if you want to participate…

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If you’d like to participate, I have created a handy little button. There aren’t really any rules… just pick for yourself a number of items to “get rid of” by Dec. 31, 2010.

The goal is to declutter, which should help make your home look nicer and your life more organized. Other advantages:
1. You might find things you’d forgotten you had.
2. We usually have more Stuff than we need. Most of the time, we have good intentions but just need motivation.
3. Donating those things that you never use could help someone else who needs it.
4. Donations by the end of this calendar year can be claimed on your 2010 taxes!
5. Using Freecycle will repurpose an item and save it from landfills.
6. Selling off things you never use will give you extra money to save or buy things you will use.
7. Christmas is coming, which usually means more Stuff. This will help clear the way for that stuff!
8. Many of us have guests for Christmas. Less cluttered house will be more pleasant for visitors!
9. Less clutter is a great way to start the new year!

Okay I am going to go work on my list now. I’m trying to figure out what room to tackle first… I’m thinking the utility room?? :-)

The Big Declutter 2010

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Before we bring in our Christmas decorations, I want to clean up our living room. I know from experience that nothing looks worse than Christmas decorations in a messy or cluttered room.

To help declutter, I’ve decided to end the year with a little personal challenge. Between now and Dec. 31, I want to get rid of (sell or give away) 200 items from our house. I will have to think of some sort of prize for myself if I manage to do that. (Prize might be in the form of new diapers.) (I might be addicted.) And if I manage to make it to 300 items, then I get a bigger prize! (More diapers!) (Hehe.)

I’ll have Paul help me with a good prize later, and I’ll announce it here. It might be good to come up with something that doesn’t ADD any more clutter to my house. (What? Diapers aren’t clutter!)

Here are my rules:
* If one unit contains multiple items, it still only counts as one. (Example, a pair of shoes is one item.)
* Things that are normally tossed (i.e. junk mail) don’t count. Actually, I’d like to say everything has to be either sold or given away, but I can think of a few bigger things that have been sitting around, taking up space that need to be thrown out.
* I will keep a running list of things that make this list, here on my blog. I hope to take some pictures of “piles”, but no promises.
* A little while ago, a friend gave me several boxes to sell at my garage sale, which never happened. None of these things count towards my list, though I do need to make sure they are donated with everything else.
* I might add to or change these rules as I come across “exceptions”. I was just thinking about how to handle my crafts. Will have to see how many I end up parting with – I don’t want half of my list to be small objects. I really want to challenge myself!

Do you want to join me? Take a look around your house and set a number for yourself. Don’t lowball it – challenge yourself to ask “do I really need this?”.

well, hello there!

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We went to Orlando for Thanksgiving. We brought the laptop, but Paul used it the whole time for some work he had to do. I was looking forward to catching up on Hulu, but between my frequent headaches and him using the computer, I really only got to use the computer two or three times all week. We also discovered that it’s not our internet keeping me from Hulu, but rather the wireless in our computer is the problem! It was getting so bad I couldn’t even surf the web. Now that we’re back home, we are plugged into the router with a wire, and internet is happy again.

However, we’re looking at replacing this computer anyways. It’s not much use to have a laptop that has to stay near a plug (battery is shot) and doesn’t have wi-fi. :-) We really can’t complain though – we’ve had this lappy over 4 years and this is the first issue we’ve had. Paul knows what he wants, so we are just waiting to find it at a good price.

Our trip south was good! We got to see almost everyone except for my sister. I also got to catch up with a few friends, which was nice! And my mom got up with Savannah every morning, so I got to sleep in. And take a nap in the afternoon! And I even got to leave Savannah behind and go shopping on Friday and Saturday which I really enjoyed. I hadn’t realized how much I really love to go shopping. I love taking care of Savannah, but having a break was nice too.

On the way back yesterday, Lewis jumped out of the car when we stopped for gas at one point. Ooops! Fortunately I was able to catch him easily. They did really well at my parents’ house – no accidents. We are going to get our carpet cleaned, and I hope that does the trick to stop them from peeing in the den. Ebony has been on antibiotics for her UTI and anti-anxiety meds for the past 2 weeks or so, and I think it’s helping a lot.

