Sunday, March 25, 2012


 Sunny Saturday.
Boy Builder off playing with friends.
 New in-wall speakers arrived in the mail.
Baby napping in the rebozo.
Audio system (well, the speakers anyway) installed!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

we all live downstream

Big Cottonwood Canyon Water Shed
When we bought our property in 2005, it was an "unimproved" lot. This meant there were no utilities to the property. There was a very old water line, but it hadn't been serviceable for years (we discovered when we went to replace it that the contractor for the neighbors had cut our water line to bring the water to their house).

We first moved onto our property in the summer of 2007. We had optimistic dreams of living on our land as we built, in the tradition of so many owner-builders before us. We built platforms and erected two large canvas tents sheltered by an aspen grove and made an idyllic summer home for a Papa, a Mama, and a 3.5 year old Boy.

One of the most memorable parts of that summer adventure was fetching water. We had two 5-gallon water containers and two 2.5 gallon drinking water containers. We had a platform for the large containers that held it at a height making washing and tooth-brushing convenient. We hauled water from a neighbor's outside spigot and used it for drinking, cooking, dish-washing, and washing up. We had a port-a-potty on the site and usually took our laundry to a laundry mat, but otherwise we carried the water we used.

Five gallons of water is not light, and we became very familiar with how much water we used. Our family of 3 used about 3 gallons per day.

Later, we were forced (by interfering neighbors) to move from our summer idyll to a fully equipped condominium. It was alarming how quickly we became casual about leaving the water running too long while we brushed our teeth, or lingered in the warm shower. In future iterations of our transient builder life-style, we lived in a place where the water pipes froze, forcing us again to haul water, and eventually to move to a converted store with a spring flooding problem. Then we lived in our partially built house again, with water this time, but coming through one pipe in the basement wall with a bucket for drain we carried over to the floor drain a few feet away.

Now there is fully functioning plumbing in our house, serving up the winner of the best-tasting rural Utah water for 2011 and I am so grateful for that water. We live in an important watershed and we are careful in our stewardship of that resource.

The point of this story is that water is something I've thought about a lot over the last few years.

Today is World Water Day. There are people all over the world who work much harder than I ever have to provide enough water and food for their families. In fact, nearly 800 million people lack access to clean drinking water. Here are some suggested actions from the U.N. for those wanting to help protect the world's water supply:
There are 7 billion people to feed on the planet today and another 2 billion are expected to join by 2050. Statistics say that each of us drinks from 2 to 4 litres of water every day, however most of the water we ‘drink’ is embedded in the food we eat: producing 1 kilo of beef for example consumes 15,000 litres of water while 1 kilo of wheat ’drinks up’ 1,500 litres. 
When a billion people in the world already live in chronic hunger and water resources are under pressure we cannot pretend the problem is ‘elsewhere’.  Coping with population growth and ensuring access to nutritious food to everyone call for a series of actions we can all help with:
  • follow a healthier, sustainable diet;
  • consume less water-intensive products;
  • reduce the scandalous food wastage: 30% of the food produced worldwide is never eaten and the water used to produce it is definitively lost!
  • produce more food, of better quality, with 
  • less water.
What is not mentioned in these actions is the tremendous amount of water needed to produce and refine fuel used to transport food, goods, etc. I recommend supporting your local economy as another action to help protect the world's water resource.

Healthy watersheds are critical to the health of our planet and all its inhabitants. The phrase has become a bit of a cliché, but is a truism nonetheless: We all live downstream.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

vernal equinox

It seems fitting on this first day of spring that the boys and I came home tired and sunkissed.

We spent two days at the ski resort enjoying the (possibly) last big storm of the ski season and the rare pleasure of making new friends.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Today is St. Patrick's Day. We ate our requisite corned beef and cabbage (we passed on the green beer). Some of us wore green. We wound up bailing on all social invitations and staying home to be together. There's a spring rain/snow/wind storm outside and it was a good day to be home, together, cozy. The holiday got me thinking about Luck.

In some ways I feel so very Lucky. I have nearly all that I need and much of what I want in life. I have a loving family, a beautiful (albeit half-built) home in a stunning location, I have a sound mind and healthy body. So, so much for which I feel grateful.

