Friday, January 25, 2008

What to do...

Okay, I think this is our first big, tough decision. My mom has been talking about going on a family cruise for a long time and now she has found one she wants to do. The only problem is that it is October 2008. She really wants the whole family to go but how is this going to fly with our year of simple living? Ugh! Why couldn't it be 3 months later? The thing that stinks is that it is such a good deal and a good time because everyone is still in the country (my brothers and their wives would both like to go overseas soon). This may be one of the last chances we would get to do something like this...maybe ever. I hate to be a disappointment to my family because we are only ones not going. But going just feels like cheating...big time. I think I have to feel out my mom. It is one thing to disappoint her. I can handle that. It's another thing to have her be mad at me. I know, I'm weak.

I think my parents are going to be the hardest thing about this year. I love them but they keep trying to take us out to eat or buy us things because they know we are not allowed to buy it for ourselves. That's not the point! They are so wonderful and generous and just don't want to see us suffering, but we are not suffering and we are doing this so that we can grow. I know, I must be soooo tough to have parents like that. I consider myself very lucky and blessed. I am so thankful for the generosity of my parents. Sometimes they are just too generous though!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Making the Switch to Cloth

Slowly but surely our family has been switching from disposable paper products to reusable cloth products. It all started with cloth diapers. After I attended a seminar at the Mennonite Conference in San Jose this past summer I felt convicted about the waste we were creating in our household. I knew the biggest source of waste at the time were the disposable diapers we were using. I started doing research and was surprised to find a sizable community of people out there cloth diapering their children. I was also surprised by how cloth diapering has evolved since when our parents diapered us. I was amazed to see how easy and fun cloth diapering could be. Now tell me that this diaper isn't adorable! Where can you find a 'sposie like it?

Trust me, I never thought I'd be cloth diapering. I just imagined the pins and the plastic pants and I was like, no way! Hardly anyone diapers like that anymore. If you have a little one in diapers just consider cloth. Not only do you save money (not at first, but over time) but it can also be a lot of fun! Do a little research and you will see that a lot has changed. My favorite website at the time is where you can buy/sell/trade diapers and also finds all kinds of information about cloth diapering and parenting in general.

Switching to cloth diapers kind of launched my current passion for living more sustainably. I have a long way to go, but here are some of the other switches I have made.

Paper towels: Instead of reaching for paper towels for clean ups I got all my rags together in a bin and I got into the habit of reaching for them instead.

Feminine Products: This may be TMI especially for those of the male persuasion, but I decided that since I was using cloth for my baby, why not use cloth for myself. I looked into it and actually found something called the Diva Cup which I mainly use. It definitely takes some time getting used and is not as easy as a tampon in some ways, but it's not too bad either and worth it for not making waste. I do also have a couple of cloth pads. I know this is going a little too far for some people, but what did women do before disposables were invented? I'm not saying that all advances are bad things, but when they are creating so much waste we need to rethink what we are doing.

Napkins: I was going to make my own now that I have my mom's sewing machine up and running, but my mom had a ton of them and gave me a whole stack to get me started!

Still working on...

Tissues: We haven't made the switch to handkerchiefs yet, but I see that in the near future (we'll still keep some Kleenex on hand for guests).

Probably not in our future...

Family cloth: I'm just not sure I could do this, and I'm pretty darn sure that Brent wouldn't. I think this is were we draw the line. I'm not quite ready to give up toilet paper. You'll be happy to know though that the toilet paper I am buying is made of recycled paper and is whitened without chlorine bleach.

Just even making one of these switches is helping reduce waste, so I encourage you to give it a shot!

Monday, January 21, 2008

My Turn

Hello, this is Brent. It's about time that I wrote a blog about how this whole experience is going for me.
To be honest, so far things are pretty easy. I mean, I miss the flexibility of being able to buy whatever we want but on the other hand, life gets boring when you have to rely on money to do anything. Last night we were both tired and realized that in the past that meant that we would order out and maybe rent a movie. But now both of those options are off limits! So instead we made some really good honey almond chicken and watched (To my chagrin) Little Women.
So, maybe after this year I will not be quite as good at playing "Scene It" but I will be a much better cook. (Probably more healthy too)
I do miss comic books (I'm now three weeks behind...someone please tell me what's happening to Spiderman!) but I have discovered that the local library is building it's comic book and Manga collection. In fact, I am thinking about donating some of my old comic trades to promote the spirit of donating! (Really I just want them to get more books because I will read all the ones they have in a few months)

We have only been doing this whole "no new stuff" thing for a month but the thing that has stood out to me is that Americans tend to pay for entertainment. What do you normally do for free? There isn't much. You pay for almost any concert, movie, play, round of golf, name it.

