Tuesday, 30 June 2020

let's do this imperfectly, and let's do it together

right, ok, today is another long post where i talk all about deep important things... today i want to talk about being environmentally conscious, because it's Plastic Free July next month, and so it seems as good a time as any to talk about where we stand as a family.

there's so many people speaking loudly for the environment right now, from vegan activism, to the zero waste movement. i don't consider myself to have any sort of 'label', but i do believe that we all need to be MORE CONSCIOUS of the things we are consuming and the impact they are having on the earth. 

but the thing is once i started to switch on my awareness, and stopped mindlessly consuming things, i got overwhelmed really quickly. because there is a LOT to take in, and there's so many decisions to make...

so, before i get going, have you read my last blog post? i wrote in it about 'where do we go from here?' - i talked about how i address overwhelm, and simple steps we can take to move out of overwhelm and start to feel productive. one of the things on my mind and in my heart when i wrote that was addressing environmental concerns, because really when any one of us starts to think about it, it can feel like a LOT. it can end up being a weight, and it can move us into feeling like no small thing we do will matter, so that leads us to choosing to do nothing because we can't do everything. 

but, there's this quote that i love, which is:

"We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly." 
Anne Marie Bonneau

this is supremely true! let's hold on to this. that's why i titled this post 'let's do this imperfectly', because we simple need some level of action, just to DO something. 

the whole idea of 'plastic free july' is meant to make us think, because really if we stop and think about plastic we will realise there's some pretty useful plastic things out there, like cars, computers, car seats - the whole invention of plastic has helped us actually use less fuel by making things lighter. i guess though, we got a little carried away somewhere by making everything out of plastic... and now we have to circle back round and work out what single-use plastics we don't need, and making sure we use plastic efficiently without waste.

there's so much complexity when we talk about the environment, because in the production of any singular item there are so many parts to think of. so a couple of months ago i needed to buy new underwear, so instead of going to my regular multipack at M&S straight away, i decided to look for a more environmentally conscious option. this lead me down a crazy rabbit hole thinking about all sorts of aspects of my undies. and you could apply this to ANY product you chose to purchase...
- do i really need it?
- what material is it made of?
- where is the material sourced, and is it organic or sustainable?
- who made the material?
- what are the factory conditions like for workers, and are they fairly paid?
- what factory production techniques are used? what sort of energy do they use?
- what packaging is used? how is it shipped?
- can the item be used for many years to come, will it last?

most companies are being open about lots of the answers to these questions, but some are still a little shady about things and there's tons of 'greenwashing'. so make sure to do some good research yourself, and know that there are lots of people who've already done some of the research for you, so check out zero waste and sustainable bloggers and vloggers for good info. they are held to a high standard, so have usually done lots of research.

where do we stand?

so our family is a one step at a time kind of family. we aren't really a jump in at the deep end kind of people, and that's OK! however, because we are a step by step sort of family, it's harder sometimes to see the progress we've made. so, i'm going to list a few things here that have been habit shifts for us. and i guess that some of you have done these too, because most of these are really easy switches:

1. we use metal straws.
2. we use keepcups and stainless steel water bottles (Contigo and Chilly's are our dishwasher-safe favourites).
3. we compost.
4. we use reusable glass containers for those tiny bits of meals that get leftover, and we have a leftovers meal when there's too many.
5. we use cloth nappies most of the time, and eco-disposables the rest.
6. i source the majority of my wardrobe from charity shops. we use hand-me-downs or thrifted clothes for the kids.
7. we use reusable beeswax wrap to cover bowls and cans.
8. we grow flowers for our dinner table (and for our pollinators!), we grow a little food. it's more about teaching our kids about growing than it as about being productive right now.
9. we forage in our local area - blackberries, elderberries, nettles.
10. we mend.
11. we have a run-to-failure strategy on most things in our home. that means we don't purchase new unless necessary, and then we seek to buy good quality replacements that will similarly last. this goes for washing machines, makeup, furniture, tech stuff, etc.
12. we support small businesses and local businesses. 
13. we use cloth napkins and reusable shopping bags.
14. we meal plan (some of the time).
15. we collect rainwater.
16. we re-sole our shoes when we can.
17. we line dry our clothes.

there are so many more switches i know we could make. but i feel like we have already made so much progress! let's celebrate those changes. i challenge you to write your own list! and please share these with me...

here are a few of the things on my mind to switch over / try this month:

- one of the things i really want to do is to start improving the recycling in my local area, so i've also signed a petition on change.org to make my voice heard in my area. i'm going to keep checking on progress on this, and fight for better/easier recycling options. our local council is one of the worst, and there are so many more things we could do.

