Tag Archives: Sacramento

The Signs of Simpler Times!

LagerI suspect the current household I live in is similar in some of the following ways to other households in the U.S. today.

My husband and I lost our house this past year. Then I was laid off. These events prompted relocation to Roseville with my daughter, her husband, and my 1-year-old grandson to cut living expenses. As my husband’s business in Sacramento continued to slump downward, he started a new business in the Central Valley.

While we were moving our belongings to storage and seeking good homes for the belongings we no longer needed, I became aware of an interesting evolution in American consumer culture. In the early 90’s we had E-Bay.com! It was name your price and higher. Soon after the dot-com bust, the preferred favorite became Craigslist.org , where a deal could be had by all and where price gouging and bidder wars were a thing of our gluttonous past. Now, in 2009, after the massive economic meltdown hitting all sectors of our population, the new choice of the masses is swiftly becoming Freecycle.org, items not for bid, not for bargain prices, but for free!  This downward spiral of consumerism is not only ushering in a simpler time, but a smarter time where waste and unnecessary spending are seen for what they are–unnecessary. For us, Freecycle became the quickest and easiest way for to unload many of our no longer needed household items and move them into better homes. Even my houseplants found good homes through Freecycle with just a simple one-line posting and a phone call. Quick, easy, free, responsible, and win-win for all!

Yes, simpler, smarter times were in order for me, but I had no clue as to how deeply these changes would end up manifesting. Shortly after I moved in with my daughter, the three of us adults living in this new Roseville home were all unemployed. It was an uncanny joke, but we were not laughing. We were all part and parcel of the daily news; we were strung together with most every other American, rich and poor. No one seemed to be left out of this current state of affairs.

On the other hand, I found the first month of these dramatic changes actually a refreshing opportunity. I cleared out my boxes of unfiled paperwork, sorted my belongings into only the bare essentials. Unemployment was a blessing, giving me the much-needed time to rewrite my book and work on all of the other time-consuming publishing and networking details I never had the time to deal with. I also cherished this rare time with my grandson, feeling blessed every day I heard his sweet voice and saw his precious smile.

Into the second month, it was clear however that things really had to change, which further stimulated my analytical mind. I made a firm commitment to use only the resources I already had, both from a business and personal perspective. I reveled in just how many resources I actually had without having to go to the store. I had a good supply of bulk foods and office products and those little one-time use shampoos and lotions from years of traveling. I had time to cook for the first time in years. After decades of mandatory budgeting for a family of five under my belt, the creative know how to make a meal stretch was a happy challenge once again. Nevertheless, I did continue to purchase my $7.00 bottles of wine for my nightcaps, fair-trade organic coffee, and organic vegetables and fruits.

At the end of two months however, savings running lower, and the publishing date for my book kicked out further than anticipated, I began to see more changes were in order; more scaling down was needed.

With every weekly trip to the grocery store—finding myself living in the isolated suburb of Roseville, miles from my friendly and economical Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op of downtown Sacramento—I had to be honest.  Deeper change was in order, even if it was temporary.

Trader Joes completely replaced the Food Co-op, not because of price—the prices are comparible—but because of gas prices and the environmental consideration of driving for 1 1/2 hours compared to 30 minutes.

Things continued to evolve when I discovered one day that I was out of Earl Grey, a necessary part of my afternoon ritual. Okay, it was time to use all of that green tea I had been saving for THIS rainy day. Reluctantly I sucked it up, drinking in THIS abundance. It reminded me of that phrase from the old Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young tune, “If you can’t be with the one you want, love the one you’re with!” I rekindled my appreciation for green tea that I had never actually lost, I just liked Earl Grey more.

As time passed, every consecutive weekly trip to Trader Joes became another lesson in this evolution of simpler times. I began seeking $5.00 bottles of wine, then $3.00, and finally, I realized I had hit bottom when I became overjoyed at the discovery of a $1.99 bottle of wine that actually tasted decent! (It is obvious my taste buds are also changing with the times.)

This downward evolution in taste has become even stranger when it comes to beer. Not in my wildest dreams did I ever believe I would settle for the budget beer in a can that my son-in-law had been drinking for years. How could he? How could I?

Then, while on a camping trip with my daughter in the fall, I observed that she too had been changing her ways. I remember how thrilled I was when I found out she had actually brought beer on our trip, something I hadn’t had the heart to add to Simpler Times Lagermy budget at the time. I didn’t even think twice about drinking that beer in a can or consider how it tasted! I was grateful to have it at all! When she told me she got it at Trader Joes for only $2.99 a six-pack, I was floored because in recent months passed, I had become acutely aware of how expensive beer really was. This felt like the deal of the century!

