Saturday, June 30, 2018

Miser Family update: hot and hazy version

Summer has arrived.   It's not just that the days are deliciously long, and that the heat has ramped up into the 90's, but I feel myself getting lazy.  I've done very little math this week. But in spite of my slacking off, life continues to be rich and full in the Miser family.

In front of a bunch of cherry trees.
We had an awesome cherry-picking day, where K-daughter and A-child and two students of mine picked something like 17 pounds of cherries, that I've already canned up for the basement larder. 

N-son continues to volunteer daily at our local soup kitchen, and to play drums in church, and he's also been invited to join our campus Public Safety officers as they monitor summer camps and do patrols.  He's thrilled.  There was a dance on campus that the officers invited him to help out at, and he texted me,
I'm so happy I get to “enforce the rules" just for tonight
And N-son has started taking swim lessons at the Y -- swim lessons that K-daughter teaches.
N-son and A-child after a swim lesson.
It's awesome seeing my kids interact in that way.

Speaking of law enforcement and keeping kids together, this has been a big protest week for our family. I joined a group on our courthouse stairs today, advocating for ending family separation and returning children to their parents; it was a relatively small (a hundred-ish people?) group.   My husband, however,  has been a whirlwind of activity.  I asked for his weekly schedule, which includes

Tuesday--Tuesdays With Toomey at the governor's office.
BONUS (also went to Toomey's office, and redirected people who went to the wrong place.)
--Refuse Fascism Protest in front of governor's office.
--Prayer Vigil in North Philadelphia with Malcolm Kenyatta (First openly gay Black candidate for State Legislature).
--conference call about strategy to support George Scott for US Congress in York.
Friday--Protest Against Family Detention--Led by Lawyer Moms. In front of Toomey's office.
-- Possible additional protest of family separation/family detention.
Saturday--End Family Detention, Philadelphia, Logan Circle, near Art Museums.
A few of the people at our local protest today.
I'm feeling amazingly fortunate this summer,  with a wealth of blessings around me, but also feeling a lot like "To whom much is given, from that person much is expected".   May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

dog poop, redux

A while back, I wrote about how I have started using newspaper to catch-and-pick-up dog poop on our doggy walks.  I have to say, I still love this method.   Then, in February, I got the following email:
Hello MiserMom, 
This week I tackled the topic of dog poop on Sustainable [City] page.  In the course of my research, I found these awesome dog poop digesters that work like a mini septic tank, turning the poo into a ground absorbing liquid via natural enzymes and bacteria that is added to the tank now and then.  AND (drumroll) they are not expensive!  
Have you heard of them?  I know, from my avid reading, that you use newspaper to collect waste, but do you compost from there?  How do you do the poo?  😉 
Have a great day!
La Grasshopper
I love emails that include both "dog poop" and "huzzah".  Of course, I wrote back promptly.
Dear Grasshopper, 
We put our dog poop in the hot tub. 
I wouldn't recommend this method to most people.   It just so happens that about 15 years ago, we tore out the fiberglass liner for our outdoor hot tub, removed all of the electrical machinery and pipes the went to it, and turned the remaining brick circle into a giant leaf pit.  This is the place we compost stuff that is not going into our garden.  It has some of our many leaves, and also big sticks, and (shhh don't tell my husband) turkey bones or meat scraps (buried VERY deep to not attract animals), and also dog poop. 
When I was a kid, I used to dig a pit in a corner of the dog yard and toss dog poop in there, with a layer of dirt on top. I mostly did that to be lazy, because I was *supposed* to put it in a bag in a garbage can and then haul the can around the house to the street, but I hated lugging that big, smelly, heavy thing.
My Grasshopper wrote back:
I had to reread that first sentence twice to make sure I'd read it properly.  HA!  I imagined a soupy mix of foamy poo being pushed about by jets, but it says something of my esteem for you that I was already convinced that you had discovered some cutting edge homemade system for recycling waste.
Maybe I also love emails that include both "soupy mix of foamy poo" and "esteem for you".