- loose leaf tea and homemade brews - this should be a really easy switch, but might take a while to get the full range of types i like.

- try a click and collect for bulk items from my local zero waste store - i've just never tried it, so i don't know how easy/complicated it could be. i have visited it and left simply with a paper bag full of vegan chocolate buttons. 

- get a shop of local veg from my local farm shop - this is so easy and satisying in the summer, because the range is larger and cheaper when they get a glut of produce.

- be more conscious of the plastic in products and in packaging in my makeup, haircare and skincare - i'm usually pretty good at this, but i think my haircare needs some adjustment (i may have gotten a little carried away with getting perfect curls and forgot the ingredients list a few times, as well as the packaging)

did you know? 
one way you can be sure that your skincare doesn't have planet-harming plastics in it is to look for the Natrue symbol - this little face that you'll find on all types of brands, one of my faves being Weleda. it's really important that any product you're putting down the sink especially isn't contaminating the water system with microplastics. you can also look for the Zero Plastic Inside symbol on the websites of cosmetics companies.

really helpful resources:
- buymeonce.com  - this website is absolute gold when you want to buy a new toaster, or a new frying pan, or a kettle... because they showcase products that are made to last a really long time, a lifetime in some cases. it's where we decided on our toaster, because it's a Dualit with a long guarantee which can also be easily mended, so it should last forever and save money in the long term.
- plants for pollinators - if you're going to start a garden you'll want to make sure to keep your pollinators happy
- fave instagrams for styling thrift clothes: bjonesstyle, skirtlocker, igotitfromthecharityshop, taylormadestyle, tinyacorn - please let me know your favourites in the comments!
- be inspired to do more! i love these YouTube videos - the Carter family, Artist as Family, Zero Waste is not the Only Option
- good on you - get a sustainability rating for your favourite brands - fab way to work out that M&S is a reasonable place to purchase your undies, if you don't mind not completely knowing where they sources their cotton, etc.

i hope you enjoy this as part of the conversation for Plastic Free July, and please do head on over to my YouTube channel to take part in my Weleda giveaway ;)


Friday, 12 June 2020

where do we go from here?

doesn't it feel like this year God is taking everything we knew and shaking it up. asking us whether we want to keep going on the way we are... in the way we do life, relationship, church, faith, work, parenthood, society... everything.

you know how on holiday for a week you would usually have some good time to reflect on your life, because you don't have your regular distractions? like you'd be able to think 'if i decluttered my wardrobe when i get home that would help me think more clearly' or 'i really need to get back into menu planning because it helps life go more smoothly'. it's like that, but EXTRA. so many of us have had lots of our regular life distractions taken away and that has given us time to really truly REFLECT.

now, there's some people who started to reflect, and felt so overwhelmed that they shut off that thought train and carried on with the everyday. and there are some who want to think things through and even started, but the overwhelm broke them. and then there are some who are just muddling their way through and trying super hard to figure this all out. i don't feel like many of us can really grasp the magnitude of the history, politics, emotions, etc, that this whole period of time IS.

so, where do we go from here?

we go in love.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."
1 Corinthians 13:4-8

let's not be judgemental. let's be honest. let's be here for each other in simple ways. let's listen. let's give people the benefit of the doubt. let's be quick to forgive. i feel like now is going to be such a major moment in our history, and you need to be clear about where you stand. i stand with LOVE.

we go in peace, without worry of the future.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Matthew 6:34

i've heard a few people worry about where this is all going. i'd suggest that those people consider what you're reading/watching/listening to - where are you getting your worries from? are you spending too much time consuming news articles, obsessing over details.

i challenge you to decide how much of your time you want to chose to spend worrying, instead you can CHOSE to spend your time with family, time doing things you love, time spent developing your spiritual life, your creativity or expanding your mind. that doesn't mean you're not informed, it just means you should BE IN CONTROL of what you watch, and not let it control you.

we go in confidence, because He is by our side and He is in control.

