It's time for the next phase in the Rhythm Change. We would love if you would follow the next part of our journey HERE.
Jul 28, 2009
Nov 19, 2008
Sometimes an image is perfect. When I saw this statue, on an abandoned building in Sacramento, I realized that I am not alone. Times are tough right now in the World. There is very little good news going around and it has me down. I have watched many people I know and love suffer recently. Some financially, some physically, but overwhelmingly...emotionally.
It is in times like this that greatness finds opportunity, because the greatest things start as the smallest gestures. I have spent a lot of time in the car in the past few days. I drive a lot. I have noticed a drastic increase in the number of homeless and poor near my work in the past few months. I work in a very well-to-do area of Northern California. It's the kind of place that has perfect lawns and two cars in every driveway. So, it is a bit odd to see men digging through the trash at the gas station.
Tonight, I saw something even more disturbing. I saw a man pull into a gas station, in a Mercedes. He got out of the car dressed business casual. His clothes were in good shape and he was well groomed. He opened his trunk and pulled out a trash bag which he proceeded to fill with bottles and cans from the trash. Every few seconds, he would look over his shoulder to see who was watching. I was across the street so I escaped his view. Which is worse: that he needs money, or that he is afraid someone will find out that he needs money?
Often I feel like the statue; alone, broken, in angst. How much better would our lives be if we just shared our troubles with others? Why don't we? Why not share our burdens? Why should we stick ourselves in stone?
Who needs your help today?
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 11:27 PM
Oct 20, 2008
Carolyn and I escaped for the weekend. It was the first time we have had a weekend without kids since Wyatt was born, 7 years ago. We needed it.
A few months ago, we heard that our church would be hosting a marriage retreat. We both knew it was an impossible dream so we let the announcement slide in one ear and out the other, but a few days later, Carolyn's mom suggested we go. Then, she offered to watch our three children during the trip. Carolyn didn't hesitate for a second. So last Friday we dropped off the girls and left instructions for Grandma to pick up Wyatt from the bus stop and we headed off to beautiful Lake Tahoe.
We stopped in a small gold town on the way (Placerville) and had a nice quiet lunch at a place that didn't serve Mac-N-Cheese or french fries. Then we strolled through a half dozen antique shops and used book stores before finishing the drive through a breathtaking pass and into Lake Tahoe.
The events of the weekend are ours, but, the experience and lessons learned are crucial to our journey, so I'll share them. We had time, unhurried time. We had space, unlimited space. The combination of time and space has synergistic power bordering on magic. We spent the time laughing, dreaming, loving each other. We enjoyed the space with our eyes and ears, we felt the wind in our face and the cool water on our feet and hands. We sat, unhurried for an hour on the shore watching the weather and a few birds and drank in the precious gift of nature that God has given us.
I know that many of our friends do not believe in God, which I respect. But, I (personally) cannot accept that there is not some creative being behind the beauty of the place we saw. I refuse to believe it was an accident. Maybe I'm naive. Maybe ignorance is bliss. But either way, I think there is a lesson in this. And, since I believe God is behind the curtain hoping that we (human beings) would see how wonderfully He/She loves us, the lesson has eternal value.
We need time. We need space. We have had neither in a very long time and our marriage, our kids, and our souls have paid dearly for the lack of both. This life we live is really very short and there is a lot to do, but, what is any of it worth if we don't stop once in a while and simply enjoy? I often get so busy doing that I stop living. When that happens I can fall into deep depression in a heartbeat. I need time. I need space. But this is doubly important with Carolyn and I. Our relationship suffers when we don't have time and space together. In turn, our kids suffer. Everyone around us suffers a little as well.
Simplicity finds its fulfillment in the wise use of time and space. A simple life is an open life, a life of freedom. What have you done lately to find time and space?
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 6:58 AM
Sep 15, 2008
We live in the sticks. Last year, we had a week without power. It was an adventure for the first 48 hours or so. When our food began to spoil, the novelty wore off. Carolyn, has been gently persuading me (threatening me might be a little strong) to get a generator for the coming winter.
If you have never purchased a generator, brace yourself. There is a lot of jargon. I had to pull out a book from my days as an electrician to figure out what half the ads were talking about. Once I figured out what we would need, I almost had a stroke. I didn't have any idea how expensive these things were. So I began my search, for a used generator.
I found an ad on craig's list for exactly what I needed and for less than half the cost of a new unit. On top of that, I met a very interesting man who was in a similar place in life. We chatted for half an hour and shared quite a few laughs. I'll take that kind of interaction over a verbal bout with a salesperson any day.
I see a lot of people spend a lot of money on good things. But, often they could have done so much better by checking out the classified ads in their local paper; visiting a local library and looking at the community bulletin board; or visiting sites like Craig's List, Freecycle, or eBay.
There is a lot of waste in this world. I don't think anyone would disagree with that. Buying used is simply another way to reduce that waste. Every little bit helps.
What are some ways that you have found to buy used? Better yet, what have you found that helps you to get what you need while making the least impact on the planet, your budget, and your soul? I came up with this list. For the next few weeks, I'll be musing about it here.