One last thing before I go get the oil changed in our car… At Savannah’s 15 month checkup today the doc said she’s doing great! She’s at 25th percentile for height and a little less than that for weight. A bit different from the chunker I had at 3 months. :-) But considering her parents (you’d never know it looking at me now, but I was a bone-skinny kid until high school), I figured she’d be small/thin.

physical therapy and other things

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I didn’t mention it here, but I really wanted to write a post every day for the month of November. I was doing pretty well, but then I tapered off. Ah, well, story of my life. So I’ll catch you up on what’s been going on in my favorite style – bullet points. :-)

* Physical therapy has been going well. Savannah is usually distractable with toys the first half hour, then she gets tired and by the end she is just crying. We’ve been twice now. The first day they worked on getting her to put weight on her arms. The second day they worked on getting her to stand and put weight on her legs. The therapist said that she put 90% of her weight on her legs several times, which is good!

* The more I research the do about the TSA and their current policies, the more I don’t want to fly. I will, if I really need to, but I want to avoid it as much as possible. Therefore, I am looking up alternatives to getting up to New England for our delayed Christmas with the in-laws in January. One option is to drive, which is about 20 hours. The other is to take Amtrak, which is just slightly longer. The latter is more expensive, but also more convenient. The thought of taking a train sounds fun to me, but we’ll see how it goes.

* I have been sewing recently. I wish I could put up pictures, but I can’t because I’ve been working on Christmas presents. :-) I have found that sewing and babies and cats don’t mix, and it’s been hard (or rather, impossible) to find time and be completely uninterrupted. I’ve really been enjoying it, though.

* I picked up some new hair bows for Savannah. The ones I had, though adorable, very quickly were too small for the abundance of hair my daughter has. I’ve been putting her hair up in ponytails or pigtails, but sometimes it’s hard to get her to stay still to wrap the band around several times. I found some bows that had bigger clips and I can use them to pull the hair out of her face. So cute!! I wonder how hard they are to make?

* I have been coordinating a Christmas sponsor program at our church – helping out some needy families in the area by getting the kids presents. I know this is going to be worth it, but it’s been a challenge to figure out how to best go about this without asking too much of people. The ministry I’m working with expects each child to get about $75 in presents, which is really high for most of the people in our congregation. So, I ended up breaking down each child’s wish list, and writing them out on paper ornaments that I’m going to hang on a Christmas tree at church. Sort of like an Angel Tree. I hope this works! We have 12 kids to sponsor, so if you’re interested in contributing for the ornaments that don’t get chosen, I’m sure they would appreciate it. :-)

* Speaking of, I really should go finish the info sheet to give out to the people about sponsoring a child. And since I don’t want this post to sit in my drafts forever, I am posting it now!

suddenly flying becomes a lot more complicated

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The past few days I’ve been reading up about the changes TSA has been making, as they implement the new full-body scanners at airports around the country. It has really been bothering me, the more I read about it. The basic premise is that every passenger is a terrorist, and you are required to prove you aren’t before they let you fly. That goes against the “innocent until proven guilty” ideology of our justice system. What’s next, being required to let the government periodically search our houses just in case we might be hiding something bad?

For those of you still in the dark, the full-body scanners have the ability to “see through” a person’s clothes in order to spot any weapons hidden underneath. However, unlike an x-ray, these show the outside of a person’s body – private parts and all. Also, these scanners are a blast of radiation – minuscule amounts, the TSA promises, but I think it still should make people stop and think of the potential health impacts. The alternative is an invasive pat down – where TSA employees use the palms of their hands to feel to make sure nothing is being hidden. They touch everything – not holding back the private areas – including going all the way up the inside of thighs and all around a woman’s chest.

When I heard about this, it immediately made me uncomfortable. I feel awkward when my OB or midwife does this – someone I know and trust – I feel like those are areas for my husband only. The thought of submitting to that makes me cringe inside.

