Sunday, June 22, 2008

Searching

In light of my recent reading of Affluenza and re-reading of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I am again searching and trying to define what I want from my life. This is an ongoing journey for me and one that D & I talk about quite a bit. How do I envision our lives as a family. What is important to me. I found the following list of "Priorities for American Consumers" in Affluenza (pg 195), and I think it hits on quite a few for me:

Transportation
  1. Choose a place to live that reduces the need to drive.
  2. Think twice before purchasing a second or third car
  3. Chose a fuel efficient, low-polluting car.
  4. Set concrete goals for reducing your travel
  5. Whenever practical, walk, bicycle, or take public transportation
Food
  1. Eat less meat.
  2. Buy certified organic produce.
Household Operations
  1. Choose your home carefully.
  2. Reduce the environmental costs of heating and hot water.
  3. Install efficient lighting and appliances
  4. Choose and electricity supplied offering renewable energy.
I want to live somewhere close to family that has a diverse population, walkable/bikeable amenities nearby, solid public transportation, green spaces, university(ies) nearby, libraries, parks, museums, good local food. I want a home that is clean and orderly where stuff does not continue to invade every space of my being, where my family can play and enjoy one another, and where I have enough room in the yard for a garden which could sustain our family in produce. I want my husband to have a job that doesn't cause him sleepless nights, that he enjoys and looks forward to doing, that enhances our life but doesn't detract from it.

Affluenza

I belong to an amazing book group. It is comprised of a few of my friends. We meet monthly to discuss a book selected by a member on a rotating basis. The books run the gamut and have exposed me to different genres and books I would not have read otherwise. Last month, we read Affluenza: the All-Consuming Epidemic.

I admit that I did not want to read it at first. I felt that I just couldn't take another area in my life to work on. I already try to shop local, eat vegetarian, reduce my "stuff," consolidate trips in the car, shop only one day a week, aboid big box stores, etc. I told my sister that I just didn't need another person telling me how bad I was and that we are on a runaway train to oblivion.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It is setup in two main parts - symptoms and remedies. The focus of the book is affluenza and the effects of consumerism on our culture and our lives. I found it to be a quick and engaging read. It is very similar to The Story of Stuff, which I also highly recommend. It made me further evaluate what we have and what we really need. It urged me to continue the self-analysis I am currently doing. What REALLY matters in my life? What do I REALLY want from my life?

The process for me has been ongoing, starting with a belief in simple living that I used to espouse to my friends in the mid-90s. It drove some of them nuts as I questioned why we "needed" certain things to prove our worth. At that time, I wondered what did I really need. Of course, I had a lot of "stuff" and spent quite a bit of money. I colored my hair, wore fashionable clothes, traveled internationally and went out a lot.

When D & I had our first child, I reduced my work hours and went back to work part-time. We were afraid to lose my income totally as I made significantly more than he did at the time. We decided part-time would be a gradual step in that direction without too much sacrifice. Our son would never have outside childcare, so we were all set. The cosmos had other plans as I was downsized when our son was 6 months old. It was a definite learning experience. We learned that we really didn't need much to live. We were able to enjoy our life on less than half of what the two of us made with me part-time. We laughed when people said they "had" to work (In fact, we still do).

Our income has gradually increased over time, but I recently realized that we still don't make what we did when I left the workforce. Yet somehow we survive. We spend more time together as a family just doing stuff. We have started camping. We take road trips to see our state and learn about our surroundings. We utilize Freecycle and Goodwill. We have belonged to several CSAs. We have our own garden. We don't have cable and never watch television (D & I do watch movies through Netflix occasionally). We have one vehicle. We really try to live a more simple life.