Top Ten Reasons Why Used is Better Than New
10.) Money gets to people who need it quickly
9.) Less consumeristic
8.) Great deals, often with added perks
7.) Good excuse to drive to parts of the country/state/city you wouldn't otherwise visit
6.) You meet people that share or have shared common needs and desires (look for an upcoming post on this one)
5.) So much less expensive
4.) Forces you to explore your needs versus your wants
3.) Less tempting to pay on credit
2.) No pushy salespeople
1.) Less waste
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 7:24 AM
Aug 31, 2008
Today was a blessed day. We have been moving for an eternity; at least, it seems that way. Even before the move, life was hectic. But this weekend, we were free...finally. This weekend, we had no plans, no obligations, not pressing needs; nothing. What a wonderful feeling. We made a family breakfast on Saturday morning (I haven't seen my children during breakfast in at least two months). We strolled around a local farmer's market. We ate a good lunch, together. We worked on a jig-saw puzzle as a family. We watched a movie on the couch, together.
Today, my mother-in-law took the kids for a few hours and Carolyn and I escaped to Starbucks for an unhurried time with hot coffee, good books, and glorious quiet. We came home worked in the garden for an hour or so, then finished the day rocking together on the front porch. I cannot remember a day when I felt so complete, so relaxed, so right.
It amazes me--on days like today--that I can let things wrap me so tightly. That I can allow myself to get so busy that I overlook the amazing things around me. Why do I allow myself to get so caught up in the pace of this world, when its most savory experience exists unhurried simplicity?
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 9:28 PM
Jul 30, 2008
No...not a post about Disney songs; although, life has felt a little like a fairytale lately.
We have moved. We still live in the same town, but a little further up the hill. It's a little weird to explain everything that has happened in the past month, so I'll sum it up simply. We had the opportunity of a lifetime, so we took it.
We have spent so much time over the past few years downsizing and simplifying, but we seemed to have hit a wall. If you have followed our journey for any length of time, I'm sure you noticed our struggle. We found out, that there is a point where downsizing becomes an obsession very similar to consumerism. This seems to happen whenever we become too dogmatic about a singular lifestyle or worldview. When we begin to believe that the way we are heading is the only way...the road gets a lot more dangerous. We had outgrown our small home.
We began to notice how small our home was becoming a a year or so after we started the Compact. We had downsized and simplifies so much, but we still could not fit in our home. The more our children grew the more difficult it became to function on a daily basis. But we were stuck. The market had fallen out beneath us and there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
Then, we tried to re-finance. Ouch! We had lost more than we could have imagined and we were not going to be able to afford our home much longer. It felt so wrong. We couldn't afford a home that we couldn't live in. How can you make that work?
Well, we were offer an amazing opportunity by someone very close to us. Now, we have a new (to us) home that fits us perfectly. It is not extremely large or ornate. It is just the right size. Big enough to live easily, small enough to require a constant check on our consumeristic nature. Our children have more usable room to play, we are closer to school, we have room to create...we are HOME.
I wish I had picture to share and I wish Carolyn could chime in, but we still don't have internet access (hopefully next week). But suffice it to say, we're starting a new leg on this journey. Keep in touch and we'll fill you in more soon.
Also, thank you all for the support, prayers, thoughts, emails, etc. They have been a welcome blessing in trying times.
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 11:56 AM
Jul 5, 2008
Oh the joys of having a garden! Go ahead and say "I told you so!", because I wasn't sure it would be this cool.
We have enough lettuce for a salad every day! And enough spinach for my smoothies. And soon, we will have green beans, tomatoes and strawberries!
I am astounded at how prolific our little garden is. Even with my inexperience and lack of knowledge, I've been able to get so much food out of this little patch of ground! Imagine how much we'd get if I knew what I was doing!!!
I'm also enjoying Lemon Balm- it grows in very small amounts in strange places in our yard. I dug some up, stuck it in a barrel with good soil and POW! We have quite a large bush of this herb!!! I've been making tea with it and learning more about its uses. It seems to be good for immune support and relaxation? Well, whatever it does, I like it alot and it seems to soothe me.
I love growing things!
Posted by Carolyn at 11:41 AM
Jun 29, 2008
See the picture? That's all we need.
What am I talking about?
I came home last night after a long day of helping with a family garage sale- I was exhausted just from the sheer enormousity of stuff we all own.
I walked into my own house- stuffed and strewn with laundry and dishes and toys- and felt sick. I'm doing it again. I've lost sight of the goal. There is TOO much here.
I can't deal with the idea that if something happened to me, someone else would have to deal with all this. It's MY stuff, my problem, and I know better.
I know to buy only when something is truly needed. If you run out of shampoo, time to buy more. Some people don't do this- they just buy shampoo all the time. They buy barbecue sauce every time they go to the grocery store. They have dozens of tubes of toothpaste and dozens of bottles of Tylenol.
I know that a treasure is only a treasure if it's treasured. Meaning, I have some wonderful things- my Full Circle Doumbek (a gorgeous drum), my Native American flute, my wraps, my grandmothers wedding ring (which IS somewhere....), my Cartuoche (with my name in Hieroglyphics). NOw I need to make sure they have special care, which includes restraint in acquiring other treasures.
I know that I can make instead of buy. Barbecue sauce is SO much better when you make it yourself- and super easy. So is Iced Tea, muffins from scratch, etc. I also know I can make the best scrubs, moisturizers and other beauty stuff from the stuff in my kitchen. I need not seek out anything in the drug store to take care of my skin.
I know who I am and what I wear is NOT that person. Yikes. This is a tough one because there is an artistic endeavour in getting dressed that has always allured me into seeking MORE clothes- just for the fun of putting them on. And this includes used clothing- most of my wardrobe is used, but it is creeping to beyond full capacity. I need to stop. (but my Birthdays tomorrow- so, this is tough.I'll let you know how I did)
I know that my family is happiest withOUT stuff. We went camping last weekend and I haven't seen my kids so content and wonderful in a VERY long time. No toys, no TV, no nothing. Just a lake, trees and dirt. Wake UP, CAROLYN!!!
