The Gentle Project

In the past, whenever I have made “big announcements,” they have been really BIG announcements. For example: “SURPRISE I’m moving to Uganda!” Or, “Surprise, I’m married!” So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I announced on Instagram I had a “big” announcement, and everybody over shot. 

No, I’m not moving or winning a Grammy. 

This announcement does have the potential to be life changing though. 

Let me set this up a bit for you. 

Be Careful

I recall as a child being told to “ Be Careful!” an awful lot. Be careful not to break your toys, your bones, your friends toys, or your friend’s bones. As I grew older the list of things I needed to become more “careful” of changed. Be careful where you walk at night, be careful with how you dress, be careful to choose the right friend group, and be careful with what you say and how you say it. An endless list of all that could befall me developed. 

As a result, I have grown to be a rather “careful” person. I would not say that I exhibit very risky behaviour: I have never broken a bone, I’ve never smoked a cigarette, I don’t think I’ve ever been drunk (I got giggly once after my second Bellini, does that count?), and I’ve led a pretty vanilla young-adulthood. 

As careful as I have attempted to be in my life, I had an epiphany over the past year: I am a very careful person, but I am not very gentle. 

Peaches, Pampers, and Baby Animals 

When I hear the word, “gentle” I think of baby ducklings and Dove soap. I think of pastel colours, Jesus holding a lamb, and diaper commercials (which is funny because diapers themselves are quite possibly the complete opposite of gentle). 

To me, being gentle to the earth meant: “The Three ‘R’s.” 

Being gentle to myself meant: don’t get drunk, or high, or obese. 

Being gentle to others meant: treat other’s the way you would like to be treated. 

Being gentle looked a lot like abiding by Sunday School directives, and if you did those things, Congrats! One ticket to heaven! 

I have taken great pride in the illusion of my “gentleness,” but really I am just good at being careful not to appear as if I am a shitty human being. 

An Alarmist 

I think that I need to become more radical about how I treat the earth, others, and myself. The older I get the more I recognize that these things are intrinsically connected; I can no longer merely exist knowing the way I mindlessly shop, eat, clean, spend, and talk affects those around me so deeply. I also think it is hypocritical of me as a “Christian” to say I believe theologically I am meant to be a steward of the earth, and then on a practical level treat the earth like trash. 

I thought a great way to start thinking more deeply about this would be to calculate my ecological footprint. I went to www.footprintcalculator.org and did their quiz to determine what my ecological footprint is, and to calculate my overshoot day. 

Do you know what an overshoot day is? I had no idea. The world’s overshoot day in 2018 was August 1st; that is the day humanity exhausted nature’s budget for the year. To put it in financial terms, August 1st is the day we stop paying cash, and start throwing all our coffee orders on the credit card. 

I did the quiz, and to be honest, I thought my results wouldn’t be too bad. My husband and I carpool to work or use public transit, we recycle, I buy my clothes from consignment, and we make the occasional vegan meal… what more could you ask for Earth? 

I was expecting a hearty pat on the back for all my efforts but instead, I was floored! 

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2.3 Earths! That’s how many earths we’d need if everyone on this planet lived like me. To make matters worse, my overshoot day was June 10th. To remind you, humanity’s average was August 1st… which still sucks. 

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After calculating my Ecological Footprint on www.footprintcalculator.org  a teacher-friend of mine shared another more extensive Eco footprint calculator. 

That quiz can be found here if you’re interested: http://www.earthrangers.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/how_big_is_my_ecological_footprint.pdf

I thought surely I would be around the average consumption level, but this quiz gave me an even WORSE score. 

Our earth has approximately 12 billion hectares of biologically productive land and there are about 6.3 billion people on the planet. This means that the average person should use approximately 1.9 hectares of biologically productive land (the “Average Earth Share” number). The average Canadian uses 9 hectares (22 acres). 

Do you want know how many hectares I use? Approximately 20.3 Hectares! That’s right, recycling, no-meat-Monday Ashley is using 20.3 hectares of land. That’s 11.3 more than the average Canadian, and 18.4 more than I should as a human. 

The Gentle Project

It’s time for me to make some changes, and I would love all of you to keep me accountable.

Each month in 2019 I will develop a new way in which I can be gentler to the earth, those around me, and to myself. At the beginning of each month I will share what my “Gentle Project” will be, and how I am planning to stick with it. I will do my best to share what I learn and to be honest about how committed I’ve been. My goal will be to build upon each month, and not ditch what I learned the month before. 

Each month I will also retake the ecological footprint quiz to see if I can move my “overshoot day” (and perhaps also adjust the number of earths I use). 

I am, clearly, not an expert in this area so I could use all the help I can get. Feel free to share your feedback, take the Ecological Footprint Quiz for yourself, let me know how many earths you’re using, and maybe even join in on the fun! 

Changing how I live is a scary thought, but I am excited for the challenge. 

The Gentle Project begins January 1st, 2019! 