A hot tub you really, really don't want to lie around in.
I also love having email buddies that I can write with about sustainable pooping (animal or otherwise).   Because buddies like that make dreary days much brighter.   And that's no . . . joke. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Flowers on my food

I don't think of myself as having a flower garden; I think of my garden as a combination of food and weeds.  But guess what?  Flowers grow on food!

Cucumber flowers! 

Potato flowers!  (Serious, potatoes have flowers!?!  I guess they do)

And tomato flowers!

I think my weeds have flowers, too, but those, I'm not gonna eat.  

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Miser Family update, starts and finishes version

Life continues to to be startlingly rich and finishing-ly full in the Miser Family.   That is, we've had lots of good starts and finishes. The week started with an awesome Father's Day bike race, that both my husband and N-son took part in.

My husband is the guy in black right under the "start" of the banner.
The riders are a lot more spread out when they finish.
I was too busy cheering like a maniac for N-son to take pictures of him, but I managed to get a few blurry photos of my speedy spouse.
In this spread-out photo, my husband is the third of four people.
A-child came over for the day, and had a different kind of challenge.  Salad?  She wasn't entirely sure about it until I took photos so I could show her mom that she actually finished the salad.  (How did grandparents convince kids to eat healthy before cell phones?)
I love the smile here.  Totally faked, I can assure you!
We got to go see I-daughter sing her heart out, or her lungs out, or something like that, at our local production of Hunchback.  The performance was full of amazing singers and passion -- lots of fun.  I'm so proud of this kiddo of mine.  She has another month before the show closes.

On Friday, I drove back to the neighborhood where I grew up, and met up with one of my former Girl Scout camping buddies.  This is, like, the first time I've seen her since we graduated high school, and it was amazing being back together . . . somehow, I learned more about her teenage years on this trip than I had when we'd hung out together.  She had gone through some astounding challenges I'd had no idea about, just no idea.  And she's managed to put together a life that's full of generosity to many people around her, including a bunch of other adults who she's taken in, who share the house with her and her husband.  I was just so impressed.

And Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans, to boot! 
N-son was thrilled when I told him.
And that's the weekly news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in ways to cheer for and with one another.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

I've become one of THOSE people (Instant Pot speaking)

This past Christmas, my husband bought me an Instant Pot, much to the chagrin of my daughters.  My daughters were chagrined because they wanted to get me the Instant Pot, and he took their idea!   No fair!
(Okay, sort of funny back story about how this happened.  I was having a conversation with my husband about "If you were a millionaire and could buy anything you wanted, what would you buy?" For him, it was plane tickets to far away places.  For me, I said, it was an Instant Pot.   
My husband then snapped out of game mode and said, "Honey, we ARE millionaires!  If you want it, why the heck don't you actually BUY it?  Why deprive and torture yourself if we can actually get something that would make you happy?!?".   I answered, "Because if I got myself everything I wanted, what would anybody ever get me at Christmas?  My kids want to buy me *something*, after all!"   
Somehow, he didn't latch on to the part that it would be a gift to my *daughters* that they could be able to get a gift for *me*, and so he bought the Instant Pot.  And boy, were they miffed.   And I had to come up with something else to want, just so I wouldn't disappoint them.   Sigh. )
Like others who write about their Instant Pot acquisitions, I had put this off for years and years.  Who needs another kitchen appliance?  I already have a pair of slow cookers; I already have a pressure cooker.  My life is really quite lovely, and adding extra stuff to my cupboards isn't necessarily going to increase the loveliness quotient of that life.

In fact, I bought an Instant Pot for Y, the student who'd lived at our house for 18 months, as she was heading off to medical school.  And I did so without buying one for myself, telling her that I'd heard it was amazing, while being willing to live un-amazed myself.

Okay, so now I have an Instant Pot.  And while I'm not going to start composing songs to this machine, I am probably going to ditch one or both of my crock pots soon.  And it *has* changed what I eat, and I use it several times per week.

