Posted by: scintillatingspeck | June 19, 2009

An update.

Yes, I know.  It’s about time I posted to this blog.  I apologize.  Will it make any difference if I tell you what’s been happening?

For starters, my family’s participation in the formal economy has shifted significantly.  Tom accepted a full-time position with the Microwave Remote Sensing Lab at UMass Amherst and started work about two weeks ago.  In accordance with this change, I have resigned my part-time position at Living Routes and become a full-time mama.  We are relieved that Tom now has this job, which improves our financial standing a great deal.  At the same time, it has been kind of weird.  I miss Tom a lot.  I miss my co-workers.  I’m glad to take care of Lily and play with her, but I have felt far too isolated for the past two weeks.  I haven’t developed any sense of rhythm or routine yet with this new life.

The lack of rhythm and routine is compounded by the fact that we are still in housing limbo.  However, we have made great, necessary strides forward in terms of gaining momentum towards selling this house and identifying a new place to live.  We have gone through the process outlined by Rocky Hill Cohousing to offer our house for sale to waiting list members and current homeowners (no takers), and we are now offering the house on the open market.  We are working with a realtor, Julie Held of Delap Real Estate, and we have a fab listing with all the details and photos here.  We’ll be having an open house on Sunday, June 28th, 1-3pm.

Getting ready to list our house entailed much cleaning and tidying and gnashing of teeth.  Everything still looks fairly tidy although entropy sets in right quick.

Identifying the next place to live is still unfinished, although we have narrowed our sights considerably.  Now that Tom is working full-time at UMass, and we are both extremely keen on driving as little as possible, we are focusing on neighborhoods in and around downtown Amherst.  For now, we have set aside the desire to live in a communal household, although we have definitely not ruled it out for the future.  After much searching for fellow communitarians and assessment of possibilities, and keeping in mind our desire to move as quickly as possible, we decided we simply didn’t have enough time to develop the degree of trust we felt was necessary to consider a communal living arrangement (meaning, sharing living space/a roof).

The backdrop to all of this is the sinking feeling that the larger, formal economy is about to tank.  I can’t predict anything with certainty, of course.  But I feel strongly that this is probably our last chance to sell our current house, move to a new one, and scramble to retrofit if need be with insulation, wood stove, root cellar, etc. as well as do a new permaculture design and implement it, not to mention trying to meet all the neighbors and hopefully bond with them.  I realize that we are already enormously lucky to have a house to begin with, and I am grateful.  And not only do we have a house, but Tom has a full-time job.  Still, as the economy continues to stumble and falter, I don’t know how much faith to place in that job, or any job in the formal economy.

Which brings me to my thoughts about the informal economy.  I feel strongly that I need to bolster my knowledge and skills in the informal economy, or call it the new paradigm, the new regenerative culture, as well as do whatever activism I’m able to do while simultaneously caring for a toddler.  The list of things I want to do and learn is ridiculously long.  Here’s a tiny sample:

  • Learn how to build a rocket stove
  • Learn much more about permaculture design and apply the principles like crazy
  • Become some sort of roving, counter-culture, sustainability librarian (I’ve made some contact with Radical Reference of Western Mass.)
  • Grow, preserve, and cook wonderful food
  • Learn about coppicing for firewood or other uses
  • Figure out some methods for low-tech water catchment and treatment
  • Learn some new ways to teach, learn, and play with Lily
  • Develop closer friendships, by deepening existing friendships as well as making new friends
  • Develop more inner emotional resilience
  • Refresh my Wilderness First Responder knowledge and maybe go for the Wilderness EMT
  • Learn about herbalism
  • Practice foraging and preparing foraged foods

I’ll stop there but you get the idea.

Meanwhile most of my days are spent not doing any of those things.  Can someone please explain to me how I can parent a toddler and also read books, take classes, meet people, attend events, etc?  Just trying to cook dinner is a difficult endeavor, with Lily trying to push me away from the stove with all of her might, demanding milky.  Tom can watch Lily on evenings and weekends, but I really want to spend some time with him too.  At night after Lily goes to bed, I should really try to discipline myself more to read and learn, but at that point I usually feel fried and barely able to manage getting through my email.  If anyone reading this has any insights or sources to recommend for help with this, please speak up.  Or maybe I should just give up and resign myself to the idea that I should be a good little mommy and only focus on stuff like grocery shopping and potty training.

There are a few things, however, I have managed to do regardless.  One is my participation in the prediabetes and exercise study at UMass.  Time for a moment of celebration:  I am in week eight of the exercise portion of the study!  Yes, I have been going three times a week for the past eight weeks.  I am much stronger and fitter than when I started.  I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around how much more weight I can lift and how many levels I’ve advanced on the exercise bike.  It feels extraordinarily good to be more healthy.  It hasn’t been without considerable challenges, though… the exercise itself often feels pretty grueling; I’m pretty sure I’m not in the placebo group but rather in the metformin group since I have experienced some quite miserable gastrointestinal side effects; the scheduling has been wrenching; and since I am still focusing on a no-sugar, no-refined-grain, fairly low-carb diet, this in combination with all the exercise and possible metformin has made me feel very dizzy at times while training, which we confirmed with a glucometer was due to some pretty significant downward swings in blood sugar.  I’ve tried to compensate by adding a bit more whole-grain carbs to my regular diet, as well as an apple in between cardio and strength training.  It’s the strength training that really makes me dizzy.  I’ve lost some more weight which people continually comment on.  I know people mean well but it makes me crazy.  Usually I try to just say “thanks” and let it go, but occasionally, depending on how irritating the wording, I might say something like, “Yes, I’ve lost weight, but it’s because I desperately want to avoid developing diabetes and all of its horrible complications and possible death, because I am at high risk for diabetes, and I may still develop diabetes despite all of my efforts.”  I think most people can’t quite grasp that it doesn’t feel good to me to be praised for weight loss, unless it is in the context of recognizing my efforts to be healthy.  It doesn’t feel good to be told how great I look because all I can think is, hmm, is that so, I guess you thought I was pretty bad-looking not long ago, and who knows, if I gain weight I may be demoted to ugly again.  That’s what goes through my head.  I know people are trying to be nice in this particular cultural context, but it doesn’t work for me.  I don’t want my weight to be judged as good or bad.  I also completely loathe being “checked out.”  This has happened a few times and it makes my skin crawl and makes me want to run away screaming.  But let’s not go there.

The other thing I have managed to make time for is this wonderful group of people in Northampton who are interested in Transition Towns, Chris Martenson’s Crash Course, and other associated tools and resources for energy descent planning.  We meet once a week on Sunday nights and I adore these people.  We are currently in the midst of a group food storage purchase.  I have been searching for a group like this ever since I first learned about peak oil, climate change and the Great Turning.  There is true support among us.  It may not be too much of a stretch to say that this group has helped restore a little bit of my faith in the goodness of humanity, despite the continuing massacre of the planet.  I often suspected that if I was going to find any solace, it would be in face-to-face interactions, not just communication with like-minded folks over the internet (although I am grateful for that lifeline as well).

I hope I have redeemed myself for my long lapse in posting.  This has been a fairly rambling post but I hope to begin focusing on topical posts sometime soon.  Let me add that to the bulleted list, eh?



  1. So nice to see your time in words – trust me, I understand how that goes. For when you feel isolated, there is the nice comfy Internet blog to tell EVERYONE what you are doing and, in a way, connect, on that level.

    But, I look forward to connecting in person on Friday! xo

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