Embracing Cloth: Living a Less Disposable Life

We have recently made the decision to switch to cloth napkins. This is following a more conscious effort to create less waste in our home. Instead of reaching for paper towels, we reach for dish towels, Swedish dishcloths or cloth napkins. There are many reasons why people make this kind of choice. Environmental awareness, scientific knowledge, smaller footprint, cost savings, etc. These are important factors, to be sure. However, they aren’t our primary motivator.

Linguists know, and so do we all deep down, that the words we use shape the way we think about the world. Something as simple and basic as changing a single word or phrase in a sentence can give us a fresh perspective on any number of perceived divisions, attitudes and injustices. For example: “These people are different than I am” or “These people are similar to me.” Or the classic Catholic example, “We have to go to Mass” versus “We get to go to Mass.”

The little things can make all the difference. After watching the Netflix show Cooked Ben and I have been talking a lot about how “disposabley” minded our American culture has become. Worldwide, roughly 140,000 disposable plates and cups are thrown away every second! In one year, approximately 73 billion Styrofoam plates and cups were disposed of in the US alone. Combine this conversation with our subscription to a website called MightyNest which offers sustainable products designed to encourage people to create less harmful (primarily plastic) waste and we landed at our dinner table. Specifically our napkin holder with its ever-emptying supply of paper napkins.

Now that Eliza is capable of getting up on the table unassisted (not at the table, on the table – literally), our napkin usage has skyrocketed. John, Rosie and Clare also tend to revile dirty fingers so you can quickly see that in a single day we could easily burn through 15 or more paper napkins. Most meals included at least one if not multiple napkins per kid, and not because the napkin was unusable. It was just more convenient to grab a new one. Ridiculous! We had created napkin monsters!

Maybe this isn’t a big deal in your house, and that’s awesome! But for us, we have chosen to see this tendency as a foundational building block for a less disposabley-minded life (I know, I totally made that word up but I like it).

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Just like we are taught from the earliest ages that it is polite to say “Yes, please” and “No, thank you,” shouldn’t we be taught to be mindful of the things we use? Humans were placed on the earth not to use it or abuse it, but to be good stewards of it (see Genesis 1-2). In this way, we are helping our children (and ourselves) to be good stewards of something small, a simple napkin. But, hopefully, it will help to form their conscience in a way so that when they are called upon to be stewards of something larger, they already have a good habit pattern to follow.Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

CatholicMom: Lessons from Lent – Fasting

As Lent comes to a close, it is time to reflect on what I’ve learned. This year, I chose to not only fast from meat on Fridays, but to follow the stricter fasting rules we observe on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday each Friday during Lent. I’ve never fasted with this kind of regularity before, so when this thought popped into my head a few weeks before Lent began it felt very Spirit-driven.

I knew this kind of intentional fasting would be challenging, and it was! But not always in the ways I thought it would be. Here are some things I learned from my fasting.

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A Balanced Plate: A Balanced Life

A few weeks ago I made a ravioli dish for dinner. Chicken, mozzarella, and rosemary. Now don’t get too impressed, it was frozen from Costco. But good nonetheless. We have made them before and usually I toss them in olive oil. This time, however, I happened to have some basil pesto about and pesto is one of our favorite pasta toppings, especially since we figured out Clare can eat it as well.

As you might have guessed, something went wrong with this meal. Though I love rosemary, and I definitely love basil, for me and my palate the two do not mix well. When I made the choice to use basil pesto I forgot about the rosemary in the ravioli filling. Too focused on the chicken and mozzarella I guess. So when we started eating, there was a war in our mouths between the basil and the rosemary. For those who like to keep tallies, the rosemary won.d

Doesn’t life feel like this sometimes? Especially if you are a family with kids, nights and weekends fill up fast with practices, games, recitals and playdates. How do we pick? How do you choose what activities to participate in, which ones to say no to? How do you prioritize?

We are just entering this stage of parenthood. I know things are going to get busy and I know we are going to have to make tough choices. It’s one of the joys and sorrows of having kids spaced so closely together. They do so much together, which is great, but there are only so many hours in the day when they start doing their own things.

We are going to need to evaluate and reevaluate our priorities each time we add or let go of an activity. The key is striving for balance.

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Seesaw by Gabriel Pollard (2008). Flickr, CC.

Have you ever noticed how on a teeter-totter there is a center point on which the arm rests? It’s easy to focus on one end or the other, or try to find the exact weight needed to achieve perfect balance. But here’s a secret for you – it will never balance if that center point crumbles or is removed. If our lives are likened to teeter-totters, can you guess what the center point is?

God

Hopefully that isn’t too big of a surprise. Before we can achieve balance, we need to have a sturdy foundation to balance upon. Mass, prayer (both personal and communal), service, sacrifice, thanksgiving, forgiveness, praise and adoration – all these and more help us to build our relationship with God, the foundation for our lives.

In light of this, one of my goals for our upcoming school year (yikes! it’s August already?) is to attend daily Mass at least once a week and, if things continue to work out, go to Confession every other week/once a month minimum. We are homeschooling, so 1 daily Mass should be well within the realm of possibility. I am so thankful we have found a couple other homeschooling families that also want to attend. The goal is to try to get to Mass early one day every other week or so and take turns watching all the kids so the moms and those kids old enough can go to Confession. It’s happened twice so far and it has made a huge difference in my accountability, my responsibility and how I am going about my day.

Balance. Be it on the plate or in our life, is difficult to achieve. But difficult does not mean impossible and it is certainly worth working toward. How do you achieve balance? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com