The Life List.

I find myself in a ‘what is my greater purpose?’ sort of funk (see page 8).  And I recently watched The Bucket List.  So, thanks to the inspiration of Cartoons and Creative Writing, I’m drafting my own.  Bucket list that is, but I’m going to call it my Life List because several things last longer than a one time experience.

1. Visit all seven continents in a meaningful way (ie more than just one city for one conference like I did for South America).
2. Write something worth sharing with the world, and maybe get it published.
3. Raise chickens or ducks.  And bees.
4. Eat locally for a year, a la The 100 Mile Diet.  Afterward, continue the practice as much as possible.
5. Live in a spiritual community (like Plum Village) for a time.  Discover practices that I can bring back to my daily life.
6. See the Northern Lights.
7. Never own a car.
8. Go winter camping.
9. Hike the Appalachian Trail.
10. Bike the Mississippi River Trail.
11. Learn a craft like wood or metal working, and create something beautiful and useful to pass on to the next generation.
12. Find a mentor.  And eventually, be a mentor.
13. Live off the grid, whether it is by building a generator to produce my own power in the city or by eventually living in a rural community that creates its own power.
14. Figure out what kind of diet makes me feel good (ie not eating dairy and/or gluten, more greens, less caffeine, etc), and actually follow it.
15. Write a letter a week to a friend, relative, or person I admire.
16. Climb a mountain.  A big one, like Kilimanjaro or K2.
17. Love deeply and unreservedly.


Bangled, tangled, spangled and spaghettied no more.

I don’t really do fashion, or any sort of primping/making one’s self look a particular way to present in the public realm.  So it was only a matter of time until I finally gave in to something I’ve been considering for years now that would provide beauty simplification, at least when it comes to hair.

Short, simple, and really fun to run my hand over to boot, now I have absolutely no excuse for waiting for my hair to dry before biking, doing yoga, going on a run, or any number of other things (most of them active) that might possibly be limited by the state of one’s hair.

A strange mix of Natalie Portman (a la V for Vendetta), Deb from Empire Records, and Sinead O’Connor, I think.  One could do worse 🙂



I would ride 100 miles and I would ride about 10 more.

I finally did it.  This Saturday, after two solid years of life and adventures sans car, I finally bicycled a century.  106 miles to be exact.

Ben and I set off about 8:30am, fueled by homemade bread, plums, and a few sips of coffee.  We met up with our friend Tiffany and headed North along the good old Mississippi River.  Newly paved trail and clear signage (what a concept!) awaited us, and the first hour and a half of riding up to the Coon Rapids Dam passed in a flash.  Tiffany turned back so that she could make the State Fair that afternoon, so Benjamin and I continued alone.

We lunched in Rogers, by way of Elm Creek Park Reserve, at the lovely Minne’s Diner.  Benjamin highly enjoyed his kraut laced burger, and I was surprised to find several tantalizing vegetarian choices on the menu (I decided on a veggie pita in the end).

With perfectly full bellies and snacks for later down the road, we took to the county highways, aiming toward the Lake Rebecca Park Reserve and the lovely little town of Delano.  Possessing a proper map was enormously helpful on this entire endeavor- on previous adventures both Ben and I somehow neglected to bring a map, making trail-finding and spontaneous route-planning nearly impossible.

Our map was not the only useful tool on this most excellent of century rides; helpful signage from the Three Rivers Park system helped too:

After a brief misdirection in Delano we continued southwest to Watertown, ‘Heart of the Luce Line’, and town that saved a very hungry and tired Lauren on the bike trip out to the Garlic Festival in Hutchinson last summer.  We paused briefly, the threat of rain nearly over, and then took to the east, with the promise of home, shower, and food.

A couple of hours of riding later, relieved that we don’t live in the ‘burbs and happy to have discovered the recently finished Dakota Rail Trail, Ben and I arrived home, tired, happy, and ready for a friend’s birthday picnic.

Now, I’m pretty proud of myself for riding a century.  106 miles is kind of a big deal.  But more than posting for the sake of self-glorification, I hope that at least one reader realizes how possible it is.  I went from never having ridden more than five miles in one go in my entire life to riding a century just in the course of two years.  So can you!  Rah rah rah!

So get out on your bike, just a bit every day, week, or even month if that’s all you can commit to for starters.  Ride to the store, to a friend’s house, to a movie.  And even more importantly, start to change your idea of what’s possible, and moreover, what’s enjoyable.  A bike is cheap, the roads and paths are just as much yours as anyone else’s, air is free, and your body will love you for it.


We’ve all heard countless statistics about the amount of waste that each American produces (the Clean Air Council for one says it’s an average of 4.39 pounds per person per day, up to 56 tons per person per year), and that only a fraction of what can get recycled does, and that you save umpteen times the energy by recycling as opposed to creating an entirely new paper/plastic/metal/glass fill-in-the-blank.  All important information, but what so many sources don’t suggest is just PRODUCING LESS WASTE IN THE FIRST PLACE.

