Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Convenience - the current American Idol?

I've been thinking a lot about environmentalism/conservationism lately (it's hard not to do so these days!) and mulling over my options, I guess you would say. In the world today, we have so many options to "save the world", but they all seem to have a price tag attached (literally and figuratively). We have energy-efficient hybrid cars, cloth diapers, natural medicine and homeopathy, alternative forms of energy, more earth-friendly materials, recycling programs, organic food, local farmer's markets, etc., etc. But most of these wonderful alternatives have cost us and will cost us thousands, if not millions, of extra dollars. So many of my friends have sacrificed certain things in their budget in order to afford to shop organic or take advantage of energy alternatives. And none of these seem to be very ummm....convenient. Take cloth diapers, for instance - certainly not as convenient as sticking a disposable diaper onto a baby and a few hours later being able to simply throw it away without another thought. Convenience has become quite an idol in today's society, it seems. And I'll be the first one to admit it is certainly one of mine. It's much more convenient to do my one-stop shopping at my local Walmart superstore than visit the local farmer's market every week (which coincidentally is conveniently located right down the street from me) and the local dairy farm to purchase my milk and eggs. It's way more convenient to load all my groceries from said Walmart into plastic bags to tote home with me (and promptly throw away) rather than purchase earth-friendly tote bags to use every time I go shopping. Isn't it more convenient to just take a pill to cure some disease than actually lead a healthier lifestyle with exercise and diet (I won't even get into diets right now!)? Is preventive medicine easier and more convenient than reactionary medicine? Of course not! Let's sue Mickey D's for the "food" (I use that term loosely) they make rather than just choosing not to eat it! I'm sure it's more convenient for the US to keep buying oil from overseas rather than researching and implementing more and different alternative energy resources.
There is nothing so easy but that it becomes difficult when you do it reluctantly.*
Not being environmentally conscious up until now has come with a considerable price tag as well and has helped get us into this place, the veritable rock and hard place. Convenience is our god, and we keep throwing all of our money and common sense into the mouth of this god. Unfortunately, this god is an unfeeling, greedy, unmerciful god who keeps everything and gives nothing. Diverting some of our money to things not-so-convenient may be a small step, but it is significant overall. So I've been trying to get out more to the farm and buy local at the farmer's market. I not only see this as helpful to the environment, but it's healthier for my own family. I'm just starting to work on the idea of not being so dependent on plastic (why? you may ask - that's another topic for a different day) and looking into alternatives for disposable diapers (bad past experiences prevent me from committing to cloth just yet), but I like using naturopathic doctors and homeopathic treatments, trying out new all-natural drugstore products (natural deodorant is my newest thing which is amazing to say the least as I've always been an antiperspirant girl, but so far so good) and enjoying being a Mothering magazine mom. I don't know if it's the age (in my thirties), the life stage (being a mom) or the fact that the world seems to be getting crankier with our treatment of her, but I don't think we can afford to let convenience reign supreme. After all, we were given orders from the beginning of creation to take good care of her, and no matter how much I search, God never mentions convenience.

* Terence, Roman comic dramatist (185 BC - 159 BC)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What Would Martha Do?

What is it about the human condition that it's only when we come to our wit's end about something is when we actually do something about it? This week I've admitted to having the "House Blues" - you know, that state of living when you wish you put your house on the market "as is" with everything still in it so you can just walk away scot-free? I would love someone else to come in on a regular basis and clean my house (what do they call those people? Oh, right, maids...), but it goes beyond that now. I've come to a startling realization actually: I can be as creative, organized and systematically clean as the next Martha Stewart (ok, I may be stretching that a bit), but my children are no mini-Marthas. In fact, I believe if you were to look "children" up in the dictionary, the definition would read something like, "little whirlwinds of destruction and chaos." Anyone remember a character by the name of Taz in Bugs Bunny cartoons? Ok, well the real definition is "a person between birth and full growth." Hmmmm...why does that sound like a lot of us? Anyway, I think that defines them perfectly! So no matter what the state of my house soon after a thorough cleaning and organization spree, it is dirty and unkempt ten minutes later. I have thrown up my hands, retreated into a state of denial and ended up living as much as possible in the cleanest corner of my house just for peace and sanity's sake. After living like this for a couple of weeks or so (you can only go so long like this before needing some heavy duty sedatives to continue the denial), I've come to another realization. Simplicity is best. Ok, I actually knew that before, but simplicity in this case means getting rid of stuff - lots of stuff! Mainly toys at this junction as it is my biggest nuisance. If we're not crunching something under our bare feet or vacuuming something up, the visual clutter it creates is enough to start looking for some Paxil (no, I don't have any, but it doesn't keep me from looking sometimes). So this week has been major clean-up week. The boys don't yet know that all the toys they see in boxes and bags are not actually staying in the house, but they do know something is afoot (no pun intended). And after explaining where these toys will end up (in other deserving children's arms), I don't think they'll mind too much (or at least for very long). And peace and sanity can once again reside in the Ortlieb home.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Single-Parenting and Saturdays

