Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Miscellaneous Thoughts and Musings...

       I am glad to know that there are people reading this...It keeps me inspired and thinking about reflections to record for all of you folks! Also, As a side note regarding my last post...that Holiday Card wishing my family and friends Peace and Joy in the new year??? Well, I mailed some of them off in the form of an empty envelope with no card inside. It would appear as if I could use some peace...and quiet in this new year that is almost upon us.
       This is always a time of year that I find myself yearning for Simplicity in my daily routine. I find this urge is taken care of with a few weeks of doing things a bit differently than I normally do to calm the stress and sensation of constantly being overwhelmed. As much as I would like, I cannot disappear into the woods and never come back, so these are a few of my fall-backs when things get intense. I thought I would share them with you. Thanks to Lynn's previous Post to making me sit down and think about my coping strategies for stressful and complicated times...

              1. Get back in the kitchen and COOK.... I spend hours on end in my car driving from job site to market, to school pick-ups, to my parents, and back. Nutrition is lacking for a person on the go. Just when I think I couldn't feel worse and more fatigued, I get back in the kitchen. I immediately feel better as I slice into a lemon to squeeze over the Mustard greens that I just sauteed with farm fresh onion and foraged Mushrooms. As Alton Brown once said, We are fat and sick and dying because we have handed a basic, fundamental and intimate function of life over to corporations. We choose to value our nourishment so little that we entrust it to strangers. This is insanity. Feed yourselves. Feed your loved ones. And for God's sake feed your children."    Remembering this ethos and cooking to it never fails to ground me. 

            2.  I Read....something, anything, that reminds me of my path and the general ideologies that I adhere to... We all have those moments when we know that we could be doing better and we know how to do better, but it's just that initial step back onto our path that is sometimes the hardest. For example-Whenever I feel that I could do better as parent, I also turn to Kim John Paine's Simplicity Parenting. My mother gave me this book when I had just opened up my second business and I was on the edge of the parenting cliff with an infant and a wild toddler, somehow she knew, just as she always does. This book has changed my entire view and "method" of being a mother. I reread it anytime I need a reminder of  how important it is to reduce the unnecessary in our families life and our surroundings....It is also a handy motivator to throw out all of the clutter and junky toys around your house (always a plus). 

         3. Work HARD, harder than ever, and more than usual. This may not work for you, some people can't, or simply don't have the drive to sustain days and weeks of giving a job or task their absolute all. I myself, find it soothing. Taking a day off, or half=a$$ing my work is always a sure fire way to start the guilt wagon. I need to be completely and totally confident and satisfied when I go to relax that I have done everything in the best possible way that I could that day.  Whether its scrubbing baseboards for the cleaning company, mixing up my products, or raising an 80 lb Tent in the hot sun for a five hour market, I need a hard days worth of work to set my mind at ease. There is nothing shameful with having to work manually or laboriously, no matter what our current social culture will say. I do what I need to do and I am proud of it all...too many people are dying slowly inside their cubicles. My physical abilities and work ethic give me a sense of important aspect of our social emotional health. Like I said, it may not be your cup of tea, but there is nothing like going to bed after you have worked as hard as you possibly could all day...bliss! 

So there is what I do to get grounded and to stay there. Recently,  I have turned back to these three tasks and will probably continue with them until the New Year arrives. Is there anything more Amazing and Inspiring than ending a year and beginning a new one knowing that you have all the tools to implement change in your daily life? -KATE

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Tis The Season...

       So Far this December has been a memorable and enjoyably hazy blur of work and valuable time with Dahlia and Greyson. I view the beginning of December as reminder to slow down, take stock, and enjoy the closing of another year.
       I always rolled my eyes when my mother went into "Holiday Patrol Mode"...and now I find myself slipping into her soft and nostalgic ways with a certain ease, as if I hadn't just ended my 'angsty' twenty something years.
        Dahlia and Grey have enjoyed lighting our Advent Candles, reading the Holiday books, and playing with the ultra breakable ornaments on the is the current score for broken holiday ornaments: Grey-2 Tree-0.
     I hope everyone is having an enjoyable season filled with traditions (whatever they may be), family, and lots of food.  Here is the Perrin family Christmas card, some of which I sent out in the form of an empty envelope...whoops!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I Want to Run Away

Guest Post By Lynn Shattuck, a writer and mother of two.


