Sunday, May 31, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

I know, I know. Mother's Day happened a couple of weeks ago. In the US, that is.

Today is Mother's Day in Sweden. So, I thought I'd tell my mom Happy Mother's Day! (I called her as well, but one can't get too many well-wishes...)

I also received a belated Mother's Day gift the other day from my favorite daughter (which she found when she cleaned out her locker). It is one of the most awesome gifts I've ever received. The outside is unassuming (a simple notebook), but the inside holds a 6th grade Poetry Journal.

I thought I'd share one of the poems (haiku style) with you:


Trees looking peaceful.
Swaying, blowing, and growing.
Birds, leaves, and much more.

By Rebecka Green

I like trees. A lot. I can see the green trees, standing tall and slightly swaying in the wind. Birds are flying to their nests to feed their young ones. The air is fresh with tree fragrance.

What a wonderful gift. I wish more gifts were of this kind. Creative, sustainable, loving, simple, and personal. Think about a gift you can give that is really from you. Perhaps it is a knitted scarf (like I received from my mom last Christmas) or a painting. It could be a tin of homemade cookies or a babysitting gift-certificate for tired parents. Or why not record a CD of yourself singing or playing?

The opportunities are endless. Get creative with your gift-giving, have fun, and make someone feel incredibly special.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Biking in the Rain

Last Wednesday, I didn't bike to work because I had clients in the office. I was worried that my carefully straightened, professional-looking hair would be smooshed by the helmet. (I know, this is an embarrassing confession, but it is the truth.) I was starting to wonder if I would ever meet my goal of biking to work at least once a week.

Last night, I checked the weather and saw to my chagrin that there was a 40% chance of rain for today. I determined that this would not bring me down, but rather went about my preparations for the bike ride like thinking about what my lunch would be (needs to be easily packable) and packing a change of clothes.

I woke up in the early morning hours from the patter of little raindrops on my window. Nooooo!!! I decided to take a quick shower and hope that the rain would stop. And it did! When I took Sophie out 20 minutes later, it was actually looking pretty good. I happily went about my morning activities and got all decked out for the bike ride.

I said goodbye to Rebecka, got my bike out of the storage space, put on my helmet and gloves and cool sport sunglasses, and headed out the door. It was raining just a little. A light spring rain... Definitely not enough to stop me at this point.

Aaaahhhh - there is nothing like being on a bike in the early morning hours when the world is waking up and there are hardly any cars on the road. I biked up and down the hills toward work full of energy and joy. Pretty early on, the light rain turned into heavier rain. Oh well, I was destined to get wet anyway. I kept on going.

I felt the rain wash my face and drip in behind my sporty sunglasses. Around the half-way point, my "fog-proof" sunglasses were quite fogged up and obstructing my sight, so I decided to take the off and stuffed them in my pocket. That was better (aside from now having zero protection from the aggressive drops that continued to splash on my face).

I wondered what the people in the cars were thinking. "Crazy lady!" or perhaps a secret "I wish I could bike to work..." The ride made me think of living in Sweden and my university days when a bike was my only means of transportation, even in the winter. I thought about people who don't even have a bicycle. I felt privileged to be riding my bike in the rain.

Toward the end of the ride (it takes about 30 minutes), I was wet to the skin. I peddled slowly up the last hills to my office, warm from the exercise and chilled from the wetness that surrounded me. I looked around for a place to secure my bike. Nothing. So I hid it as well as I could behind the building and stepped inside. I fumbled through my wet backpack to find my notebook with the code for the alarm (I really need to memorize that code) and finally made it to my desk.

I pulled out my change of clothes (which were only slightly wet) and headed to the bathroom. I looked like a mix between a member of KISS , a troll, and a tired soccer player. Nice. It felt so good to get into an (almost) dry shirt. My pants picked a perfect place to be damp - right in the crotch. I didn't care. Fortunately, I had an extra pair of shoes at the office. Unfortunately, I didn't bring extra socks.

