Vacation Tales

A few weeks ago, my family and I left chilly Iowa for sunny Florida. We met up with my brother-in-law and his family for five days at Disney World. I arrived with a bad cold that was turning into bronchitis. However, after a day in the sweet, warm shade by the pool at our resort, I was mostly cured.

Say what you want about the Disney empire, but it is a great place to go and “forget about your worries and your strife.” We immersed ourselves in the experience from the food to the rides to the shows. We unplugged (for the most part). We enjoyed being together.

I came home from vacation feeling better than I had all year and ready to tackle the rest of the spring semester, our daughter’s high school graduation and all.

At the same time, I took a vacation from my book project. I handed the manuscript off to the designers and turned my attention to reading. Specifically, The Emigrants series by Vilhelm Moberg, which tells the tale of Swedish emigrants to the US in the mid-nineteenth century.

I also baked and cooked more than I usually do. Practical tasks, which are relaxing, because they take you away from the computer and let you do something real—with your hands. I was inspired by Moberg’s books to write down a list of practical skills I would like to learn, such as knitting and making pickled beets.

And as you may have noticed, I even took a vacation from blogging. I have to do that every now and then. To get re-energized. To minimize screen time. To find time for special projects.

What is the point of all this?

The point is: our plugged-in, networked, hands-off lifestyle requires vacation. We need a break from it. Ideally every week. But sometimes for a longer period of time. There is a reason some professions have sabbaticals. There is a reason we created festivals and holidays. We need time off to rest and recharge.

Taking vacation is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of intelligence.

We need vacation.

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A World Without Money: The Benefits

Ever since I started reading Michael Tellinger’s UBUNTU Contributionism – A Blueprint For Human Prosperity, I can’t stop thinking about the benefits of a world without money.

I encounter situations that could be improved by abolishing our monetary system—and especially the profit at all costs system—daily. For example, today I was talking to one of my friends who installs solar panels about the fact that our house doesn’t have a south-facing roof, so perhaps tapping into a community solar field would make more sense. The problem is, there is no such solar field, because the electric company makes it very difficult for communities to do this. “There’s no incentive for the electric company,” my friend said.

No incentive. That is, no profit to be made. If money was not in the equation, we would use the most environmentally-friendly methods possible to generate energy. Renewable all the way.

Benefits of a World Without Money

Here is a random list of things that would improve if there was no money:

  • Fewer hours of labor each week. (Tellinger estimates 3-4 hours per day.)
  • Everybody contributes to the community based on their skills and talents.
  • No more working for a paycheck!
  • More time to play, innovate, create, and love.
  • No mortgage or student loans to weigh us down.
  • Don’t have to worry about getting robbed.
  • New moms and dads can stay home to bond with baby.
  • Everybody working in the financial sector (accountants, financial planners, bankers, etc.) is able to get off their computers, abandon their cubicles, and contribute to the benefit of the people and the planet.
  • No. More. Taxes!
  • Reduction in stress—maybe no chronic stress!
  • Pharmaceutical reps won’t push drugs to doctors (because they won’t exist).
  • Health care will be based on wellness rather than profits.
  • Don’t have to worry about getting fired.
  • Everybody has what they need.
  • The earth and the seas will no longer be plundered for profits.
  • Kids learn by doing and have plenty of time to play.
  • Children learn how to take care of the planet and how to make the most of renewable resources.
  • The human species may have a chance at surviving on this planet…

Everybody Benefits

It feels like a big challenge to take on… Abolishing the monetary system. But the beauty of it is that everybody will benefit from this new way of being in this world. Right now, most of us are toiling away to put money in the pockets of investors and bankers. We don’t need these “middle men,” i.e. the owners of profit-seeking corporations. As Tellinger points out, people create everything we need, not money. Money is worthless when icecaps are melting and water levels are rising. No money in the world can bring back extinct species. And money definitely doesn’t make us happier—quite the opposite.

Having enough, contributing to the greater good, playing, relaxing, spending time in nature, and loving makes us happy. That’s really all it takes. No money required.

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A Place to Love #TBT

Google maps image of "Björkhaga" (birch pasture), my grandparents' house. A place to love, indeed.

Google maps image of “Björkhaga” (birch pasture), my grandparents’ house.