I used to fantasize about living in a wood cabin. It would have a cozy, romantic sleeping loft, a simple kitchen and a place to write. I would gaze out the window at pine trees and take long walks. I would have luscious pillows of time to write, play, rest, read and exercise.  

Instead, I live in a lovely old house that has become a jungle of plastic toys. My past week included three birthday celebrations and the inspection of a bigger house that we had under contract. This was on top of taking care of the kids and working after they go to bed at night. On top of attempting to get ready for the impending holidays.

I find myself running from birthday party to playdate, overwhelmed and exhausted. My body pulses with cortisol. I am impatient with my kids. Daylight wanes, evaporating my energy.

Somehow, I have chosen this.

Perhaps the very act of having two children has complicated life immensely. Or maybe it’s because the partner I chose doesn’t yearn for simplicity in the same way I do, and the compromise is a busier life. Maybe in a parallel life, I live off the grid in a little straw house with a husband named Maple, and we pass the days puttering in our organic vegetable garden and washing laundry by hand.

Maybe life isn’t quite so black and white.

Whatever the cause, I find myself in the midst of a life that is busier and more complicated than feels comfortable.

Strangely, the best solution I’ve found has been to add a little more to the swirling chaos.

Usually when I get too busy and overwhelmed, the first things to get squeezed out are acts of self-care. Exercise, healthy foods and water get replaced with extra coffee and comfort foods.

So I’m trying something different, something counterintuitive. I’m adding stuff.

My husband I have been doing the Couch to 5K, using the app on our iPhones (which my parallel life me would surely scoff at). I have never enjoyed running, but lately I have been craving it. I want to be fast, efficient. I want to keep up with myself. So we take turns heading out into the winter air while the other referees the kids. We jog and walk through the nearby cemetery. There is something about moving my body faster that lifts the extra fog from my brain, leaving me sweaty, focused and present. The bare trees (and the gravestones) remind me that nature is slowing down. Everything morphs, every phase passes; the busy ones, the hard ones, the sweet ones.

And while physically moving faster, my brain slows down. The chattering shards of thoughts disperse. My mood lifts. I focus only on getting through the next 20 seconds of running.This reminds my body that I can only do one thing at a time: focus on the next task at hand. Breathe. Hear the crunch of the leaves. Move your body.

Right now, there is no cabin, no simple life. But something about running leaves me able to deal a little better. To meet the chaos with gratitude for this full life, these busy days.

What do you do when things get busier and more complicated than you’d like?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

It's a Work in Progress...

           I hate the term "Going Green". When people use those words, I always want to respond, "you mean doing the right thing?" I don't mean to sound pejorative, however, as they say- the truth hurts. Our culture (most cultures now,  thanks to rapid globalization) is drenched in the idea of ease and disposability and I am nowhere near immune. Raising two young children, keeping a home, and owning two companies is exhausting. Sometimes the thought of not doing an extra load of dish towels every two days seems alluring when I think of how quick and dirty paper towels are. Then I think about my paper towel trash sitting in a land fill because I was too lazy to do an extra load of laundry. I was mortified when I bought paper plates for my two year olds birthday party. (insert excuse here).
         I always like to remind myself that ease of use doesn't equal beneficial, and that living "green" is not some trendy item purchased at Target. Its a progression, that I am moving towards.
        I do have one item in my home that has resisted my setbacks in terms of being eco-friendly, and it's my 7 year old MacBook. It works. Yes, its old and a bit slow. Sure, I would love a new shiny MacBook Pro and I have had a few versions in cyber carts just waiting for me to push the "Purchase" button. This has gone on for a year now. I just can't bring myself to acquire a new computer, when this one still works. Its my hold out. It anchors me to the direction that I want my consumer habits to go amidst the craze of hyper-consumption.
Photo: Anna Low. 2012. 

