possible in all of this; breastfeeding, using cloth diapers, hopefully avoiding the excess of plastic toys and all that. Plus, I really hope to continue simplifying my own life, living more environmentally consciously and by example teach my future child to be a responsible person who cares about all life on this planet. Having said all that, I equally respect people who have decided not to have children, for environmental or other reasons. I certainly appreciate hearing people’s different opinions on the issue because it makes me think more and be more deliberate in my own actions and lifestyle choices.

So, I will be researching ways to give Baby the greenest babyhood we can and see what I come up with. As with everything, it’s all about taking one step at a time, and gradually making these important changes, because every little bit does count. And I definitely suggest checking out this post by Beth Terry over at My Plastic-free Life- I’m An Environmentalist and I’m Not Having Kids.

Women for Women International…

‘One woman can change anything, but many women can change EVERYTHING.’

~ Women for Women International

So, it being Women’s History Month, I wanted to think of something special to do to celebrate women in the world and to support important causes related to women’s issues. The other day I came across an organisation I am extremely excited about and I am super eager to support.

The organisation is called Women for Women International, and they currently work in eight countries in Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East, in communities where violent conflict and war have left women devastated and vulnerable. Through a year-long course, these marginalized women learn valuable work and business skills as well as developing a better understanding of their rights and how they can be active and participating members of their communities and larger societies.

Reading some of the personal stories of the women who have participated in this program, left me touched and inspired. They have had loved ones murdered, homes destroyed, been displaced by conflict and struggled to provide for their families. Through this program they have taken the steps to rebuild their lives and it is amazing to see their successes and how happy they are, despite all they’ve been through.

If you’re interested in supporting these inspiring women around the world, you can give a donation or become a sponsor, helping one individual woman by subsidising her throughout her year-long course. You get to exchange letters with your sister throughout the year, learning about her experiences, and encouraging her during her journey to reclaim her life.

So, I’ve decided that Women for Women International is far too inspiring NOT to support. I’m making a deal with myself that I will give up a few luxuries every week and use the money saved to become a sponsor for one year. I figure if I give up eating take-away lunches at work, I can save the monthly pledge money quite easily, and then some. I’m excited to have such a great chance to celebrate the courage and strength of some amazing women for Women’s History (and future!) Month.

40 day letter-writing challenge…

I have decided to devote myself to 40 straight days of letter/email writing. Okay, honestly, they will be emails, but still, the point is to get connected and stay connected to the important people in my life, so email still does the trick nicely, although it lacks some of the charm of a real handwritten letter.

Anyway, in the past week or so it has been so fun and uplifting to send and receive emails from so many friends and family members! I thought it would be a great thing to keep this going, at least for the next 40 days! And really, sending a quick note to say hello and give a short life update only has to take a few minutes, so it’s not much of a time sacrifice. Not every letter has to be a great epic. And the good thing is that if you write letters more frequently, there is less need for those colossal mega-emails summarizing the last 5 years of your life! It’s a much more efficient way to do things. Little and often. I think even I can manage that!

So, every day for the next 40 days I will write at least one email and see what happens. It’s one of those things that will actually be happy and uplifting for me, and everyone loves getting notes and letters, so hopefully it’ll be nice for others too. Everyone wins.

The pitfalls of paths, or how to reconnect with your wild side…

This morning I was reading some poems from 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East, by the Arab-American poet Naomi Shihab Nye. Her poems have a beautiful simplicity, which is so poignant and also so refreshingly earthy. She writes about family, Jerusalem, the West Bank, peace and war and humanity. She writes the way I wish I could write!

I was just reading the title poem, and it stopped me in my tracks. I re-read it a couple of times and mulled over a few of the lines.

A gash of movement,/ a spring of flight. She saw them then/ she did not see them. The elegance of the gazelle caught in her breath. The next thing could have been weeping.

Later in the poem she describes the gazelle again:

They soared like history/ above an empty page.

And here’s where I stopped and read the lines again and again:

Where is the path?/ Please tell me./ Does a gazelle have a path?/ Is the whole air the path of the gazelle?

Paths. Lines of certainty drawn through the chaos of life. With the image of gracefully leaping gazelle fresh in my mind, the idea of a path, a set course, leading from point a to point b, in a straight and rigid line sounded like a terrible and soul-choking affront to the natural wildness of life.