Monday Moment of Joy: Netflix

Working at a high school is great for lots of reasons… lots of respectable, admirable reasons. One reason I love working at a school (probably not the most respectable, and admirable of them) is my true love for Summer Vacation. I get almost two full months that I can spend in any way I choose. Sometimes I spend that time in useful, life-giving ways, like hiking, volunteering, or learning a new skill. Other times I spend it in my romper, on the couch, with treats, binge watching Netflix. 

Sure, I could do more useful things. 

I could do a lot of things. 

So could you. 

But regardless, here we are.  

So as a salute to the fast approaching summer vacation, and the terrific ways I waste time, here are some of my favourite Netflix series (when I’m not just watching re-runs of The Office).

Jane the Virgin

“The life of a pious, hardworking Latina woman is turned upside down when a doctor visit reveals she was artificially inseminated by accident.”

This Telenovela themed show is addictive! I don’t know that I want to admit how quickly I worked my way through this series. I. just. couldn’t. stop. Every episode begins with reminding you of what “chapter” of the story you’re in. It was somewhere around chapter 72 that I realized, “I have watched 72 HOURS of this show.” And then I hit, continue. In my eagerness I finished this last season without realizing that it was the season finale, and now I’m emotionally distraught until it begins again #teamrafael 

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt 

“Imprisoned by a cult leader as a teenager, Midwesterner Kimmy is freed after 15 years. The first thing she decides to do is move to New York.”

If you like Tina Fey, a black man too gay to be cast in “The Lion King” musical, and poking fun at religious cults, THIS is your show. I’m going to leave it at that. 

 

Imposters

“Ezra Bloom gets an unwelcome wake-up call when he discovers his beloved wife, Eva, is really a marital con artist who has fleeced him and fled town.” 

This one is husband approved. I love shows where there is a good con underway (which is why I am committed to the Oceans franchise). 

The Five

“A woman’s murder at a hotel leads detective Danny to discover a shocking DNA match to blood at the scene. A traumatized girl is found on the streets.” 

After binge watching Broadchurch, Giddy and I were on the hunt for another show to fill the void. The Five was a great fix. 

Alright, now it’s your turn! I need some new shows… what should I watch? 

How to Keep your Husband Alive

When I got married to my husband, Giddy, I had a lot of people volunteer relationship advice:

  • Never let the sun go down on your anger
  • Men want sex all the time; prepare yourself
  • Your first year of marriage is going to be hard 
  • Never say “you always,” or “you never” 

And then, of course, I got a ton of unsolicited advice about when, where, and how we were to have children. 

But of all the advice I received, no one warned me of what would be the greatest challenge my marriage would face. 

The dreaded question: “What are we going to eat for dinner?” 

I knew before we got married that Giddy had a very specific list of foods he would not eat:

  • Shepherd’s Pie 
  • Lasagna 
  • Sandwiches 
  • Soup
  • Pirogies
  • Macaroni and Cheese

In my mind that left me with: 

  • Chicken
  • Rice 
  • Potatoes
  • Left-over chicken, rice, and potatoes 

At first I thought he had merely had bad experiences with these foods but surely he would like my versions of them. 

Giddy would sit quietly at the dinner table looking at me as I devoured my handcrafted sandwich. 

Me: “What?”

G: “I don’t eat sandwiches”

Me: “But you haven’t tried THIS sandwich” 

G: “I don’t eat sandwiches” 

Me: “Why don’t you just try it before you decide it’s not for you.” 

G: “I have tried sandwiches. I don’t like them. I don’t need to try yours.” 

This would throw me into a fit of rage. 

Then I decided I would try to be tricky and rename the foods on the fated list in an attempt to broaden his pallet. This had a 50% success rate.

G: “What is this?”

Me: “Baked Pasta”

G: “It looks a lot like Lasagna.”

Me: “No, it’s baked pasta.” 

*Insert Gideon giving me a dubious look* 

My adventures and misfortunes of attempting to find foods my husband would eat only began to expand his “do not serve list”:

  • Lettuce Wraps
  • Anything with a cream sauce
  • Tacos 
  • Anything that combines chocolate and peanut butter (fine on their own but combined? Atrocious!)

I floated between being infuriated that Giddy wasn’t eating all of my cooking creations, to being panicked that I was going to unintentionally starve my husband within the first year of marriage. I could hear the voices of my critics/advice givers now, “The man could survive living in Uganda during the civil war, but his wife’s food killed him.” 

Well, isn’t that interesting

Almost immediately upon Gideon’s arrival to Canada, we were invited over to friend’s houses for dinner so they could meet Giddy. Friend’s would ask, “Does Giddy have any allergies?” The truthful answer is no, no he doesn’t have anything that physically keeps him from eating certain foods. “But should I mention Giddy’s list of aversions?” I’d think to myself. No, I determined that would be rude, and I could risk the purchase of McDonald’s on the way home to keep Giddy’s BMI up and keep down my wife-guilt about starving my husband. 

But then something interesting would happen. 

He would go to other people’s houses and eat every, dang, thing. He would even make proclamations across the dinner table like, “Ashley, why haven’t you ever made this for me?” 

OH, you mean this cream-based soup and grilled cheese sandwiches? Because it causes us to doubt the validity of our marriage, that’s why. 

And this was not a show for my friends, he would genuinely request these recipes after the fact. 