So, I know all this- and Matt would probably post the same thing today as well- we are both a little freaked out- and now I need to apply it.
Posted by Carolyn at 12:26 PM
Jun 16, 2008
I had a fabulous weekend. Father's day is always a little wierd for me. First of all, I live thousands of miles from my Dad, so I always feel like he gets shorted. Secondly, I am still adjusting to being a Dad (I guess I'll never actually "arrive" at fatherhood:). But, this weekend was exceptional.
You may have noticed that I have been completely absent from our Blog lately. I have been going through a deep dark valley full of terror, doubt, and despair. I say that, not as an excuse, but to communicate how different and uplifting this weekend was for me.
Carolyn and I gathered the kids for a hike on Sunday morning, something we haven't really done in two years. I wanted to be outdoors for Father's Day. But, even as we were getting ready to leave I could feel the weight of depression trying to hold me back. I was worried that the car needed work, I was worried that we would spend too much in gas, I was worried that I would be too out of breath to handle the hike. Carolyn pushed me out the door anyway. We planned on stopping in a small town on the way for a terribly fattening Deny's breakfast. The only problem was, there was no Deny's in said town. I had imagineered it. So, being depressed and hungry, I was ready to turn back. Carolyn pushed me forward. We ate at McDonald's...yuk usually, but surprisingly not to bad. We arrived at the trail-head an hour later than planned. I had a screaming headache, the kind that makes me squint and breath heavier than usual, I was ready to turn back. Carolyn pushed, pulled, and prodded me on.
We climbed for a mile or so to a series of ridges where we looked out over the Emigrant pass and Yuba gap area of California. We crossed streams and railroad tracks, we put our feet in frigid snow runoff. The kids and I even had a short snowball fight in the remaining snow of winter (there seems to be a metaphor there). The kids were a blast, they were having so much fun. They were so excited to see the cairns dotting sparse slopes of glacial polished granite. They were fighting over who saw which one first, but they missed the one pictured above. I saw it first and I snapped this picture.
I stopped for a moment to compose the image and when I looked up I was completely alone. Carolyn and the kids had descended out of view. I looked to the horizon and could see a clear winding path of this little stone piles. The sun was warm on my back and for the first time in months, I felt like there was hope.
I have been so stressed about our place in life lately that I have lost my way. I have felt so alone for so long. Life is tough when you feel that way. As we drove home, I began to think about the day and I began to realize that the whole day was a sign from the creator. This time of depression has been fueled by a massive crisis of faith. Four years ago, I was a Pastor; yesterday, I was starting to think that maybe God had given up on me. But, as I look at those cairns...i think there is a path that I somehow missed.
When I am on those empty slabs and I see a cairn, it reminds me that someone has walked this way before and left me a path to follow. It is like that in life too. There is nothing truly new in this world. Someone has always gone before and can show you a path. My Dad has always been such a person for me. I couldn't clearly communicate that to him yesterday, but I think he knows. That is why I am so committed to being a great father. It is the only way I can truly infect my children with love. At the same time, I was reminded that God has not forgotten me. God is not dead. God has gone before me. If I follow the path he has blazed, I am sure to see magnificent things.
So here's to the signs of life all around us. Those simple little reminders that life is a jorney, not a destination.
P.S. Thanks Dad!
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 12:07 PM
May 28, 2008
Ok, we needed another post on here besides the rant I left last time. I was inspired to post whilst putting clothes away this last weekend. My drawers were overflowing because , well, I'm a slob and don't fold things.
So, I rolled up all my shirts and put them as neatly as possible in the drawer. Matt walked in and said something like, "holy crap, thats alot of shirts!!"
I was taken aback! Alot of shirts? But, but, I haven't even bought any tank tops yet this year! And, I really hoped to get money for my birthday so I could scavenge for some cool hippie blouses at the thrift store!
He's right. I have PLENTY of shirts. And skirts. And shorts. And everything else, really. How does this happen? How do I lose sight so easily of what we're trying to do?
I guess I STILL need to separate myself from the idea that I am what I wear. For the sake of my poor dresser drawers, this is a lesson I need to learn!!
Posted by Carolyn at 9:13 AM
May 20, 2008
In 2005 we bought this house. Our first house. Our first mortgage.
Who knew 3 years later we'd be a statistic you'd hear about on the news?
Yes we were one of those families that got a crappy interest only loan that is now about to go variable, only the house has dropped so much in value we can't afford the difference anymore.
Wonderful. We were cautious. We waited 7 years to buy. We searched for the right place to live, and then, our choices of homes were few and we bought small so we could afford it, figuring we could always move up.
But we stuck with this place, feeling it was right to make it work. We tried to simplify. I've wrestled with every conrer of this place trying to make everything fit and work and thrive. I've tried everyway of arranging furniture, every way of making it so the kids could have places of their own, searched for more and more to purge. Anything to suceed in something we feel is right for us- living small, and counter to the American dream of the giant house with giant amounts of stuff.
I struggled with wanting change. I wanted to buy an RV and live on the road. I wanted (badly) to buy the house next to us (a big, shiny nice house), but we didn't. We stuck with this place.
Then I got inspired to make THIS our dream place. "Bloom where planted"! Very responsible! We'll add on! We'll remodel little by little! Lets build a fire pit! I want a labryinth!
Then, this house takes a dump on us once again. We got a completely dismal appraisal- I mean hopelessly low.
