Posted by: LakeIris | September 19, 2012

7 Month 2 (Clothes)

I haven’t counted my clothes. Part of this is due to a shear lack of time in these past couple weeks (same reason why this is being posted later than I’d planned – thanks for being patient!) But it’s probably more to do with the fact that I’m a little worried about what number I’d come up with. Even after a massive purge from my move six months ago.

At that time, I sorted out (correct me if my memory deceives me, Krysta!) at least one garbage bag full of clothes that just needed tossing out. (Underwear with holes in the elastic; stained shirts, etc.) I donated another one (or two?) and brought another bag, the ‘cream of the crop’ to a clothing swap.

In the past year, I’ve spent a little over $700 on clothes – $300 of which was on two pairs of boots. (I hadn’t bought boots since 2001 and this was the third winter I’d told myself it was time to get a new pair as the old ones were looking pretty ragged.) I wear my school sports uniform to work at least twice a week and am fully convinced of the joys of wearing a uniform to work! (Never have to think about, comfortable, less laundry, I could go on….)

This all seems fairly reasonable to me, so in some ways I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on the clothing thing. Yet I have a closet full of clothes & shoes. I have about nine or ten drawers full of clothes. I have another few ‘special occasion’ dresses and winter coats hanging in a second closet, with more shoes on those shelves.

I’m going to be honest. I no longer enjoy buying lots of cheap clothes that take up space, don’t get worn much, are really poor quality so they wear out easily and/or may have been made by people getting an unfair wage for their labor. I’d much rather have a classic wardrobe like Rachel at Small Notebook, with fewer, better clothes. It’s less room in my house. It’s easier to manage. It’s more ethical – for environmental reasons, but also humanitarian.

Buying secondhand is one clear option. Buying new clothes, confident they and the materials they’re made from are ethically made/sourced? Not so straightforward. So I’m shopping more at thrift stores. And I’d love to make our clothes swap a regular occurrence. (Annual? Semi-annual?) Some of my current favorites were my friends’ cast-offs a few months ago.

All this seems strange to be reflecting on a week before we go on a shopping spree to the outlets in Michigan – though I’ll be doing my best to channel my bargain-hunting ‘skills’ on Bryan’s wardrobe instead of mine, as I’m pretty well sorted. And if I do end up finding something (like a new winter coat?) I think I’ll practice Yvette’s ‘one in, one out’ strategy to make sure my collection doesn’t start growing.

What about you? Are you a clothes-horse? Wish you could get away with wearing jeans and a t-shirt every day? What do you to keep your wardrobe under control?

Posted by: LakeIris | September 11, 2012

7 Book Club: Month 2 (Clothes) – some extras!

Hello, lovelies!

Here are few articles & videos to supplement your reading of Month 2: Clothing:

The Particular Problem of Stripey Flats by Flower Patch Farmgirl

An excerpt from Elizabeth L. Cline’s book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion: The Afterlife of Cheap Clothes

I’ll be writing up my own thoughts on the second chapter this weekend. Looking forward to hearing from you, too!


Four years ago, I was diagnosed with fructose, lactose and gluten intolerance. This came after over a decade of doctors basically telling me I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome and to try to keep a food diary to see if I could work out what was causing me to get sick.

Problem was, just about everything I used to eat made me feel sick. Wheat. Dairy. Apples. Onions. Tomatoes. Anything with high fructose corn syrup. There was no simple answer to ‘what’s the culprit?’

Upon diagnosis, my first step was to replace all the processed food that was making me sick with equally processed food that made me somewhat less sick. An improvement, but still not ideal.

Then, I read In Defense of Food. It blew my mind. I started asking myself whether part of the reason I had such a crazy number of intolerances might actually be because of the food I’d been eating all of my life. Then I started wondering if there was a way to actually heal my digestive system, rather than just cut out a whole bunch of things that are incredibly nutritious for the rest of my life. Like onions. And apples. And milk. And bread. (REAL bread, that is.)

So I dropped the processed food, almost completely. I started getting a weekly fruit and vegetable box delivered and got meat, milk and a few other odds and ends at the supermarket. And I got started to get sick again, which was incredibly disappointing.

I told the fruit and veg company to stop sending apples, onions, pears and pretty much everything that’s high in fructose. And stopped drinking milk. This, combined with some input from a naturopath, resulted in normal iron levels in my blood. Actual iron stores in my blood. Normal Vitamin D levels. And Zinc levels. I’ve been sick so rarely in the past two years that I’ve started lamenting my lack of legitimate excuses to take sick days from work. I actually miss sick days. (That’s a bit sick in and of itself, isn’t it?)

Anyway, I was feeling so much better, I started experimenting, adding some things back in. Sourdough bread…okay! Milk…okay! (With Lactaid, but still.) Onions! Apple crumble! Hooray, look at all the things I can eat again!

