Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Re: State of the Union (or, Sh!t's getting political)


I took advantage of an opportunity to enjoy some drinks and a delicious veggie burger with like-minded people in the heart of Austin, while watching the State of the Union address last night. It was the first time I had watched since college, as I always feel as though I should be interested , but unsure of exactly what I’m interested in.  Of course, I have always considered myself a sort of Lorax- here to speak for the trees and our environment that is so unspoken for in our world, but I wasn’t sure how to integrate my passions with politics, especially as I’m traveling around and don’t have local level to focus on.
I can’t brag about having a clear political focus these days, but it was clear to me from watching Obama’s speech last night that I definitely have some un-wavering opinions.
I remember talking to a friend while I was in my second year of college, and he was in the masters program in engineering. He was berating me a bit for not having solid opinions, but I thought of myself that time as a sponge, just soaking up all the opinions there are, to be determined what I cared about most later on. Well, this is later, and I think I can form my political priorities into a simple haiku.
Amend our mindset.
 Reform education. Live
 in communities.
With that stated, here were some of my thoughts from the state of the union address. (This if my first time, by the way, publicizing my political agenda…but I feel like if you read any of this blog, none of this will come as a surprise).
The frame of the SoTU-watching party was in the form of “climate bingo” where we were all given papers with Bingo sheets, and different climate-related words that Obama might say. I did get a bingo, but not first.
I was not surprised to check off investment, jobs, security, infrastructure, debt, or innovation. But I was surprised to hear him mention floods, drought, air, communities, and “world-class education,” the latter being what he hopes America can provide. Honestly, it’s going to take a lot more than any bill that congress can pass to bring our education system up to where it needs to be, let alone “world class,” but the fact that it’s becoming more of a priority is exciting. I liked what Obama said about the work ethic of America, and reducing our energy consumption, not just changing the resources we’re using to get energy (much easier said than done, though). Investing $100 billion in natural gas is kind of missing the point, for example, but it’s a step toward “investing in fuels of the future” which I guess will be the job of the next president (assuming our planet doesn’t collapse before then).
Regardless of the specific words and phrases that Obama uses, the speech revolved around a specific theme- a theme that makes me want to shun politics and news and American culture altogether. This ‘business as usual’ paradigm that American’s are entitled to a house, 2 kids, a white picket fence and the job of their dreams. As long as everyone in America believes that’s what they’re entitled to, the environmental victories that Obama promised, and even the idealist bills that he hopes to pass that affect people’s everyday lives are going to be impossible. Even as he talks about the environment, he’s speaking to a group of over a hundred people who are wearing expensive suits made from unsustainable, or man-made fibers like cotton or polyester, who probably drove there themselves. We need a complete paradigm shift toward communal living if any of his dreams are going to play out. But how?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Piles and Piles (warning: lots of “mis-use” of grammar ahead)