Most people who fell for those awful loans bought up- they bought the 2500 sq ft montstrousities, they went for the dream of 3 car garages. We are dying of our 2 bedroom, 2 bath 850 square foot house on one acre in rural California.
We are feeling pretty let down. Pretty shafted by trying to be responsible. We can't win! We can't afford the lack of space! Maybe we need to downsize!
We hope to get it re-appraised or get a different loan, I don't know, something. I'm kinda wishing a tree would fall on it while we are out shopping or something. But, I tend to like the easy way out of things. I guess thats not going to happen.
I don't want to rent. I love our town, and theres nothing to rent here that wouldn't be more than what we're paying now. Maybe my attitude is bad, I'm sure it is.
Stick with us as we figure out how not to lose our "mansion" that is sucking us dry.
Posted by Carolyn at 9:57 PM
May 8, 2008
Ever watch "What Not to Wear"? I have. I'm not a fan. But I do often think about what those people would say to me. And I shudder to think of them throwing away all my clothes in the name of ridding society of my awful taste. And cutting my hair. Why DO they cut everyones hair?
I know why. Because a new haircut facilitates gel, mouse, flattening irons, hair color. Re-evaluating your terrible taste means new shirts, new pants, better shoes and a good belt.
How updated are your cabinets? Is your yard lacking an outdoor kitchen? How can you live with your self?
I want.....I mean I endlessly want. We've discussed this here, you know my issues with materialism and you know Matts. (although he tend to be able to veil them through good writing making his struggle more poetic and less pathetic)
Well, I am beginning to want things that are dead-end objects.
I think I just coined something!! Dead-end objects! Is it possible? Ok, not entirely, but, let me explain.
If I were to say, go blond, (something I would never do)I'd need better conditioner and perhaps some products to prevent my hair from looking like straw.
If I wanted to get into photography- I'd need a camera. And maybe film, or SD cards. Then a lighting kit. Then a new lens.
Maybe I want an iPod. And good headphones. And a case. And lots and lots of songs over a period of months and years.
It never ends! You get something and you feel like it's never enough. In our culture everything needs an upgrade, an accessory.
Is there anything that simply furfills a need? Other than food?
Well- we recently made a small investment into something that is sort of in this direction.
Not free. They require actually alot of stuff initially (we're finding out), but in the long run they will provide one less thing we have to purchase at a store. And they're just cool.
Other things like this are cloth diapers, cloth napkins, buckets, shovels....anything utilitarian, reusable, and good quality.
I'm on the look out for things with less options and more uses.
And I'm not cutting my hair.
Posted by Carolyn at 11:42 PM
Apr 20, 2008
Ah, dreams! Sweet, wonderful dreams of what life could be! What did you want to be when you grew up? A fireman? A dancer? A doctor?
Well, I wanted to be an actor. And singer. And artist. And forest ranger. Oh, and fashion designer. Lets just say I never had a real cohesive goal.
Then I had kids and I decided I wanted to be a mom. A really really good mom- a career mom for sure.
I'm certainly there, living that dream. But what about the other ones? DO I still want to be a ranger?
Nah, not really. And I can't act, so that ones gone. I could be a very mediocre singer, perhaps, or get more training. And fashion design....I sort of object to that whole industry now, so no.
That leaves artist. And the uphill battle there is wanting to be an artist in a world of millions and millions of other talented people who go to bed thinking the same thing. And being a defeatist of sorts, that has stopped me for years. I haven't even attempted to create much art much less put it out there for ridicule or sale.
But suddenly, I am. I'm painting....for people. Real people and it's the scariest thing ever! And the best.
It's so strange to for once be doing something I really want to do. And I'm amazed at how much it has taken my focus away from say, obsessing about how endlessly inadequate my house is. Or how completely helpless I am in the face of reality when it comes to keeping organized. Yes, I'm blissfully distracted by my new little venture and hope that it will continue!
I read something in a very cool book I got from the library. Someone said, "If you don't have space in your head, you will crave more physical space." Its a book called "Little House on a Small Planet". It's very, very cool, by the way.
I need to remind myself that I am not about my living space. It has not real effect on who I am, my relationship and my dreams. I can still do what I dream to do in the tiny corner of my little house. I can and I AM in a wonderful relationship with an extraordinary man, and I have three cool little kids.
I can create and live a full life even though I have no dishwasher, no bathtub (we have showers, don't worry), no storage, no space for my piano.
I'm living the life I've always wanted, and THAT is enough.
Posted by Carolyn at 9:58 PM
Apr 9, 2008
Life has been moving a little too fast lately. On the way home, I realized just how fast I have been going. I was in my own little world buzzing home from an intense day at work when I passed some people on the side of the road. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just after I passed them, something clicked. What had I just swerved to miss? Wait a minute...why were they all waving at me?
I turned the car around and stopped. It it me. There had been an accident. But I only saw one vehicle. Oh crap, I had swerved to miss a motorcycle wheel. I ran down the road to find four people frantic. "He hit us. We never even saw him."
"Where is he?" I asked. They pointed down the hill at least one hundred feet away. Deep under a sea of berry bushes I could see a dark lump. "Call 911." I ran down the hill. Thank God, the man was still alive.
I used to be an EMT, so the skills I had learned years ago took over and before I knew it, I was helping the fire department get the man ready for a helicopter ride to the trauma center. He was in bad shape. I watched the chopper take off with the man inside as I washed the blood off my hands and arms. Then, I walked back to the car to get home. I knew Carolyn would be worried. I was over an hour late and there were plenty of sirens. When I started home, it hit me.
