Category Archives: Gleaning

December 1, 2019: First Sunday of Advent

Here are my Goals for 2020. You’ll notice they look surprisingly similar to the ones for 2019, partially because I did not reach all of my goals for 2019, because I’ve finally reached a balance between challenging and attainable, so I think I’ll just roll with that for another year.

    1. Swim, bike, walk, or run every single day. Finish the Indy Mini on May 2, 2020
    2. Read at least one book each month. Write at least a little every Sunday.
    3. Meditate for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening.
    4. Practice silence and work on listening, with intention.
    5. Eat mostly real plant-based food. Consume campassionately.
    6. Create more, conserve more, buy less.

Live joyfully and feed my soul.

Swim, Bike, Walk or Run Every Day

My brother and I signed up to do the Indy Mini this year, and we signed up for the shorter races leading up to it, so we’d know for sure that we can finish the 13.1 miles on Indy Mini Race Day. If you don’t know what the Indy Mini is, it is a half marathon that is part of the Indy 500 Festival, and you can learn more about it here. The commitment to do 13.1 in May, jumpstarted my already running self into a Holiday Run Streak that goes from today, the first Sunday of Advent until January 6, or Epiphany.

That’s 37 days of running at least one mile each day, and I started this morning by running around my friends’ neighborhood, which I have to say is quite a nice little spot to live. What will be fun and challenging about this Run Streak is that my 20-week training plan for the Indy Mini starts on December 16, so there will no doubt be some sore legs and a lot of walking/running intervals, until I get my running legs back under me.

My goals are simply to finish without being scooped up by the sweeper bus, to spend as much time with my brother as I can before I go back to Minnesota in June, and to have the most fun I have ever had running that far!

Reading (and Writing)

So far this year, I have read 6 books—probably more, but I did not write them down in my logs, so I guess in my mind they don’t count—so this is a goal that needs some attention next year. Considering that if I put my mind to it, I can read most books in less than a day, this seems like a really low number for a goal, but with teaching and trying to balance my life, I guess I just do not read as much as I used to. I am absolutely open to suggestions for reading.

I should probably make my goal for this coming year a writing one, since I feel like I miss it so much, but I have not done it for so long, that it feels weird even writing this. I guess practice makes me better, so maybe I should commit to writing here every Sunday. From January 5, 2020 – December 27, 2020.

Meditation: Silence and Listening

This goal, which is really two combined, is one that needs quite a bit of attention. Basically, I just need to do it. I need this goal more than any other one, and yet it is the one that gets neglected the quickest.

Eat Vegan Whole Foods

I am proud to say that this goal is going along perfectly. Since October 4, 2019, I haven’t eaten any meat, and I have been working my way into being completely plant-based by December 31. Since I live with my brother, we’re doing this one together (along with eating a lot less sugar), and we’ve already seen some excellent health benefits from it.

One of my favorite meals is pizza, and I always get sad thinking that I will miss pizza when I am vegan. Luckily I found an excellent vegan pizza crust mix, for when I don’t make my own from scratch, and I am enjoying using fresh vegetables and cheese replacements to make big, delicious homemade pizzas that are way better tasting, and way better for me, than store-bought pizza!

Last night I had one of the most beautiful pizzas I have made: big brown mushrooms, little rings of yellow, red, and orange peppers, bright green spinach, and giant tomato chunks with just a bit of Daiya cheddar shreds. Not only was it beautiful, but without all of the cheese, the delicious flavor of all of the vegetables came through.

Create More, Conserve More, Buy Less

I am really getting into being conservative with my spending, which is saying a lot if you know me and know how I love to spend money, because what is it but green pieces of paper. Anyway, I have kept my spending for gas (we have a 2 hour total commute each day), groceries, and entertainment to less than what I budgeted for three months in a row!

I am trying to purchase things that are necessary (do I really need that item?), that nothing I already have will serve the same function (will the things I already have work to do that job?), that I can’t do on my own (sorry Starbucks, but I brew my coffee in my classroom now), and that really bring me some kind of joy in my life (do I need another mug because it has a funny saying on it?). I’ve also gotten into fixing things, instead of just buying new.

My ultimate goal: Live JOYFULLY and feed my SOUL.

This is my ultimate goal, because I know that if I am not searching for joy and nourishment in my life, I am not happy, nor can I help anyone else seek for joy or nourishment. Now, I will be really honest, because of the way I am wired, seeking joy is really difficult for me. I am much the realist, and never really an optimist, but I know that joy and gratitude are the keys to living a long and memorable life, so I keep trying to regroup and see if I can help others.