What have I been up to in the last two weeks? Other than a one week vacation in Port Aransas from my ‘vacation’ at my parents house, I have been continuing the process of ‘down-sizing’.
In addition to making decisions about what items I really need on my next life adventure, and those that I just want, I have been deciding what to give away to the homeless for my friend’s ingenious birthday party in which we gave coats (and blankets and gloves) to the homeless in Downtown Austin who are sent to the curb when the shelter shuts down at 10:00pm.
One of the piles that has cropped up in my inch by inch sort of my room is the ‘miscellaneous crap’ that isn’t of any value such as old key chains, shirts from old jobs that I once imagined I would quilt or sew into something, pieces of rope, blank notebooks, etc. These items have been fated to the lucky young man at the donation center in Goodwill. Amil read me an article that I haven’t been able to find myself about how Goodwill will take any condition of fabric, beyond the “gently-used” that they advertise. With worn clothing, they’ll send them to 3rd world countries (which sounds really sweet, but actually makes the economy for native clothes-sellers obsolete, thus making third world countries more dependent on hand-outs…). For scrappy things,  they put them all together and  sell them as such, and if that doesn’t sell, or if it’s not good, they supposedly send leftover textiles to a place where they make rags, or use it for stuffing pillows or insulation, or perhaps send it to a company that actually recycles cotton (recycled cotton feels really good, like an old t-shirt, but will last a little longer).
I had a little pile of all those weird, semi-technology things. VHS’s that have been taped over, an LED light keychain that had burned out, and the inside of a greeting card. After a little research on, I found that Best Buy will take almost everything I had, including old CD’s, but they didn’t list old camera’s (unless they were digital), and some of my other misc. items. I was happy to find, however, after driving out of my way to another recycling center that did claim to take everything, but didn’t actually exist, that if you stand in a short line at Best Buy, the cheerful assistant will claim that they take EVERYTHING in the box, and bring it on back. What happens after that, I can only guess, but for now… I have done my work.  (Maybe when I get sponsored to live A Year without Trash chronicling my life of avoiding waste, I’ll dig a little deeper).
I had a large pile of media- DVD’s, VHS, and books that I thought might be worth some money. I say large pile, but it probably only included about 30 things, compared to the 50 or so books I brought to Half Price Books a few years ago on my first stage of Operation Reduce. (I was a lot more connected to stuff then… thankfully, I’ve outgrown my pack-rat tendencies…). I brought my lot to ½ price, and made out with $15! Not bad, considering they probably couldn’t sell half of it. Like Goodwill, Half Price sends their unsellable merch overseas, though I’m not aware of the economic downfalls of sending literature to 3rd world countries. Since then, though, I’ve filled another crate with books, these I’m hopefully going to make more $ on.
I have two, er, three more piles (at least worth mentioning in this blog). A little pile of stuff that I’ve created that I don’t really want (like purses) that I’m either going to try to sell on Etsy, or give away (anyone want a purse?) A much larger pile of stuff is all the clothes that I don’t wear anymore that are actually kind of cute, trendy and don’t have holes (hence the reason I don’t wear them anymore, hehe). Buffalo Exchange will usually take some stuff, but they can be picky, so I have a back-up plan of another consignment shop. If none of that sells, I might try to list a few things on ebay, but the rest will be destined to that poor goodwill clerk.
Although there is one more, much bigger pile… I will end the blog here for today, and leave you in suspense, as am I, about what my crap is worth tomorrow. Oooh, we’ll see!
Part 2 I’m back after two half-day Austin adventures! And I have some news of progress in the way of my down-sizing.
My last pile is actually a whole room. I should have taken before and after pictures of my closet so you could be as amazed as my father at how much I could fit in there. It was literally wall to wall and floor to ceiling in some places, but remarkably, as of today, there is a floor, and an empty spot on the shelves. (Also remarkable is that the shelves are still standing after the 100 or so pounds of collectibles I’ve had on them). When I was young I was interested in a lot of things. I had an interest in nature that was nurtured to an extent, but I could tell there was a clear value given to things. In fact, I remember my mom or grandma saying once that I “HAVE to collect SOMETHING.” And so it began: Rings, posters, old alcohol bottles, incense, Barbies and dolls (though those were just given to me) snow globes and Elvis memorabilia. And those were just the collections that could be categorized. I also had a pretty good collection of just…stuff… birthday presents, gifts from other countries, misc. candy, notes from friends etc. When my parents moved while I was in college, all this crap got wrapped up and put in boxes in what was to become my room…and there it has stayed as I graduated, and held jobs all over the country, and moved in and out of the house with my fiancé.
It wasn’t until this opportunity, the ol’ “Between jobs” schtick, that I’ve had a chance to sort through it all. In the past I had vowed to keep it all until “some other time,” and if I imagine any other time than no, I picture myself chunking ALL of it in a box for Goodwill…so I am thankful that I have the time to sort through things, pause on the sentimentality of it, then try to sell it. I have listed a few things on ebay—my graphing calculator and signed Chevelle Cd made me the most so far (though nothing to make a living off of, for sure). I have a few Elvis items that don’t look too promising, and I’ve sold some boxing gloves and a coat. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