I’m absolutely sick of hearing about recycling as someone’s claim to being green and saving the planet.  Because recycling skips all of the preceding steps (of which there are four, rather than two, at least according to Burning Man philosophy) that range from change in perspective to change in overall habits, rather than accepting that an ungodly amount of waste is inevitably created and has to be dealt with somehow.  By no means am I a zero-waste individual (but am hoping to make my wedding a zero-waste event), but I like to think that I engage in these other R’s enough to significantly reduce my waste.

Respect.  We are told from elementary school that respecting others is important, but respecting the planet is not often included.  For me this respect is natural result of the sheer awe I have for the complexity and beauty of nature, of ecosystems, of cycles with so many interconnected layers that I can only begin to fathom.  By cultivating wonder, respect emerges.  Respect is infrequently glamorous, and I would venture to say that the processes that take place in a compost pile are one of the most respect-garnering elements of the natural world for me.  But compost is unwanted food, it is dirt, it is worms and mush and poop.  It is not sexy, but it is AMAZING.

Rethink.  Waste is not inevitable.  I repeat: WASTE IS NOT INEVITABLE.  We in Western culture have become so accustomed to landfills, incinerators, and even toxin producing recycling plants that our ‘solutions’ are changing the type of filter that a particular facility uses to alleviate some of the air pollution issues, rather than not building the plant in the first place.
Yesterday I met with a fellow community organizer from the next neighborhood West of where I work, and at the end of our meandering conversation we discussed the City’s potential plans to expand the capacity of an already problematic incinerator located in downtown Minneapolis.  In addition to voicing our frustrations with NIMBYism (the increased capacity would likely be needed to incinerate garbage from the suburbs), we wondered at the shortsightedness of City Council for limiting their conversation to how to deal with __ amount of waste, rather than how to not produce it in the first place and thus eliminate the need for increased incinerator capacity altogether.  Rethinking is a paradigm shift.  It is radically examining and reimagining the systems we have created for ourselves rather than apply bandaids to hold those failing systems together.

Reduce.  This is also somewhat of a paradigm shift, but habit based rather than mindset based.  Reducing my personal waste has meant committing to purchasing largely from the bulk aisles at the co-op, using containers I bring to refill rather than the provided plastic bags.  It means bringing a cloth bag everywhere I go (or just tossing my purchase in my omni-present shoulder bag).  Most importantly and at its most basic, reducing means consuming less in general.  If you don’t buy something in the first place you don’t have to worry about where the waste from the product might end up!

Reuse.  Creativity emerges through reusing, and while the reuse step in the cycle assumes that waste already exists that needs to be reused, it is still an exciting place to imagine possibilities for items that many believe to be garbage.  I’ve been collecting beer bottle caps for quite some time to make earrings (the Carpe Diem pair I sport frequently gets compliments every single time I wear them).  Cardboard boxes become shelves, old t-shirts become a quilt.  I keep a small box of random odds and ends that I find interesting and might want to use for an art project one day (such as the piece below, made of assorted plastic bottle caps I saved over a year).  A hanging planter crafted from my worn out front gears from my Bridgestone along with old brake cables is in the works.  Reusing is fun, creative, and I would argue mind stretching enough to be included in the group of things that one should do to retain memory while aging.

Let 2011 be the year where our culture takes radical steps to be sure landfills are lessened, incinerators eliminated, and recycling plants made obsolete.  Waste is not inevitable.

I am resolved…

to do many things, but on this particular day, said resolutions are inspired by The Rejectionist’s yearly testing of next year’s resolution for the month of December.  I will still call them ‘Practices to Enact’, I think, because that has a nicer ring to it.  Regardless, here’s how things will go down:

*Eat less pastries/cookies/sweets in general.  I failed miserably at the attempt in November (I blame it on my birthday.  And getting engaged) but hope to have more peer pressure this time and actually succeed.  That and I need to take it easy before the sugar-fest of holiday time.

*Write every freaking day.  Either in this here blog, or in my personal journal, or in the lovely little Greenway notebook that was my goodbye present from Laura K upon ending my LVC year at the Coalition, or poetry in the snow.  Whatever.  Write write write write.

*Start budgeting.  Like really think about the things I spend $$ on now, the things Benjamin and I will want/need to spend $$ on in the future, and map it out.  At this precise moment in time I am not living paycheck to paycheck by any means, but with bike adventures/possible house/a plethora of awesome community activities in the future, it would be enormously helpful to actually track my spending and have a real reason to save for lovely things in the future.  Maybe I’ll make an art project out of it…

*Keep my Facebook-note promise to write at least one letter to a friend at least once a week.  Thus far I have only done this once, which is unacceptable.  This could also help with PtE #2, come to think of it.