But, somehow, Lucky doesn't quite capture the full emotion of having what you need and want. Some people use the word Blessed, but that doesn't quite sit right with my own theological views. Fortunate implies more of the profundity of my appreciation for the goodness in my life, but doesn't capture the emotion associated with abundance. It also makes this feeling out to be a one way street of receivership, perhaps bypassing my own hard work and good intentions in the process of filling my overflowing basket of goodness.

On the other hand, this concept of putting out intentions and working hard to create my own Luck smacks of undeniable hubris. I don't really think that those who don't have what I have didn't work hard, or didn't want it enough. There's much of my own station in life that I can credit to nothing more than the whims of fate. But then there's "making the most of the hand you're dealt" and inheritance from the hard work of foresighted ancestors and all that. It's a complicated process, semantically expressing the goodness I experience every day.

I recently read a book called The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain by neuroscientist Tali Sharot. It's a surprisingly engaging book that convincingly argues that humans have evolved to look at the future (and to some degree the past) with rose-colored glasses because it is adaptive. There is a great deal of evidence to support the idea that humans, for the most part, believe that we personally have a bright future ahead, brighter than statistics would suggest. We all think that we will beat the odds and have marriages that will last, upward financial mobility, everlasting good health, and fun forevermore. We know somewhere in our brains that some people, somewhere will get divorced, lose their jobs, and get sick, but we unfailingly see our own futures as unsullied by such tribulation. Sharot theorizes that our bias toward optimism makes us healthier, longer-lived, happier people. It's a fascinating book and I recommend it.

After thinking about the neuroscience of emotions like optimism, hope, positivism, and gratitude in the context of my own experience of those emotions, I'm forming an opinion that a lot of being Lucky is not so much about random circumstance as it is about attentiveness. Let me explain what I mean.

It is not uncommon when reading or hearing the story of a survivor with a harrowing story to hear the survivor claim "The cancer/accident/divorce/job loss was the best thing that ever happened to me!" In these kinds of uplifting stories, the person isn't just putting on a brave face, either. They usually genuinely mean it. They truly feel that this terrible thing that has happened to them is the best thing in their life. Maybe it caused them make a meaningful turn-around, or helped them develop unknown strengths, or set them on an unexpected path they decided was much better than the path they were on before.

Of course, none of us would ever, in advance, guess that cancer or divorce would be the best thing to ever happen to us. We'd never describe someone as Lucky who was facing these tragedies. But that seems to fly in the face of the actual outcome for the brave people who look disaster in the face, smile, and move forward.

This is where attentiveness comes in. I think those people who feel like cancer was a lucky break are deciding to attend to the good in their lives. They are either wired for or have consciously made a decision to attend to the positive. They are optimists. And this is why people in all walks of life, in circumstances meager and wealthy are capable of feeling that beautiful, full-to-the-brim feeling of Luck or Good Fortune or Blessedness or Abundance, even when their circumstances are so varied. The optimists are noticing all that is wonderful and, perhaps, are better off for it.

For me, this blog is about attending to the good in my life. It's about creating a little of the Luck o' the Irish for my 1/16th to 1/8th Irish self. May you find some of that Luck o' the Irish in your life today.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

pi day

Celebrated by learning about π, Archimedes, geometry of circles and the like.

And eating PIE, of course!
Happy Pi Day to you and yours!

Monday, March 12, 2012


:: Sunshine!!!
:: Brunch as a family
:: Spring skiing for the Boy Builder and his Papa
:: A trip to the grocery store for Mama and Baby deemed a success because Baby didn't scream the entire time he was in his car seat (sigh...)
:: Snuggling
:: Hearing basketball updates from family ACC tournament fans in North Carolina
:: Dinner with grandparents!
:: Coordinating little boy outfits
:: Grandpa singing himself to sleep while baby looked on, bemused

Thursday, March 8, 2012

international women's day

Looking at the full moon tonight, making wishes for the women of this planet

:: I wish all women the opportunity to decide their reproductive futures
:: I wish all girls and women the resources to meet their educational goals
:: I wish all women access to health care for themselves and their families
:: I wish all women the dignity of a fair wage for honest work
:: I wish all women respect and kindness from the people in their lives

I bought myself a gift to celebrate International Women's Day. Because maternal health is a cause I am passionate about, I made a donation to Edna Adan's Hospital of Somaliland.