And I started getting sick again. Too much, too soon. At this stage, it seems moderation is the best I can hope for. Milk in my coffee, sheep’s yogurt, occasional cheese and lots of butter – that’s about it for dairy. Sourdough bread once or twice a week, but fresh gluten free from a local bakery if it’s going to be more often. If I’m cooking, I don’t use onion. Or buy apples.

I still get some symptoms, but it’s almost always when I’m stressed. Which means that the original diagnosis of IBS was probably at least partially accurate. Good to know.

Some unexpected results from my ‘food journey’ these past few years:

  • I’ve discovered the joy of shopping at independently owned butchers and greengrocers. Of home delivered fruits and vegetables. Supporting local businesses. And farmers. Better quality food. Developing relationships with the owners, my neighbors. Eating fruits and vegetables I’d never even heard of two years ago, like silverbeet (chard) and tangelos.
  • I absolutely hate to waste food or having to throw out rotten produce. (The second reason why I’m jealous of friends who have chickens. The first, of course, is they get fresh eggs every day!) This never used to bother me, but now it makes me feel physically ill to have to throw things out. I just never want to take for granted the blessing it is to know that I will be able to eat my fill each and every day I choose to.
  • Now I read things like: “Swap butter for a scrape of low fat margarine” or “Swap regular spreads for reduced fat and low salt varieties” and it PISSES ME OFF. Those are exact quotes from the “Swap It – Don’t Stop It” campaign that were printed in our school newsletter this week. I’m considering writing an article for next week’s issue on the evils of margarine and the marketing of low fat foods and sing the praises of the glory that is butter. (I blame Michael Pollan for this.)
  • I still have residual junk food cravings: McDonald’s about once every two months. Hot chips (French fries) at least once a week. Coke maybe once a month. Chocolate? Every day, but almost exclusively dark, organic, fair trade.
Posted by: LakeIris | September 8, 2012

7 Book Club: Month 1 (Identity)

I was kind of hoping my reflections on the first chapter of 7 were going to be a little more about Jesus and less about food. But it took me a full two hours of writing about my journey with food over the past few years to get it out of my system before I could get there. If you’re interested in finding out more about that, have a read here.

But for our first week, our first session of the 7 Book Club, I’m going to focus on those three questions on page 24. The ones that completely floored me the first time I read the book and made me immediately want to buy a copy for everyone I know and love:

  1. What in my life, if taken away, would alter my value or identity?
  2. What causes an unhealthy change of attitude, personality, or focus when ‘it’ becomes threatened?
  3. What is the thing outside of God that you put everything else on hold for?

In other words: “What other gods do you have before me, Diana?”

Oh, man. Here we go.

The possibility that I’ll be married one day, with kids. Who am I, if I’m not going to be a mother someday? Haven’t I been preparing for it one way or another since I was approximately two years old?

Being good at my job. Don’t even get me started on the insecurity that comes from pursuing a career like teaching. Most of my previous jobs, take waitressing for example, took a bit of training, a bit of practice, but fairly quickly, I felt like I had a pretty good handle on it. Teaching is nothing like this and that drives me crazy sometimes.

And, similarly, being ‘good with kids.’ Until I started teaching I always enjoyed kids and felt that it was pretty easy to earn their respect and obedience. Now I realize that while this may be true of about 75% of the kids I encounter, when the other 25% challenge my authority…well, that’s where that unhealthy change of attitude and personality  comes into play.

Easter Camp Coordinator – such an important part of my identity these past three years, I’m starting to wonder if that’s why God might be saying, “that’s enough for now.”

The dependable, responsible daughter/sister/niece/granddaughter. But I’m not a part of my family’s lives now like I used to be and that certainly feels like it’s changing my value.

But there is gospel. My value, my identity is NOT based on my marital status or whether I have procreated. Or am good at my job or brilliant at classroom management. Or whether I’m funny. Or catch up with all of my friends on a regular basis. Or exercise regularly. Or am debt free.

My value, my identity is in Christ. I am a child of God. And if I forget that, if I raise up any of these other aspects of my life to make them more than they should rightfully be, then I am putting up a barrier between me and God. I’m denying who I am and who my Creator is.

So how might you answer those questions? What did the first chapter of 7 have you pondering?

I’m going to be linking in to Bloom’s online book club as I reread 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess along with some of you over the next couple of months!

(I think we’ll be a little behind everyone else as I know a few of you are still waiting for your copy to arrive. But I’m okay with that!)

So here’s what I’m thinking.


Read Chapter 1 by next weekend, September 7 (or thereabouts). Have a watch of the video below, either as an introduction or perhaps when you’re done reading.