*Make progress on growing mushrooms and my t-shirt quilt.  I’ve been working on the latter for years, and thinking about the former for months, and have been in stasis.  But on Tuesday I bought batting and thread for the quilt (and also decided I should sign up for the beginning handquilting class at the quilt shop in February/March taught by a 90 year old lady), so it’s going to happen this time.

December, commence!  Now I expect all of you wonderful people to ask me how these things are going so that I’m held accountable 🙂

More reflection.

As interesting as musing over my 2010 Practices to Enact was, I will now embark on another ‘list reflection’.  This one was a note on Facebook with the following instructions:
“Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.”

I wrote the original list of 25 random things in February 2009.  To provide some context, I was four months from college graduation (oops, I just told y’all my age), not yet in Lutheran Volunteer Corps, and uncertain as heck as to where I was going with my life, both in physical location and vocational path.  Original list is in italics, my comments today are in regular type.

1. I’ve been a vegetarian for nearly seven years. This means my body will soon stop producing enzymes to digest meat, which is simultaneously awesome and terrifying. However, I’ve thought about eating animals again occasionally to support local farmers. But only local and sustainable of course.
Still mostly a vegetarian, though I’ve become a lot less vehement, particularly when food with a minor amount of meat is served to me.  I also ate an entire hamburger the summer following this list creation while I was working out on sustainable farms in Western Minnesota.  It was both local and sustainable, and delicious to boot.

2. I’ve never been into sports, but watched this year’s Super Bowl with my parents because the Arizona Cardinals have been my dad’s favorite team for as long as I can remember.
This year I watched an entire quarter of a World Cup game and felt like my sports quota was exhausted for at least a couple of months.

3. I enjoy pieces of most subcultures, and have constantly found myself on the fringe of many things. Often these pieces don’t work together too well in common society. For example, I equally (but for completely different reasons) enjoy Elle, Wired, and Backpacker magazine.
Entirely true a year and a half later, maybe even more so with my ‘discovery’ (via my housemate Rachel from last year) of Google Reader.  See the final point of my September Beautiful Things post.

4. I start craft projects and don’t usually finish them.
I’m getting better I swear.  Mostly by doing simpler projects that don’t have such a concretely defined finishing point.

5. Sometimes I think my early high school self would be highly disdainful of many aspects of my present self, and vice versa.
This became even more apparent when I read through my journals of high school that my mother brought when she visited a couple of weeks ago.  High school self and present self would be acquaintances, maybe, and high school self would be relieved at calm gained and angry at zealousness lost.

6. I don’t believe in soulmates, but I’m a huge proponent of kindred spirits.
Still don’t believe in soulmates, but somehow the universe decided to bring me to a wonderful partner, man, and friend.

7. I want to spend a year living in a commune, from a tent, in a developing country, and with a group of native peoples. Probably not all at the same time though.
My big adventure goals have  changed quite a bit actually.  I would still do all of these things, but now I’m really excited about biking the length of the Mississippi River with Benjamin in the near-ish future.

8. I’ve been told that at school I come across as a youngest child, but at home I’m often the quintessential older sister. For no good reason I’d much rather be seen as an older sibling as opposed to a younger one.
Age has since become relatively irrelevant, at least in social situations.  Though when I do pay attention I notice that I am frequently the youngest person at a particular gathering these days.

9. I call many places home, and can find home nearly anywhere I go. While this lets me find joy and connection in a plethora of new situations, it also makes me REALLY bad at keeping up with people I’m not actually physically present with, apart from my family.
Yup.   But I did make a Facebook note a moment ago asking for people’s addresses so I can simultaneously have a reason to write regularly AND keep in touch with people.  Snap.  I’d like your address too, so please leave it in the comments.

10. I kind of want December 21st, 2012 to be an actual apocalypse.
Just so I can have an apocalypse party for three days.  Everyone’s invited!

11. I believe the holy is in the paradox, that when you discover two equally important but seemingly incompatible truths, you’re probably on to something. Live in the complications.
This one is illustrated regularly, by my passions and experiences and conversations and the frequent inability to reconcile it all.  Celebrate the paradox!

12. I think that people are essentially good, though not really in any religious sense. I want to be the kind of ‘good’ stranger that people can depend on so that my trust in humanity can be withheld when the situation presents itself.
Meeting strangers during my 14 months thus far living in the city has solidified this even further.  There are so many ‘isms’ that lead a person to act out of selfishness or another form of evil, and while personal responsibility does play an important part, a majority of pain, violence and oppression comes from systemic problems.  People, as individuals, have at least a core seed of goodness.