My brother helps with this: he always sees the good side of things, and he always gives people the benefit of the doubt. I want to be more like him, and I try, but it is really hard to always assume positive intent, think things will turn out okay, to understand that everything happens for a reason, and to make the best of every situation. I will get there, though.

They say if you keep reframing events in the ways in which you can be grateful for them, that you’ll eventually do it automatically. I do not know who they are, but they have to be right, right?

Eight Beautiful Things in Life: A List

I’ve been sitting here trying to think about what to write, and though my ideas are pouring out of me, they aren’t really cooperating and being coherent. I’ve been having the same problem for a while now. I can think of all sorts of ideas and concepts I want to discuss, but I can’t get them to come out in a logical fashion. My thoughts have been coming out in images: So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens, right? Short snippets of songs: mystic crystal revelations, Aquarius. Short bursts of my favorite artistic visions:

Paris Street Rainy Day

As much as I try to gather my thoughts and put them in some sort of order, they just shoot out of me like children throw those little pop-its on the Fourth of July. Random. Loud. And extra-annoying. So, I’ve decided to make a list of eight beautiful things that have happened in my life within the last two weeks.

Eight Beautiful Things in No Particular Order

  1. I cut my 5K time by 6 minutes. I went from a PR of 41 minutes to a PR of 35:17. This was beautiful to me, because after five or more years of running, I started to actually feel like a runner. I ran 11-minute miles. Three of them. Consecutively. Not only that, but I got up the next morning and ran a mile, and got up the next morning (this morning) and ran four more. My body felt like it was singing at mile four, and I felt as if I could have kept going for another four miles. Suddenly, running doesn’t feel like a job; running feels like a joy. My new goal for the half marathon is 2:45.00 or less.
  2. My students read and discussed “The Wasteland,” and I think they liked the poem. They were engaged, they were thoughtful, and they seemed to finally get Modernism. Maybe when I teach Modernism next time, I will start with “The Wasteland” to set up the unit. I feel like I have new eyes for this poem, because it was never one I really enjoyed, but my students were really able to relate to the fragmentation of it, and they had so many ideas about why “April is the cruelest month.” The lines that seemed to resonate the most with them were these: “What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow out of this stony rubbish? Son of man, you cannot say, or guess, for you know only a heap of broken images, where the sun beats, and the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief, and the dry stone no sound of water.” I wonder if they can relate to this feeling of despair in a way that I can’t, because I swear to you, this poem has never had the meaning for me that it does now.
  3. I can actually recognize the melodies of some songs that I have been playing on the piano. I know sharps and flats, slurs and ties, eighth through whole notes and rests, and how to start on the upbeat. I can play a weird version of “Mary Jane,” “Clementine,” “In the Valley,” “Jolly Good Fellow,” and “When the Saints Go Marching.” I can also play an F, G7, and C chords. Basically, I feel good about this piano thing, and what feels really good about it is that I feel so relaxed when I am muddling through the few songs I know. Having something that doesn’t involve reading or exercise to help relieve my stress is perfect, especially this year.
  4. Fall is the most beautiful season when it’s fall. Spring is the most beautiful . . . Summer is the most beautiful . . . Winter is the beautiful . . . But it’s fall now, and fall is the most beautiful when the trees are fully dressed in their brightest colors and the limbs are shifting and dancing in the wind. Fall is beautiful when the rain falls lightly down creating a haze of the lights reflecting on the river and when the days are shirt-sleeve warm, but the nights need a fireplace warming. When the leaves crunch and the birds take flight, fall is the most beautiful.
  5. After I helped my dad butcher some chickens, I learned that I could sustain myself through farming. We raised quite a bit of produce through three minuscule gardens in our city front and back yards, and we made at least five weeks of food-base (broth and meat) from two chickens. I am pretty sure that given a larger farm and a part-time job, I could grow, process, and store up plenty for our family for the year. We might even be able to cut out the grocery for a good portion of the late summer and early fall. I’d even make sure to grow things we’ve never had to keep our mouths interested in home-grown foods.
  6. My brother and I started our first batch of hard cider yesterday. We are brewing five gallons of honey-cider to try an initial test run. Adding honey theoretically makes the cider more alcoholic because the yeast has more sugar to feed off of. I am hoping it will give it a nice clover-y taste so there will be a uniqueness to our cider. We have to let this sit for two weeks or until it stops bubbling, then one more week to let the yeast sift down. Then we have to add in a bit more sugar, so it will carbonate, before we siphon the cider off into another bucket. Once it’s in the other bucket, we stir it up and bottle it. This cider thing, if it works, will be one of our greatest sibling cooperative efforts.
  7. Through a rigorous paleo diet and running at least a mile every day, I am within 5 pounds of weighing 200 pounds. When I get down to 196.4, I will have lost 60 pounds, and as it is right now, I’ve lost 50-55 pounds, depending on the day. I’m well within range of my goal of 170—I don’t want to lose Athena status for running—and I am so excited. Bec asked me if I wanted to buy some clothes when I reached my goal weight. Yes, I do, but first, I want some new body art! Always with the tattoos!
  8. I got to spend the evening with my friend Lyn, who is an artist. We sat at the Yart Sale here in Muncie while people looked at her art, asked for lots of business cards, and then didn’t really buy much.I’m not so sure that people just buy art right out anymore. I mean, we do, but I think we’re atypical. Most people look, mull it over, look some more, mull it over some more, look again, mull it over again, and then maybe buy it. It’s a little disheartening if you’re an artist, I would think. What the Yart Sale did for me, though, is two things: (1) I got to spend time with one of my dearest friends, and (2) I got to soak up all that artiness, all that beauty, all that truth, and all that grace. That evening made me fall in love again with art, and I would argue that’s what’s making my thoughts come out all discombobulated. Art poisoned my logical mind: “I feel certain that I’m going mad again. [. . .] And I shan’t recover this time” (Virginia Woolf).

