Her Morning Elegance

This has not been my favorite week of all time. Very long, tiring and I have had strep. I need something beautiful, soft and surprising to sustain me in these moods.


Reminds me that all that sustains us is not in terms of production, resources and time. We will need the artists to help us remember that there is more. There is always more.


Sustainability and the Workforce of the Future

So, Tina has a marathon mega conference call with a prominent learning professional, who I will not mention here (but whose name rhymes with Melliot Wasie) and a bunch of other learning professionals. When she gets off the call she says the conversation she was participating in was about reskilling and training. Specifically, how to train people in new skills and who was going to pay for it. The more interesting question was, of course, what are these new competencies they are training for…which she brought to the attention of the group. For this, there is no easy answer, so it is not a favored topic of discussion. But it is a topic we better get on quick or buckle up.

So, it occurred to me that this is a PRIME candidate for a sustainability blog. Hey, I have one of those! And, it might surprise you to note, I have opinions on this issue as well…

The world is changing faster than we can keep up with it…at least as individuals. Our future brilliance and viability in the market place is inextricably bound up with our ability to forge community, collaborate, get the right people in the room to brainstorm, connect with people over large distances and form bonds with people we have never met face to face. And, more than ever before, the competencies of flexibility, agility in thought, fast-fail-for-success mentality and the ability to release old structures and ways of doing things will form our value in the coming market.

Or, at least, that is what I believe.

So, that’s all fine and good, except that this is not how we came up in the world. Nor is it the way our children are being educated. The structure of our schools is set up completely contrary to this. Failure is, well, failure…not a path to success. And you alone must memorize the content to be tested or it is cheating. We are still basing our education system on old models that have nothing at all to do with agility in thought or flexibility in thinking. And, It’s not the teachers. I have known many teachers who are really engaged and want to help their students learn to adapt and process information. And, I have met many teachers who have been in the system a while and just given up. Because a well meaning, but hopelessly flawed effort to “leave no child behind” has forced a rigid concentration on standardized testing as a measurement for the success of a school. So the schoolwork naturally focuses on maximum success on these tests. Strategies for taking them…memorization of mnemonic devices for formulas and outlining…practicing endlessly for those days of testing that determine everything about the school. So, what about this is preparing our kids for a wildly changing and enormously challenging future?

Sir Ken Robinson talked to some of this in his 15 minute speech at TED. (if you have never checked out TED talks, go and be amazed.) If you have 15 minutes, check out what he has to say.


The upshot is this, in pursuit of a sustainable future, we must evaluate what of our competencies will truly be important in the face of a wildly changing market place. Where are we going as a culture and how can we shape ourselves and our children into strong players in whatever comes?

I am looking at the sum of my workplace competency building to date and trying to figure out what my path to professional sustainability might look like. Are you looking at yours?


Vegas in a Cow Field

Space Center Drive is one of four streets that border NASA, but it is a very long road. If you drive past NASA and keep going until you are flat in the middle of what, until very recently, was a cow field in the middle of nowhere, you will see something you will not believe. Stranger still if you have seen the promotional ads for this place as they make it out to be a regular steak house…which it decidedly is not. Tina and I went for dinner there two weekends ago, not our first time, and I decided to blog it as my “Off Topic” weekend post.

Cullens is the restaurant and I hope I can do it justice.

The first thing you will note is that it is HUGE. Like Las Vegas over-the-top huge. 38,000 feet, seating for 700 people. Remember, this is in the middle of nowhere. Seriously.

The main dining room has 56 projection screens displaying rotating fine art. There is an impossible room hovering above the main dining room called “Macy’s room” which can be reserved for parties of 12 or less. You must spend at least $1,500 in food and beverages and your choice of china patterns and your own personalized menu comes with the room.

Stunning service, brilliant wine list, billiard room, live music club with concert lighting and an upper deck with a not-quite-finished fire pit and waterfall that will provide the over-the-top theme to the upper patio.

And then they get you with the environmental consciousness. Carpet is recycled tires. Lighting is all LED. I wish I could remember all the guy told us about the environmental features. It is stunning that someone that built this place even cares about that. Gives me hope.

And then there is the food. And this is the real reason I adore this place, despite all the glam. The chef is Paul Lewis and he is incredible. I do not say that lightly. I could not care less how gorgeous a plate is laid out or how innovatively someone uses raspberries. If it is not delicious, I am not impressed. This guy freaks me out he is so good. He does not over fancy up the straightforward dishes (simply the best fish and chips I have ever eaten anywhere. Period.) and things that he does something bizarre with (chamomile infused scallops) are divine. I have been several times now and tried sampled from others at the table and have yet to feel even neutral about anything. OK, maybe Grant’s pizza that one time, but kids food is supposed to be basic.