I had been going too fast to notice some people that really needed my help. I hadn't even noticed the need right at my finger tips. How many of us do that daily? We pass the homeless man, avoid the guy/girl with problems at work. Yet a lot of us say that we want to make the world a better place. Maybe it's time to slow down a little. Take a little time this week to notice the needs around us and get involved.
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 10:51 PM
Apr 3, 2008
Yep! It's Spring for real now. I'm starting to force the kids outside and I'm having thoughts about hammocks and lawn chairs and cool creeks to dip toes in. I haven't worn sock in a few weeks, the girls are wearing their Easter sandals daily.
It's here. The reprieve from the cold. New life pushing back and winning again.
I went for a walk at a Nature area near my house and found it completely bursting with wildflowers and best of all MINT! Lots and lots of MINT!! So, what did I do? I stuffed my pockets with it!!!
What better to taste in smoothies, iced tea, etc, than a fresh sprig of mint! Happy Spring! Let it thaw you like it's thawing me! Let all kinds of fresh things start growing in your yard and your life.
Just think, we've got a few good months before its justifiable to complain about summer heat!
Posted by Carolyn at 8:56 AM
Mar 18, 2008
There are people in all of our lives that profoundly influence us. Often, we do not realize the effect that they have had; until we have spent years trying to prove them wrong, or until we have simply forgotten what it was that they were trying to impart to us. Then, one day, out of the clear blue sky, their words smack us into realization and finally acceptance. One such person is my Uncle Pete.
My Uncle has always been a solid force in my life. He was one of the only people that I have ever known who was--and remains--exactly who he claimed to be. A devout Catholic, he supports his church by leading worship regularly, tithing consistently and living as much like Jesus as he knows how.
When I was a teenager, struggling to find my way, he was there with direction and even prodding. I did not understand him. In fact, I thought he was a bit of a kook. Now, I am beginning to understand.
He had a lot to say about life and the choices we all make. But, sometimes, he would loosen up and begin dreaming out loud. These are some of the most memorable moments. Uncle Pete once said that if he was God, he would have made life backwards. You would start old and worn, slowly getting younger and more agile. By the time you were in your twenties, you would have the most money, the most energy, and the least responsibility. By the time you retired--at eighteen--you would have nothing but years of wonder ahead before you crawled back into the womb and finsihed your existance warm and happy and whole.
I have always loved that idea. It has stuck with me and now that I am a little older, I think I understand where he was going with that train of thought. I have been taking life so seriously lately. My job, our finances, parenting, dealing with our parents, all of it. Maybe it's time to live life backwards. Maybe I need to play more, worry less and most of all find wonder again.
I look at my kids and I realize that the best gift I can give them is my joy. When I am joyful, it spreads to them. When they are joyful, it spreads to me. So, instead of becoming more responsible (screw that!) I'm going to go play. Last one with me is a rotten egg.
P.S. Thanks Uncle Pete! You have taught me more than you'll ever know.
P.P.S. The picture above is an example of my newfound playfulness. I had to crawl down a pretty gnarly cliff to get that shot. It was fun.
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 10:53 PM
Mar 10, 2008
I'm now trying to focus away from the abundant dirt inside my home- which is always an issue- and look to the dirt outside.
I (Carolyn, that is) have been non-commital about putting anything in the ground here. I just cant make a decision and, honestly, have secretly hoped to put stuff in the ground around a bigger house. (there, I said it)
But, it was time to do something. I've wanted a garden for a long time and so on Saturday, Matt and I just took some shovels and went for it. This is literally the only spot on our property that gets good sunlight. And it happens to be close to a water source, too.
So, we've chopped it up, next we're going to get some soaker hoses, and some amendments, and corner posts for fencing. Deer use our property as a pass through every evening, and I wont be gardening to feed THEM, so, a fence is a must.
I cant wait until the first pepper or tomato is ready for picking. We have really been trying to eat better this past year and vegetable-eating has been a big focus for us. We have always been more into things like baked goods or some good steak.
This is really a next step for us as far as simplicity. But its always been a point of procrastination because of my issues with this house, the cost of getting all the supplies, the know-how, etc. Theres always a thousand reasons NOT to do something, right?
So, we'll keep ya posted on our dirt patch. Hopefully we'll actually do something with it!
Posted by Carolyn at 8:23 AM
Jan 29, 2008
When you are trying to live right, squashing materialism, I'm finding out that everything you own or want to own gets prioritized.
I realize that now anything in my home get scrutinized for usefulness. With a house this size, there is no way I can keep everything that comes in the door.
We've cut down on dishes, towels, bedding, etc. If we dont have a place for it, or if we dont use it everyday- it cant live here. We dont have the space. But there are a few exceptions.
My China. It's not a full set...mostly just teacups and a soup tureen and a few of the dishes. I use the teacup and little dessert plates in the rare occasion I actually let people in my house! They are about the only family heirloom I'll ever have, so I feel a strong attachment to them.
Musical instruments. We simply love them- and while the only instrument I play wont fit in our house (piano), I love being surrounded by these things.
Art supplies. Because if you dont have them- you cant create. You can, but it's fun to have a good supply of paint, clay, canvas', paper, etc.
Then there are things that are just treasures.
I like to make jewelry from time to time, and the best place to buy really cool beads is at bead shows or Gem faires. We went to one last weekend.
I held strand after strand of beautiful beads in my hands- agates, opals, turquoise, jades, etc. But one strand only won my heart. Sure I would use any of the beads if I got them- but how much do you really need?