"So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Isaiah 41:10

even if you don't have it all together, even if you can't figure out how you feel, even if you are doubting God in this, or you're questioning everything, He is still right there with you. and He really does have a better and bigger plan than you can imagine or reason.

i've struggled in the past with being able to communicate how i feel, and i still do to this day. we live in a very politically correct world, and i find it impossible to get it right all of the time, but i try to be sensitive to others all the time and my heart is always in the right place, even if i say things wrong. at this time i think it's better for us to talk about how we feel, instead of being silent. even if we mess it up or people disagree. we've all been silently carrying on for too long about too many things. don't be afraid of apologising, don't let your pride get in the way of truth.

we go together, with a corporate view of the future.

"The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable... If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together."
1 Corinthians 12:21-26

one of the great things that i hope will come out of the lockdown will be an increased sense of corporate responsibility in the world, to really see how we rely on each other, how we can benefit each other, how we need to protect our larger system, and how small the world really is, and how similar we all are.

we need to imagine what sort of world we want to live in, we need to visualise it, write it, depict it in popular culture. we need to work towards that more. what sort of world are you fighting for?

but, what can i do?

if you're like me, you'll be wanting a practical outcome to all of this... a way to channel that emotion and overwhelm... and way to move forwards and not backwards into old ways....

but there are almost too many things to do, and yet seemingly none at all. and the only thing we can really do in the overwhelm of all of this is THE NEXT THING. however small or however big that may seem. whether it’s listening or talking to a friend, whether it’s praying regularly for our government, whether it’s campaigning for a cause you believe in, whether it’s making your partner a cup of tea or running yourself a bath.

you may feel super tiny and insignificant and powerless, but know that your power lies in the SMALL things, the little things you do to encourage those in your circle of influence (however small or large that is), we are all connected, just like our body is connected. so that tiny thing you do can have a massive impact on something somewhere else in the system. and if we all truly believed that, how powerful that would be?

peace be with you x

Friday, 1 May 2020

life in lockdown : a diary for my children

to my children.

in the decades going forward, i imagine you'll look back on this time in history. and so i wanted to write something to remind you of how we spent this time in lockdown.

a lot has happened in these past few weeks, and as i type, the whole world is battling coronavirus, covid-19. we are battling it by staying in our homes, reducing trips out to only the essentials, and washing our hands a lot.

we are taking these steps to stop the virus from spreading too fast, so that the health care professionals don't have to make choices about who lives and who dies, so that we give everyone a chance, and so the system we have doesn't get overwhelmed.

our NHS staff in this country are already doing a fantastic job, and the government have created Nightingale hospitals to house many more people on life support machines. the curve seems like it is staying steady, and we are now in May.

every Thursday evening we go out our front door, stand on our driveway and clap at 8pm, we clap for a couple of minutes to encourage the NHS workers, and to thank them. we can hear the ships in our nearby dockyard, and we can hear the loud noises all the way from the refinery cheering them on. it's emotional every time. we stand at the edge of our driveway and wave to our neighbours.

daddy does the shopping once a week. he queues outside the store, as they only let a few people in at a time, and he wear a ski snood to cover his mouth. he tells me it isn't very nice shopping at the moment - there are people saying 'please remember to keep your distance' over the tannoy, and people are fighting over the last of the eggs.

it's been impossible to get yeast & bread flour, though eggs, plain flour and toilet paper are now usually in good stock. daddy always gets lots of yummy things to eat.

this all started for us on March 16th 2020, when your daddy brought his laptop and coffee maker home from his work and set up a permanent office in our top room. the government had started to make recommendations for safe "social distancing", but only those with more serious conditions had been told to actually "self isolate". because of my type 1 diabetes, we thought it was a wise precaution. also that you, my boy, spent most of the beginning of March battling one sniffle or another. you needed time to recover completely, in case coronavirus came to pay us a visit.

in those first few weeks, everything had to be cancelled. plans for weddings, mother's day, birthdays, and we started to be social over FaceTime and the phone. mummy was so grateful for her social media presence, because it helped her to feel connected to other people. we are all so grateful for technology at this time.

for me, my immediate reaction to the idea of lockdown was confusion and fear. i didn't know what was happening, i'd seen how it had played out in Italy (they were the epicentre at the start), and thought for sure somehow we'd bypass it. and then i thought 'how can i possibly be a full-time mummy with no outside help?!" - i was terrified that i wouldn't cope well, that i'd lose it or lose myself with no free time, or that you both would be irreparably damaged in some way.