So after having a conversation last night with my girlfriends (yes, this is Crystal writing, NOT Michael! lol), I realized how much single parenting has been a part of my life up until now. And though I would not compare my lifestyle over the past 16 years of my life with a single mom raising her children on her own, I can definitely feel her pain. I started off raising Lauryn on my own up until she was 3.5 years old when Michael and I got married (and have you ever dealt with a 2 year old on your own with no end in sight??). But even after the wedding, Michael was on a four days on/three days off schedule at a children's group home in Portsmouth - the same schedule he had when we were dating. This essentially meant we had a weekend relationship. It was tough, but after finding a job elsewhere with more normal hours, things started to settle down a bit. And then Boston entered the scene - the big, fabulous city of Beantown full of multiculturalism (Chinatown a couple blocks away, the North End on the other side and the Irish - oh, those Irish! And don't forget the Mexican shop in the building where Mike brushed up on his Spanish.) with a college-town air and Patriot-pride (yes, Red Sox and Celtic pride as well). Michael really enjoyed working in Boston, however that meant a very long commute with very little time at home. It got even worse once he decided to enter law school, working a full-time day job and attending full-time school at night.

Three years and two baby boys later, Michael found himself finally working closer to home, in fact only a couple blocks from our house, and enjoying the proximity to his family. I can't begin to tell you how much we enjoyed it! It was the first time the boys were actually able to spend some quality time with him and get to really know him. After graduation from law school, he was once again looking for a job and was forced to make the return to Boston. After some temporary assignments down there, Michael finally "set up shop" in Hampton recently as an attorney with his good friend and associate, John. And he is loving it!

Thirteen years into our marriage with a house, a dog and four kids, this is the first time we feel Mike's presence on a more permanent basis. Landon is the first baby able to enjoy and get to know his father daily, and the older boys are very attached to him and enjoy playing cards, games, sports, etc. (which is certainly not a hobby of their mother's) with him immensely. They look forward every night to Mike's arrival, and Mike is experiencing what our world looks like at 5:30 instead of 7:30 pm (a very different world indeed and sometimes possibly to Michael's chagrin!). It's an amazing feeling to have a husband who comes home now on a nightly basis and helps with supper or plays with the kids, gives the kids a bath or puts them to bed; someone who can pick something up from the store in time for supper or have time to repair something around the house before bedtime (thereby leaving our weekends a little bit freer); the ability to go out for a date night weekly or even a girls' night out for me; someone to share in the responsibilities of parenthood, home ownership and life in general.

Those who know me and see or talk to me frequently would say it hasn't seemed too hard on me, and I would agree that one gets used to what one is given - essentially, you do what you have to do. But I would be wrong if I said I never had moments of sorrow or heartache when I saw other families able to eat dinner together on a nightly basis or able to take walks through the neighborhood together or when my own children wondered where their father was or asked incessantly when Daddy would be home ("On Saturday, Honey."). I'd fear those times when I or the children would be sick or got hurt and it was just me to take care of everybody or dread those hellish days when nobody was happy or cooperative and it's just me in charge. It has been tough, but you tend to not realize it until certain moments - moments when you just lose it and want to jump a plane to Bora Bora. And when things finally do get better and you find yourself on the other end of the long tunnel, you wonder how you ever got along alone without help. I have to say I've been blessed in regards to the community around me who have helped to remind me that I have never been and never will be alone. They have been with me through lonely days, crazy busy days, chaotic hellish days and even labor, delivery and postpartum days. They have cleaned and organized my house, taken care of my children and cooked us meals. They have offered Michael and I support, security and encouragement time and time again. Thank God for family and friends!

I certainly don't want to give the wrong impression that my husband was never there for us or unable to provide us with the essentials - love, food and shelter. It's really quite unbelievable what he's been able to accomplish the last few years while being a full-time employee, student and husband and father. I couldn't be any prouder of him, and he continues to prove to me what an amazing individual he is. I think that's what made us miss him so. I'm just saying my heart goes out to all those who are single parents or married to military personnel - I really don't know what you do in order to survive, but I do know how: you do what you have to do. And you just hope that's enough.

Friday, July 11, 2008

'Ello Friends!

As you can see I added some of my most favorite blogs. For those who know me well, you could probably guess the Velvet Strawberries one is my favorite. I absolutely love her website!
Anyway, I just wanted to say that I will (hopefully) be keeping up to date with new and exciting things happening in my life, for example I am going off to NTS camp next week! I'm quite excited...except for the 10-hour bus ride there and back (without my most precious ipod!) I don't know if I can handle a week without listening to the Beatles or Monkees. Speaking of Beatles, I recently fell in love with their song Real Love. Heard of it?? It's pretty good. But, I could have a million things more to type about music, and feel like I have a million things on my mind at the moment. Here are my (mostly random) thoughts:
  • When am I finally going to finish that skirt and blouse??!
  • How many more vintage hats do you think could fit in that tiny room of mine ?
  • I really need to stop biting my nails.
  • Where in the world am I going to go to college?
  • Were you ever scared of going to college or even driving??
So, it was actually fun typing my first post, and hopefully there will be more to come. And I hope this wasn't too boring or got you confused, because I tend to do that to people. Oh, and here is a picture of my new haircut for those who haven't seen it yet... Yours truly,