Just  FYI, here are my weekly Instant Pot concoctions:

  • Hard boiled eggs.  We now make about a dozen a week, and it's been really nice having grab-n-go protein in the house.   [Recipe: put a dozen eggs in with 1 cup of water, hit "steam 5 min". ]  I love how the eggs practically jump out of their shell when I go to peel them.
  • Yogurt.  I used to buy yogurt, because my previous attempts to make it were so uneven.  I just couldn't hack keeping the mixture at the right temperature for 8 hours.  Now I save scads of money by making my own, to the tune of about 3 pints of yogurt per week.
  • Sabbath Soup.   On Saturday nights, I round up stuff in danger of being lost to the back of the fridge.  I saute what needs sauteing.  On Sunday, I do slow-cooker sabbath soup.  This not only feeds us on sabbath, but becomes lunch later in the week. I deliver jars of soup to K-daughter and a neighbor or two, also, as a way of thinking about weekly generosity.
  • Less frequently, but still useful:  grains.  It's not just that I can make rice easily, but this pot makes it easy to make a low-fuss risotto.  The pot is also okay, but certainly functional, at making pasta.  
  • Sabbath soup, black bean hummus, yogurt, and hard-boiled eggs.
    Instant Pot, meet my canning jars. 
    Canning jars, meet my instant pot.
  • Beans.  I mean, I *know* now how to do dried beans in a pressure cooker, and dried beans in a regular slow-cooker overnight are even easier.   So it's not worth buying an Instant Pot just for beans (at least, not for me), but nowadays if I have to choose between the various methods, I'm more likely to hit the Instant Pot than either of the other methods. 
Here is one of the things I recently learned that I hadn't known, but that I love:  when you take the lid off, you can make it stand up on the side of the pot, because there's a "lid holder" slot on the side.  That's pretty cool.  (Thanks, grasshopper!)

Is there anything else I'm missing?  If you have a favorite Instant Pot recipe and/or trick, clue me in!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Miser Family Update, Half-life version

Life in the Miser Family continues to be rich and full, if a tad more leisurely than usual now that N-son has finished school and summer weather has finally arrived.

Half my life ago (that is, when I was exactly half as old as I am now), I moved into this city to take a job at the college where I now work.  I was a recently divorced mom with a 2-year-old daughter.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, right about the time I was moving, another little girl was being born who would eventually become my daughter, too.

This past week, we celebrated K-daughter's birthday.  She's the same age that I was when I moved here (because that's how math works), and she's solo-parenting her own 3-year-old daughter.  This all feels so familiar . . . and it also feels good to be family. 

To mark the occasion of her birthday, we went shopping --- in particular, I made my four-times-a-year trip to an Amish organic foods store, where I stocked up on 50 lbs of flour, plus oats, beans, nuts, and dried fruit.   Ooh-la-la.   My granddaughter loved being at the store, but mostly because of the other vehicles in the parking lot.

I have to say, an Amish buggy makes my old dinged-up 2001 Prius look particularly powerful and comfy by comparison.  But not as cuddly.
 Speaking of family, the week before this, L-daughter came into town and introduced N-son to Barre workouts.  N-son has decided to take it up as his primary mode of exercise.   He finished a rather grueling half-hour of exercise and asked me, "Don't you want to take my picture and send it to Dad?".    And of course I did want to stop reading my referee reports (ooh, really nice reports, by the way!) and take his picture.  The photos demonstrate that he truly did work up a sweat.  If you had been in the same room with him, with your eyes closed and your nose open, you would have had extra confirmation that serious teenage boy exercise had taken place quite recently.  Thanks, L-daughter!  (Seriously, he had me join him, and I got quite a bit of a workout, too).