So our challenge this year is going to be finding fun things that are free. And unfortunately they are few and far between! People could spend a lot less money if there were things to do that didn't involve money. More concerts in the park and parades and Albany where I grew up there was a play in the park every summer. They were good ones too, musicals like Camelot and lots of Shakespeare. There were seats that you could pay for but then there was a whole hill above them that you could sit on for free. It was always packed and always a lot of fun to go see.

That is the type of thing that we need more of. Then we wouldn't have to drop $30 every time we wanted to have fun.

So we will search for free fun things to do, and then maybe we can tell other people about them!
We will keep you posted.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

no 'poo

No, I'm not constipated. I'm doing a hair experiment. I haven't used shampoo (or as I will refer to it here, 'poo) since December 31st. I plan on continuing my no 'poo experiment for a total of 6 weeks, so that means I will be able to shampoo again on February 12th. That is of course if I want to. Why am I doing this experiment? Well mainly it's because I have an addiction to shampoo. Before this I was a once a day 'pooer. I could barely make a day and a half before I felt greasy and yucky. And I knew that I was only making things worse by continuing to shampoo everyday. See when you shampoo, you strip your hair of its natural oils (yay for no grease). The only problem is that because you are stripping your hair of these oils, your body compensates by making more oils. And when you shampoo every day, your body goes into overproduction of these oils and therefore you feel like you need to shampoo everyday. It's a vicious cycle. Well, I'm breaking the cycle!

I have to say, I thought I was going to want to lock myself in my house after a couple of days for the remainder of the six weeks, but it's not as bad as I thought. Mainly because I still get to have a BS/ACV fix once or twice a week. I'll explain in a bit. But you tell does my hair look after 17 days of no 'poo?

I know it's hard to believe I'm not a grease ball after 17 days but my hair feels great. But that is mainly due to the BS/ACV. That stands for Baking Soda and Apple Cider Vinegar. Every four days or so I make a paste of baking soda (1 T. of BS with some water) and then rub that on my scalp. After about 1 minute I rinse it out and then dilute about 2 T. of apple cider vinegar in water and then pour that over the ends of my hair. I let it soak for a minute and then rinse my whole head really well. Sure, I smell a bit like fish 'n' chips for a little while, but the smell dissipates pretty quickly. This works just as good, if not better than shampoo and conditioner and it's way cheaper! My hair feels so soft after I do this. Anyway, if you feel up to the no 'poo challenge, there is all kinds of info out there. You'd be surprised by how many people out there are no 'pooers. Just google no 'poo and give it a shot.

On the hair theme, I just cut Brent's hair and kind of made a boo boo on one of the side burns. See the pic...I mean it's not horrible, but I definitely went into the sideburn too much when I was trimming around the ear.

I've been cutting his hair for a long time now and I have to say that I think I generally do a pretty good job. I don't think I did quite so good a job this time, but I blame the clippers. They are acting funny, which is not good because if they go sometime this year we can't get new ones! The thing that stinks about today's society is that hardly anyone fixes anything anymore, they just throw it away and get something new. I understand why. Often times it costs just as much and maybe more to get something repaired as it does to just buy it new. Why repair the old thing when you can buy something brand new for just as much? We live in such a throw away society. Like if these clippers did break, where would I even take them to get them fixed? It's kind of annoying. Anyway, I just hope they last us a year or that we can find someone to fix them.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Our First Week

Well week one is done. It has certainly been interesting and challenging in a lot of ways. I keep thinking of all the things I wish I had bought before the new year started. There are a lot of things that would have been useful to have. Like I really wish I had bought those Wrap-N-Mats so that I wouldn't have to buy sandwich bags. Brent sees sandwich bags as like groceries, but I don't see it the same way. Do we have to have something to put our sandwiches into? Yes. Does it have to be a sandwich bag? No. I told him I would start saving the containers our food came in to use instead of Ziploc bags or Saran wrap. He wasn't too keen on the idea. I understand why though. I tend to be a pack-rat and save every little thing thinking that somewhere down the road I'll be able to use it (think toilet paper tubes and film canisters piling up). He has had to deal with this inability to throw things out for over 3 years now. He has helped me learn to throw away (though I prefer to recycle or give away) a lot more than I used to and I'm sure he is just having nightmares that I will start stockpiling again.

I also wish I had gotten a Kleen Kanteen because now that we can't stop at convenience stores for drinks I'm going to try to make sure I am more diligent about bring a water bottle with me in case I get thirsty. We only have one Nalgene, so I would have liked to have another water bottle. Oh well, there are always thrift stores!

