Thursday, November 27, 2008

Walking--It's A Trip!

Isaiah's story time: listen for the "oh wow!"

What We're Thankful For

The comforting smell of turkey wafting through the house, the little nursling on my lap as a I type this note, the small sounds of laughter coming through the window as Daddy and Truman finish up this year's leaf raking, the sunlight streaming warm through the windows--oh what a beautiful day, a wonderful blessed year! We give thanks for all these things ,remember fondly those who are no longer here, and keep close to our heart those in need. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Year to Simply Live: 2009

We've changed the title of our "Buy Absolutely Nothing Retail Year" to "The Year to Simply Live: 2009." We think this is more positive and better reflects what we're trying to accomplish-- a simple lifestyle focused on what we have, not what others want us to think we want. Some of you have started asking some questions, so we'll try to address those. And no, we're not doing this for financial reasons--but the savings will be an added benefit!
1. Buy nothing retail: We are making a commitment to buying nothing new for one year. We will use what we have, make what we need, repair what is broken, trade with others, and shop consignment if necessary.
2. Eat to live: Yes, the buy nothing retail extends to food (mostly!). We will be growing as much as we can in our suburban backyard. However, we can't grow everything we need (we are going to try to grow a bit of our own wheat, though!). and so we will need to buy some building block items. But--nothing that comes in a box, no mixes, no breads, etc etc. Fortunately, we mostly do this now, but I will be adding yogurt making and juicing to our homemade lifestyle.
And yes, our year will include not eating out!
3. A media diet: Having eliminated cable/satellite and enjoying a media free lifestyle for our children, we are finally ready to take the final step. Yeah!!! The TV will no longer have a home in our home. We feel at peace without the advertisements and materialistic portrayals of fake people constantly streaming into our psyche. Furthermore, it would be nearly impossible to do #1 without doing #3. Even savvy shoppers and "smart watchers" can miss the ubiquitous unconscious effects that powerful television images impart and brand in our soul. When I realized I have difficulty clearly remembering my grandmother's face (she died 8 years ago), but could vividly recall a Disney film from childhood, I knew it was time for it to go. I want more images of loved ones imprinted in my minds eye and TV simply gets in the way. What if there were no media images to put in, just the faces of my children? I'll let you know!
4. Goodbye Junk mail: Hand in hand with the media diet is also not subjecting our consciousness to the catalogs, magazines and other junk purveyors by inviting them into our home. For instance, I find when I look at a home magazine, maybe not right then, but a some point, I find myself "needing" something for the home that will get that magazine look. Oh, it's not usually expensive (although it certainly could be!)--just some containers to help organize or some such. Without these images, I am perfectly happy with what we have. What does looking at that mag get me? Nothing, but a feeling of dissatisfaction or a nearly unconscious wanting. So, we are cancelling (as much as we can--these guys are good at worming their way in even if you don't want them) all catalogs that come to the home--those that make it will be dropped right into the recycle container without ever crossing the threshold. BTW--did you know the USPS has a vested interest in keeping the junk mail coming to your door? To opt out, visit:
5. Cash on the barrel. I was in a store the other day and at the register was a sign saying they were no longer accepting cash for certain purchases. Repeat: the store was no longer going to accept money. Like many, we have used credit cards for convenience, but now we feel we can no longer support a system corrupt with predatory lending practices (find out more here: Research shows that when you pay with credit rather than cash or check, you tend to spend twice as much. I know we have definitely fallen prey to this, considering how much stuff we've accumulated that we don't need. So, goodbye plastic!

Daddy Deck Care

Ugh! Is it done yet, is it done YET?! No, not quite. Brian has been painting our deck for about 3 years now. In all fairness to him, we do actually have three decks, so a deck per year is pretty good progress, considering he's really only got weekends in which to work. We are getting so close to being done. Hopefully we will finish before preciptiation and dew in the morning and evenings makes it too impossible for the paint to stick. Unfortunately, it feels a little like painting the Golden Gate bridge. The part he finished first already needs a little touch up. Fortunately, he is done with the top of the Gazebo so risk to life and limb from this point should be minimal.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Goodbye Dear Grandma

Last week, October8, we said goodbye to our dear Grandmother Gasper. Alice Gasper was a kind, generous mother, friend, sister, and grandmother. Though she was officially my husband's grandmother, Alice was always welcoming to me, never leaving me to feel as a second-class part of the family or just an "in-law" relation

Brian's memories of Alice are sweet, full of humor and warmth. I know he will miss joking with her as the children will miss out on getting to know her better (as will we all).

We attended services to celebrate her passing in Dallas, and although the occasion was sad, her funeral mass, said by her nephew Fr. Jimmy, was uplifting and inspirational. I especially appreciated his comments that we should not only pray for Grandma, but to her and that when we feel her operating in our hearts and actions, it truly is her continuing to live through us. He reminded us that the sadness we feel at her passing can be lovingly remembered as the footprints she left on our hearts.