    My mother purchased this computer for me when I was on the cusp of starting one of my "business ideas" many years ago...(She has always had an over abundance of faith in my entrepreneurial spirit). I have used this machine when I was so broke that I had to get a horrific second job serving rich ladies over priced tea, and it serves me just the same now that I am navigating two successful business endeavors of my own. This old and dirty computer will last me as long as I invest in it...kind of like a large planet that I know of. You have probably heard of it, it's the only one capable of sustaining human life.

“Perhaps the time has come to cease calling it the 'environmentalist' view, as though it were a lobbying effort outside the mainstream of human activity, and to start calling it the real-world view.”  E.O. Wilson.


Friday, November 2, 2012

On Passion

Guest Post By Lynn Shattuck, a writer and mother of two.

“A one, two, a one two free foe!” My three and a half year old son bellows, then begins banging on the elaborate “drum set” he has arranged in our dining room. The drum set is actually a convoy of red Radio Flyer bikes, a yellow rideable dumptruck, and a little plastic basketball hoop that he has declared to be a cymbal. Ironically, he sits on his lone drum while he pounds on the trucks.

 “Mama! Play music with me!” He hands me his oversized yellow plastic shovel; clearly, he wants me to strum the “guitar” while he drums.

 Max is passionate about music. He always has been. When he was a colicky, red-faced infant, we would put on a Gary Jules song and dance with him. Every time it came on, he would get a faraway look in his eyes. And he would stop crying. If you remember the Seinfeld episode with Desperado, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

 And now, as a preschooler, music still consumes him. The other day, my mom had to wrestle an egg slicer out of his hand. To Max, it was a tiny guitar.

 So I’ve been thinking a lot about passion lately. Not that type of passion. The following your dream type. The spark that makes someone dream up citrusy potions in her kitchen. A good friend of mine recently became a finalist in a national competition for the handmade bags and accessories he fashions out of reclaimed materials. He works a day job and has a young daughter. He scours the Salvation Army for fabric and morphs his finds into beautiful bags in his basement during his “spare time.” He makes them because he has to.

 Sometimes I envy this passion. I try not to project into the future and worry about what Max’s future will be if music continues to be his thing (Drugs and Groupies and Piercings, oh my!). He is young, and who knows where life will lead him. But that passion.  When I had children, I put a lot of my desires on hold. It felt like there simply wasn’t as much time for them. How could I sit down and write when there laundry and dishes and bills to do?  How could I make time for the words that pulsed through my head, aching to get out?

How could I not make time?

If I imagine Max in thirty years, pushing his passion—whatever it ends up being—way into the perimeter of his life, it makes me so sad. Because even though his drumming is loud and grating and wakes the baby up, it is beautiful, too. Because he loves it. Because he was born loving it, like he was born having blue eyes.

 If something is truly a passion, don’t we make time for it? Don’t we sew in the basement when the kids are in bed? Don’t we jot down a few lines at a stop light before the words fall away? I am finding that the more time I make for writing, the more I want to do it. After a few meetings of a Portland Adult Ed writing class, the ideas are flowing faster than I can jot them down. And I am happier. I feel like there is something waiting for me; something that doesn’t require a fresh diaper or a snack. Something more like a lover I can’t wait to steal a few minutes with.

What aren’t you doing that you burn to do? Is there a way to fit a little bit into your day, to keep the coals warm?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fifty Shades of Clean

Guest Post By Lynn Shattuck, a writer and mother of two. 

I am a dirty, dirty girl.