Untitled, Skull

Turning Over So Many New Leaves

New Year Day: As I sat there in my overly full, grain-induced coma, I reflected over the past few years of my life, and I realized that I am not so happy with where it is or where it’s going. I decided to put some new resolutions into place, and they are radically different than those before.

  1. Eat paleo. Eat clean meats and vegetables without the gummy, yucky grain foods. Maybe order 1/8 of a bison or half a wild boar. Also, no beer. Or very little.
  2. Watch less TV. Watch more movies instead. Or maybe even read more!
  3. Exercise in a variety of ways (including swimming) while running a race a month. When it’s warm enough, run barefoot. Maybe do a barefoot half-marathon.
  4. Meditate. I always feel more calm when I practice meditation.
  5. Deactivate Facebook and Twitter for the year.
  6. Play more.
  7. In short, do things which bring me joy.

Maybe doing all of this will decrease my blood pressure, which isn’t really high, but feels like it.

It is my hope to start using this space to write about some current events and to write more deeply about those things that are important to me. I also want to care less about my job, but when you’re a teacher, it’s sort of difficult to stop caring, especially when you realize that the lives of your students depend on your care and nurture.

I think this year will bring new and promising events, and hopefully it will bring a much better attitude on my part. We’ll see. I’m going to try to focus on being positive, which is a HUGE goal for me.

This I Believe Draft

I have been called a communist. I have been called a socialist. I think communalist or Christian describes me more accurately than either of the other two words. But I won’t balk if anyone calls me a communist or socialist.  I embrace these two names because of the things I believe.

Because I believe that people are inherently good, I believe we could easily live together in harmony if people were willing to do a few things differently. In other words, we need to make some cultural lifestyle changes. People are generally out for themselves because our culture forces them to be. Deep down everyone is generous.  Some cultures thrive by living in community; ours just happens to be more focused on individualism. However, a few small changes could cause big ripples.

I believe we should listen when other people talk. I had a professor who once said to someone in class, “Could you start over? I forgot to listen.” I think he was being honest about a behavior that many of us suffer from on a daily basis: we don’t listen to each other. Instead of having the decency, though, to admit that we forget to listen, we pretend that we are listening all along. Sometimes we even nod our heads as if we agree with the other person, not knowing what it is we’re agreeing to. If we, as humans, truly listened to each other instead of writing our shopping lists, planning our evenings, or thinking about that joke that someone told us earlier, then the world would be much less chaotic because we would all know what other people said instead of pretending like we do. We might also learn something about other people, which in turn might make us more compassionate.

Maybe this could be partially aided if people would return to using common courtesies in their speech, like saying please and thank you. It wouldn’t hurt if we would take the time to answer the question, “How are you?” with an honest answer instead of giving the answer that everyone expects: “Fine.” One day I want to say to someone, “I am not fine. I am dying inside and my soul hurts so bad.” And I want that to be okay. I want to be able to tell people when I struggle, but I also believe we should rejoice when there is reason for rejoicing. Life is good sometimes, most times if we try hard to see the joys. We should be able to celebrate the good and lament the bad together.