After four hours of digging through my stuff at my parents house, I feel as torn as my college freshman copy of Hamlet- which I debated keeping or finally removing from my shelf.
Four hours was spent doing very little other than sorting small amounts of crap into many piles. I’m talking every single bracelet, bead, and hair band that I’ve acquired in my pack-rat-esque adolescence, picked up, and placed into: sell, donate, or recycle pile…and very occasionally into the trash.
I’m trying to ween off the last option because one of my new year’s resolutions is to write a blog about not throwing anything away for an entire year. I hope to chronicle the annoyance of finding adequate recycling, the compulsion of trying to use little things in art projects or reinventing useless crap into something practical.
But even putting things into simple piles wasn’t easy. I have an inner conflict with almost everything I encounter. I’m battling a lifelong ”must-keep-for-later” mentality with a new realization of how happy I have been with so little. My fiancé has effectively paired down his belongings to fit into a couple of backpacks. He brags about this, rightfully so, but then comes to me whenever he needs glue, safety pins, or the perfect size container for something. I similarly pride myself that I have everything we need without us having to go buy something new. Years ago I resolved to not purchase anything new…with the exception of underwear or socks or things that you just…don’t buy used.
So, two weeks after arriving at my parents house, I’m still knee deep in my old stuff, I’ve finally got some listings on eBay, some stuff for a Craigslist pile, and I’ve taken 3 loads to be donated, plus have a bag to give to the homeless (with coats, socks, etc). Although it has been arduous and at times inefficient, I’m feeling much closer to my simple life ideal.
This is the week we hopefully find out for sure about the future job. Only then can I actually begin packing things up and gettin’ things ready.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


My new year began with me laying on a mat in my sleeping bag in an old shoe store in a mall, surrounded by 15 little kids I had just met, and a few adults I’ve known for most of my life.
         If this is any indicator of how the rest of my year will go, I can expect to spend time with people I love, doing new and surprising things simply for the reward of the action. With the vague notion I have of what’s to come, I can imagine that that’s what this year will bring.
         The first 6th of the year is going to spent at my home of homes, in Texas. I plan to spend these months seeing family, experience some of my favorite places - like restaurants and hiking spots- in Austin, and going through every item in my room at my parents house to choose what gets packed and what gets axed (detailed on this process in a future blog). Other exciting experiences include: visiting family in Port Aransas, playing at Sky Candy circus gym in Austin, and going camping with my family at Enchanted Rock.
 Alas, just after my favorite holiday and just before my 26th Birthday, we’ll be packing whatever I decide to take along into a space that’s probably too small for everything I want to bring along, and moving to Albuquerque.
Our new job will offer all sorts of freedoms such as: a home to share without roommates, time to work on extra projects, a community to get involved in, and a new space to explore.

I think the biggest focus for this year is time. Having time to focus on myself and my fiancé and finally reflect all the experiences I’ve had in the last few years into who I want to be.
More specifically, some of my ambitions for the year include:
-Taking a photo each day to document the changes in weather, environment, etc.
-Organizing all my crap into essentials and inspiring items
-Getting more fit and losing my ‘winter coat’
-Being more conscious about what I eat. I’ve been a flexible vegan for a while (with my main exception being eggs)…ideally I don’t eat corn syrup, anything I can’t pronounce, or anything with added sugars…but I’ve made exceptions since I haven’t been buying my own groceries. Being able to stock our own fridge opens up a world of freshness.
-Being more dedicated to my journal- writing and chronicling the weather, and life events.

We’re also hoping to get a dog, or at least foster one, and spend some time in the community. Basically it looks like an exciting year, with lots of projects and new adventures. Stay tuned to see how it goes!