I can’t deny that paths have their uses. They are a clear way, free of obstruction. The stones and thorns and fallen branches and tall grasses are thrown aside, uprooted, tidied up. You can see a greater distance ahead of you. You know what’s coming next on the path, at least to some degree. You are less likely to step in a hole, fall into a pit, or be surprised by a snake or poison ivy. Your shoes are likely to stay a bit cleaner. You can move more quickly and efficiently, cutting out the nonsense and just getting where you want to go.

But paths are also somewhat barren. The grass and weeds and wildflowers have been trampled down by so many feet. They are a dull and dusty brown, spotted with muddy puddles, stagnant water pooling in other people’s footsteps. They are like hard-beaten scars cut across a vibrant, wild and tantalizing landscape.

Do paths help or hinder us in life?

Read the rest here!

It’s that time again…

It’s once again time for a soul-searching, existential crisis and re-assessment of EVERYTHING. Having been blogging for over a year now, and having a record of all my crazy emotional and mental ups and downs, I see that I went through this same type of thing last winter. It is also likely that I do this every winter. So, I might as well stay true to form and do it again now.

I am contemplating making a few relatively small, but necessary changes in my life. For one thing, I feel like I need some change in my work schedule. I am working a reasonable amount of hours, but I have been working 6 days a week since the end of the summer, and I just don’t feel like I can keep this up. I definitely think it’s time to find a better balance between making time for positive, healthy, rejuvenating activities or non-activities, and the need to earn the money necessary for daily living and savings for important future needs. I do like my job, but sometimes I feel like it’s all I have time for. I do in fact have a reasonable amount of free time, but it’s generally in the mornings, and I rarely have an evening free to meet people with ‘normal’ jobs, I work all weekend and I can’t even go to yoga or anything, because I’m working all the times classes are on, except for my Monday mornings (thank god I’ve at least had that!). So, especially with feeling the winter blues, I want to make time for at least one evening of yoga during the week. Maybe I’ll also have more time then on an evening off to call people at home and stay in better touch with friends and family. I miss everyone so much, but often in the evenings, after hours of work and heating up some dinner, and relaxing for a bit, it’s already late and time for bed. I’ve really been feeling like staying in better touch with everyone is a major priority for me right now, so I need to make that happen.

So, a small change to my schedule should give me the space to do those things that I need to keep my sanity and put a bit of fresh energy and joy into my life.

I’ve also been trying to read some uplifting and inspiring books lately, to get me in a better headspace and help me put my plans into action. I am definitely the sort of person that needs to reason with myself and think things through and have a purpose, otherwise the actions, however positive, just seem to miss the mark. Thought, attitude and action all need to be working together.

I’ve been making more time to get myself resettled into regular meditation. Wow. It’s amazing how far one’s mind can stray if you take time off from regularly centring yourself, consciously relaxing and reconnecting with reality. My thoughts are just all over the place! But it’s been good just being back on the cushion again and re-learning how to breathe and let go. Along with meditating, I’ve been trying to fill my mind up with positive and wholesome thoughts. I’ve been reading a bit of poetry. I’ve been reading books about meditation philosophy and practice. I’ve been trying to get back to the basics of life.

Because, what’s it all about really? We’re here on this earth for such a short time. Far too short a time to get swallowed up in your job, or live to earn money, or feel anxious and stressed because you can’t do everything perfectly, or to want what other people have, or to be someone you’re not. People have lots of thoughts and interpretations on what the meaning of life is, and I don’t really know what I think the ‘meaning’ is, or if there even is an overall meaning. But I do think it’s completely miraculous that we exist at all, and we are totally capable of living with compassion and kindness and intelligence. We can make wise decisions, and be useful and helpful to people around us, we can contribute something positive, no matter how small, to the world around us. If we believe we are weak and useless and always failing at life, then that’s how we’ll be. But I do think that if we see the good in ourselves, other’s and the whole crazy world, then we will live like good people and have so many reasons for happiness. It really uplifts me to remember that we all have that divine spark, or enlightened quality, and we’re all fully capable of living with love and joy!

So, there. That’s my inspirational thought for the day. The sun is shining and the birds are singing and Richie and I have an extra day off today, so we’re heading to the ferry for a trip across the Bosphorus to enjoy the spring-like weather while it lasts. It’s definitely a day to celebrate being alive!

Happy living!