Now, on to the book and why Jen reduced her culinary habits to just seven foods for one experimental month:

Picking seven foods is like trying to pick my favorite kid. Some people eat to live, but I live to eat. I come from a long line of eaters; my sister is in culinary school in New York City as I write this. We long-distance foodie talk once a week until Brandon gives me the I just can’t take it anymore look. … Food is the ceintrifugal force that draws together my people.
~From 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, by Jen Hatmaker

So why did Jen choose just seven foods to sustain her for one month? She shares more about her “why” in the this week’s video:



I’ll post my thoughts about Chapter 1 next weekend, and you can come back here to share your own ideas. If you had to choose just 7 foods for a month – what would they be? And more importantly, do you think you and Jen would walk away with some of the same lessons?

Here’s a link to a guest post from Hayley at the Tiny Twig for you to check out, too:

Here goes my first experiment with an online book club. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Posted by: LakeIris | September 25, 2011

First Ever Theatre Review

This week I’ve dabbled in the world of theatre review by writing for Kim over at Theatre Press about Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of Clybourne Park.

To be honest, I think I found writing this review more nerve-wracking more than performing myself…but getting comp tickets to this incredible performance might be enough to convince me to give it another go sometime. 🙂

Have a look here:


And if you’re in Melbourne and you can, go see the show – especially you ‘under-30s’ – an absolute bargain for very high quality theatre!


















Posted by: LakeIris | September 7, 2011


Last weekend I had the pleasure of spending a day at the McClelland Gallery & Sculpture Park, enjoying great coffee, meandering walks amongst the sculptures, a picnic in the sun and good conversations.

I was asked by the Soul Nurture Network (who organized the excursion) to share my experience of walking the labyrinth — the day’s focal point. These are some excerpts from my journal to give you a glimpse of some of the questions I asked and the answers I received.

Remembering and Releasing (on the way to the center)

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”  –Jonah 2:8

What idols/aspects of my identity have I been clinging to? Who am I, if I am not a daughter, teacher, girlfriend, intellectual, friend, theologian, leader in the church? Who am I, if I am not responsible, organised, funny, busy, important, attractive?

If all of these were stripped away — what would I be left with?
Diana, child of God
If I am going to offer you these things, my heart, time, money, life — I need to know and trust that they are in good, capable, worthy hands. How else can I hand them over willingly, without resentment, without hesitation?
Promise me. Promise that you will not let me fall. Promise that you will not to lead me astray. Promise to be there always, that you will be the leader that I need and my guide. Promise that you will take care of me and be worthy of my submission.
Receiving (in the center)
If this is what you require of me, what can I expect of you, God?
Faith, trust, truth, love, joy, peace, patience
Are you strong enough?
I am mighty, God almighty.
Are you worthy?
Worthy is the Lamb.
Are you trustworthy? Can I trust you?
Trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understanding.
Are you enough?
My grace is sufficient.
What if I fail?
I am there to carry you, to lean on always – your strength in times of trial.
Will it be difficult?
Yes. I cannot promise otherwise.
What if I’m still not convinced?
Stay with me, don’t give up and look for the evidence of my faithfulness all around you. Surely you know enough to take the leap of faith.
Is it time? What if I’m not ready?
It’s okay. You can rest with me a while longer. But know I’ll be there whenever you’re ready – and will probably give you a push when I think you are…so just be aware. It’s coming.
…what is?
You’ll know soon enough. But it’s good, I promise. And you’ll be ready.

Returning (on the way back out)

Okay, let’s go. Show me what you’ve got.
Life to the fullest.
What does that look like?
Feasting. Breaking bread – together, with others. Singing of my love forever. Equipped for good works. A long road, stretched out ahead – so much more to come. Time. Joy. New things.
Wait and see.
Come and see.
Posted by: LakeIris | August 6, 2011

In which I consider ways to become debt-free

Earn more.

Or spend less.

These are my options.

I have made steady progress in paying off my debt in the three and a half years that I’ve been working as a teacher. My car loan (which included expenses related to moving overseas) has been reduced from $10800 to $4000.

On the other hand, I’ve barely made a dent in my student loans. I didn’t even make payments for a year, since my income (when converted to USD) qualified me to defer due to ‘economic hardship’ back when the Australian dollar collapsed in late 2008. The loans were still accruing interest and only about 4% of my payments since then has been applied to the principal.

If I continue to pay off the loans at this rate, I’ll be debt-free by 2063. And 84 years old.

If I can manage to contribute an additional $450/month ($5500/year) to my debt repayments, I’d cut the repayment time down from 52 years to 5 1/2. And save myself approximately $113,000 in interest.

Earn more.

Or spend less.

I earn a very good income as a teacher. I also work long hours. While there are a few options for additional part-time work (such as tutoring) most of them aren’t particularly appealing when I consider the extra time they’d take.