I took all of my college-level English courses at the stellar Waco, TX institution, MCC (or McLennan Community College). Mr. McKeown was my first ever college English instructor. One evening, after grading my diagnostic essay, “A Place to Love,” he decided to read an excerpt to the whole class. He read the following paragraph:

Many different kinds of berry bushes grew around those buildings. The raspberry bushes stood tall and proud with strong ropes carrying their weight. I loved the raspberries. They tasted so sweet that you could eat them straight of the bush. Other berries, such as gooseberries and black and red currants, were less interesting until they ended up in jellies or desserts.

Mr McKeown looked up and said with pride, “nobody has ever written that sentence before.”

It was a great moment.

Teachers can push us down or lift us up. Mr. McKeown was a lifter upper. He kindly helped me hone my writing skills, and I am forever grateful.

So, without further ado, in honor of Throwback Thursday and all encouraging English teachers out there, here is my essay from English 1301.52, dated September 9, 1998:

A Place to Love

When I was growing up, my family was always on the move. We never lived anywhere for more than four years. Our surroundings were always changing and it was hard to find, and keep, a special place. However, there was a place that never changed. This special place was my Grandparents’ homey, yellow house and the big, beautiful yard that surrounded it.

To me, the yard was the best place in the world. The gravel walk, leading up to the front door, was always neatly raked in straight lines. Colorful flowers lined the walk in spring and summer. Their colors were usually coordinated with the colors of the Swedish flag, which waved on the tall, white flagpole.

The yard had fruit trees scattered all around it. There were apple trees that we climbed when nobody was watching. There were pear trees and plum trees on which the fruit never seemed to ripen fast enough. There were cherry trees as well, with branches hanging down so low that even us kids could reach the precious fruit.

If you walked deeper into the yard, you came to the big bushes that concealed a secret place where we read books and gathered for tea parties. We served the tea from a kettle that grandmother didn’t need any more and poured it into cups with no ears. We even had furniture. A big box served as our table, and we sat on pieces of firewood. To us, it couldn’t be better.

The big, yellow house was not the only building on the premises. Not far from our secret place stood the brown guest house, which smelled of old books and dust. Off to the left lay the old, yellow hen house, my favorite place to spend the night. Beyond the hen house stood a row of red-painted sheds. This was where the outhouse, firewood, tools, and junk were located. The fact that the sheds always were locked up added a bit of mystery to them.

Many different kinds of berry bushes grew around those buildings. The raspberry bushes stood tall and proud with strong ropes carrying their weight. I loved the raspberries. They tasted so sweet that you could eat them straight of the bush. Other berries, such as gooseberries and black and red currants, were less interesting until they ended up in jellies or desserts.

In the back of the yard, a barbed wire fence separated the property from a horse pastures where little white flowers, “vitsippor,” covered the ground in spring. A vegetable garden grew on our side of the fence. We sowed carrots, beets, radishes, and potatoes and then waited impatiently for the plants to grow. Grandfather often let us help with the thinning out. After we finished one row, we were allowed to eat the sweet, little carrots we had pulled from the earth.

When we walked back toward the house after a hard day’s play, we always strolled through Grandmother’s flower garden where the air smelled of roses and lilacs. Skipping up to the back door, we also passed the tender tomato plants, which Grandmother did not allow us to touch. As the sun set, we all gathered around the flag pole and sang our national anthem, “Du Gamla, Du Fria,” as Grandfather gently lowered the yellow and blue flag.

Those days and evenings are gone now. The big, yellow house belongs to another family, and new children are playing in the beautiful yard. However, the memories of this special place are mine, and they will be with me always.

The End

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Voluntary Simplicity vs. Aesthetics: Maybe We Don’t Have to Choose

Colorfully decorated room

For years—literally—I’ve had this entry in my “Blog Post Ideas” list:

Simple Living – Finding the balance between necessity and aesthetics

This conundrum grew out of my desire to buy only what I need, in order to take only my share of the Earth’s resources.

Do I need art on the walls? No, not really, but it sure looks nice. Do I need decorative blankets and pillows? No, but it makes the home cozier. Do I need designer glasses in my kitchen cupboards? No, but it makes every drink just a bit more special.

For the most part, I’ve leaned toward not buying the art and the pillows and the blankets. (I did go with the designer glasses.) Our sparsely furnished house is a testament thereof.

I’ve thought about this topic extensively over the past few years, but I never came to a satisfactory conclusion, so I didn’t feel like I could write about it. Both sides of the coin are important: being mindful of the earth’s resources and being surrounded by beauty. Since humans are programmed to enjoy beautiful things, there must be a way to have both, I thought. But I wasn’t sure how.

