For the past three days, we have been living under the threat of snow. Normally snow is a great thing, but we live on a very steep street and it is often difficult to get out. While being home bound is usually a blessing in disguise, things need to be done. The kids need to go to school, I need to get to work, blah, blah, blah. So for the past three days we have been preparing. Turning the cars the right way, making sure we have enough milk, shoveling extra gravel onto the driveway. Life has been harried.
Things at work have been brutal as well. My department is severely short staffed and we have an unusually large workload for the season. Every hour has felt like an eternity, and my long commute has been stressful due to the weather. The rain has been so dreadfully constant that the kids haven't been outside for more than a few minutes since last Friday and their little bodies are exploding with misplaced energy.
Tonight, it started. Large wet delicious snow flakes covering the ground in shimmering white. The last rays of the unseen sun casting long blue shadows and soft white highlights. The air is thick. The wind is lulling a song out of our wind chime. Silence.
I took out the trash and stopped on the way back for a moment of reflection. Why does the snow bring so much peace? Standing there with the cold softness and breathy quiet was like letting my soul exhale after holding its breath for far too long.
Feb 27, 2007
Feb 25, 2007
One of our favorite movies is Harry Potter: The Prisoner of Azkaban. I am anamoured with shape-shifting beings.
I love Professor Lupins character in this movie. He is the Defense against the dark arts professor- there to teach them how to fight off evil. And yet- he hides a secret. He is a werewolf. And like all werewolves- he transforms into this horrible beast when he sees the moon.
What does this have to do with the Compact?
Well- apparently when I see the mall- my pupils get larger, my claws come out and I start to growl.
Not just the mall- it seems when I travel out of my mountain town, I notice more of what I dont have. I start to notice that my teeth are yellow, that my pots and pans are cheap, that my clothes are irreparably stained and as always- my house is retardedly small.
So- should I just stop going out? Matts says no. He seems to think thats sort of freakish and agoraphobic. Maybe I need to work on my greed issues a little more?
I got completely depressed when we went into town today, and I'm sort of ashamed of myself.
Thats all. Thats my confession for today. I'm a evil want monster when faced with retail.
Posted by Carolyn at 9:47 PM
Feb 22, 2007
Well, we're two days into Lent. I have decided to give up a major vice in my life...soda. Okay, that might seem like a petty thing to give up for the season, but I drink a lot of soda. Actually, it goes deeper than you might think. I use it to escape. When I don't feel like starring at my computer screen any longer...soda time. When I get ticked off...soda time. When I'm bored...soda time.
It seems to me that the aforementioned (been waiting a while to squeeze that word in) times could be spent on more worthwhile activities. Like pausing for a moment of silence, prayer, meditation, or simple acknowledgment that I have all I need and more. Instead of drinking a soda, I could be drinking in a breath of fresh air, s view of the sky, a silent prayer of thanksgiving. So I've given up soda.
It's funny how small things can impact in a big way. The two days of sodalessness (okay I made that one up) have sparked a renewed flame for this journey. Why? Because, I have realized that the deepest issues of consumerism lie in the shadows of my life. Lurking in the dark places waiting for me to look away.
Carolyn and I were talking about the coming month and discussing some needed purchases. We were weighing the want monster and realized that we have cleared away a lot of the mental/emotional clutter, but the dust in the corners is immense. To use another metaphor, it's like weeding a garden. You start by clearing what is easy to see, then just when you think you're done...another weed pops up. I suspect that--like weeds--this will continue to happen for some time. And we have to be especially careful about the weeds that are growing unseen in the shadows.
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 10:53 PM
Feb 20, 2007
Ok- another post concerning how much crap we own.
I am drowning in a sea of laundry. This is totally ridiculous. And it's like this ALL THE TIME. I can think of maybe twice where our laundry what caught up to a normal level - twice in our almost ten year marriage.
We have downsized our clothing tremendously- we got rid of almost a dozen black garbage bags last summer. I'm serious. We *thought* we went right down to the basics. And we were close but look at our mess!!!
I keep thinking if we had less- it couldnt get this bad. But, what the heck is wrong with me?
I'd like to blame my washer /dryer entirely, but that wouldn't be fair. We have a stackable unit-thing, and the load sizes are smallish. I probably would do at least a little better with bigger capacity machines- but thats an issue right now. I tend to always want bigger/better everything, and the jury is out on whether this is me wanting bigger or NEEDING bigger. (advice welcome, by the way)
We are a family of five with one real closet and clothing storage is a constant problem.
This post contains no wisdom- just complaining and flaunting our problems. Enjoy.