It's I am driving along I find myself mourning the loss of being able to go out to eat. Every eatery I see I'm like, oh I wish I could just get some coffee or a little snack. It's quite sad really. I've never seen so many restaurants as I do now. It's like the "you want what you can't have" thing. I remember when I was pregnant Brent and I were eating on the patio and I turned to him and said, "I could really use a smoke." I don't smoke, but just knowing that I couldn't made me want to really bad.

The crazy thing is that even under our new rule of not going out to eat, somehow Brent managed to eat out 4 times last week, and one of those times I was with him. It all fell under our exceptions, but still! That's just crazy! He went out once with the Elders for a breakfast meeting, once with the lead Pastor for a lunch meeting, once with a student from church (this was actually dinner and a movie, but he didn't have to pay for either) and then we both went out with my parents and my Grammy (used a one of our gift certificates). We're really off to a great start! As I said earlier, this will be harder for Brent because sometimes for work he will have to blur the lines. He didn't initiate any of those meetings/outings and it is hard to say no, especially to a student when that is what his job is mostly about...connecting with the kids. I didn't really want to go out to eat with my parents because I felt guilty going out so soon into our experiment, but they wanted to spend time with us and my Mom didn't want to cook which I totally understand after a hard week at work. I would have offered to cook but I hadn't been grocery shopping recently so I didn't have much food in the house. I really hated to have to use our precious gift certificates so soon but I didn't want my parents to feel like they had to pay for us out of pity for our situation.

I just have to learn to be even more prepared. First of all, I have to keep my house clean and food stocked so that if people ask us out to eat we could suggest that they come over to eat instead. I'm such a planner and don't do well with having to throw a meal together at the last minute, but I have to learn to get over my pride and not care if I put together the perfect meal. Brent said that for some of his meetings he might be able to suggest that they brown bag it or I could cook nice meal and send it in with him to share. Anway, this blog is getting a little long so I'll write more later. We'll get the hang of this eventually!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A Year of Simplicity

This year our family is going to attempt to live more simply. We wanted to do more than just say that we are going to try to buy fewer things or order take-out less (we've said it before but not followed through), so we've decided to draw up a contract of sorts for ourselves. Here is what this year is going to look like:
We will not be purchasing any new things with these few exceptions:
-Necessary Toiletries (things like soap and toothpaste...not things like make-up or cologne)
-Home Care/Car Parts where it wouldn't make sense to purchase used (such as a water heater or an air filter)
-Underwear & Socks

Included with not purchasing new things, we will not be spending money on things like:
-Take-out food/eating at restaurants
-Convenience food/drinks (Wawa taking the main hit on this one)
-Entertainment (movies, concerts, amusement parks, etc.)

With that in mind, Brent (Being a Youth Pastor) may need to make some exceptions because of his job. This decision to live more simply is a family decision and we don't want it to affect how he does his job. Things such as high school play tickets, entrance fees for sports events, dining out for a meeting, buying a rubber chicken for a youth group game, etc. fall under this category.

Because we do need some time to spend together, we are allowing ourselves to use gift certificates that we already have. This will allow us to go out to eat every once in a while with the gift certificates people have so generously given us.

We have decided, finally, that we will suspend these rules if they may in any way hurt our Christian witness or offend someone. We're not sure how exactly that might happen, but we wanted to be open to the possibility. We don't want to be sticklers just for the sake of saying we held to our rules 100%.

This year is about teaching ourselves how to live a more simple life, to not buy into our materialistic culture, and to awaken our creativity. Ultimately we want to glorify God by trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle. In addition we will try to do other things to simplify such as buying local and organic when we can.

We are excited to face the challenges the year will bring. We have to keep reminding ourselves that even though this year will be hard for us in a lot of ways, we are still living an extravagant lifestyle by most of the world's standards. We will have plenty to eat, more clothes than we need, a warm short we will not be suffering in any way. I do not want this blog to be a place where we boast about all the great things we are doing, but rather it be a place to journal our experience and dialogue with you, the reader.....where we can record the ups and downs of the year and also ask for advice when needed. We invite you to challenge and encourage us.

On this blog site, I (Missy) will write my entries in GREEN. (Like right now)

Brent (Hi!) will write in BLUE.

So when you see the blue, it is me (Brent). Not that anyone will read this anyway, but at least we will know who wrote what.

I will say that, though I am very excited about this year and the challenges and joys it holds, I feel that this experiment will be more difficult for me. Missy is more gifted at being generous and charitable than I am. And also I like stuff...a lot. But I am excited to begin this journey as a way to bring our lives into step with how Christ would want us to live. So pray for us!

We'll write more about ourselves later, but for now...wish us luck!