This is a destination spot. It is worth the drive to a Clear Lake cow field.


The Story of Stuff

If you will promise to find 20 minutes over the next 48 hour period to take the time to sit down and really watch this, I will promise that my next two posts will be silly and lighthearted. Here is the teaser…

Here is the link:


This is the video that started me down this road for real. It changed the way I look at things. It is pretty heavy stuff. But it sets up everything else on this scramble toward personal sustainability.

I am not gonna be able to check up on you guys…so this will have to be on the honor system.


Genius and Gelato

Today I was in a gelato store getting my first taste of gelato (I know, right?) and I heard Smells Like Teen Spirit piped in over the sound system. Well, it was the song, to be sure, but it was a strange cover using some old school Italian cadence and instruments. It was a very odd feeling listening to it like that and it got me to thinking about Kurt Cobain.

I love Kurt Cobain. I use that in present tense with intention. He is gone, but in a very real way, who he was is still all around us. His animus is still present. A piece of him is still alive. In any case, despite the fact that I have to look up the lyrics to his songs in order to understand them all (sort of), and that he really belongs to a different generation, I feel his music as if it were written specifically for me. I can feel it in every cell of my body.

So, I start having a conversation with Tina about his genius and at the very moment I am beginning to wonder if we overuse that word, I realize that we do not. At least not in this case.

Kurt Cobain is a genius…was a genius. His genius was in connecting us with our wilder self. The part of us all that just does not fit into starched shirts and minivans. A sleeping piece of up wakes up to his music. He speaks directly to that part in us…and that is his genius.

What is yours?


Lighting up the Landfill

Not this year.

Tina and I packed up Christmas today. We were the last on the street to do it. We do not have any of the kids this weekend, so we decided to do a thorough job of it and actually sort, toss and donate everything we could. It was awesome. We managed to consolidate the entire two household mountain of decorations into six boxes…that’s indoor and outdoor. Very satisfying.

We also sorted through the lights. We did not use all of our lights this year and some of our lights went out over the holidays (I will save Planned Obsolescence rant for another post). So, we plugged in every light set and kept only the ones that worked. Brilliant, except that most of them did not work anymore and we ended up with a heartbreaking number of light sets that were useless. Here is a shot of them.

So, while I rant and get all worked up over the fact that there are only two things you can do with these Christmas lights – spend hours and hours and hours hunting for the culprit bulb on each strand or throw them out – Tina gets on the internet and looks up what other people are doing with them and finds a Christmas light recycling program.


For the price of shipping these lights to Fort Worth, we can get them to a group that will take them over to a recycling plant and receive money from that to buy books for the Toys for Tots center in Dallas/Fort Worth. Also, if you include your name, address and email address, they will send you a 10% coupon to buy lights on their site for next year.

This recycling group separates the strings into plastic, glass and copper wire and recycles everything. Here, you don’t even need to click on the link. Just box up your nonworking Christmas lights and send them here:

Christmas Light Source Recycling Program
1923 6th Avenue
Fort Worth, TX 76110

Oh, and in the future, we will be replacing traditional Christmas lights with the LED ones.
95% reduction in energy use

  • Lasts up to 100,000 hours indoors
  • Fire safe
  • Bulbs won’t break

So happy making.



First off, let me just say that the whole blogging thing is not going as I had planned. I think I need to revise my own personal expectation to blogging three times a week when I do not have the kids and once or twice a week when I do. There is just too much going on. Now on to our regularly scheduled blogging, already in progress…

Freecycling…you probably have a group in your area. If you don’t, you really should start one. It is incredible to watch. The concept is all about “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” It is a list serve in Yahoo groups. You submit a message describing something you have that needs a new home, the moderator approves it and it is sent out to the group for someone to claim. Or you can submit a request for something from the group. Every day you get a bunch of emails from your group with offers and requests that you can sort through. You can either get them in one email at the end of the day, like a digest or one at a time as they come out. I get about 20 emails a day from the group here.

I love this so much. I cannot tell you how happy making it is. It’s true that we could easily put some of the stuff we are putting out on the curb and it would mysteriously vanish, but this is so much more satisfying. The right things into the right hands at the right time. Wow.