While N-son and I were barre-ing, my husband was off in distant parts, participating in the AICHe meeting.  He's bounced around between that and doing parent-adminsitrivia, delivering checks to offices where checks needed to go, taking N-son to admission interviews and doctor's visits, bike racing, doubling up on yoga (so to speak), visiting the synagogue, going to protests, daily meditation . . . he lives the life, man.  The Life.

As for me, it finally feels like summer.  I'm knocking projects off my list -- got a draft of a paper written, did a first round of revisions on my book, got some very nice referee reports back.  I've read a bunch of books even, and nonetheless the pile of books on my nightstand somehow keeps getting taller.  I, too, live The Life.  Pretty darned good.

And that's the news about Half Life and The Life from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Friday, June 15, 2018

That time of year: making my own planner pages

Q: What do you get if you cross an Organization Nut with a DIY-er?    

A:  Er, you get . . . me?

Today happened to be my annual planner-page-making day.  I have mentioned once or twice that my daily planner rules my life.  Each weekday page in my planner has space for a daily to-do list along the left column, and place for my scheduled activities on the right column, and a bit of extra space for notes (phone numbers, notes from conversations, mileage numbers, whatever) at the bottom.    (Saturday and Sunday share one page, with one rather freewheeling column per day).  

I love my planner.  Thinking about trying to go about my days without it is like trying to imagine driving a powerful car without a steering wheel.  How do people who don't use planners keep track of all those little tasks that swirl around us all?  How do they remember when the last time they did X (gave blood, talked to the person who promised to send something) was?  I'm not sure, and I'm not even sure I want to know.  I'm stuck on my planner, so I'll keep doing what works so well for me.

Yesterday and today, according to my planner.
I had a LONG to-do list today!
I used to buy my pages annually from the Franklin Quest folks (later, Franklin Covey), but eventually I realized I could use my geeky spreadsheet skills to make my own pages in Excel.   Merging some cells, rotating words in a few other cells, fancy borders and such, and eventually I had a relatively nice-looking layout.

The truly fun (and geeky) part was figuring out the order of the days so that after I printed these double-sided, and then folded/sliced the pages in half, the days would come out in the right order.  In case you're wondering, the order is:

Monday-Thursday-Wednesday-Tuesday  --  Friday-Tuesday-Monday-Sat/Sun  --

Obvious, right?

Coming up with the spreadsheet that makes this all happen was the intellectually satisfying part of this whole venture.  Once that was done, the rest is almost in the arts-and-crafts realm.  I print this spreadsheet file out, using Century Gothic font (both because I like it, and because the internet lore claims that the Century Gothic font uses less ink than other comparable fonts).

The printed pages, still needing some cut and punch
Then I get to use the paper slicer.  Do you love using the paper slicer as much as I do?  I guiltily admit that even though this slicer is supposed to belong to the whole department, I've added my own permanent-ink markings on the ruler at the top that help me slice my planner pages quickly and correctly.

Ssssslice!  I do love using a paper slicer.
Not sure why it feels so satifying.
When that's done, I have a pile of 8.5" x 4.25' blank sheets, for scrap paper, and a bunch of planner pages, almost ready to go.
A pile of note pages, plus a year's worth of planner pages,
almost done.
You wouldn't think that punching the holes in the paper -- with an already-calibrated 6-hole punch, mind you -- would be the tricky part.  But somehow, I *always* mess up punching some of the pages.
Whoops.  Some kind of mess-up like this
happens *every* year.
Fortunately, this year I only messed up four pages; since they're summer pages, I'll just treat those as "holey days".  [heh].  And then all that's left to do is store the pages, ready to go.
My life, past and future.  
And what does all this fun end up costing me?  I usually manage to pick up reams of interesting paper at yard sales, so the paper is like, maybe, $1?   And the printing, at 7¢ per page, comes out to just under $11. 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Miser Family Update: What a week!/Water Week!

Life continues to be particularly rich and full of celebrations here in the Miser Family.   Because the cap-and-gowns came out, and they look particularly good on my two sons.  Whoop!