No, really. Even as a child, I left cyclones of dolls and blankets in my wake. My cluttery
ways still seem to be inherent, part of my energy field. Electrical cords tangle in my very
presence. My clothes bustle together in little hills throughout our home. Small scraps of
paper scurry around, burrowing themselves into my pockets and the nooks and crannies
of my car. My messiness seems to be as much a part of me as my freakishly long and
flexible toes; not pretty, a little embarrassing, but perhaps an homage to the beautifully
imperfect nature of being alive and human.


I have two little people who rely on me. My children trust me to ensure that they are
fed and clothed. That they have safe places to play. That their clothes and bodies are
reasonably clean. And yet by the very nature of them being here, they add even more
chaos to my already slovenly ways. Particularly my three-and-a-half year old, who has
yet to meet a surface that he can’t turn into a drum set, and who leaves trails of cereal
bars behind him, as if to help himself find his way between the kitchen and the couch.

And so, I find myself squarely middle-aged, and craving order. In the past, I might’ve
fantasized upon catching a flash of well-defined shoulders. Or hearing a song with just
the right thump of bass, or when my husband took a few days off from shaving. Now,
I just want our damned wooden floors in the living room to be devoid of crumbs, small
pieces of fruit, and those brooding grey-faced trains that seem hell-bent on tripping me.
I want to peel my clothes off, very slowly, and… put them in the closet. And color code
them. I want to catch my husband’s eye on the rare moment when the kids are both
napping, put my hand into his warm palm… and slip him the broom.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Sometimes It Feels Like An UpHill Battle... does. I'm not just talking about life, raising two stable children, while simultaneously managing two start up companies with a full time student husband and a house renovation. I am speaking to the role of chemicals in all of our daily lives. There is something about living "naturally" that puts us on the fringe.
       This week I was asked to provide my daughters pre-school with a doctors note addressing why I am insisting that I provide my own sunscreen for when Dahlia goes outdoors with her class. Not only do they make it unreasonably mandatory for each child to have sunscreen applied daily, even in the dead of winter to exposed skin, but they wanted to use a generic brand sun screen. This basic and inexpensive brand of sun screen has over two known carcinogens in the ingredients list, not to mention petroleum and nano products. Yuck.  I know that I am lucky that I am aware, educated, and economically able to be in tune with such issues vs. the question of where our next meal will come from. However, the issue of pervasive chemicals in our environments and my children's exposure is one that I won't ignore. It will not be brushed under the rug for the ease of sunscreen application in a pre-school class room.

       I find that my need to be constantly vigilant against the "normal" products, foods, and other cosmetics, such as the antibacterial soaps used in schools and all public bathrooms is exhausting. I can't even buy a reasonably safe detangler for my toddlers curls in the grocery store. It requires an extra trip into Portland at a ridiculously high priced food market. Of which, just the parking lot gets my stomach in knots.
      To make matters even worse, I have to deal with all the people that roll their eyes and say things like, "well, everything causes cancer and is going to kill us, so why bother??". Or my other favorite is when people remark that I will get my arm entirely tattooed, but won't use bleach. I politely reply (standing next to my companies sign) that there is 100% more regulation regarding the ingredients in tattoo ink, then their favorite brand of Tide and Mrs. Meyers Cleaning products.
        Lets wrap up this post on a slightly less agitated and more positive note...Advocacy is all we have to keep our homes, children, and pets safe from the completely unregulated chemical industry. Lets vote with our purchases. Lets research and be aware. Lets not be complacent. Lets use amazing resources such as to check into the safety of our household and cosmetic products. And finally, lets not be intimidated by large corporations or "know-it-all" personalities who want to keep us on the fringe. I became a mother knowing that my only job is to keep my children I wont be backing down anytime soon...

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Dog Days Are (almost) Over...

          I have traveled far and wide. Scandinavia. London. Paris. Turks and Caico's.  However, there is nowhere I would rather be in the summer more than Maine. And as we reach the end of this glorious season marked with a few extra layers needed on the bed by morning and the sudden need to order a hot coffee to warm me up during the early hours of the farmers markets, I become nostalgic. This nostalgia is strong, knowing that I won't get to savor another Maine summer until the long battle with another rugged Maine Winter is over and done with.  While the dog days of summer may be drawing to a close, the Perrin Co. had a blast.