My maiden voyage confirmed and taught me several things:
  • I should wait and put mascara on at the office to avoid the KISS look.
  • 6 AM is a good time to bike to the office. (Not a lot of cars on the road...)
  • Rain will not be an excuse for not biking to work.
  • I need a rain cover for my backpack.
  • I should keep an extra change of socks at the office.
  • Biking makes me feel alive!!!

Looking forward to the return trip!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Excursion in the Woods

This weekend, Rebecka, Sophie, and I drove the four hours to Decorah, IA to spend the long weekend in the country. The air was fresh and smelled like freshly-cut grass, flowers, and happiness. The sun was shining, but it was not too hot. These were the perfect conditions for an excursion in the woods.

Hence, while Todd was at commencement, decked out in his Vanderbilt regalia, Rebecka and I sought out a quiet little piece of the earth to go exploring. We parked by the river and started walking toward a nearby park. There, we found some steps which led up, up, up a wooded ridge. We climbed and climbed and climbed. It was a good workout! At the end of every set of stairs, we stopped to admire the view. It was spectacular. We could pretty much see all of Decorah (and beyond) from up there. When we reached the top, we followed a trail across the ridge. We walked at a moderate pace and took it all in. Flowers, bugs, sticks, and stones. Talk about relaxing!

Eventually, we got hungry and decided to head back the way we came. We made it all the way down safely and went to the local co-op for grilled sandwiches.

It was a perfect morning.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

May Donations

This month, our philanthropy dollars go to the following worthy recipients:

The Divinity School at Vanderbilt University: This is the school where Todd received two of his four post-secondary degrees. One might think that a school like Vanderbilt doesn't need more money, but divinity schools are often strapped for money. Our hope is that our donation may contribute to enabling a student achieve his or her academic goals. This is a neat site that provides you with calculators for offsetting your home and transportation. Their motto is "Reduce what you can, offset what you can't.™"

“He who obtains has little. He who scatters has much.”
- Lao-Tzu

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Story Of Stuff

I always liked stuff... I figured out at an early age that if I wanted more stuff, I needed to make some money. So I made my bed, sold stuff door to door, washed dishes, waited tables, and babysat little children. I bought a cool bike, clothes, a KORG keyboard, a motorcycle helmet, a camera, a stereo, more clothes, and lots of books. I never spent one minute thinking about where this stuff came from and where it would go when I was done with it.

When I pondered what I should do when I grew up, I focused on what would allow me to make lots of money. Not because I really needed more stuff, but because I wanted to have a big house and a nice car. Because that's what matters, right? You are valued based on your stuff collection, your BMW, and your neighborhood. I also wanted to be able to travel all over the world and not have to worry about money. So I got a college degree which led to a good job. I worked really hard at that job and that led to promotions and more money. (Aka "The American Dream.")

One day I woke up and realized had all the stuff I needed and money to spare. I also realized that I wasn't really happier than I was before, even though I had more and bigger and better stuff. I was living the "money doesn't buy happiness" saying. On top of this, I started to realize that more stuff meant more maintenance work and more harm to the environment. Not cool. So I started to declutter. I gave a lot of stuff away to people who needed it more than I did. I moved to a small apartment. I started to make buying decisions based on need vs. want, environmental impact, and quality. I started researching other ways to help the environment and make the world a better place.

I'm still working on it. I could get rid of more stuff. I could buy less books and use the library more often. I could stop buying bananas (or at least offset the fossil fuels used to transport them all the way to my kitchen). I could bike to work every day instead of once a week and get rid of my car. But that's part of the fun... Getting better over time. Doing more good and less harm one day at a time.

The Story Of Stuff is an awesome 20-minute film that talks about how obsessed we are with stuff and what our level of consumerism really does to our planet. It is wonderfully simple and thought-provoking. Give it a try!