I have to admit with pleasure, that since the beginning of this newer, simpler time, I have gone back to my roots. Waste and overspending has always been unnecessary in my book and I have always been thrifty, but now, even my thriftiness has taken on a new depth. The only places I really have no discipline when it comes to shopping is in bookstores or fabric stores. Now, I stay away from those places too. I have a box filled with sewing projects I am vowing to complete before I buy any more fabric. I actually made a dress last week, sewing something for myself for theNew Dress from Old Throwaway first time in years! As has been my preference for a while, I only buy a book when I know it is a must and I wait for the price to go down first. Though I don’t know if I have the heart to wait for Barbara Kingsolver’s new book, The Lacuna to drop in price. Perhaps that will be my Christmas present to myself! When it comes to my own book sales, hopefully, this trend in thriftiness doesn’t affect them—but I suspect it will. (For this reason, I DO have a special temporary price reduction while I can offer it because I know everyone is counting pennies, not just me!)

Today,the three adults in our household actually have temporary employment to get us through these times, but the budgeting, the simpler view of what we can and cannot live without is sticking with us. My husband enjoys his new business much more than his former one in Sacramento.  He, too is impressed with how much happier he is living with less and how much less complicated his life is today.

I still buy organic spinach, tomatoes, and some fruits. I still insist on organic fair trade coffee, but I have had to compromise when it comes to sharing with my family. I eat what they cook, which means I am eating more meat than I prefer, yet they eat what I cook, which means they are eating more vegetables than they prefer (especially my son-in-law). They now see the simple and healthy value of oatmeal in the morning for the little guy and the security of a pot of beans in the fridge. I now accept a hot dog now and then as a trip down memory lane, instead of a scandal.

I have learned to live without a few movies every weekend and am spending more time reading and writing as a result. Thank goodness the affordable and health promoting walk is ALWAYS available.  I have actually lost weight due to this natural portion control and I am in better shape than I have been in years because exercise is free!!!!

Though, there is one challenge my son-in-law and myself are still mulling around: along with the challenge of getting through this winter without buying any new clothes, my son-in-law (with British roots) has exhausted the black tea in the house, and my green tea is almost gone as well. This is where we both draw the line! Neither he nor I are interested in drinking the large container of assorted “caffeine-free” herbal teas in place of our black or green tea!

Is there anyone out there open to a trade? Herbal for caffeinated tea bags? Our zip code is 95747! We even have Echinacea we are willing to forego for the taste of black-any type of black tea! Leave a comment!

That is my story. These signs of simpler times may not be the best for economic growth, but actually, maybe more environmentally responsible and economical deals of the century for basic staples should be considered for manufacturing instead over the wasteful, unnecessary products of the past! As taken from Chapter 16 in my new book THE NEW PHYSICS OF CHILDHOOD: Replacing Modern Myths with Simple Strategies, “When consumers have more options to purchase responsibly made products, they will be more likely to invest in them.” 

Some may argue that this all costs too much, but if we scale back on what we don’t need, we will have more capital, creativity, and energy to design, manufacture, and purchase what we DO need!

I still shop at my favorite Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, just when I am in town about once a month. In time, when I am living closer, it will become preferred store once again, mainly because almost ALL the produce is organic and locally grown with the location of the grower on the product label above each tasty in-season treat. This store is one of the best reasons to live in Midtown or Downtown Sacramento!  Until then, Viva Simpler Times Lager!

WHAT CHANGES HAVE YOU MADE DURING THESE SIMPLER TIMES?

Cheers!

 

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Filed under 1, Barbara Kingsolver, Books, camping, Craigslist, environment, Grandchildren, Granny Pants, The New Physics of Childhood, Writing

Twitter: Value or Vanity?

twitter bird iconWhy do I Twitter?

This is the question each Twitter user will eventually ask when they come to the crossroads of either adopting or dropping Twitter as a way of life. We all know the following: The ‘new toy’ syndrome is short lived if the function does not bring value or satisfaction. Early adopters will try just about anything if they can see value and potential, while at the same time popular culture will try just about everything because everyone else is doing it. Both will drop a new ‘trend’ just ask quickly as they adopt it if there is no lasting value.

I think I fit into the former category. However, because I am not a ‘techie’ I study new trends before I adopt a new habit, so perhaps I fit into a middle category. Regardless, I took my time to step into the world of Twitter.

The thought of another social networking site filled with boring narratives about mundane activity did not stimulate or inspire me. Who cares what we are doing from moment to moment? For me, these endless vacant narratives are the epitomy of narcissism and an endless pit of wasted time.

I didn’t need time wasters. I needed value before I would become a ‘user’. I also wanted to make sure I would be providing value to others. I wanted to make sure I would actually have something to say if people followed me and that I was not just taking up cyberspace or just another notch on a member’s Twitter tree.