After the passing of my own grandparents, with whom I lived for many years and saw as surrogate parents, I expressed to my mother-in-law that I would have liked to have some of the things they used everyday, to use them myself. She suggested that I ask the people who had them if I might have some of these things. I followed her advice, and although it was hard to ask for as I did not want to seem ungrateful or greedy, my aunt kindly gave me my grandparent's iron skillet and a ceramic mixing bowl last month (these items were actually my great-grandparent's). Now as I use these items in my own cooking, I feel as if my grandparents are with me in the kitchen, kindly gazing over my cooking a pancake or mixing up a batch of cookies. I think of all the other items made in these simple kitchen tools and feel a kinship and oneness with my ancestors and a sense of validation in my tasks of mothering and cooking for my children.

After Grandma Gasper passed, I was also the recipient of some of her things. Grandma was a veteran shopper and at 90 was more fashionable than I am likely to ever be, so I gladly accepted some of her things. Now as I wear her coat to work in the garden, surrounded by her great-grandchildren, I feel her spirit watching over us. The things themselves of course do not have life or memories, but through my reuse of them I feel somehow connected to the people who have left them behind and hope I am honoring their memories as they are lovingly used again.

Thank you Grandma for your kind example and thoughtful ways. We will miss you so.

Our Christmas Wish

Ah yes! The wonderful Christmas season of sharing and giving. It will be rapidly approaching and some mega-planners are already shopping. We like to keep Christmas small and not focused on gifts. In our own home, grown-ups don't exchange gifts and little ones (an idea borrowed shamelessly from my mama friends) get 3 small gifts (a toy, a book, pajamas--idea also borrowed from same mama!) as Christ so received. Therefore, we're all set.

Gifts from others aren't necessary--simply spending time with you over the holidays is sufficient. But if folks REALLY feel they want to get the children something (please, we grown-ups need to de-clutter as it is) we would welcome well-loved (used so we can reuse them items) or items you'd like to make. If you must purchase something, please keep in mind that while we especially welcome items made from natural materials, battery operated electronic and plastic toys will be passed on to others. (Some day soon I will hopefully get around to posting why this last is so important to us).

Buy Absolutely Nothing Retail Year

As the year winds down and we begin to put our garden to sleep and prepare the soil for next years' plantings, our thoughts have turned inward as to how we may prepare our family for another year of growing and learning peacefully.

We are troubled so much by the economic woes of our friends and nation, especially the predatory lending practices that prey on the poor and the focus of so many on obtaining and consuming rather than creating and sharing. We all want things and want to improve our lives and it is so easy to get caught up in wanting to buy this improvement and wanting the latest, best thing for our children and ourselves. I know I have. After some reflection, and after watching the film Maxed Out (which we checked out for free from the library and which is also available for free from the group Americans for Fairness in Lending:, we have set ourselves a challenge beginning next year. Starting January 1, 2009, we will begin living our Buy Absolutely Nothing Retail Year. What does this mean? It means we will make a good faith effort to buy no new items for our family of four for the entire year.

Are we crazy? Most definitely. We are exuberantly, ferociously, extravagantly crazy and wish our children and our own souls to flourish in a place where Less really is MORE and life isn't about shopping and spending but sharing and nurturing. How can we possibly go a year without buying anything retail? Two primary ways: 1)reusing what we have and buying used only what we absolutely need and 2)making or creating what we think we need. Of course, there will have to be some exceptions. Our vehicles are gasoline powered, so we will need to buy fuel. But we will make a commitment to do things closer to home and limit trips. We will need food, and what we cannot grow, we will need to buy. But we can make a commitment to only buying building block items--like flour, eggs, and cheese and make the rest. We do have a little one in diapers, but we use cloth. Our children will need clothes as they grow, but we can buy resale or even swap items on sites like ReUseIt (formerly Freecycle). The idea is to consume less in all facets of our lives and to say goodbye to consumerism, greed, and covetousness. We are going "off grid" as our own little protest against the constant need for change, for busy-ness, for new. We will be still.

Will it matter? Maybe not to everyone else, but hopefully we will be teaching our children the importance of value--not of things but of ourselves and our relationships. As an added benefit, we will be saying goodbye to the use of credit cards and fortunately, while credit card debt has never been an issue for us, we feel unwilling to continue to support an industry that brutally takes without giving back. Check back monthly for updates on how we're doing as we continue to brainstorm in preparation for our Buy Absolutely Nothing Retail Year. And join us!

Our New Blog

Welcome to our new blog. We are creating this as a way to connect with long distance family and friends, as a way of sharing our musings, and as a way for me to get some of these racing thoughts out of my head to make room for new information. We hope this will be a positive place and invite thoughtful, welcoming and hopeful comments. Please enjoy!