Then I thought about Savannah being subjected to that, and I felt even more uncomfortable. I watched a news clip that had video of a 3-year-old girl getting the “pat-down” by a TSA employee (link below), and she is NOT happy about it. It made my heart tighten. I don’t WANT Savannah to be okay with strangers touching her. She has a right to her own privacy, and I think it’s dangerous for her to “get used” to something like this.

Here are some links I want to share with you about this issue:
A list of airports with the new imagining technology – the list starts about halfway down the page.

A very interesting news clip that talks about a variety of people with negative experiences with the TSA, including a disabled man having to remove his pants in public view, and a woman who was violently forced to the ground.

A video clip of a 3 year old girl getting a pat-down, and and she is not happy about it. This makes a mother’s heart cry, and the thought of having to go through such an ordeal every time you fly with kids is exhausting.

Some are saying that the photos released to the public by TSA are being blurred and not accurate representations of what TSA employees are actually seeing.

TSA promises that the photos are not being saved and are deleted from the computers, but it looks like a few have leaked already. I also read somewhere that TSA has said they save some pictures for “training purposes” (but, those could be pictures of willing volunteers and not unsuspecting passengers).

This article talks about the potential health concerns with the scanners. “The probability of dying from radiation from a body scanner and that of being killed in a terror attack are roughly the same…” Hmm well if that’s the case, then I’ll keep my dignity, thank you.

Passengers aren’t the only ones upset; pilots are too. In fact, two pilot unions have urged their members to opt out of the body scanner and go for the pat-down as well.

In Miami, there was an incident of one TSA employee attacking another. Apparently, some months before they had all gone through the full body scanner and since then, the one employee was teased mercilessly about the size of a certain aspect of his body.

One California man got into quite a bit of trouble when he tried to leave after refusing to be searched by the TSA. Apparently, you’re not allowed to leave either!

I just thought this article was interesting, about TSA employees not understanding how the body scanner works in their attempt to convince the passengers that it is perfectly safe.

Despite everything that TSA does, it sounds like they miss a lot of things as well. I think one of the biggest criticisms of all these new policies is that they are not effective enough to warrant the violation of personal privacy.

Here is another example of this happening, with specifics to the current controversial body scanner.

The personal story of a woman who describes what exactly the pat-down entails.

This is a humorous take on the new policies. (Warning: some may find it slightly crass.)

Want to do something? A Senate subcommittee is holding a TSA oversight hearing tomorrow, Nov. 17th. Here is more information about that, including applicable phone numbers.

These are just some of the links I’ve come across – I’m sure there are many others, if you Google it. I would love to say that we won’t fly again until this is resolved. However, that’s not very practical. A drive up to my in-laws in Massachusetts is 18 hours, which means it’s probably closer to 20+ hours with kids. It would take 4 days of driving for any trip we make there, and if Paul takes a week off work that still means we are driving more days than we’ll actually be up there. It’s very frustrating, and I’m not sure what we should do. I do know that we’ll probably limit our airline travel to “necessary” trips and limiting our visits to just once a year. Or maybe I will get used to strangers touching me and my family, and it won’t bother me. That has its own positives – I will then be okay with working at the local strip club for some extra money. (Just kidding. I know those two things are different, but right now it feels like a similar invasion of privacy.)

A few more links that I wanted to share.
A humorous video of a lady questioning a TSA employee, asking all the questions I’ve been asking, too.

Another site against the scanners and raising some good points of their risks. I hadn’t thought about the safety of my things while I am in the scanner – the site mentions how they’ve had issues at one airport with TSA employees stealing passengers’ things while they are otherwise occupied.

And, of course we expect to hear from Colbert about this! As usual, hilariously funny yet with truth. The guy he interviews makes an interesting point about how these policy changes are a sign that the terrorists have won.

Meanwhile, we are checking out Amtrak for our traveling needs. Much higher in cost than flying, but then what price do I put on my own privacy? (And, to be honest, the principle of the whole thing.) We haven’t decided yet, but I’ll let you know when I do.