Yay, to my sons!  And thanks to L-daughter for
coming into town to help celebrate.
As of this week, Every Single One of my six children has a high school degree.  Whoop again!

But no diplomas for the dog.
In less-transitional news (from "What a week!" to "Water Week"), we're celebrating Water Week here in my city.   A-Child and her mom K-daughter celebrated with a trip to the beach . . .

. . . and I celebrated by joining a group of enthusiastic volunteers in helping to clean up our local river.

Toss in an opening night for I-daughter, and a trip to and from Chicago for my husband, we've had a lot of happy vibes this week.   And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy as we commence adventures.   May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

[To those who've attempted to comment on recent posts: thanks, and also apologies for the delay in getting them posted.  There's been a glitch in Blogger alerting me to incoming comments; I'm working on getting that fixed].  

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Furniture shopping on trash day

One of the most frugal habits a person can acquire, I think, is the habit of taking long walks (or long runs) on trash pick-up day.

I was thinking about this because of a visit just yesterday to my "grasshopper's" home: that is, a visit to visit a reader of my blog who confers with me about ways to live more gently upon this good earth.  Her home is amazing.  It's full of joie de vivre, an atmosphere made from a recipe containing gobs of joie and ample amounts of vivre.  She took me on a tour of her home (she'd actually prepared a list of the highlights she wanted to share):  a homemade green house garden with plants that actually grow, homemade hand creams, kitchen counters made from former bowling alleys (!), an amazingly compactly organized laundry area, and--of course--multitudes of canning jars. 

One of the many frugal scores that abounded in her home is a large, forest-green velvet couch.   She'd discovered it while she was out-and-about on a trash day, sitting at the curb.  She returned as quickly as she could with her car, only to find that the trash truck was already at the curb. She had the guts to tell the trash haulers that she was hoping to take the couch home herself, and they gamely helped her lift it onto the top of her car.  Now, that's service!   She and her husband and her 6 kids have all made good use of that beautiful find.

I was truly inspired by all that I saw in her house.  It was an amazing example of how a frugal life, far from being a deprived or stingy life, can abound with delight.  There was color everywhere.  There were amazing smells (she makes her own soap, and the house smelled delicious because of that).  The kids bounced between playing with each other and showing me their treasures. 

So, with a knowing nod of understanding to my sister under the skin, I offer this little story of yet another frugal score.

I have a buddy I run with about three mornings a week; we run through a fairly wealthy neighborhood, and one of the mornings we run is trash day.  My buddy J. has helped me haul home all sorts of amazing treasures -- wooden ladders, kid toys, and more.  Running on trash day is a perfect marriage of companionship, exercise, and serendipitious treasure hunting.  Today's find?  A stainless steel microwave oven, just the right size to replace the small white one that's looked ugly (but worked perfectly) in our kitchen for several years.   J. and I saw it when we were almost done with my run, and it was a matter of moments after returning home to ask the dog if she wanted to go for a walk with me.  She said yes, but of course, and we took my construction vehicle (aka little red wagon) with us. 
Red wagon, trash-picked appliance, and a happy dog
in the morning dappled sun.

Since we're planning to move in a year or so, we're trying to jazz up the kitchen a tad to make it somewhat more marketable.  A stainess steel microwave oven has been on my "looking around list" for about 5 years now.  It hadn't yet gotten to the point that I actually felt the need to (*shudder*) BUY one, but with moving time coming close, I'd been getting more and more antsy about it.  And voila!   The trash gods smiled upon me. 

I know you'd be happy for me, grasshopper.  Thanks for a lovely evening!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Trash we don't see, trash we don't recycle.

Here is a scene from the mission where I help serve breakfast once a week.

It's 6 in the morning.  Before the guests come in, the volunteers and workers gather together to pray and eat.  Usually the chefs serve the volunteers, but this past week a new volunteer decides to help serve.  So, I hand my plate over.  "Potatoes, please".  She puts potatoes on my plate.

