Book Review: Less is More by Cecile Andrews & Wanda Urbanska

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Less is More: Embracing Simplicity for a Healthy Planet, a Caring Economy, and Lasting Happiness is a collection of essays edited by Andrews & Urbanska on the subject of simplicity.  Voluntary simplicity – choosing to work less, spend less, buy less, and live in less space – is an excellent topic for Lent, so I dove in.

Andrews begins by defining simplicity, and explains how a simpler life is a social justice issue.  When corporations go profit-mad, workers are exploited.  When individuals go consumption-mad, Earth’s resources are wasted, leaving less for the poor. If we use up all the oil, there is none left for other nations; and if we’re buying new gadgets every week, we have less money to spend on charity.  [People accuse me of zero-sum thinking when I say things like this.  You know what?  When there’s a finite amount of a resource someday it will be gone.  The solution is not to plug our fingers in our ears and continue using it profligately until we get a rude awakening; rather, it’s to use the resource wisely until we can either find a substitute or make more of it.]

However, the book is not a recitation by Debbie Downer or a polemic designed to make us all feel guilty for breathing!  Instead, it’s contains the perspective of a  individuals who chose a simpler lifestyle and the positive effects it has had on their happiness, their relationships with family, and their communities.  Contributors include:

  • Social scientists who found that people who lived mindfully and according to their values were happier than people who did not.
  • An American Swede who explains the Swedish concept of lagom, or just the right amount.
  • Practical advice how to prevent your children from being over scheduled.
  • A woman who gave up a lucrative career in advertising to move to her parents’ native Poland and work at factory making hand-blown glass Christmas ornaments.
  • A couple who formed an association that reinvigorated their Minneapolis neighborhood.
  • A doctor who made drastic changes to his life after a smoggy day in Washington, DC (have a handkerchief handy for this one).

Last month, I reviewed Christianity, Climate Change, and Sustainable Living, which did a great job on the whys of simplifying our lives but had fewer suggestions for the hows.  This book has the whys but also gives us some of the hows.  It’s not an instruction manual, rather, these individuals explain how and why they revamped their lives, and in so doing, provide us lessons for how we might change our lives.  And while it’s by no means a religious book, lessons from Christianity are sprinkled in here and there, including my favorite quote from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton:  “Live simply so that others may simply live.”

Overall, an enjoyable read, and good food for thought!

Two More Quick Takes

All right, I know it isn’t Friday, but I have two more quick thoughts that aren’t big enough for their own post.

1.  Remember that phone interview I had on Thursday?  They want me to have an on-site interview next month!  We’re still working out the details and hopefully the openings in my schedule will mesh with the employer’s availability.  (Thank God I work four 10’s!)  I really appreciated your prayers on Thursday, and pray that all goes well with the on-site interview.

2.  In honor of World Down’s Syndrome Day, here’s a RR orphan that squeaked in to the Voices of Hope challenge:  Blessing!  And what an apt name that is!  When Blessing turns 16 in June she will age out, meaning she will be permanently unavailable for adoption.  According to families who have met her, she is quiet and calm but very sweet.
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Do you know a family who could adopt this angel? Maybe you do and you don’t know it yet! Spread the word – that’s the only way kids like her can find their families!

7 Quick Takes Friday – Fully Funded Orphans!

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Today’s Quick Takes are all Reece’s Rainbow orphans who have full grants and and are at risk of aging out.  Do you know a family who can adopt these kids?  Maybe you do and you don’t know it yet!  Spread the word and maybe these kids can get adopted!

1.  First up is Erich!  Erich is blind but a very bright young man.  He learned Braille in just one week!  He loves to learn about math and science and wants to be an engineer when he grows up.  He needs a family before he turns 14 in May – is that you or someone you know?

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2. Lovely Clarice turns 16 in July!  She is very delayed – cognitively she is about two – but is sweet and gentle and has an infectious smile.  She could thrive in the right family.

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3.  Jianna is a beautiful young lady who turns 14 in May.  She is kind and helpful and assisted her foster mother with folding clothes and peeling vegetables.  She doesn’t speak well and can’t say words that are more than 2 syllables, but she understand everything adults say to her.

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5.  Finally, Shepard!  Shepard turns 14 in May and is cognitively delayed but physically healthy.  He can say simple sentences, count, and paint.  He likes to play basketball, ride his bike, and watch cartoons, so in many ways he’s a typical boy.

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6.  What does “fully funded” mean?  It means that these kids each have a full adoption grant from RR – at least $20,000 is available for all of them!  If you know somebody who wants to adopt, is lacking in funds, and can handle a special needs kid, send them this post!  These kids are also at risk of aging out, which means that after their next birthday, they will be permanently unavailable for adoption.

7.  It’s Friday and it’s Lent, so we need a chant!  Here is Stabat Mater Dolorosa.

Prayer Requests

Two quick prayer requests for today:

1.  N, a friend from church, is fighting cancer and will have a scan today to determine whether her cancer has metastasized or not.  N is one of the holiest people I know – please pray for good news!

2.  I have a phone interview today with an employer near my BIL & SIL (and extremely cute nephew).

Thank you!

Greening Up…

My car may still be encrusted with road salt, but spring is slowly but surely making its way here.  Signs of green, though small are popping up in the backyard:
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I took this photo with my phone, so it’s not the greatest quality. Small bits of green in the grass give us hope that winter is well and truly gone. Most of the plants in that raised bed are weeds, but if you look closely you can see a darker green bit in the center – that’s garlic!  Amazing – I didn’t even plant garlic last fall!

Laetare Sunday was yesterday.  It reminds us that Easter isn’t as far off as we think and soon we shall rejoice.

