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! 

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.