Oh, and yes, in one picture you can see some nasty baby-stained sheets. I hate paper diapers.
Posted by Carolyn at 4:03 PM
A boy's heart is a wonderful thing. Every trip is an adventure, a question, a silly joke. The entire world is uncharted territory and there is treasure buried under every rock, waiting to be found in every creek, and he has been given the map.
We have been geocaching for some time now. The draw for Carolyn and I was that it gave us a carrot on a stick to keep the kids moving while hiking. The draw in geocaching lies in having the means to find something that a lot of others miss. Even with all of the information and a trusty piece of space-age technology (GPS) the treasue is elusive. Hidden away beneath the muck of rain soaked brush and dirt or stuffed in a place that no sane person would stick their hands, the treasure waits for just the right person to find it. Children are amazing at geocaching.
Today, we took a hike in our local nature area and I brought the GPS along. I have failed to find this particular cache on several other outings and thought it was time to try again. Mention a treasure hunt and Wyatt goes insane. He finds them most of the time, either on his own or with a little help from us, he is the master treasure hunter. But, on this beautiful California foothill day, he wasn't the first to find the prize.
We spent a few minutes looking when Violet, our three-year-old, said, "look what I find [sic]." Sure enough she had found the cache. In the small canister there was a single poker chip. The rules are: if you find something you can keep it as long as you leave something else. Since there was only one prize and Violet was the one to find it, it was hers. Wyatt freaked.
We've gotten through the initial stage of shock regarding this journey. We are getting better at analyzing our needs and our wants, we have trimmed the budget down significantly and we are clearing out more clutter from our lives everyday. Lately however, I have begun to re-think this whole thing. Why are we doing this anyway? Are we just doing it to be cool, or to piss off our families, or because we're really cheap? Also, is any of this going to really make a difference? Are we going to be any different at the end of this thing? Is there an end to this thing? Are we being too rigid, not rigid enough...
When I stand back and look at this whole thing from afar it becomes clear. It's a treasure hunt. There is something bigger and more worthwhile in life than stuff, than the next big thing, than consuming. There is an elusive treasure in this world that most people miss. Some people stumble upon it, like Violet. Some people embody it, like Jesus and Ghandi. Some people look hard for it, like Walden. Some of us are still looking for it and crushed when we miss it, like Wyatt.
Wyatt learned an important lesson today. It's hard to find the treasure. Sometimes others will stumble on it and it doesn't seem fair, but the truth is...it can be easy to step over when you're looking too hard for it.
My son gave me a gift today. A reflection of myself. I'm thinking this thing to death. I need to slow down and live it now. Carolyn saw a bumper sticker the other day that poked fun at all the "I'd Rather Be..." sayings floating around. It said, "I 'd rather be living right here, right now." Good advice. I'm going to bed.
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 12:20 AM
Feb 15, 2007
Every Spring for the past five or six years we have gone to Yosemite. It has become a cathedral of sorts for us. Carolyn and I experience the joy of the Creator there. There is something mystical about the constantly changing natural beauty that sits in stark contrast to eons of finality. It is there that we see the hand of God--who created--but continues to create, evolve, and change the physical world and all who inhabit it.
Yosemite is famous for its glorious waterfalls. Yosemite Falls (pictured to the left) cascades from thousands of feet above the valley, filling it with a breathy wash of rythmic white noise. From afar it is beautiful, but up close...it is powerful, dangerous and majestic. My Father-in-law and I spent half a day hiking up to the falls. We made it to the top of the lower falls and took this shot. In retrospect, the feelings I had that day echo my feeling today.
Life is ever-changing. There are new challenes, new ideas, new opportunities all the time. But most of us want to remain steady. We want to be stable, predictable, safe. We spend a lot of time and energy creating ways (excuses) to avoid new experiences. But safety is a fallacy. We all face the same fate. If we try to remain safe, we will slowly wash away like the solid rock of Yosemite.
As grand and imposing as Half Dome is, the river washed the other half away. That is because the water is ever-changing, alway moving, and forcing change upon the stagnant. Much of Yosemite was formed by enormous glaciers--frozen rivers that moved mountains. Today, the waters continue to transform the place.
I recieved an email from a dear friend today. She attached this quote:
Within each of us there is a herd of wild horses all wanting to run loose. -Wallace Hamilton
That is truth. And truth is big, wherever you find it. So I think it is time that we were less like rocks and more like water, or at least, wild horses.
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 10:38 PM
Feb 13, 2007
Yes, my kitchen sink is the center of my universe. Well, actually no, but it seems to directly correlate to the state of my brain.