If you feel so moved, I urge you to make a donation to a women's cause that stirs your heart. Or maybe read Half the Sky by husband-wife team Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Or watch this 4-minute interview with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Nobel Peace Prize winner and the first democratically elected female president in Africa, the president of Liberia. I would be honored if you shared your International Women's Day celebration ideas in the comments.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

full moon

Full moon coming up on our home with our newly installed lighting system. (More on that in another post.)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

4 months!

Dear Torbjørn,

Today is your 4 month birthday. You have spent the day alternating between complaints and worries and giggling. With periods of nursing, napping, and diaper changing thrown in just to keep things on an even keel.

You have so many new skills and talents. You can turn your head and focus your eyes anywhere you want to now. You frequently apply this skill toward following the antics of your big brother and your Papa. They are the best show on earth as far as you're concerned. Today, for example, you were just cracking up every time Eden tried to do the Harry Potter levitation spell on you. Over and over again. At first we thought it was the wand, but then he did the spell without the wand and you cracked up just the same. And later, when Ba came in from outside, you belly-laughed! He didn't even have to do anything other than show up. (In spite of the fact that just moments before you'd been complaining in my lap telling me that life was just not up to par as far as you were concerned.)
You can hold your head, neck, and back up straight now and it makes you look slightly less fat than you did a week ago. You are a master of "Baby Foo." This is the martial art of hand-meditation. You fix your eyes on your hands and make these gorgeous shapes with your hands and fingers. Every time you do it, you look totally engaged and focused. You are surprised over and over again at how awesome your hands are, like you can't get enough of them. I've noticed you checking out your feet recently, perhaps portending a new phase of Baby Foo.

You are a highly skilled finger and thumb sucker. So far you haven't picked a special finger or thumb that you like the most, but instead opt for shoving the whole hand in the vicinity of your mouth and chomping down on whichever digit comes closest. You like to keep your options open.
Most of the time it appears as though you've got the hand-eye coordination of a potted plant. You try, but struggle to get your hands going in a discernibly deliberate direction. However, there are moments when you surprise us by grabbing at a familial limb or article of clothing as it's passing through your reach-zone and gripping on for dear life. You've got a grip that rivals a baby orangutan. I think it's all that practicing you do under the baby gym that the neighbors loaned you, grabbing rings and ringing bells. You do love your baby gym.
You love telling us stories. You arrived, it seems, with lots to say. Early on, I couldn't have a phone conversation without you butting in to share your views. And I can't count the number of times I've had to cut your brother short because I couldn't hear a word he was saying over the racket you were making when he was just 10 feet away! And when you're nursing, you love to comment on the fare. Fortunately, you mostly approve, although you have shared words with me about service-related issues, like volume and speed of delivery. I assure you, I'm doing my best and your concerns have been noted.

We finally cleared up that horrible rash you had developed in your skin folds and you are feeling much better. If your friends ask, it was Anti-Monkey-Butt Cream that finally did the trick. We tried lots of other remedies and you were very patient with all of them, but you were clearly relieved when we figured out something that worked.
Your favorite times of day are waking up and getting ready for bed. You let me know you are ready to get up for the day by opening your eyes wide, sighing a big full-body sigh of satisfaction, and wiggling out a noisy fart or two. If your brother is anywhere nearby, he never fails to giggle at your routine. At bedtime, you squirm big whole-body squirms of delight and smile big toothless grins at me while I help you get on your nightgown, turn the lights down, and turn down the bed to climb in with you for a final before sleep nurse and snuggle. Those times with you have become some of my favorites, too.

I need to have a little talk with you about sleep. You've got this idea that sleep must be preceded by crying and complaining. I'm here to tell you that there really is no need. It is possible, and in fact very pleasurable, to just sink into sleep without crying first. Adults, children, and babies do it all the time. I recommend you give it a go. I think you'll find it's a lot less trouble and energy, less painful, and probably more restful. On a related note, I wouldn't mind if you experimented again with that newborn habit you had of sleeping for 4-6 hours at a time on occasion. If you do, you might get the bonus of a better rested mom!
I can't tell you how thrilled we are to have you in our family. We are delighted by your every trick.You're just incredibly lucky we haven't eaten you yet, because you are absolutely scrumptious!

Your Mama

if you have ten minutes...

magic monday

Just another magic Monday.