I ended up buying a strand of Trade beads that are probably from Ghana, but not really "from" Ghana. These types of beads were used for trade with African tribes for centuries. I found a good article about this here: http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/migrations/beads/essay1.html
Now, this, in my opinion is worth owning. Items that have a story. Treaures that make you think, and imagine.
Posted by Carolyn at 9:59 AM
Jan 22, 2008
X-Ray vision, now there's a superpower! I remember being a kid and looking through a stash of my Uncle's old comics (which I should have guarded a little more closely, but anyway); there was an add in the back for "X-Ray Specs." You have probably seen them on some movie or
read about them in the same comic book, but--for those of us who are less enlightened when it comes to superpowers--they were supposed to let you see through walls, doors, and whatever else you can imagine a teenage boy longing to look through. I never got my pair of "X-Ray Specs." Apparently, no one made the magical glasses by my time, but I always wondered if they worked. Go ahead, be a cynic...but I have always held on to the hope that they might work. If I ever find a pair, I will let you know for sure.
About a year ago, I started to have vision issues. I spend a lot of time reading and working at the computer, so my doctor suggested reading glasses. He said that my eyes were getting tired throughout the day and that was affecting my vision for the drive home, which is where I was really noticing the problem. I gave the glasses the good old college try; almost a year. My vision got worse. Finally, I decided to get a second opinion. I met a great new Optometrist and she noticed a few small issues that added up to my vision problem. Two days later, I was sporting new glasses. It seems that the first doctor had decided that I needed reading glasses before he really checked out my eyes. It only took the new doctor a few minutes to realize that he had given me exactly the opposite prescription. I am near-sighted, not far-sighted.
It is wonderful to see the leaves on the trees, It is amazing how much easier it is to drive when you can read the signs. But, I have to admit, the first few days with glasses was a little tough. I picked them up with a friend and put them on to walk out of the office and to the car. I must have tripped five or six times. They made me feel like I was walking on stilts. At first I thought that this doctor screwed up too; then it hit me, maybe this is how I was SUPPOSED to see. Maybe, I had gotten so used to life as usual, that I had forgotten what the world really looked like. Maybe I had never seen the world as it really was, until now.
There is a lot to our journey that I have not shared. Most of it is too personal to be of any interest to anyone other than Carolyn and I, but some things just need time to come out into the world. One such thing, is my crisis of world view.
Until six or seven years ago, I was quite sure of my place in the world. I knew who I was, where I was going, where I belonged. A lot happened to confuse my compass. It was not until last January that I really began looking for North again. I'm still drawing maps and and stumbling around a little, but I have realized a fatal flaw in my thinking that caused me to lose my way. I let someone tell me that I was not good enough and I began to believe it.
I had, at the time, several people in my life that were destructive. They pawned off their issues onto me and told me repeatedly--in word and deed--that I was not who I was supposed to be. They let me know that God didn't like me the way I was and that He expected me to change. They were quick to inform me that most of my personality was not acceptable. It has taken me some time to realize how poisonous and deep-seated these beliefs had become. When I broke off the relationships I had with these people I spent a long time wondering if I would ever be worth anything again.
Tonight I was at a Weight Watchers meeting (yup, I've lost 25.6 pounds!) and the leader repeated something that she had said a dozen times since I began attending. "Beliefs turn into words, words turn into actions, actions turn into habits." I never realized how true that was until tonight. I began to believe that I was bad/evil/etc.. Which I turned into messages about every area of my life. That began to affect how I approached all of life. Finally, I got stuck in the rut.
Last years departure from consumerism shook loose a few of those habits and suddenly, I was having blurry vision. So I called in some help. I decided to get my health back, so I joined Weight Watchers. The meetings gave me a new pair of glasses. Now I see my relationship with food is a symptom of many other arts of my life. It's a little weird, but maybe this is how I am SUPPOSED to look to myself.
The people that filled my head with the wrong beliefs were simply misdiagnosing me. The "problems" they were seeing where not really problems at all. They had not taken the time to find out who I was or what I needed. They gave me the opposite.
I wish that I had "X-Ray Specs" that could let me look right inside myself and see what's right or wrong, but I'll have to peel away the layers one at a time to find the truth. It will take a bit, but hey...that's life. At least I know this, Jesus loves me and I'm worth something.
Oh yeah, and I look darn good in glasses ;))
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 8:32 PM
Jan 15, 2008
How do you make me crazy? Stick me in the dark in a cramped house with three hyper active children.
The Friday before last, I went to a birthday party at my friends house. I left the house in a whirlwind- a complete mess. The house was TRASHED. We'd come back from NJ a few days before and I vowed I'd clean it up on the weekend. And while leaving for this party, I had this sense of foreboding....the piles, oh, the piles....what if for some reason I couldn't clean up?
Well, the wind was blowing and it was raining like mad already, but I wasn't going to miss Jacks Birthday party....he was turning 2 after all!!
During the party, my friends lights flickered a little and it was getting NASTY out, so, we headed out earlier that we would hae normally.
I was aware as I got the kids in the car that this was no normal storm- not for California at least. The wind was so strong, it was hard to drive and branches were flying everywhere. I'd dropped Wyatt off at his friends house and on the way to get him, I noticed alot of downed trees.
When I'd gotten to my friends house to pick up Wyatt, she was on the phone, her power was out. "We have to get to the schoolhouse....one of the sheds is damaged by the wind."
If you'll remember, my friends and I run a preschool co-op at a historical school house in town. Last year we bought sheds to store all our supplies it.