You will never think about stuff the same way again.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Chicago Green Festival

On Saturday morning, Rebecka and I boarded the "Hiawatha" train in Milwaukee to embark on a fun-filled ride to Chicago. More specifically, we were destined for Chicago's Navy Pier and the 3rd annual Chicago Green Festival. The train is an awesome alternative to driving to Chicago. If you've ever driven through Chicago, you know what I'm talking about. I received a slight scolding on the train for presenting unsigned tickets to the grim attendant, but other than that, the trip was wonderfully uneventful.

After a long walk around Union Station, we found bus 124, which was to take us the final stretch to Navy Pier. We were pretty confident that we were on the right track considering the appearance of our fellow bus riders. Definitely treehuggers... You could tell by the wild beards, stainless steel water bottles, and hemp clothing. Yes, I know these are all stereotypes, but they were valid in this scenario.

We walked and walked and walked through the never-ending corridor of stores and restaurants in Navy Pier and finally reached the festival registration line. Our bus tickets got us $5.00 off, which we donated to recycling efforts. We received our first sample of the day, wonderfully scented soaps from Pangea Organics.

Next followed a hunt for a free tote bag. We saw people walking around with bags that said something like "Smart Home." We searched and searched, but could not find the location of that booth. Finally, I took a closer look and read "Museum of Science and Industry." Aha, this was enough information to look it up in the festival guide. Five minutes later we had our tote bag and could freely walk around and get samples.

We gathered everything from organic makeup to fair trade honey to elephant poo business cards. Some samples we devoured immediately such as Organic Valley cheese, Luna bar pieces, and Divine chocolate eggs (leftover from Easter? I don't mind!). Rebecka was in sample heaven.

We also purchased some goodies including hazelnut butter and a tofu cookbook. The book-selling guy told us he's been vegan for 30 years and that he hasn't taken antibiotics in 25 years and doesn't even have a doctor. Hmmm, perhaps I will try it for a week and see how it goes. The thing I would miss the most would be Kefir. I know that's probably weird, but that's me.

Throughout the day, we gathered information about all sorts of interesting topics like eating veg, responsible investing, eco-friendly vacuuming, fair trade, and how to start your own farm (Todd, don't worry...). It was encouraging to see all the people there, the number of good products that are available, and to experience the joy that surrounds people who live "more good, less harm."

We returned home good and tired and pumped. The event reminded me that every choice matters and that even though the environmental problems we face seem insurmountable, I can make an impact.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Biking Update and 1Sky

My first week of biking to work didn't go so well. My planned biking day (Wednesday) suffered from lots of wet, stormy weather. I'm not quite equipped for that. I had hoped to substitute with Thursday, but remembered late last night that my dog goes to doggy daycare on Thursdays. Hmmm... What is a bike-loving girl to do?

Well, I woke up, gulped down some water, swallowed a handful of Bear Naked granola and headed out for a bike ride around the neighborhood. I got a good 30 minute ride in and it felt great! My entire backside (and my bike) was covered with mud after the adventure, but that just made it so much cooler.

On a different, but related note, I just joined 1Sky, which is this environmental activist site focused on pressuring local politicians to do something about the current crises. Very cool. I'm the eight person joining from Wisconsin's 5th district...

Go Green!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Star Trek Fun and the Joy of Biking

Yesterday afternoon, the whole family went to see Star Trek. Todd had reserved tickets for the 3:30 PM showing in the "dinner theater." Instead of normal seating, the theater has tables and waiters walking around taking your orders. It's pretty sweet. We left an hour before the movie was supposed to start so we could get seats together and it was a good thing, because there were already a bunch of people there. The movie was awesome. Star Trek holds a special place in my heart, because during our first year of dating (spring semester), I would leave the library every night at midnight and go over to Todd's dorm room and watch an episode of the original series. Todd wrote an award-winning paper on the social commentary of Star Trek: cold war, feminism, racism, etc... It was a great introduction to US culture.

Anyway, when we were getting ready to leave the theater, I noticed that Todd had left his watch on the table. So I said in a pretty smart-ass tone: "Do you want to keep your watch?" I then spotted Rebecka's iPod on the table. I asked her the same question. They were feeling slightly sheepish and I was feeling pretty smug when Todd picked an object off the table and asked: "And do you want to keep your sunglasses?" Classic...

