Sunday, May 22, 2011

things i wish someone taught me

random thoughts while on the train listening to the silly high school girls who know nothing of the real world yet. i was remembering my high school days and thinking that i knew a fair amount more about the real world then this generation seems to at that age. maybe that's just the vanity of getting older, we all like to fancy ourselves better then the newcomers. it did get me thinking about our education system though, and specifically about that most useless of classes: carreer and personal planning. the concept for this class is good. it's supposed to teach life skills and provide teenagers with a place and time to plan their futures with the guidance of a teacher or councellor. the reality is an abysmal failure. once in a while they have you do an aptitude test or write a crappy resume that nobody tells you how to improve. most of the time it's crap like abstinance-only sex ed or interpreting emotions from facial expressions (taught with smiley faces handdrawn and photcopied? have we not all been doing this FROM BIRTH? wouldn't photographs at least be more useful?). most of the time no one bothers to teach at all. it's 30-60 min where someone takes attendance, and then everyone sits around chatting or catching up on homework. plenty of teachers will let you just wander off once you've checked in. i think we could do a lot better for our teenagers. teach them things that will be needed in the real world that aren't covered under other classes. looking back at my formal education, there is precious little that has been of any practical use in the real world. perhaps we should talk to school boards and tell them what this curriculum should look like between grades 6 and 12. some of this could be covered in a better gym class (also pathetic). in no particular order, i think it should be:
-writing a resume that will get you an interview
-interviewing so you actually get a job
-writing and sticking to a simple budget
-cost effective grocery shopping for good nutrition and minimal waste
-what to look for when apartment hunting
-how to get along with landlords and neighbors
-communication and conflict resolution between friends, family, and partners
-simple cooking from scratch
-balancing your diet and creating a good relationship with your body
-finding exercise that you enjoy
-efficient and green house cleaning
-growing a vegetable garden including the importance of composting and other sustainable practices
-personal improvement and goal setting
-basic first aid
-how to pack light and travel cheep
-basics of how the canadian government works
-simple repairs to: clothes, cars, toilets, wooden items such as furniture or fences
-sorting out your priorities and values, making hard decisions
-painting a room
-cooking on a campfire
-simple computer troubleshooting
-basic self defense

more advanced life skills could be:
-intermediate first aid
-simple herbal medicine
-build a fence/shed/raised garden bed
-basic knitting and clothes making
-bicycle repair and use for cargo-carrying, etc
-simple pet first aid
-intermediate cooking from scratch

what else do you think we should ensure our kids know by the time they graduate? what do you wish you had been taught? what did you learn the hard way or still don't know that should have been taught in high school?