This Christmas we gave a bike, toys, food, kitchen supplies and clothing to a woman with two kids who had just escaped an abusive relationship. We gave items to people who had lost everything during Ike. We found a sewing machine for Haley so that she and Tina can learn to sew together. Two people found a home for their old bits of yarn in me and it has my mind swimming in ideas and possibilities. The community is really unbelievably generous too. Grant and Haley earned $50 this past summer doing a lemonade stand for Hurricane Ike victims and we have tried multiple times to give the money to some of the families on Freecycle who lost everything. Every time, they have said they were fine and there were people who needed it worse than they did. We are still looking. These people break my heart.

I have become something of an evangelist on this. I am constantly telling stories of what I have put out there to give away and what I have received. I am also constantly searching the house for more to give away. I am adding a list to the bottom of my blog of things I am freecycling. I will try to remember to keep it up to date.

Go to http://www.yahoo.com/. Click on GROUPS. Then enter the name of your city and Freecycle in the box and press SEARCH. Sign up for your local group and test drive for a while. Not only will you find it a lovely way to declutter yourself, you might make someone’s day.


Knit Stitch Witchery

I am learning to knit! This is a picture of where I am so far on the scarf I am knitting as I first practice project:

It is mostly fabulous in its sheer volume as far as I am concerned. It is full of strange stitches and stuff. But Tina has claimed it already. Here is what I have learned from knitting so far, other than casting on and a knit stitch.

  1. Knitting is beautiful. I mean the way it all comes together. I am looking at sweaters in stores differently and how things I own are put together. The way the thread twists and ties around each other to make patterns and a secure piece is incredible.
  2. I tend to overestimate what I need, and this is included in knitting as well it appears. While waiting for my books (Stitch N Bitch and the Knitters Bible) I have been learning on the internet. There is this really great tutorial (it is really for pre-teens) that I have been learning from. The instructor had her group knitting something that was ten stitches across. TEN STITCHES! Well, that was ridiculously little, so I cast on 36 stitches. So, I am knitting a vestment. A little moderation wouldn’t kill me.
  3. You really can’t knit and watch TV, play on the computer or write a communication plan…at least not while you are learning. I had to tear out ten rows of stitches because I was over confident.
  4. Picking yarn for a project is a little bit like picking out a piece for your wardrobe (which has never been a strength). I was fascinated by many of the colors of yarn and really wanted them…but, dude, they do not go with anything in my wardrobe. I need a yarn consultant.
  5. Knitting is like meditating. I had no idea this would be restful. OK, everyone can stop groaning. I am kinda high strung. I generally don’t like things that have me sitting still for forever. But this feels good.

The women folk around here are all getting a little bit crafty. Tina is sewing. Haley is learning to sew and knit. There is even a bit of embroidery in the air.


P.S. Steve, Janelle…are my hands supposed to be hurting while I am learning to do this?


I have never been much of a resolution maker. But this year, which promises to be one helluva year, I figure I need some solid goals in order to keep up and stay connected to the swirl of change. So, I am jumping in and making it public…to keep me honest.

My resolutions, as well as the primary subject of this blog, will have to do with sustainability of one kind or another. Sustainability has become such a slippery word. For me, sustainability means consuming less and sharing more. This is as true in my relationships as it is in my possessions. I want to make a smaller footprint everywhere.

This blog is going to be a very important part of my journey. I will use it to keep record of this year, from my perspective…keep people I already know connected to what I am doing…and to, hopefully, build a virtual community of people who, like me, are working their way to their own personal connection with sustainability.

For the record, here are my resolutions:

  1. Become wired. I am tweeting (look me up on twitter and follow me!)…facebooking (same thing…search me) and now committed to blogging at least three times a week. This is building and sustaining community.
  2. Meditate, somehow, every day. To sustain peace of mind.
  3. Tweet gratitude once a day, every day. To sustain balance and a sense of gratitude.
  4. Thrift shopping once a month…never done it. Will be a giant adventure! Recycling instead of consuming.
  5. Find and participate in at least one barter session this year. Direct trade, ultimately a more sustainable model than international trade.
  6. Recreate the dinner party “salons” with my local community…this is wonderful, more to come on this later. Sustaining community and sharing.
  7. Learn to knit. A hobby of sustainability.

Most of the blog entries will be about working toward sustainability…but I am thinking my weekend post will be goofy and funny…I won’t be able to maintain my enthusiasm for this if I can’t play a little (I say this as if my posts will be very somber…hard to imagine if you know me.)

I have a very consuming full time job, and we are planning to move the family into town this year, so it is going to be a very busy year.

Bookmark me. It’s gonna be fun.