I hope all of you are having a blessed Lent, and a joyous St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow!

7 Quick Takes: Green Life Hacks!

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No, this isn’t a post about the fastest way to get your house ready for St. Patrick’s Day  (I recommend Catholic All Year for that one).  Instead, these are ways that I’ve saved time or money that also were more environmentally friendly than what I was doing before.

1.  Use Dryel.  Really, the best option for dry cleaning is to just not buy clothes that are dry clean only.  However, if  you need to dress up for work, that leaves you with approximately zero options in terms of work-appropriate slacks and skirts.  (I’ve had good luck with tops that don’t need to be dry cleaned; bottoms are whole different story.)  Enter Dryel: none of perchloroethylene and other potential carcinogens of traditional dry cleaners, and you can use it in your own dryer!  No more driving across town to the dry cleaners, and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper too; a Dryel refill cleans about 6 weeks worth of work clothes for the same price as a trip to the dry cleaners.

I can't say enough good things about this product.

I can’t say enough good things about this product.

2. Bring your own lunch to work.  Reusable containers instead of paper or styrofoam plates, reusable thermos instead of disposable bottles or cans = Win for the Earth.  Tastier food for less money = Win for Me.  (This is less a brag about my cooking and more a dis on the cafeteria.)

3.  Shop online.  In terms of fuel consumption, shopping online is actually less wasteful than going to the store – delivery companies optimize their routes to use the least amount of fuel, which is something individuals usually don’t do.  As a semi-introverted homebody, this is probably my favorite.  You mean I can actually stay on my couch, order stuff without having to deal with snooty salesgirls, and have my stuff delivered to me without feeling guilty? desm2sg01_dm2_minion_grp_018_lyrd01

4.  Ditch bottled water.  America has some of the safest tap water in the world, so why should I spend a crapton of money to spend bottled water company execs’ kids to college?  Get something like this to take to work with you, or if your tap water is that bad, get one of these (I promise it significantly improves the taste).  It’s a hell of a lot cheaper than the bottles, it’ll keep plastic out of the landfills, and it’ll prevent thousands of gallons of oil from being turned into plastic.

5.  Put that computer to sleep!  This is one I started doing at work, not because of my employer’s electricity bill but because of my own creature comforts.  Leaving a computer on all night in a small office results in a much warmer office the following AM, and when your office is already a bloody swamp, you need all the chances to cool off you can get.  If your computer is in sleep mode, it uses less electricity, which means that it throws off less heat, and you can get through the day without staining your shirt.

6.  Stop speeding.  All right, I admit that I love Sammy Hagar and I can’t drive 55, this is actually a great way to cut back on the amount of gas your car uses, regardless of what type of car you drive.  Driving 75 mph uses 10% more gas than driving 65 mph, may increase tailpipe emissions, and if you’re above the limit, you’re more likely to get a ticket and thus have higher insurance premiums.  However…

I still can't drive 55.

I still can’t drive 55.

7. It’s Friday and it’s Lent, so we need a hymn. Here is “O Vos Omnes” by Pablo Casals, as performed by the King’s College Choir.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t The Lyceum!

7 Quick Takes – Life Hacks for Lent!

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No, I’m not trying to make giving up chocolate easier.  (I don’t think that’s even possible.)  Instead, here are some ways to help you pray and give alms in Lent.

1.  We know we’re supposed to go to Confession during Lent, but what if you have a fussy baby or a need to get back to work and can’t wait in line?  Try this:  Find a university with a Newman Center, and attend Confession at the same time as the university’s big-ticket sports team is playing.  (Where I live, this is basketball, but YMMV.)  There’s never been a line for the confessional when I’ve done this – everybody’s either at the game or watching it on TV!

2.  Suppose you’re single, or childless, or just had a miscarriage, and you just can’t tolerate  the thought of sitting behind that lovely pious couple with enough kids for their own football team again at Mass.  It’s nothing against them; you just can’t deal with the jealousy right now.  Again, Newman Center to the rescue!  Attend the latest Mass they offer.  The Newman Center where I live has a Mass at 9 PM and it’s exclusively college people – no young families whatsoever!  You won’t look out of place for not having any kids with you, and if the college people notice you’re older than they are, they’ll probably assume you’re a grad student or a prof.

3.  Need ideas for almsgiving?  I got you covered!  First up is Reece’s Rainbow.  RR provides adoption grants for orphans with Down’s Syndrome and other mental and physical handicaps.  Their current campaign is 21 Days of Hope.  If RR raises $1000 per day between now and March 21 (World Down’s Syndrome Day) , an anonymous donor will give $2100 to 21 kids waiting for a home!  Don’t wait – give now!!

 

4.  I can’t let a Lent go by without a plug for Kiva.  Kiva is a site that allows people like you and me to give loans to people in developing countries.  Most often, lenders use the funds to start or grow a business, but you might also see loans for medical expenses, housing, or higher education.  If you join a lending team, you can collaborate to help get more loans funded.  (I highly recommend Catholic Kiva or Late Loaning Lenders.)

5.  The news out of the Middle East is depressing, and you may be wondering what you can do for our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ.  Here’s what I did: donate to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, which provides food and shelter to people fleeing from ISIS.

6. Finally, try shaking things up in the prayer department.  I love Daily Mass and go every chance I get, but this Lent I’m going to do a few things I don’t usually do: Adoration and Stations of the Cross.  Speak, Lord, your servant is listening…

7.  It’s Friday and it’s Lent, so we need a chant.  Here is Allegri’s “Miserere Mei, Deus”, as performed by the Choir of New College, Oxford.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!