We came to the school house but had to enter from another way because a tree was down and took out a power poll. All my friends came at once a we saw that our sheds weren't damaged....they were GONE. And our supplies scattered everywhere. What a disaster. We did the best we could to salvage everythig despite the continuing danger of the wind and rain and craziness.
I tried to head home- which usually takes 10 minutes- but this was an hour. I sat on the road in line behind a huge downed tree while they cut it away to clear the road.
When I got home, Matt was home to my surprise. Even his office, an hour away had no power.
So, I kept the kids in the car and tried to go to my moms house- she has a lot of natural light and less big trees. But, nope. A power power poll blocked her road and there was no getting past it. So, home we went.
The first night was fine...even fun.
The next night was ok, but getting boring.
The next 4 nights? THEY SUCKED.
My house was even more of an utter disaster and my brain was shot. My son couldn't go back to school...no power, no heat, no phones....and everyone was crabby and depressed.
I began to freak out. "I hate this house. I wish a tree would have fallen on it." I think I said this about 100 times. I really wished it would just go away. It was dark, dirty, cramped and awful...at least when the power was out.
I could not muster the strength to be positive ad just do what I could to make the most of the situation. It just wasn't in me.
I'm not saying the house isn't totally at fault. Despite our ordering of priorities and simplification mission, we are still bulging at the seams. This house is not only small, it's poorly planned. We believe with some remodeling it will improve GREATLY. And I think we are ready to start thinking about that more seriously.
But I'm pretty disappointed as what a crappy job I did dealing with the power outage. I was like a kid....whiny and irrational. It really got me wondering if there is ANYTHING I can handle? Anything at all where I don't act like a total spoiled brat? Sheesh.
Now, with electricity functioning again, I'm trying to appreciate things like lights (which I really missed the most) and refrigeration. And hopefully next time, I'll do better.
I have to add that last Friday (a week after the original outage and storm), I got the house in order and had some friends over for tea. It was nice to see some control on my part finally. After they left, I went ot pick up Wyatt from school. Upon arriving home I realized something was funny at home....what was wrong? THE POWER WAS OUT. I lost it. I called all my friends and they were out also. Everyone was livid with the power company. I mean, give me a break, we'd only had it on for a couple days! We'd had enough!
Then, my friend who's husband is a volunteer fire fighter called. It turned out the outage happened because a worker was further repairing some lines, but was electrocuted- thus the outage. He was killed.
Suddenly my dark house was a solemn reminder of what was really important. My threatened freezer full of food wasn't much to complain about.
Posted by Carolyn at 8:17 PM
Jan 5, 2008
A year has past and we find ourselves in a very different place from last January. It has been an interesting and challenging journey. We have made some changes, gained some ground, lost a little and ultimately found out that the "best" life is going to take a very long time to find. But, isn't the search really the point?
So as we have looked back over the past twelve months and turned to look twelve months into the future, we have made a decision. Last year was a period of tearing down; we stripped off as much as we could from our lives, we looked for way to reduce our posesions, reduce our needs, reduce our desires. It was a good and neccessary process. We were able to see how desperatley attached to stuff we had become, we found out that we could live a better and less fettered life with less stuff.
This year needs to be a year of rebuilding. We have taken off so much of ourselves that we are often unsure of who we really are. So this year, that's the point. We are going to find ourselves. We are going to begin building the life we want.
So here is our commitment for 2008...
This year, we will strive to:
1.) Identify what our true passions are
2.) Focus our attention on living passionately
3.) Solidify our core beliefs about God, People, the Earth, Life, and Our Purpose
4.) Begin to make all of our decisions based upon the above
5.) Share our journey with all who are interested
2008 will be a year of Passion.
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 11:13 AM
Dec 6, 2007
"Our Truest life is when we are in dreams awake." -Henry David Thoreau
There was a time in my life when I believed that the epitome of our existence was absolute leisure. I thought that hard work was just a means to an end. The harder I worked now, the better I could relax in the future. Then, as the future became the present, I was confused, The work never seemed to end. In fact it got harder and there was significantly more of it. This may sound stupid, but I was severely depressed by the facts I found. The work would never really end.
I have been coming to terms with this realization ever since. Lately, I've been finding new enjoyment in hard work. It feels weird to say this, but I'm actually starting to enjoy working around the house. Okay, a little background might help...I grew up in Suburban New Jersey. My knowledge of "working around the house" was limited to mowing the lawn (on a riding mower, with my Walkman on; probably playing White Lion or Bon Jovi) or shoveling snow. That was about it.
Now before I have to turn in my "man card" I have to tell you that I'm pretty handy. I can do almost anything that a house would need: electrical, basic plumbing, drywall, painting, you name it. But, I have NEVER enjoyed any of it. Now, we own a home in the mountains. There are trees to trim and even (grunts like the guy on "Home Improvement") cut down with a chain saw. There are enormous amounts of brush, pine needles, and leaves to get rid of, usually with fire (laughs like Beavis, "Yeah, fire, heh heh!") There are culverts to clear, holes to dig, bugs to kill, skunks to get rid of, bears that rip are garbage cans to shreds (maybe a slight exaggeration, although we actually did have a problem bear until I chased him off with my Jeep...a long story.). There is a lot to do and until recently, I have been completely unwilling and angry about having to do it.
The past few months have been a little tight financially and we've spent a lot more time than usual at home. Bored and sick of looking like the town loser, I began working on the yard and found myself passing time quickly. But, the thing about it is...it really cleared my mind. Okay, here's where that Thoreau quote at the top comes in.