Then I started reading and learning and dreaming about a world without money. And it hit me! In a different society with a different economic and political system, we can easily have both. We would be living more sustainably in the first place—growing and harvesting only the food we need, making only the clothes and tools we need, and finding ways to heat and cool our homes using free or renewable energy (just to name a few differences). Plus, everybody in the world would have enough.

And since we’re only spending three to four hours each day “working”—that is, contributing our talents and skills to the greater good, we’ll have lots of time to create beautiful things for ourselves and to share with others in the community. Our homes will be filled with hand-crafted, beautiful quilts, pillows, paintings, photography, glass, pottery, and other creations that we might not even have considered yet!

Once again, I am struck with how much sense a money-free world makes compared to the disaster we have today. This is just one example of many…

Until we get there, I will continue to buy only what I need or really, really love. This includes local art and poetry from Driftward Press, pottery from local potters, and other handmade-with-love items to elevate the coziness factor in my home. Maybe I don’t need those things in a strictly physical sense, but I do know that our spirit needs beauty to thrive.

What are your thoughts? Do you think surrounding yourself with beauty is important when a billion people are starving in the world? Is it possible to find balance between necessity and aesthetics?

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Biggest Aha Moment Ever

US dollar coinsEver have one of those aha moments (sometimes the product of months and years of study and conversation and pondering) when you know that you’ll never look at the world the same way again?

I had one of those recently.

A Little Background

While writing Her Lost Year, a book about children’s mental health, I came to realize that most everything that is bad in our society stems from one thing: big business (or profit at any cost).

By big business, I mean corporations that pay such low wages that their employees qualify for government welfare programs, that pollute our water and air, that care more about money than people’s well-being, and that buy politicians and exert undue influence on policy.

I ended up including a whole extra part in my book to talk about social change that must happen in order for our children to have a chance at a happy, healthy future.

So I was talking about this with a new friend at a party back in December, and he suggested that I check out Michael Tellinger and his book, UBUNTU Contributionism: A Blueprint for Human Prosperity. I started by watching a YouTube video where Tellinger lays out his vision for a world without money.

A World Without Money

Yep, you heard that right. A world without money.

I was intrigued. I had included a vision for a mental health utopia in my book, but I didn’t go this far. I didn’t know it was allowed. In fact, it’s almost impossible to wrap your head around.

However, after reading two-thirds of Tellinger’s book and viewing Zeitgeist: Addendum,* it makes all sort of sense.

Money is causing all the problems. And we don’t have to put up with it.

The Mental Health Benefits

Imagine for a minute that you didn’t have to worry about working for money. Rather, you contribute three hours per week to community projects (e.g. farming, sanitation, energy) and spend three hours per day contributing your God-given talents for the benefit of the community. The rest of the time can be spent tromping around in the woods, playing with your family, reading, making music, jumping in puddles…

And most importantly, not worrying about paying the bills or getting fired or having to work late once again and missing one more day of your children’s lives.

Do you feel relaxed yet?

Without corporations, we would also not have to worry about what to eat and what not to eat, because there are no more GMOs or corn syrup-stuffed food-like products. And we would have all the time in the world to get plenty of physical exercise, because we’re not stuck in front of a computer all day long.

Too Far Out?

I know the initial reaction of most will be that this is too far out there. It will never happen. The people at the top will never allow it.

This is true. I don’t think we can count on the people at the top (corporate leaders, the banking elite, and politicians) to put people first. Money speaks too loudly. (And this is the paradigm shift of all paradigm shifts. The monetary system has been in place for thousands of years.)

However, the alternative—status quo—is not an acceptable option. Any “reform” that continues to rely on a money-based economy is just going to be a band-aid.

We have to start “small”—by boycotting big business. And finding ways to circumvent “the system.” The more people we can get to do this, the harder it will be for corporations to survive. The more self-sufficient we become, the more likely it is that true, sustainable change can happen.

These are just my initial thoughts… I’m planning to read and write a whole lot more about this—and figure out what this means for me and my family and my community. But I’m curious to know what you think? What are your thoughts about a world without money? What questions do you have? Let me know in the comments or, if you get this email in your inbox, hit reply and let me know.

*I don’t agree with everything in this film, but it’s worth watching for the radical stance it takes on the monetary system.

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