There is also, as always, oatmeal and also fresh fruit.   Usually, we serve these in styrofoam bowls -- the plates are washable, but washable bowls disappeared years ago (tossed in trash cans?  taken in people's backpacks? not sure), so oatmeal and fruit and such go in styrofoam.

I ask for oatmeal in one of the washable mugs instead of in a styrofoam bowl.  She puts the oatmeal in the mug.  Then I say, "could you put the fruit directly on my plate?"   The volunteer gives me a chipper, "why certainly!", and she puts the styrofoam bowl of fruit right on my plate.

The chef, behind her, intervenes.   "No,  Miser Mom doesn't want a bowl; just put the fruit on her plate".  The volunteer is now bewildered; she looks back and forth between the chef and me.  She wants a bowl of fruit on her plate, but she doesn't want a bowl on her plate . . . ?  The chef takes the ladle, scoops up some fruit, and puts the fruit on my plate.


It's scenes like these that remind me how differently I see the world than so many other people do.  Things that are invisible to other people scream out at me.  Trash!  Danger!

So in case you've missed it, I just want to point out another recent story about why recycling is not The Golden Answer to sustainable living.   Recycling is better than sending things to a landfill -- *if* recycling actually happens -- but if you want to be fiscally and ecologically healthy, avoiding the need to dispose of objects is infinitely better than either. 

And here's the latest issue with recycling:  we're starting to face a world in which not only is landfill-bound trash an economic and environmental problem, but so is recycling-bound trash.   In particular,  our main depository for recycling (China) has started refusing to accept our refuse -- see this link, for example.  I've seen this story pop up many times around me in the last few months.  My husband hasn't seen it at all, he tells me.  It's the styrofoam bowl at the rescue mission all over again:  in my face and invisible to others.

Still, I continue to pull a Nancy Reagan, and Just Say No to trash.  Also, to (try to) be gracious and thankful (but firm) when well-intentioned people put trash on my plate.   

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Miser Family update, crash version

Life continues to be rich and crashingly full in the Miser Family household. 

A pet pig I saw at the VegFest.
Nothing to do with crashes, except to say
don't be a pig about distracted driving, please!
The bad kind of crashes first:  Our city is reeling from a bad hit-and-run accident last week that left one high school junior dead and another fighting for his health in Intensive Care.  Then, on Friday, N-son's bus was hit by a driver who was texting.  In a competition between a school bus and a car, the bus wins; everyone is physically okay (even the driver of the car), but N-son was pretty shaken up.  Drive carefully, one and all!

In a less dire kind of crash, my husband was reminded this week that -- while coffee goes well with just about every kind of food you could name--it doesn't go well with computer keyboards.  yeah.  For now, he's making do with a laptop attached to a separate keyboard (a kneetop?); we'll try to find a less cumbersome solution in the upcoming week.  Me, the idea of being without my laptop makes me hyperventilate and sweat just a little, so I'm being extra careful with backups now.

Earlier in the week, to observe Memorial Day, my husband dressed in his uniform and visited the nearby grave of Dick Winters, a soldier whose bravery and intellect earned him various honors, and also inspired the book and movie, Band of Brothers.  

Prewash went to the vet this week, and we confirmed that her allergies have come crashing back (okay, I know I'm stretching this "crash" idea here).  We're treating both the allergies and the resulting ear infection.   Oh, and also she gained 14 pounds her first year with us, and needs to drop back down about 5 pounds, so she's going on a crash diet.  Well, a moderated diet at least.  She is not a frugal dog.

Back to N-son: he's very psyched about all his end-of-year activities.  His culinary school had a long and highly ceremonious "Certificate Ceremony" that we were supposed to have tickets for; meanwhile, my step-daughter surprised us by blowing into town, and even though she didn't have a ticket, she crashed the event.  It was fun to hang out with her and catch up on her grad school progress at length.  (Did I mention the event was long?  and highly ceremonious?)  N-son also now has purchased his summer baseball uniform, and his cap and gown.  As a result, there have been many conversations this week that go like this:

N-son:  Mom, don't you want to take a picture of me in [this outfit]?
Me:  What? huh? . . . Oh, sure, let me just finish up this little math bit.
N-son:  Okay.
My husband: [walking into the room]  Hi, guys, what's up?  Do you want to do [whatever]?
N-son:  Okay, but first Mom said she wants to take my picture.