            We ate zero grocery store veggie's, all fresh from the many outdoor markets we frequented. We made sand castles. We got sunscreen in our eyes. We went to kitschy Old Orchard Beaches' Palace Playland. There were Boo Boo's and bruises galore. Dahlia climbed the rocks with Daddy at Reid State park for the first time. We sweated at the hot farmer markets as we sold Love For Lemons Co. Products galore. Dahlia and I enjoyed late nights of labeling products and mixing laundry Soda. Sweet Baby Greyson found his true love of trucks and pretty girls in Bikini's. Dahlia explored her love of nature as she told me where all of the fairies lived in our back yard. 

        Many say life in Maine is hard with the long cold winters,  but I believe that us Mainers are paid in full many times over with the blessings bestowed on us from Maine summers like this one.  I couldn't think of any other place that I would rather pledge my allegiance to.  You will find the Perrins and Love For Lemons Co. in Maine for many years to come. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

To Hang Out or Not

25 + sets of bedding hanging out to dry at Baekeland Camp.
[copyright  Anna Low, 2011]
First, let me start with a disclaimer and apology. I am unceremonious usurping the first Love For Lemons blog post. I've been helping Kate with some design and photography work, so let this read as a test of the new blog. I might as well be on topic though, so here we go. 

At the beginning of the summer I installed a clothes line in my back yard. I have always wanted one. I have romantic ideas about clothes lines, and fond memories - running through drying sheets as my grandma hung out her moo-moos and grandpa's Dickies work pants; a new line and rigging purchased as a thank-you gift for grandparents-in-law for hosting our wedding in their field. Last summer I spent an amazing week at an old fashion Adirondack 'camp' where 25 sets of bedding could be hung out to dry at one time. Clothes lines come with history, tradition and time-tested technology.

I'm also a green clean gal. Before discovering Love For Lemons products, I cleaned my home with vinegar, baking soda, Dr. Bronner's, water and little else. A clothes line was conspicuously missing from my green domestic routine, so it felt great to string one up. Since its installation, I have been both shocked and tickled with the responses it draws. 

The first response that shocked me was mine own. This is such a simple technology, yet I felt compelled to do some research before hanging my wash out. I feel silly about it now, but I had a million questions - What happens if I leave the wash out overnight? Are wooden pins better than plastic? Will they leave marks on the clothes? What if the resident skunk passes by? What if it rains? Through trail and error (and laziness), I've answered all these with a resounding 'it doesn't matter'. 

The second, very pleasant, response came from my husband. I had no idea that he has always loved line dried clothes. I do too. There is a crisp, rough nature to everything hung out. It feels clean. For those of you who go to extraordinary lengths for soft towels, line drying is not for you. If you love towels that exfoliate while drying, you're going to love this.

The most common response I hear is that people feel like they don't have time to hang wash out. While it's true that it takes longer than shoving clothes into the dryer, I am betting overall it takes me only a few minutes more in total to have dry clothes. I have a great, new drier, but clothes I hang out dry in about half the time, so the laundry is finished sooner. And hanging them out doesn't take as long as you'd think, plus it's a brilliant, satisfying, peaceful activity to be out in the sun, with fresh smelling clothes, getting in some bending and stretching exercise. 

I haven't mentioned the obvious benefits. I am saving electricity (and money). I have no desire to calculate how much, but I know it's something. Sunlight is one of the best disinfectants. And if you use a nice detergent, like Love For Lemons Laundry Soda, so not only does the wash smell great, but a beautiful rosemary breeze blows in the house while the clothes dry. 

I have a few more months of line drying before winter strikes. I'm curious to see how I feel about the clothes line then. But until the snow gets deep, peace and hang out.