Initially, when I entered the Twitter world, I was seduced by the ‘recommended’ list of people to follow, but this list proved to be boring and unrelated to who I am-regardless of the lure of  ‘celebrity Twitter potential’. Celebrity does not impress me unless there is philanthropic or inspirational value to the twitters of the celebrity, little of which was occurring in the celebrity twitters I explored.

After a seemingly futile first attempt at finding value in Twitter, I realized I could discover on a daily basis what the people I was interested in were doing, thinking, acting on, and recommending.

The doors of Twitter opened. Following the thoughts of the creative minds and innovative leaders of our time was the song that spoke to me. Now I am an official Twitter user. Perhaps what is evolving for middle of the road users like myself is a new level of social networking that moves from narcissism and the mundane to an ability to reach others of like mind with a more efficient model. This is what I have found social networking to offer. I admit that I am a late bloomer like many of my same-age peers because now, I find myself excited about the potential of this phenomenon called social networking. The evolution of this discovery came in waves and has gone something like this:

My politically active spirit wanted to know what our new mayor of Sacramento, Kevin Johnson was up to every day! What is he really doing to improve our city’s image, economy, and quality of life? What is Gavin Newsom really up to in his race to Governor? Is his platform consistent with his SF mayorship? What is Jerry Brown doing with his time as California’s Attorney General? Is he focused on the governorship, or is he doing his job? What is the real future of the GOP up to, meaning Meghan McCain? Even though I am a Democrat, I believe Meghan McCain is the only current hope for the Republican party to gain the moderate Republican and youth vote. She exhibits common sense and hasn’t jumped on the irrational and hateful bandwagon that has recently hijacked the GOP.

Twitter gives me answers to these political questions on a daily basis.

And for a creative spirit that loves to be inspired, I follow ‘Etsy’ and other fun sites that update me on the latest creative inventions in DIY ideas.

Social networking entrepreneurs inform me on current trends and beneficial tech. functions that have the potential to enhance my business. Yes, Twitter has become a marketplace in many respects. The difference is that we choose who we market to and who markets to us. There is mutual agreement.

The eternal hunger to have an input system of media checks and balances sent me in search of ‘my’ reliable media sources on Twitter like DemocracyNow.org, Tavis Smiley, Treehugger (recognized by a Webby nomination in 2009), and whitehouse.gov (for the entire uncut, unfiltered version of our President’s speeches). Through Twitter I receive regular updates about newsworthy events that may never make it to mainstream television or popular internet media! The sites I have chosen to follow save me time; their ‘tweets’ dial in what I really want to know about: the behind the scenes events and activities of our time.

Then, there are those who are living a like-minded reality to mine. Many environmentally and socially conscious people and organizations have worthy businesses, blogs, and products that offer solutions for children, families, and global culture. By following these people on Twitter, I consider myself a helpful catalyst for their success while I continue to inform myself through their perspectives and industry progress. ( http://twitter.com/CWAE , http://twitter.com/askthedoula , http://canadian-natural-mama.blogspot.com/ ,  http://twitter.com/greenOD ,  http://twitter.com/Unnecesarean  are a few of my faves. ) Though as with everything, I found out through trial and error that there is a filtering process to following anyone if you want to prevent corporate driven information!  I learned to block people who were just interested in marketing to me or increasing their follower base. I learned to use key words and my own filtering methods to find like-minded users.

Today, Twitter has become a way for me to create my own media site in real time that is faster and richer than Facebook.  I receive the news and ideas on innovation that I want to hear, not what a corporation wants to feed me. I decide who I trust to give me information.

Twitter has given me more control over the media and information I am exposed to by my own design and I like it!

I spend less time on fruitless, mindless browsing as a result. I am more productive and more informed about what I care about, but I had to figure out how to actually make Twitter reflect my values before this value showed up!

OKAY, this does sound like a Twitter Promo, doesn’t it? I guess it’s just my way of saying Hooray! What could have been a fleeting trend has actually turned out to be a useful tool. This post will probably not change the minds of any current tweeters or savvy social networkers, but perhaps it will give the sceptics a different view of Twitter possibilities. For those who continue to use Twitter as a platform for the mundane,  C’est la vie!

Good luck in finding your own social networking value. If you are curious, you can check out who I follow on Twitter (which interestingly, are very different from my Facebook friends) @ http://twitter.com/GrannyPants. Some of those I follow have very informative twitters, others are merely a connection to maintain, but most importantly, all are by choice!

Christina Ivazes

a.k.a. Granny Pants

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated and have not been paid or rewarded by any entity of Twitter in any way. I also reserve the right to use Twitter as a platform for the mundane if I so choose.

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Filed under 1, Barack Obama, blogging, environment, Granny Pants, media, mother, nutrition, Parenting, social+networking, twitter

The Secret Garden-Revisited

Every Garden is a Blessing!