Friday, May 20, 2011

no shampoo

now don't go EEEEEWWW until you hear me out. a hundred years ago nobody bathed daily. not even monthly. higher class people might bathe once every 3 or 4 months. the average person, more like once a year. generally that was done in May, which is why most weddings were at summer solstice in June, everyone still smelled fairly good by then. the bride carrying flowers was to mask any BO. did they smell? i'm sure they did. but probably not as much as you or i would if we didn't wash for a year. your body is a very adaptive creature and only produces the oils, pheromones, and sweat that you NEED, and they do all serve a purpose. if you're not washing them away then your body clues in and stops making so much. having a bath meant heating a lot of water, usually on the stove, and using precious and expensive soap that was also very harsh on the skin and hair. even as late as the 50's most people washed their hair once a month, mostly because shampoo was still very harsh and using it daily would probably have left you bald. that's where we get the excuse of "oh i can't go out with you tonight, i'm washing my hair". in the 70's shampoo got much milder, mild enough to use every day. note here that CAN does not equate to MUST. you CAN wash your hair every day with no ill effects. you can probably do it twice a day, although i'm not sure who's that dirty. does that mean you HAVE to? of course not. it actually took an awful lot of marketing to convince people that showering every day, including washing their hair, was necessary and normal. how much money do we all now spend per year on soap, shampoo, conditioner, in-shower moisturizer, bubble bath, bath oil, exfoliators, shower poofs, loofahs, and a hundred other things? and where are those things going when we're done with them? what is that doing to the water and the fish? this is a new thing in the face of human evolution. my cat gets a bath about once a year, during shedding season, unless he's somehow covered himself in something nasty. he smells like a cat. he is not greasy or dirty. his tongue baths brush out any bits of crap and spread the oils, etc around to keep his fur healthy. mammals are designed this way. i currently haven't washed my hair in about two months. it smells like hair. it doesn't feel greasy or dirty. it doesn't itch. my brushing and rinsing daily remove any bits of dirt or sweat. freshly rinsed and brushed hair IS clean. it just hasn't been stripped of it's natural oils. i had come across the idea of going "no poo" some time ago and did a bunch of reading and thought it made good sense. one day i was about to wash it and then looked at it and went "you know, it's not greasy or dirty at all. it's actually quite dry. i think i'll leave it alone for now" and decided that would be a good time to take the plunge. it had also occurred to me that i had been washing my hair every second day (with the exception of some camping trips, etc) for my ENTIRE life. i had no idea what my hair was capable of doing when left alone. after all, i could go back to washing it any time i liked so it's not a huge deal. they say it takes 3-6 weeks for your hair to adjust and stop making so much oil. it's kinda like a mother breast feeding. you only make the amount you need. my experience has been that as long as i rinsed well every day my hair was just starting to get oily by the time i was going to bed. i can live with that. i'm actually trying to cut back a bit and only rinse it every other day if i can get away with it because i get annoyed with having my hair wet for half my waking hours. actually that's not quite true (but it feels like it) since a strange thing started happening around week 2: you know how cats with a thick undercoat, or otters with their fur's oily coating, tend to repel water? my hair gets wet easily enough but it's like it doesn't penetrate. it dries in half the time it used to for some odd reason. other things i've noticed are less dandruff, less shedding, less tangling, and it generally behaves itself better then usual. it hasn't been a really dramatic shift, but it has been a subtly nice one. overall i've found my hair is healthier and happier without adding anything but water to it. do i think shampoo is evil? of course not. it's just that my hair doesn't need it. at least not on a very regular basis. i see no reason to buy and use extra chemicals when i do better without. i do still use soap on the rest of me but you know, i find the same thing seems to be true: the more often i wash, the more i NEED to. if i wash the rest of me every day when i'm rinsing my hair, i smell a lot more, a lot faster. if i rinse all of me really well (it's the scrubbing action that gets you clean btw, much more then the soap) and only use soap every other day, i'm a much better smelling person. work creates work. the more crap you use, the more you need. it's rather like using vinegar and newspaper to clean the windows because it actually does a much better job then scary ammonia and expensive paper towels, so why would i spend money on windex?

the garden 2011

we moved in january and the only real disadvantage to the new place is that we don't have a balcony or yard. does that mean i won't be growing food? HAH! i think not. we have window boxes in every window and are growing lettuce:


patio and cherry tomatoes (middle one is a cherry ready to be planted between the two patios, three little ones are cherries that will live in other pots):

snow peas that will become a living curtain as they climb the fishing line i've strung across that window (one of two planters pictured):

also basil and strawberries and a bunch of herbs that i couldn't get a decent pic of in the current light conditions. i'm probably going to colonize some space on the fire escape, which i should get to soon since the season is wearing on. the stuff i put out there i'm sure i'll be sharing with our neighbors so i'll be planting something not too precious or something we already have lots of. next year i'm going to ask our landlady if we can put in raised beds all along the back of the building where there is a lonely strip of weedy, unloved grass that no one even walks by. if there's a spigot outside i was going to put in a soaker hose to make watering easier. i did a little guerrilla gardening along the front. there are herb seeds sprinkled amongst the "decorative" (read:pompous, ugly) grass and sunflowers amongst the ugly neglected bushes. i'm not babying those, whatever grows, grows. if the herbs do well the pompous grass may just mysteriously disappear in the night. all the neighbors i've talked to like this idea :)
i apologize for the terrible terrible pics. it's nearly impossible to photograph plants on a windowsill from the inside and not have then either backlit or horribly flash lit. i'll try again with the flash after dark and see if that's better. the nasturtium one turned out ok because i can stand on the fire escape to take it