13. I value authenticity above all else, and expect it from everyone and myself most of all.

14. Sometimes I wonder if I’d be happier being a genius at one thing rather than mediocre to good at a number of things.
Genius and mediocrity factor nonwithstanding, having the ridiculous number of interests that I do has certainly started an uncountable number of conversations with wonderful people, some of whom have become good friends.

15. I am constantly in awe of how magnificent and complicated the world is, and how I managed to be an entity in it at this moment in time.
The change of the seasons amplifies this point- I am amazed at the pure outpouring of energy that happens on this planet, and the constant fluctuations, only a small percentage of which I am privy to.

16. I am obsessed with space. This includes any sort of movie set in space, Battlestar Galactica, and the NASA universe picture of the day.
So obsessed that I’m planning to see the new IMAX film on the Hubble telescope at the Science Museum this Friday.  For my birthday.

17. I’m working on becoming a better listener, to not wait in conversations for my turn to speak and not always feel the need to give advice. This is largely inspired by being blessed to have so many fantastic listener friends in my life.
I think this will always be a work in progress, and a particular challenge for me.  Though I am more blessed than ever to have great listeners for friends.

18. Lately I identify most with the idea of joy, though I’m not really sure I could define it for you if you asked.
This has persisted, to the point where joy feels like a core component of my being.  I can only hope that I give it back to the universe in even a fraction of the amount that I receive.

19. At this point in my life I can’t imagine settling because I am intrigued by so many places, people, vocations, and opportunities that I don’t want to commit to just one and risk forsaking the rest.
Of all the random facts in this list, this one has changed the most, and in fact was what inspired me to do this reflection.  Most importantly, settling no longer feels like a bad word.  I have found a place and a person that I want to be with for a very very long time, and while that means I will be putting down roots, it does not mean that I cannot still have adventures and throw myself into opportunities as they present themselves.

20. As much as I have moments of cynicism where it seems as though human beings are destroying everything that is good on this earth, ultimately I love humanity and don’t think I could ever completely leave it behind.
But this is definitely second in terms of most change.  I still love people- I see the good and the beauty in individuals daily and sometimes my soul aches at how wonderful human connection can be.  But I think the planet would be better off without us, really.  We selfishly consume resources far beyond the planet’s means without giving back in equal measure, or even attempting to do so most of the time.  Every species has its era, and it just might be time for ours to begin coming to a close.

21. Namaste is one of my favorite concepts; it means ‘my inner light acknowledges and bows to your inner light’.
Several times I have considered signing all of my emails with ‘namaste’, even the work ones, but thought it might be confusing/spiritually offensive to somebody.  But it’s still one of my favorite concepts, and I may get a tattoo related to it one day.

22. I hope to publish a book one day, and I’ve had several absurd ideas over the years as to what it might be about that have thankfully faded into various journals.
It will not be fiction, as evidenced by my slackings during NaNoWriMo.

23. My idea of what love is has changed quite immensely over the years, and I’m excited to see the depths it will reach as I continue to meet and know people and have new experiences.
Exponential changes to this day, and more to come I think.  Love is deep and wide and so multi-dimensional that trying to contain it to our physical universe seems a travesty.

24. I think my parents are the most fantastic parents that I could have had and I love them dearly, while I simultaneously see the root of several of my insecurities and frustrations toward the world in them.
This too deepens with time, as new points of conflict and convergence emerge.

25. I am constantly being reminded that nothing is permanent, that there is beauty everywhere, and that all is one.
There really is nothing to add to this one.  Namaste, all.

Dreams Accountability Collaborative.

I have many dreams.  Goals.  Hopes.  Visions.  Plans for the future.  Whatever you want to call them.  Here’s a smattering: hike the Appalachian Trail; go to Burning Man; write a book; learn to play the drums; brew my own beer/wine; grow mushrooms; have chickens in the city; bike the Mississippi River trail; never own a car; build beautiful spaces in the city.

I have  made countless lists of my dreams, to-do lists of life plans, but occasionally (actually often, if I’m truly honest) these dreams go by the wayside in favor of the demands of day to day, week to week existence.

But I don’t want to give up on my dreams, silly as some of them may be, and I don’t want to one day stop making big plans because I rarely followed up on any of the earlier ones.  And I’m betting many of you, dear friends, have similar dreams that you might need some reminding about once in a while.  So I propose a Dreams Accountability Group, a loosely knit association of individuals filled with ideas and dreams that will hold each other accountable to where those plans are at.  At its most basic I envision merely asking each other how things are, where the planning/action is at.  And on a deeper, more distant level, maybe even joining each other on the journey to realizing some of our dreams.

Somewhat cheesy?  Yes.  But the alternative is much more distressing- a future life without extravagant plans and impossible dreams.

Are you interested in joining my Dreams Accountability Collaborative?  Let me know here!