Every Garden is a Blessing!

As Spring approached this year, I discovered myself devouring the colorful front yard gardens of downtown Palo Alto with a hunger I haven’t felt for some time. Every week, the longing for my own garden in Sacramento grew, the deep desire to compost, grow vegetables and plant more flowers. This seasonal hunger to garden has been with me for as long as I can remember, but more voracious than ever this Spring.

While strolling by well-established gardens—each filled with surprises—my own deep need for roots was awakened again; a need for a place where I know I will enjoy the fruits of my labor year after year, without the typical uprooting I have experienced throughout my life. Though no matter how much I myself have moved, nothing will stop me from enjoying the gardens of others.

Daily meanderings took me to a creek with a green strip of psuedo forest on one side and lovely, open, bountiful gardens on the other. One day I marveled at a huge black crow chasing a white cat into the bush, laughing at how comical nature can be.

Each weekend when I returned to Sacramento, I was curious though as to why people in my own Sacramento neighborhoods didn’t have gardens like these. Why did I feel such an affinity for the Palo Alto gardens? Why was I one of the few growing flowers in my own community?

Then came the evening while reading Virginia Woolf’s, The Common Reader, when a familiar title flashed by in one of her essays: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Like a knee-jerk reflex, a familiar magical flutter filled me as I recalled the tattered, dingy, green bound book with its gold-embossed title; the book I had read so, so long ago. Warm inside like always when remembering this story, I savored the feelings it brought me.

Sunny Spring days continued and Palo Alto’s gardens proliferated with boundless colors, intensifying my hunger, yet also the gratitude for this blessed environment I found myself in—this particular year. During an unlikely detour one afternoon, I passed a home surrounded not by welcome, but by mystery. Its high fence was covered with overgrown roses and bushes meant to keep curiousity like mine at bay. I peeked where tiny openings allowed, catching a view that was followed by a flash, this was a ‘Secret Garden’!

Once again, my mind wandered back to explore the past. There was an answer for me somewhere in this story, The Secret Garden. It had deeply effected my view and appreciation of nature as a child, an appreciation and a hunger that have stuck with me throughout my life; a hunger that hits me every Spring and everywhere there are reminders.

I had to understand how this came about. I would re-read the book, hopefully solving the mystery of my serious need for nature.

Reflecting to a few years back, I remembered buying my eleven year-old niece a set of classic books, books which she gobbled up in a few weeks—much like I did at her age. I remembered the envy and pleasure I felt when she told me she had finished, The Secret Garden. I knew she now had something magical that would stay with her forever. I wished I could have shared the enchantment of this story with my grandaughters too, but they were in a different world by then; I had missed my window of opportunity—before the obsessions of boys, friends, text messaging, and social networking sites.

So, giving myself permission to be a curious child again, off I steered towards Bell’s Books on Emerson Ave. in Palo Alto; one of the last holdouts in fine new and used books after 65 years! The co-owner who I usually talked to would understand my feelings about this story. When I entered and found her free, we shared thoughts of the book, her detailed memories being more vivid than my own. I could not remember when I had read it, but it must have been somewhere between nine and ten years old before my own obsession with mysteries started—about forty years ago!

As I perused the volumes of children’s classics, the familiar binding from my past was not to be found so I chose an inexpensive paperback version to get me started, one I could pass on to others. I couldn’t wait to begin; I opened the book and started reading it as I walked down the street, looking forward to my break so I could indulge myself completely.

While I began reading this classic book from my childhood I devised a theory about the difference between the downtown Palo Alto gardens and others. Since Stanford University is close and downtown Palo Alto is filled with Stanford faculty, who are of course educated in the classics, perhaps these homeowners were creating their own gardens in reminiscence of the magic they felt after reading The Secret Garden.

The Secret Garden DID answer the questions to my passion for nature. But I had not predicted that it would answer so many questions about who I am today.

How fortunate I was to have read this as a child, to understand how nature works, how receptive she is to us as humans, and how vital she is to our well-being, no matter our age. I bought a hardback copy for my six year-old grandson so he and my daughter could enjoy it as well. I didn’t want to miss another opportunity to share this vital message with my offspring.

Although it never dwindled, I am filled with renewed reverence for the wonderous feelings and hunger for all of nature, even as they come with a bittersweet accent this late Spring. Upon my return to Sacramento last week, I found out we are losing our home to the bank and once again, I will uproot myself to God knows where, still longing for my own romantic secret garden someday.  Until then, I will be enjoying the gorgeous gardens of others, always hungry, always searching, yet always grateful every time I hear the song of a bird or see the blossom of a flower. Nothing can take away the magic that nature has given me in my life, not even the bank!

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Filed under 1, Banks, Books, foreclosure, Gardening, Literature, nature, SPring, Writing