Letting in the Sunshine: 13 Questions

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My husband and I never do things the traditional way. Take, for example, our 2010 World Cup-inspired mission trip to South Africa. I mean, what better way to celebrate your first year of marriage than with vuvuzelas and chicken feet, right?

When I reflect on this adventure, I think back to the dozens of questions that the village children asked me each morning.

“I hear there is a bin for paper, plastic, and tin. Is this true?”

“How old are you?”

And perhaps my favorite of all: “Are you married to the scientist?”

The wonder in their eyes was almost tangible. And, in full transparency, their attention made me feel like a million dollars. I want to see the world this way.

But, alas, I was forced to return to my old life, my old habits, my old attitudes. And only in my matured adult years have I come to see that that perfect African sunset was never meant to be left behind – it was designed to become a part of me.

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The Great Purge

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Our Saturday morning began just like any other. We didn’t sleep in, the kids dragged their feet, and we departed our home at approximately 9 a.m. to peruse the local farmer’s market.

To the outside eye, it may have even looked like we had it together. After all, I teach an environmental health research class, we drive a Subaru, and we pay each month for curbside recycling. An air of confidence swept over me: We are saving the Earth.

Only my husband decided – at that very moment of peace – to remind me of reality: there was a mildewed child’s mattress in our trunk that needed to be thrown away. The mission itself seemed simple enough until we saw – quite literally – the writing on the fence: “No household or bulk waste.”

A bit stunned, my husband and I looked from the sign to one another. What are we going to do with our trash?

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Scary Things

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Have you ever been to a box store on “Sample Day”? At every aisle there seems to be a delicious clear plastic cup available for the mere cost of 50-500+ calories. If you play your cards right, you can eat close to a full meal – or at least enough to calm the hunger monsters for the remainder of your shopping experience.

Personally, I hate shopping, even for food, but there is something enticing about being served – about others giving you a slice of undeserved goodness. Further, it is a treat when that which is offered is something that you wouldn’t normally allow yourself to purchase. In our hearts, however, I think we all have come to learn that nothing in life is truly free, whether or not the cost is known to us.

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Washing Away Stains of Discontent

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One year after my husband and I moved into our first home, we purchased our first new appliances: a washer and dryer. This upgrade was more energy efficient, which would benefit our pockets as well as the environment. I should have been content, but I wasn’t.

In this country, we are encouraged to pursue our career ambitions, raise a family/leave a legacy, and buy things…lots of things. It almost felt like a rite of passage to buy new appliances and project a confident air of financial stability. We had earned it, after all.

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