I believe part of this inability to connect to other people stems from the fact that we are too in love with our possessions. Especially as Americans, we love our technology, our cars, our houses, our gadgets, and gizmos. Perhaps if we were required each year to donate our one prized possession to a homeless shelter, domestic violence shelter, or children’s home, we would understand that the things are not where our attachments should lie, but that we should become more deeply invested in each other.

If your child could take his favorite toy, donate it to another child who lives in a homeless shelter, build a relationship with that other child, and see what it feels like to be involved in another persons life, maybe we could teach our children that the world doesn’t belong to them as individuals, but it belongs to them as a society. If you would take your computer (before it completely conks out) and donate it to a battered woman who is trying to get a job to get out of her abusive household, imagine the change in her life. Maybe you even have a great business suit you could include in the package. Something as simple as saving your hotel shampoo, lotion, and soap and giving it to men’s shelter makes a big impact in someone’s life. Have you ever tried to get a job without proper bodily hygiene?  Nearly impossible.

This is why I believe in feeding homeless people: we are one bad day from the fifth floor of the VA hospital. Most of us are one bad day from homelessness, too. What happens today on Wall Street could effect you, it could effect me, or it could effect someone we know. How many homeless people are living on the streets because of one bad day? This isn’t to say that some people don’t choose homelessness. Some do. Some people consciously choose to drop out of capitalism, drop out of society, or just fade into the background. I don’t blame them. All the keeping up is hard work. Never walk past another person without making eye contact. You are no better than the teenager with scars up and down his arms, living on the street. We are all  interconnected.

Maybe we should all eat out of dumpsters. Then we could look each other in the eyes. Maybe it is a blessing that we throw away too much. No, it is heresy. We could feed a small country with what we put in the garbage can each day. Each day Americans throw away more than most people eat in a week.  We should all be more frugal.  When I was in high school, my boyfriend and I dumpster dived many times. We foraged–no, gleaned–potato chips from the dumpster behind the Seyfert’s distribution center and sold them at lunch. We used the money to pay for dates, movies, and other things we wanted but didn’t have money for. Looking back, we probably should have just given the chips away and not worried about getting money for them. We didn’t disrupt the capitalist cycle, we just reinvented it.

Maybe I am communist, because I think all people should get paid the same amount of money. The big corporate executive would be nowhere without the people who work in her factories or retail centers, and they would all be no where without the person who cleans up after them all. Where would most people be without coffee farmers, trash collectors, ministers, rabbis, and teachers? Are professional sports and big-name actors or actresses of more worth than their elementary organization sponsors? If we all got paid the same amount for doing what we are good at, then we could go about doing those things without feeling the pressure of keeping up with the Joneses, never mind that the Joneses work no harder for their possessions than we do. I suppose if we weren’t obsessed with possessions, we wouldn’t care if we couldn’t keep up with the Joneses, though.

I believe no one should look at you funny if you make change out of the offering plate at church. God doesn’t care if you only have a twenty but can only afford to give up five for the Church. God cares more that you are giving something than nothing. Remember the story of the poor widow’s mite.  God will multiply your five dollars and use it to feed and clothe the masses. Haven’t you ever read the story of the loaves and the fishes?

That story, I will add, confirms what I have been writing: life is all about sharing, gleaning, feeding, and giving what you have to others. Call it communism if you must. I will call it being like Christ.

What I Should Be Doing vs. What I Do

I should be studying for my exams.

I should be writing for my workshop group.

I should be doing what I know I need to be doing.

Instead I am fretting over all of it and making no kind of headway on actually getting it done.

Every time I go to the bathroom, Ordinary Genius looks at me from the tub-rim. I leaf through it and put it down.

When I come into the bed room, stacks of Norton anthologies stare me down from their place on the bookshelf. I spend less time with them than I should. They don’t let me forget.

I go for walks. I peel paint. I pull up carpet. I wish I had time to go through everything once and for all.

I wish I could donate my life to the Goodwill. Maybe some one else could figure out how to use it more effectively. They would recycle it. They would be glad to have all this stuff, all this pressure, all these worldly things.

I just want a Volkswagon Van or a big old truck with a cap, Bec, my dogs, my bathing suit, some overflowing dumpsters with lots of good food, and the beach. That is all I tell myself I need.


Really, I am pretty happy right now. I just hit these little bumps in the road where I think I need to be doing something different than what I am doing. Talking with Sarah this morning helped me keep my career choice in perspective, because I am doing what I love: reading and writing. And, I am doing it with other people who also love it, and I am teaching it. Hopefully, I even influence some of my students to love it, too. What could be more fulfilling than that? I just need to figure out how to escape to the beach once a year to restore my soul…