Slacker New Year’s Eve

stay home on New Year's Eve, family time on New Year's, slow down on New years,

Years ago we started a new tradition. Slacker New Year’s Eve. No more loud, crowded events. No more babysitting nightmares. And no more driving back home in the early morning hours on icy roads. What a relief.

Instead we stay home with the kids. We put lots of goodies on the table, including snacks that are rarely seen in our fussy-about-nutrition household. We get out amusements like board games and videos, build a fire in the fireplace, and basically slouch around together. It’s fantastic. After all the holiday rush it feels downright indulgent.

A key element of Slacker New Year’s Eve is the no-bedtime promise. On this one night we’ve always told our kids they can stay up all night if they want. For years our kids have tucked us in bed not long after midnight, then done their best to stay up until dawn. A few times they’ve made it. Then they sleep in at least till noon. That tends to result in a nice quiet New Year’s Day morning for mom and dad.

Now our kids are old enough to make their own choices about Slacker New Year’s Eve. I think they’re all staying in and slacking. Me? I’m looking forward to warm jammies, chilled champagne, and hanging out with the people I love. This isn’t about renouncing anything. Slacker New Year’s Eve lets the old year slide out without a fuss and celebrates the upcoming year without effort. Ahhh.

Making Beauty From Bombs

melt bombs into jewelry, fund peace through gifts, cluster bombs into gifts,

Every time I hear of armed conflict taking place somewhere on this blue green planet I want it to reverse. If these intractable conflicts could somehow go back to the starting point, back to the earliest signs of difficulty, they could more easily be resolved instead of leading to destruction, refugees fleeing a ruined homeland, and death. That’s what the non-violence principle of de-escalation clearly shows.

Although our world is indeed more peaceful we humans are still learning hard lessons from the tragedy of war and military aggression.

These lessons are particularly poignant when we look at people who manage to transmute horror into beauty.  That’s the case with Project Peacebomb.

Between 1964 and 1973 the U.S. secretly bombed Laos. The equivalent of one B 52 bomb load showered on this thickly forested country every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years. Thirty percent of the bombs dropped did not detonate, continuing to injure and kill people today.

In 1975 a Laotian man traveled back over the mountains toward home. He collected shrapnel and melted it in an earthen kiln, then cast it in hand-sculpted molds to make spoons to earn a little money. Eventually he taught the craft to his son. Today, ten families supplement their farming income by repurposing the shrapnel that still scars their homeland.

Now the spoon makers are collaborating with sustainable development groups to make ornaments and jewelry from bombs.  Each bracelet purchased helps support artisan families while also helping to fund the clearance of unexploded ordnance fromLaos.

The simple beauty of this jewelry, creation wrought from destruction, reminds me of a passage from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, where the novel’s character sees American bombers in WW II flying in reverse.

American planes, full of holes and wounded men and corpses took off backwards from an airfield in England. Over Francea few German fighter planes flew at them backwards, sucked bullets and shell fragments from some of the planes and crewmen. They did the same for wrecked American bombers on the ground, and those planes flew up backwards to join the formation.

The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in flames. The bombers opened their bomb bay doors, exerted a miraculous magnetism which shrunk the fires, gathered them into cylindrical steel containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of the planes. The containers were stored neatly in racks. The Germans below had miraculous devices of their own, which were long steel tubes. They used them to suck more fragments from the crewmen and planes. But there were still a few wounded Americans, though, and some of the bombers were in bad repair. Over France, though, German fighters came up again, made everything and everybody as good as new.

When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground., to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody ever again.

peace ornament

Take action against today’s use of cluster munitions.

Purchase PeaceBomb items.

Let The Youngest Teach You Mindfulness

child-paced, slow down, slow to appreciate,

Image from jesse.millan’s Flickr photostream

Ask any child. When adults meet them for the first time, standard questions include, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” right after classics like, “What grade are you in?” and “What’s your favorite subject?”

Such questions, unintentionally, gauge a child’s progress toward adulthood. That’s because adults tend to be future oriented. We’re distracted from the present moment by the need to plan and work toward any number of goals—what to do about dinner, how to juggle next week’s schedule, when bills can be paid. These distractions take our attention away from what is in the here and now. When we think ahead so often we have less time to notice, let alone appreciate, what makes up our lives minute by minute.

What is impatience except denying the value of the present moment? The watercolor effect of rain on the window, the meandering quality of a child’s conversation, the long wait for a pot to boil—these can be occasions to experience impatience or opportunities to breathe deeply and be present, gratefully.

Leaning so often toward the future unconsciously demonstrates to our children that later is more important than now. Yet as we know, later never comes. As long as we’re alive there’s always “later” to strive toward. Worse, we are surrounded by advertiser-driven messages telling us that we aren’t there yet, that we need to do more or become something more in order to have friends, be successful, find love.

The nature of early childhood is the perfect antidote to this hurry-up attitude. That is, if adults truly pay attention to the lessons the youngest model for us. Young children who are not yet pulled by the adult world’s messages are oriented to the present moment. When forced to disregard what is vital to their bodies and spirits—pretending, daydreaming, playing, snuggling—they rebel. They are who they are, where they are. They’re not caught up in the future tense which dimishes the here and now. They demonstrate the oldest way of knowing.

Pay close attention to the youngest children in your life. Let them help you learn solutions to our cultural overdrive.

As we slow down we have time to truly know each other and to truly know ourselves. We’re more aware of the messages our bodies send us and can act on those signals before they become symptoms. We have time to reflect. Time to remember our dreams when we awaken. After all, time is the only true wealth we have to spend.

slowing down, slow movement, child-pace, mindfulness, mindful living, mindful parenting,

Image from kla!’s Flicrk photostream