the EZ life

When I Grow Up October 30, 2008

Filed under: EZ Stories — theezlife @ 4:28 pm
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Gone are my childhood days when I and my friends knew with certainty what we wanted to “be” when we grew up. Dancers, firefighters, teachers (my personal choice ), astronauts, even the president of the United States (I’m not sure if any of them would really want that job NOW!), we were all pretty sure what we wanted to be. In our kindergarten world view, your profession defined you.

We had parents who were simply “Moms,” “librarians,” “businessmen,” and “engineers.” I grew up with a “Nurse-mom” and an “Engineer-dad.” (And I never really understood what exactly my dad did everyday… I just knew that he had a lot of fun office supplies to play with when my sister and I would go into the office with him on certain Saturdays. Don’t underestimate the magic in permanent markers, highlighters and a giant pad of paper on an easel… especially to a little girl who wants to be a teacher when she grows up and has a little sister who is relatively willing to sit and be a diligent pupil!)

Then, I started high school. And I didn’t really like a lot of my teachers. Some were great, others, not so much… And I started to question, could I see myself teaching the SAME subject day after day, year after year? Wouldn’t I be bored if I taught younger kids because of the lack of conversations/debates that took place in so many of my secondary education classes? (I’ve come to think- no, probably not. But, that was what I was thinking as a Junior/Senior in high school)

As college application time came around, I decided that it was kinda important that I have some idea of what I wanted to study for four years if for no other reason than it would help me narrow down the choices of colleges. I settled on Architecture. My rationalization was along the lines of, “Well, I like (and am pretty good at) math and science, but I really enjoy being creative… I really like houses, and all of the renovation/redecoration stuff we’ve done at our house since we moved in… and I really believe that there has to be a better way to build houses for the less-fortunate than the way government/low-income housing is done now.” (the last thought was inspired by a summer short-term mission trip to South Dakota, which I’ll have to write about later)

Anyway, I chose a good university that ended up having a very well- respected architecture program (which I didn’t know when I signed up) and I spent the next four years living on very little sleep and late night snacks of crackers, water, and gum (you should’ve seen the stuff my classmates ate!) to churn out drawings, scale models, and “boards.” It was a lot like hard work- with a lot of fun acitivities like throwing ninja stars made out of drafting tape and exacto blades at foam core targets added in. I graduated with a group of life-long  friends- the kinds of which can only be formed during late night line dancing lessons amidst the chaos of cardboard, foam core, basswood, acetate, and LOTS of Tacky Glue (or, alternatively, boxes of uncooked spaghetti noodles and dozens of hot glue guns… I’m going to have to write a “series” on “architecture school”) AND a degree Bachelor’s of Science in Architectural Studies.

Now, I’m working at a non-profit organization that builds super energy efficient houses for low-income families and trying to decide again, what I want to be when I grow up. I could go back to school to get my Master’s of Architecture. I could go back to school to get a Master’s of Education and a teacher’s certificate. I could keep working here. I could join the Teach for America corps. I could do a lot of things… and life isn’t as simple as it was when I was in kindergarten, teaching my little sister what I  had learned that day while we played “school.” There are a lot more factors to consider now. The job market, the economy, our family economy,  my husband’s job/career, our immediate and eventual future plans… Lucky for me, I do know for sure ONE occupation that I want to be “when I grow up.”

A mom. Now there’s just all the other decisions to make, preparations, steps, etc. In the meantime, I’m really enjoying my job as a “wife.” 🙂

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Choosing joy (and future plans!),



Passive Houses October 20, 2008

Filed under: EZ Living — theezlife @ 12:35 pm
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This will probably be the first of several posts to cover this topic. In a country where LEED and Energy Star Ratings have become buzz words (at least in the architecture/building world!), a new standard is finally starting to get some notice. I have had the privilege of working with the founders of the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) and I certainly feel that they are definitely on to something.

Started in Germany over 10 years ago by Dr. Wolfgang Feist, the Passive House Standard is the highest “building energy standard” in the world. Using careful design and construction methods, the energy usage of the house is reduced by up to 90%! (Imagine your energy bill- for heating, cooking, electricity, hot water, etc- to be about $120 for a 3 bed, 2 bath house, in the middle of winter, in Illinois- COLD, WET winters!) PHIUS founder, Katrin Klingenberg, learned how to design and construct these super-insulated, air- tight, energy efficient homes from Dr. Feist and then brought that knowledge to the US. There are now 10 certified Passive Houses in the US, with more under construction. With the building sector sucking up so much of our valuable resources, Passive Houses offer a compelling alternative way to construct our buildings. If, as a nation, we are able to vastly reduce our consumption of non-renewable energy resources, we will be able to meet our demand with clean, renewable energy much sooner/ more easily and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Germany and Austria are already making great strides in this direction- I hope that the US can get caught up! I’ll explain in more detail what makes this homes so  unique but in the meantime, I encourage you to check out PHIUS and the work that they are doing to help our world use less energy while providing beautiful, comfortable homes for people.

Choose Joy,