that feeling lasted about a couple of days. because what actually ended up happening surprised me...

firstly, this has taught me so much more gratitude than i already knew (and i'm a pretty positive and grateful person). life is simpler, stripped back, we don't have the opportunity to be grateful for some of those seemingly 'bigger' things, like holidays, meals out, family gatherings, trips to the zoo or the park... instead we are 'forced' to see the little things, like new flowers in our garden, how many worms we can find in our soil, how many times we can re-make our Brio train track, how we all love a good long bath, how we love to dance to music together.

secondly, this has made our family unit is tighter than ever. we love each other so much more. we see each other. we respect each other. we know how to work together. you are both loving more time with your daddy nearby, even if he is in the office lots of the time.

we get out on a family walk most days, some days just boys go out and girls stay home. on our walks we look for rainbows and teddy bears in people's windows, and we spot new chalk drawings on their driveways. we look for new flowers and new plants in the hedgerows together. we learn their names.

my son, you have grown so much in these last few weeks. you're so helpful and kind, full of joy, and you're so clever with your train track creations. you love to cook and to garden with me, and you love to run with daddy and talk about engineering. i always thought you were extroverted, but it turns out you're a little more like me than i thought - you love to be home, building trains, lighting fires, baking, eating, dancing, snuggling. listening to you talk these days is amazing, you love a good conversation, and we can't wait to hear what you've got to say. you've also become so good at playing on your own, developing so many stories in your head and creating new experiments.

my daughter, you're already turning into the amazing woman i know you will become. so relaxed, so patient, so clever, and so incredibly beautiful. what a smile. you've started eating your first foods during lockdown, you love egg yolk, mummy's homemade gravy, carrot and courgette puree, banana and coconut milk yogurt. but you're not sure about a spoon - all food is either on the end of mummy's finger (unless it's a banana, which somehow you like to smash and suck and chew until it's disintegrated all over the highchair). you can now roll over, and you can sit up with assistance. you still sleep like a champion.

daddy has become more relaxed in our home, he's never been in it for so much time. he's grown a beard, and mummy thinks he looks really handsome. he's also had a couple of haircuts from me too! daddy is absolutely loving being with us all so much of the time, and he will miss us a lot when he goes back into the office. daddy really misses beers out with his friends, and he misses his long rides to work.

mummy has become even more of a hippie than she already was - i now make our own sourdough bread, we foraged comfrey to make garden fertiliser, we grow so much more food in the garden and we compost, and i'm experimenting with dyeing fabric with kitchen leftovers (avocado stones and black beans, who knew?!). i know i'm so much more capable than i thought i was, and i'm so grateful to both of you for your good humour and your patience when i get it wrong or i need a moment to myself.

i hope you remember some of the tasty moments we had during lockdown, because there were quite a few... ricotta donuts, Easter salmon platter, almond butter cookies (of every single type!), cardamom buns, cowboy dinner.

anyhow, i also made a vlog of our life in lockdown, because there's something about seeing it that's an important part of remembering.

and now the final things to say, because you know mummy loves to talk, and she also likes to explain everything to you and keep you included in the whole picture.

coronavirus is having and will have a huge impact on the world. lives are lost, jobs are lost, businesses will fail, families will fall apart, marriages will break. people will come face-to-face with their real life, without distraction, and they won't like what they see. some will learn to love it, others will change it, and for other people it will be a real source of turmoil. for some people, there will be a lot of uncertainty for some time to come, and that in itself is really scary, for these people we will need to pray for wisdom and for a clear path. 

in all of this we still believe in our God. He is good. He makes all things work together for our good. we were meant to go through trials, we are made to endure difficult things. there are so many verses from the Bible that have carried us through this time, Isaiah 41:10, Romans 5:3-8, Psalm 46:1-3 (below), and so many others... and also so many worship songs that we sing with all of our lungs.

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling."

my children, i hope we will all have learnt from this experience that we are so strong together as a family unit. i hope that after this crisis, we go out into the world, see who needs our help and go to their aid. i hope that we know we can always return to this cosy, hygge family home we've made together. what a blessing that is. we praise God for all that we have.