We have chosen voluntary simplicity, and we like it. Or so I think most days. Yet even with our changes in buying behavior, we have a lot of "stuff." I am continually donating or selling items we don't use or need. I recently discovered that one of my sons had 26 pairs of underwear. Granted some were slightly too small, but he had an overabundance. I was caught up in affluenza. I had found them on sale and bought several packs thinking we needed them. We don't. He now has 12 pairs and still has more underwear than any person needs. The kiddos also have too many clothes. Most has been thrifted, bought at the end of season on clearance or acquired through clothing swaps with friends. Most they don't need. My son doesn't "need" over 30 short-sleeved shirts (yes, I counted). I bought the items or accepted them from friends, because they were good deals - Gymbo, ON, Gap for $2/shirt who could resist??? This is where I have a bit of affluenza, and I am working on it. On some level, I still think we need stuff and I get some type of pleasure in securing the deal and acquiring more.

We really, truly don't. So, now I am trying to determine just what 3 children and two adults need clotheswise and possession-wise. I have some ideas, but I would love to get input on what you think a good wardrobe for a 5yo, 3yo, 3 month old, 36 yo and 37yo would be. What does a family truly need?

Some last thoughts/quotes on the book, since I missed our discussion:
  • I want to live "Consciously, deliverately and intentionally" (pg 182)
  • I want to remember and instill in my children the following when faced with a spending decision: "Do I really need it? Can I borrow it from someone else? Are the materials in it reusable and recyclable? How much time will I need to work to afford it?" (pg 213)
On to next month's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. This is another book I highly recommend.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Always on Guard

Some people wonder why I question so many things. They wonder why I make the decisions I do for our family and my kiddos. Well, it is hard to trust when every other day I am told of another area where our family can be harmed. No one else is looking out for our well-being (government, FDA, etc).

I have tried very hard to eliminate all plastics from our kitchen - no IKEA plasticware for the kiddos, glass storage, etc. The playroom has been analyzed and many toys given to new homes in an attempt to remain plastic free and use more natural toys (blocks, cloth dolls, playsilks, etc). The whole house is cleaned with vinegar and baking soda. We really try to make it a safe place.

Then, I read this: Pacifier Guide

I recently bought a pacifier for Baby B. I had been using my little finger when he needed some additional soothing and did not want to nurse. It seemed like perhaps a pacifier would be a better choice. So much for that thought. Even on my worst day, my finger will not cause him as much damage as what is packaged at my local Target...

Monday, June 16, 2008

New Banner

Like the new mosaic? You too can have one here

Sunday, June 15, 2008

More Recycling

My craft room (aka The Den) is a mess. I have WAY too many projects going with no completion in site. I decided to try to tackle the mess one stack at a time and not just move things around the room. I took a stack of sweaters I had set aside for baby soakers and longies. I cut into them and fashioned three pairs of longies for Baby B. He has wore two of the pairs at night and they work beautifully - no leaks!
(I think he is sad, because Dave called him an Ewok in these pants)

I plan on making a few pairs of shorties/soakers from the remaining sweater pieces. I wanted to do it all at one time, but I am reminding myself, "baby steps."

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Selsun Blue

I am not an audiophile. I love music, but I often don't know the lyrics, artist or name of the song. Not too long ago, I asked D why Neil Diamond was singing about dandruff shampoo. He looked at me in disbelief as he told me the song is "Song Sung Blue."

I recently found a new song to like. I heard it on the radio while driving with D and the kiddos. I asked him what "menicuous" was. This is the song. I love it. The words are hilariously horrid, but oh the beat...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Double UGH!

http://jenniferblock.com/wordpress/?p=74

I am a lactivist. I think everyone should breastfeed. I see no reason why mothers shouldn't - truly. I know there are a VERY small few who medically cannot, but that number is not significant. The majority of women CAN breastfeed. They choose not to breastfeed or they are not provided with support to be successful at breastfeeding. It is appalling to me that U.S. hospitals can score a failing grade for breastfeeding. It doesn't surprise me as I hear of mothers pressured to give formula, told to only feed on a schedule and given samples of formula.

Appalling.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Delish

I have been making a lot of meals from Eat, Drink and be Vegan by Dreena Burton lately. Today I made the Chocolate Mint Melties. They are so good! I highly recommend trying them out.
So far everything I have made has been well received and quite good. We have had the Cocoa-Coconut Chili, Popcorn Fries and Chickpea Sensation Patties.