99 Problems But Food Ain’t One

I am happy to report after four years of marriage, our food saga has (mostly) ended. My husband is not malnourished, and I do not have an anxiety disorder over what to pack for lunch. I have at least 10 recipes I can throw into rotation (though many of those recipes are just chicken and rice cooked in a variety of ways) and Giddy even cooks a great deal of our meals. Self-high-five! 

Marriage Advice

Four years of marriage does not feel like enough time to become one of those people who hands out relationship advice. With that said, this was the only piece of advice I didn’t get when Giddy and I got married, and it would have been really helpful. 

So get ready for some unsolicited marriage advice:

Spend your pre-wedding date nights strolling the isles of Chapters Indigo in the cookbook isle, and scrolling through Pinterest. Have your significant other identify recipes that look appetizing; use force if necessary. 

If at any point your significant other mentions their mother, abort all plans, register for gift cards to major food chains, and call it a day. 

Now go in peace. 

How To Forget Where You Live

Hi.

My name is Ashley,

And I’m a stalker.

*Insert many other voices greeting me in unison*

Don’t worry; there is not some poor schmuck somewhere whose unrequited love has driven me into hysteria. No, the object of my stalking is actually a house, to be more specific, the house I grew up in.

My family moved into our house when I was about three years old, and we didn’t move again until I was ten. Almost every fond childhood memory I have took place in or around that house. I learned how to swing on the swing set in the backyard. I fell in love with the boy across the street. I had Christmas’, birthdays, and Easter egg hunts in that house. I did homework, playtime, family dinners, and jumping on the bed in that house. I loved that house. I don’t think we would have ever moved out if it hadn’t have been for my parents divorce, but that is neither here nor there. We moved and since then I have moved over 15 times.

So yes, on lonely days, lost days, cold days, or if I just happen to be in the neighborhood, I stalk my old house.

I say stalk because I always feel supremely creepy when I’m doing it. I don’t peek in the windows or sneak around the side or anything, I just drive by… really slowly. Like, imagine slow, and then go slower, that is how slowly I drive by the house. I do not mean to make it look as creepy as I imagine it looking, I just get lost in thought and can’t help but linger.

I envision what my adolescence would have looked like in my house. I scoff at how poorly the new owners have kept up the lawn, and can almost hear my father’s voice saying, “All the time I put in, and look at what a mess they’ve made.” My eyes drift across the street, and I think about the little boy I loved for so many years. I think of my summers with him jumping through sprinklers, and eating watermelon popsicles. I see the shed in the backyard I was convinced had monsters in it for an embarrassingly long time. I smell my mom’s cooking and remember her as did when I was little. I even drive down the back alley to peak at where my tree house use to stand, and am still flabbergasted as to why anyone would want to tear down such a magnificent structure. I see my mom and dad sitting on the patio on a sunny morning, my mom with a book, and my dad with his smokes.

And for just a moment, I feel like I am home. Then I drive back to real life.

In Between Addresses

“What do you mean you don’t know your address?” says a judgmental sounding voice on the other side of the phone from a bridge toll company that shall remain nameless.

“Well, I just moved, so I don’t know my new address.”

“Well, what was your last address?”

“I don’t think I ever got around to giving you my last address, so I think what you’re actually looking for is the address before last.”

“Fine, give me that address.”

“Yeah, I can’t remember that one.”

“Well isn’t that the address on your drivers license?”

“No, no, my drivers license has the address from before that on it. Do you want that one?”

*Insert stunned, frustrated silence*

This conversation and others like it are the reasons why, “Can I have your address?” has become a remarkably challenging question for me. Every short-term address I hand out is just another piece of mail I’ll have to redirect later, and it’s strangely exhausting. It makes me feel like I’m floating in between where I am, and some mysterious place I will be 6 to 12 months from now. With every piece of mail that gets lost in between addresses, it just reminds me that I’m wandering, and suddenly I become terribly unsettled.

Hopeless Wanderer

“I will learn to love the skies I’m under.”- Mumford and Sons

Life has changed a lot for me over the past few years. I have lived on another continent, I have adjusted back, I have gotten engaged, I have gotten married, I have been fired, I have been hired, I have lost old friends, gained new friends and, of course, I have moved.

With all of the changes, my biggest struggle has been to refrain from stalking my past. It is so easy to look back on what could have been, how I would have hoped to be treated by people, how I would have liked to end or start something, or the homes I wish I hadn’t moved out of, but there’s no use in dwelling on my shoulda, coulda, wouldas’. I can do a drive-by every now and again, but at the end of the day, it is just a waste of time and gas.

Instead I just need to learn to love the skies I’m under. Thank God for the lovely things I’ve had, the ridiculous crap I’ve endured, and the feet He has allowed me to keep wandering with.

A Prayer for the Hopeless Wanderers

I pray not that you stop moving, but that the Lord gives you sturdy shoes to travel in.

I know that when it rains, it pours, so I pray for umbrellas, rubber boots, and an internal knowing of how to clean up after a flood.

I pray that the Lord accompanies you on all your journeys, so that no matter how far away you go (and even if you’ve forgotten the address that gets you there), you always feel at home.