It’s a simple decision, at the heart. Obvious what I must do. But how to spend less? Ah, now we’re getting to the tough part. Here are some of my thoughts and ideas from the past few months.

  • Reduce my rent. Moving back in with my parents (again) isn’t an option while I’m working in Melbourne. But perhaps there’s a cheaper place to live. Perhaps I could provide childcare/cooking/cleaning to a family in exchange for cheap/free rent. Perhaps.
  • Sell my car. When I add up fuel, insurance, service and other car-related expenses – it costs me a little over $5000/year. Even if I had to pay for public transport every single day, this would still save me over $3000/year. This is a complicated decision, the ramifications of which I won’t go into now, but suffice it to say that while I’m considering this option, it wouldn’t happen until the end of the year at the earliest.
  • Eat on a ‘food stamps budget’ – Kristen at Food Renegade and the Leakes at 100 Days of Real Food have me thinking about how much I currently spend on groceries, particularly since I’ve been eating much more real, organic foods. I’d have to cut my groceries spending down by about 67% to eat on a food stamps budget ($200/month for a household of 1) – but this would provide me with an additional $4880/year.
  • I’ve already made cuts to other discretionary areas of my budget – things like clothing, recreation and ‘personal care’ (skincare products, haircuts, facials, pedicures and the like) though I’m sure there’s still significant room for me to save with additional lifestyle changes.
I were able to implement one or more of these solutions, I would not only be able to more aggressively attack my debt, I’d also have the freedom to be more generous with tithing and giving…and save more for future purchase to break the cycle. No matter what I choose to do, I think having accountability and support will be essential, which is why I’m taking the plunge, swallowing my pride and sharing this journey with you.
Perhaps you’ve made similar changes to your spending – whether to pay off debt or for another reason – and you’ve got some helpful hints. Perhaps you are more creative than I am and have other ideas about how I can spend less. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Posted by: LakeIris | August 6, 2011


A couple of days ago, one of my students and her mum came to chat with me in the moments before the bell rang. It turns out my student had borrowed one of my books and took it home to read. She left it outside and well…the dog chewed it up. (Can you believe it? It was by far the closest thing to ‘the dog ate my homework’ I’ve heard yet.) She felt so horrible and they went so far as to go online and find another copy on ebay to replace it. You see, this book was one that I’d had since childhood (Anne’s House of Dreams) and they thought (correctly) that this had made it particularly valuable to me.

Now, I used to love, and still love, these books from my childhood. But they cost me about $3 each back then, and the pages are yellowing and coming apart at the spine. They were and are well-loved, but if I was that precious about them, I certainly wouldn’t make them available to my students to read. But I believe books are meant to be read and reread and if they eventually fall apart, that’s a beautiful thing. I was so touched by how much this student cared about me and my book and how she did what she could to remedy the situation.

What struck me the most about the situation, however, was its parallels to something that happened when I was in fifth grade. The feelings of guilt and needing to make things right were very much the same. Only in my case, the situation was completely my fault (unlike my student who, although she shouldn’t have left the book outside, was really the object of unfortunate circumstances). My teacher would occasionally give out Hershey’s kisses for treats or rewards, and one day, finding myself completely alone in the classroom, I took a couple from her stash and ate them. (Certainly sounds like the beginning signs of an addiction, doesn’t it?) That night, my mom found me in my bed, sobbing, guilt-stricken. We decided that I’d buy a bag of the treats out of my own money to replace the ones I’d taken.

Here’s the clincher, though. I wrote a note of apology and left the bag of chocolate with the note in her mailbox in the office. It either didn’t occur to me to apologize in person, or I didn’t have the guts to face her. She never mentioned it to me (probably rightly assuming that it would embarrass me even further) but it means I never experienced words of forgiveness or absolution. Her actions spoke that to me – she never treated me any differently, so I’m pretty sure she never thought less of me. But I’ll never know for sure.

So I looked my student in the eye, told her I knew it wasn’t her fault, that I really appreciated her apology and taking the time to find a replacement book so close to the original. May the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. I pray that this experience will teach us both just a little bit more about the value of confession, making things right, reconciliation, forgiveness and absolution.

Posted by: LakeIris | July 26, 2011

The Antidote to ‘Dodging Cameras’

I just love how God speaks to us in so many ways. While journaling, feeling so discouraged, defeated and overwhelmed and then finding myself writing, “these are all LIES. God is the God of TRUTH – so why would you think these thoughts are of God?” Answered prayers, week after week.

And last Friday? This blog post at Emerging Mummy. If you’ve read about my experience with dodging cameras these past few months, you might agree with the beautiful timing of the post.

Have a look at these stunning, inspiring, incredible women. Perhaps this is just the antidote that the Great Physician ordered.

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