This morning, I took my bike out for the first ride of the year. I decided to bike to my office to see how long it would take, since I've been thinking about biking to work on Wednesdays. It was awesome!!!! I forgot how much I love biking. It took exactly 30 minutes, which is perfect. That way, I'll get my hour of cardio for the day and transportation to and from work as a bonus. There is one scary part where I have to cross a fairly large road, but I think it will be OK. I'm looking forward to getting the routine started this week. Biking makes me happy.

Live long and prosper.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

We Sprout In Thy Soil

My brother, David, recently released a new album called "We Sprout in Thy Soil." The song with the same name is now on YouTube. I have at least five relatives in this video including an aunt and uncle, my paternal grandfather, a great-aunt, and my mom (right at the end with turquoise dress - at least I think that's her). I'm just a little hurt that I didn't make the cut. I was around 5 months old when this event occured and kept peering out the side of my carriage to take part of the action. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

My Husband

Today marks the 14th anniversary of our wedding day. In honor thereof, I thought I'd dedicate this post to my wonderful husband, Todd.

I first met Todd on the porch of the ATO house at Birmingham-Southern College. He was drinking a beer and I was new, foreign, and fairly intimidated by the whole setting. However, he comfortably lured me into conversation and we ended up debating the difference between "sarcastic" and "ironic." You see, in Sweden, "ironic" is used as "sarcastic" is used in the US. As you can probably tell from this, he was an English major, and a darn good one at that. I had finally met my match as it related to obsessive studying and drive to excel in the academic world. The next day, Todd found me in the library. He was so sweet and gentleman-like. We continued "bumping into each other" in the library day after day. I loved his gentleness, his willingness to help me with my papers (and I needed it!), and his close relationships with his friends.

I wrote to my parents and indicated that I had found "The One." They especially liked the part about "he takes care of me." Which he did, and has continued to do throughout our marriage. He is always available to listen to my trials and tribulations, joys, and hopes. We dream together about the day when we'll all be together again in our little dream house with no geographical distance separating us from each other.

I admire Todd's unceasing dedication to his work and especially his students. He makes himself available to help them through his class in a way that is unprecedented in my experience. He truly cares about teaching them to think critically and be better citizens of the world. I wish I had studied under Dr. Green when I was in school!

Finally, I love Todd, the dad. He literally raised Rebecka on his own for several years when I was traveling all the time and otherwise preoccupied by work. And he did a fantastic job! He connects with Rebecka on a wonderful level and doesn't hesitate to take a break for a Harry Potter game on the PS2, "stuffed animal church," or a trip to the movie theater (Hannah Montana comes to mind...). Rebecka is a lucky girl!

Looking forward to many happy years ahead
and Paris in 2010!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Lovely Decorah

This morning, I got up at around 7 AM to take Sophie outside. It was a gorgeous morning. The air was just slightly chilly and completely fresh. This is something I love about Decorah and the reason why we tend to come here more often than our original once a month plan.

The air is fresher, the sky is higher, and, yes, the grass is greener.

After a breakfast to fuel our bodies, Todd and I set out for our morning run. We started on the track at Luther College and ran four laps to warm up. At that point, we were ready to leave the confines of the track and find some adventures. We ran across the 5th Ave bridge to look at one of the houses Todd is thinking about renting for the upcoming school year. It looked cozy enough. Then we turned around and ran by the river for a while. We learned that you can rent canoes right there. Next time, perhaps.

At one point, we spotted some kids running down a track on the side of the hill. We decided to check it out. We climbed and climbed and climbed. It was worth it. The view was spectacular. I felt so alive! Going back down was a little harder, but we made it.

We jogged back toward campus and I got a tour of the athletics building where we stopped for bathrooms, water, and a brief stretch. We returned home tired and slightly chilled, but energized and happy.

It was a good morning.