Sustainable living on a budget: Am I inspired yet?
Monique Dupre was, as everyone seems to agree, not what we expected. She's too lovely, too pulled-together, too funny, too American. (For the record, she is married to a Frenchman, grew up near Astoria, and now lives in Vancouver, Wash.) I half-expect her to start her insanely popular 'Sustainable Living on a Budget' workshop with a little ledger for us to add up our errant spending and lots of judgment, but that's entirely not what she does.
She starts by saying that she just wants to inspire us, reminds us that inspire means "in the spirit," and that we don't have to do everything, just start where we are. And begins to talk about where she is.
It's at once devilishly inspiring (I will admit to having called Comcast to cut off my cable the next day, and removed the TV from the living room, although it was only minorly influenced by Monique) and crushingly overwhelming. Monique, through lots of hard work, much ability to be present and inquisitive, and the oh-so-useful French husband questioning all that is America, has created a life that is truly my dream. She gets all her food locally and organically, creating healthy and whole-foods-y meals for each and every bite her family eats. She leaves her home each morning with a clean kitchen and a small pile of laundry. Her children want nothing for Christmas because they have everything they need. Her eldest daughter can recognize fennel plants when they're an inch tall. She loves fennel!
Monique grinds her own whole grains. She need not go anywhere on the weekends, because her house is her bed & breakfast. And she's available for consulting, just $50 an hour.
I'll admit to hating her at moments. ("Cloth diapers are great!" she says. "If you're just the tiniest bit crafty, you can make them for pennies, and you can knit those covers in a long car ride!" Larissa and I looked at each other in sorrow, mourning the fact that there's no support group for disposable diaper users.) But I was definitely inspired. And I love one of her undercurrents, one that I've been trying to do as much as possible (though of course here I'm sitting, writing calls-to-action one after another), which is something about being silent and just doing the change you want to see in the world. (She said it better.) Don't go out and insist that everyone on your block rip out their lawn and plant a garden; don't start a campaign to ban disposable diapers. Just start with a little box, dig it up, plant some artichokes and spinach and sunflowers; take honey-sweetened cookies to your child's next t-ball game; calmly pass up on garbage day because you've learned to reduce your trash to one small can a month. These things are my lofty goals right now.
Do I recommend the workshop? If you want to learn how to do everything right now, no. You'll leave after two hours feeling empty, wondering what exactly to do with the 25-pound-bags of organic quinoa and kamut you're sure you want to buy, wondering how to knit your diaper covers, wondering what, exactly, you should be fermenting for tomorrow's dinner. Wondering how you'll ever know if your flour is rancid. If you need a starting place, a spark of inspiration, a push to set you off toward living better, consuming less, sustaining more: it's a great use of two hours.
You'll need to book now, of course, because Monique was in the Oregonian, and she's now a sustainable mama rock star. Workshops for dairy, fermenting, and cooking with whole grains will be opening up come August, and if you've gone already, let me know what you thought. And where you started your quest to make your home like a bed & breakfast.