J-son got to go to see the Special Olympics, where his foster brother is competing.  I-daughter has disappeared into the rabbit hole of dress- and tech-rehearsals, and I suppose she'll emerge again on the other side in a month or two.  K-daughter is a working mom, and so I haven't seen her much, either.

As for me, I've spent the week mathing.  It is wonderful to be able to math to my heart's content, except that occasionally I still have a bit of residual committee work, or I get to go to long, ceremonious ceremonies, or to take pictures of my kids.  Oh, and I went to a tour of a native-plants garden, and I went to the"VegFest", a Vegan Festival in the park just up the street from my home.  That was a lovely experience.  I feel thoroughly like a hippie now, and was quite pleased to come home to my own homemade granola and yogurt.

And that's the news from the Miser Family, which continues to be wealthy (and fortunately, healthy) in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Bed, oh bed, delicious bed . . .

This is a small and earnest ode of gratitude to the wonders of sleep.

I seem to need a bunch more of it than most people.  Even though I am totally a morning person who  tends to rise before 6 a.m. most days, I also tend to crash at night around 9 or 10.   If I stay up until 10 several nights in a row, I get grouchy and sluggish, so I tend to be pretty forceful about enforcing my early bedtimes.   Eight-to-nine hours a night of sleep for me, thank you!

And maybe the fact that I need more sleep than other people around me -- so that I have to almost fight for the opportunity to sleep while others are awake -- is why I am so very aware of just what a precious gift sleep is.  We get tired, we get cranky, we feel worn down . . . and then we go to bed. And eight or nine hours later, we wake up and . . . magic!   A new day is here and we feel better!   No effort required on our part; we just sleep long enough, and life is good again!

Eating also makes us feel better, but it requires cooking, plus cleaning, and money for food.  Exercise makes us feel better, but there's no question that it requires mental and physical effort on our part -- just by definition of exercise.  Sleep, in contrast, takes very little in the way of specialized equipment, zero money, almost no willpower or decision-making, and yet it works so well.   I don't take it at all for granted.   It's a frugalist's delight.

To me, monitoring my need for sleep has always helped me understand my overall health, emotional and physical.  I was surprised on my last sabbatical to discover I needed less sleep than usual -- the lack of stress showed up in my decreased sleep patterns.  In contrast, over spring break this past spring I was surprised at how many naps I took that week --- I guess my work has been taking a bigger toll on my body than I'd thought.   For me, the connection between sleep and health is so tight that on those rare occasions that I do oversleep my alarm, I take it as an indication that I'm at risk of coming down with something bad, and I deliberately sleep even more to give myself a health buffer.   Yay, sleep!

A bunch of studies point to the incredible benefits of sleeping more than the average American currently sleeps:  improved mood, heightened creativity, healthy weight, decreased inflammation, increased memory, stronger immune system and fewer diseases.  For a college professor, I'm keenly aware of all the connections between good sleep and our ability to learn and retain new information. 

But for me, I just love sleep because it feels so good.  Cuddle up in a warm bed.  Relax.  Let the day slip away and . . . wake up feeling calm and ready to go.  Mmmm.

Thomas Hood, in his long (verrrrryyy long) comic poem, "Miss Kilmansegg and her Precious Leg", had these lines, which somehow embedded themselves in my brain.   Now I share them with you:
Bed, oh bed!  Delicious Bed!
That Heaven on Earth to the weary head!
Now that summer is here and I can sleep even more thoroughly than I do during the winter, I'm glad to pause for a moment and add my grateful praise to Hood's.  Yay, sleep!