After I first realized that I was always going to have work, I began to think that I had to go for the next best thing, the dream job. A vocation where I was doing something I loved all the time. The problem was/is that I don't love to do the same things all the time. But, I think that Mr. Thoreau might have been saying that when our work allows us to dream, we have struck gold. When he left for Walden pond, there was no shortage of work, but in that isolation he found a peace that was very different from leisure. I had not experienced it until recently. However, I am beginning to understand what he meant.
When I spend a Saturday working hard out in the yard, or at the park, or wherever, it does not take very long for my mind to wander. Soon I am dreaming of what could be or what I could make out of those branches, or how beautiful the sky is going to be at sunset. Suddenly, my mind is wrapped around things that are real and living, in a world of possibility and splendor; a world where status, money, or power don't make a lick of difference. That is a true life.
Side Note: Many of you have asked us to check out a few books, we haven't been keeping up with our reading list as well as we like, but someone (I cannot remember who) suggested Wendell Berry's books. I'm just starting to read "What are People for?" It is pretty amazing, so...look for the first Changing Rhythm Book review in the next few weeks. Thanks for all the ideas an support!
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 9:56 PM
Nov 25, 2007
I am sluggish from my third Thanksgiving feast. I had one with our Preschool Co-op, one with the family and one tonight with friends.
I love to eat. I find it tremendously comforting. I often eat out of boredom in addition to grabbing things to eat when I'm frustrated or depressed. I love the ritual of actually consuming something. And I would do it all the time if I could.
Do you see a problem here?
I also love to buy. I find it tremendously comforting. I often buy out of boredom in addition to buying things when I'm frustrated or depressed. I love the ritual of actually purchasing something. And I would do it all the time if I could.
I still have a *bit* of a consumerism issue. Food and stuff.
Buy Nothing Day sucked.
Ok, it was actually a really nice day, but I was very tempted at 5 am to get up and drive to any store any where to buy SOMETHING. I didn't even know what, I just wanted that feeling of getting something.
Later in the day I found things I could go get, like sweats for the kids, or sheets. But Matt wouldn't let me go. He said we could go, but we couldn't buy. What freaking good would that be?
I was a little bitter.
We started this whole quest for anti-consumerism in January and here I am almost December and I have hardly grown. At least I'm not at the super simplified zen place I thought I'd be. Will I get there by the end of 2007?
The picture I posted is Scarlet asleep in a wrap-hammock while we did yardwork on Friday. i couldn't find anything that symbolized the lameness of my state of mind right now or the frustration with where I'm NOT.
So, I just posted something sweet. The only really simple thing I do is mother these kids.
Posted by Carolyn at 7:59 PM
Nov 16, 2007
Black Friday approaches. It comes every year, lurking in the press, on TV, on in-store ads. Black Friday is here.
The day after Thanksgiving has become the busiest shopping day of the year. It's name is symbolic of what happens in retail sales across our nation and in the Western world at large. On November 23rd (assuming the trend continues) many retailers will finally, "go into the black," and begin making a profit for the year. Some companies will see the biggest sales day of the year. Some will make more on one single day than they will the rest of the year. But to me, Black Friday is black for wholly different reasons.
Now, I want to assure all of our friends that I am a big supporter of the Free Market. I believe that it is the best economic system available, but to think it is flawless is naive. My problem with Black Friday is not with the retailers as much as it is with the mentality behind all involved, which is why, this year, we will be celebrating "Buy Nothing Day."
The want monster in our world is enormous and I cannot think of a better way to make it smaller than to not participate in the madness of Black Friday. I know people that are going shopping at 4 AM so they can get "the best stuff, first." They plan on staying at the mall, "all day," because they want to make sure they see everything. These people are some of the most wealthy I know. They have obscenely large houses and drive expensive cars, while the more expensive cars sit in the garage, and buy more than they will ever need. Why do they do it? Because they are convinced that MORE will fill the void in their souls. Spending, saving, and simple living are spiritual acts. It is inescapable. How we spend mirrors the condition of our soul.
Do I mean that we cannot spend and be spiritually okay? No. I am saying that the reasons behind our spending are bound to our beliefs about ourselves, our beliefs about our worth, and our beliefs about what life is really about. As I have said before, the entitlement mentality of our nation cannot be overstated and it is wholly and disgustingly visible on Black Friday.
So, let us all consider--every time we take out our wallet--why we are spending. Do I need this? Is this useful? Who will have less because I buy this? Is there some way that I could impact the world more positively than buying this? Let us be sure that our souls are full and that our lives are rich, not matter what we have or do not have. Last of all, please consider joining our family in "Buy Nothing Day" this year. Speak loudly, without words, and stand against the insatiable want monster.
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 4:27 PM
Nov 4, 2007
Carolyn spent the day painting today. It was part of a church service on creativity. I had the opportunity to sit in the back and watch my wife create. It was wonderful to see her painting. I also ran accross one of my oldest journals, it was amazing to see how differently I viewed the world when I was in collge. I wrote a lot differently then. These two events brought some things back into focus for me.
I have lost hold of a lot of things that kept me interested in life. I used to write poetry, I used to photograph everything, I used to play guitar every day. I hardly do any of those things anymore. In fact, my guitar has collected so much dust this year it is almost burried in the corner. Carolyn used to draw and paint a lot more than she does now. We seem to have left those things and moved on to more "adult" pursuits, like laundry and work and shuttling kids from place to place.
Here's the thing, life was a lot better back then. I think it's time to get back into the things that helped us dream...gotta go, my guitar is waiting.
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 7:03 PM