Photo: Jessica Sain-Baird
I am blessed. I don't always remember this, but I am. We all are. The biggest challenge in moving through our days is remembering all the gifts that are contained in what poet Mary Oliver calls our "one wild and precious life."

This transition from apartment dweller to homeowner has been challenging because, quite simply, I am not used to not knowing things. Is the connection gas or electric? What's a rough-in? You can't do X because it's an exterior wall. You can do Y because it's between the joists. It's mind-boggling.

That floor job I raved about in an earlier post? It wasn't close to being done. How did I find out? From the parade of other workers who walked through the house and asked when the floors would be finished. I only admitted to the first that I thought they already were.

This renovation has brought up every fear I have about being taken advantage of. It is hard to rely on strangers to give good advice. (And no matter how hard I try to teach myself, there is only so much I can Google.) Fortunately, I have incredible people to help me navigate this terrain. I am not the kind of gal who likes to ask for help, but when I do, I blessed with people who respond. 'Tis the season to give thanks, so please indulge me:

1. Thanks, first and foremost, to my office manager and researcher, Merete Mueller. We are working on a book on the psychological barriers to environmental action that will resume as soon as I am settled into to my new digs.

2. Thanks to the University of Kansas School of Journalism and my student assistant Tina Wood for not only helping me to research all the great green products I want to put in my home but also being willing to roll up her sleeves and help me install and implement this stuff.

3. Thanks to my informal green team: my plumber (and mentor) Daniel Poull, my contracting team at Hurst Construction and my dear friend and current landlord Tony Backus (I am currently paying rent and a mortgage as I try to get the bathroom remodeled before I move—you'll learn all about that exciting process early next year). 

When I called Tony in a panic about the floors, he assured me he'd help. And, true to form, he has. Tony has worked on upward of 50 homes but still remembers how hard the first one is: "I remember how freaked out I was when we bought our first home and how overwhelming it was. I can still see the old basement and the bad foundation and feel the sense of dread. Now I know that houses are actually really tough; they hold together well, especially the older ones like yours. Before you know it, you will be all moved in and settled, and sooner than you think, it will be spring and you will be delighted by the surprises that pop up and open all around you."

Learn how Simran is staying open and compassionate during this hectic process.
I am trying to stay open to the mystery of every new experience by being grateful and compassionate. Part of this is about being kind to myself. Each morning I recommit to this (some days I am more successful at this than others). It starts with tea for one (instead of heavily sugared coffee, which masks my fatigue so I can't tell when I am overtired) and a few early morning minutes to give thanks. I wake up in a warm bed and have a lot of love in my life, so I think there is always something to be grateful for (not that there always isn't something to also kvetch about, but I am reframing here). These actions are deliberate. I begin by drinking organic yerba maté. It wakes me up in a diffused, warm kind of way. Maté is a subtropical plant grown in the forests of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. It has a yummy, earthy taste and is high in antioxidants. I go with Guayaki because they also have a commitment to ensuring the folks who grow the tea earn a sustainable wage and the soil in which the maté is grown is treated well. This is important to me—I spend all day talking about caring for people and the planet, and I want that reflected in the products I use.

That is why you will be hearing me reference Viva Terra during the next year, as well. I was introduced to the company through its co-founder Bob Perkowitz (who also founded Eco-America, an environmental nonprofit dedicated to changing the way we talk about out planetary challenges and reframing the conversation on climate change). A few years ago, I very casually asked Bob if Viva Terra could help me put together a gift basket for my first appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. I needed help because, come on, what do you get a woman like Ms. Winfrey, who literally has everything?! Viva Terra co-founder Bonnie Dahan knew: She sent me a gorgeous basket full of quartz crystal tree ornaments (some of which we used in the segment we did on greening your holiday), a stunning fair trade necklace handmade in Africa and a host of other gifts that any of us would be thrilled to have. I knew then that I wanted Viva Terra in my home. And now I get the chance (thankfully, with Bonnie's help).

Gifts come in many places and at many times. Right now my favorite gift is time. I am trying to respect how long things take (ahem, the bathroom) and give myself time to process all these big changes. I am surprised that my biggest teacher in this regard has been my humble attempt at crocheting (emphasis on humble). I love the feel of the hook, I love the colors of yarn and I love my amazing made-in-Seattle cork knitting bag from Tom Bihn. Cork is harvested by peeling the bark, not cutting the tree. The bag is smartly designed to hold everything from crochet needles to cell phones and keys. It is my "it bag" (quite possibly in perpetuity because, yes, it's that beautiful and functional).

I am off to try to crochet something. But before I sign off I have one more person for whom I am grateful. That's you, dear reader. Thanks for joining me on this interesting ride. Next up, greening the actual move! And look for bits and bobs on Twitter @simransethi.


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