This is my sink right now. And right now, I can handle this house- this mess, the Compact, all of it. For some reason I need my sink clean to be able to clean the rest of this house.
When the sink is nasty and full of dishes, I cant get a glass of water, I cant wash my hands, I cant get a vision for why I love this place. I could clean the bathrooms, or sweep or vacuum, but feel totally overwhelmed by it all. But with my sink shining- I'm ok.
So, I sort of stole this from Fly Lady. It's works for me and that's a HUGE step. Now I've just got to keep it up!!!
Oh, and by the way, that's my tea strainer hanging from the faucet- not anything weird. :)
Posted by Carolyn at 8:27 PM
Feb 12, 2007
I cannot remember being carried by my parents. I'm sure that I was, but I cannot remeber. It is funny what one forgets. I remember being made fun of for singing "Zippity Doo Dah" in the bathroom at the back of the class in third grade. I remeber standing on my bed and watching my father mow the lawn when I was three. I can't remeber a single Christmas morning before I was ten. But I remeber most of my Birthday parties. I cannot remember what my parents dreamed about, but I can remeber--vividly--what they worried about.
Our children will have a tough time forgeting that we carried them, there are picture of them wrapped to Mommie all over. There are picture of them on Daddy's back. What else will they remeber about their parents?
It is becoming more and more clear that this entire process of deconsumerization is deeply changing the way we parent our children. Before, we spent a lot of time away from our home. Shopping, eating out, bowling, whatever. Now, we are home together, in a small house, a lot! The TV is usually off and the music is usually on. Our kids are great, but like all children they have difficult moments (often days, weeks, even months). The past few weeks have been especially challenging.
Our yougest (7mths) is fully mobile, crawling all over the place, "Bah Buh Bah," as she goes. She is into anything and everything she can grab. Our three-year-old is at a communication crossroads. She is begining to explore her emotional personality (hopefully she'll move past frustration and anger onto something else soon). She acts out her emotions a lot better than she can communicate them right now. For instance, breaking a toy tea pot over her brothers head when she is angry, instead of talking it out. The oldest (6 in April) is begining to read and write, he loves school and is picking up the violin, but he is struggling to get adequate attention. He needs to be carried.
The girls went to bed early last night and Wyatt did not. He stayed up asking questions well past the time that I was able to answer them. We talked about a lot of things, ghosts (real or not), games he is inventing (more complex than most tax forms) , and what he was learning in school (I'm not sure any of it is in the cirriculum). He just needed to be carried. He needed to know that we were still there to hold him, support him, love him.
He doesn't need the TV, doesn't need new toys (he'd rather tie some sticks together and make a sword), doesn't need expensive entertainment. He needs us. He needs friends. He needs community. This journey has been about finding the joy in simplicity. Well, here it is. A more simple lifestyle gets life down to the nitty gritty. What really matters is all that counts. And all that matters to Wyatt right now is that he is loved, that he can ask questions, that he can still be carried. How much simpler can life get?
I hope that Wyatt, Violet, and Scarlet all remeber that we were always there to carry them.
Now, if we could just figure out what Violet needs before she smashes something else...we'll be good.
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 11:36 AM
Feb 9, 2007
I guess I was born that way. I've always pined over boys. I'm not sure what I feel about that as a feminist.
Matt's out of town...again, so, I am mopey. (aren't we the most emotional people you've ever seen?) I was thinking today about how I feel. I feel like I did in High School when I had a crush on somebody.
When I had a crush on someone, which was all the time, everyday had hope and promise of *something* good, whether it would be a smile from the boy, or that he might actually talk to me. And some days I thought maybe he'd actually pick me up off the ground and carry me away as he proclaimed his love for me. Well, that almost never happened. :)
So, when whatever boy it was didn't show up for school, I pretty much had no reason to live for that day and the day would drag on miserably. I remember thinking it would be better to just pass out and sleep until the next time I could see him.
So, fast forward to college, when someone actually did scoop me up and carry me away, proclaiming his love for me. (now I'm talking about Matt, by the way)
The silly pining away has not stopped and although I now care for his children, I still feel like life is sort of lame when Matt's not around.
Now, this is not as bad as it seems- I have plenty of purpose and hobbies and life of my own to live, I'm just a sap.
So, I decided I'd try to make lemonade out of these crazy lemons and bake. I have that new-to-me pastry blender, right? So, I'm making scones for my friend who's been shut in all week with sick kids.
SO, I feel better- it sort of makes that whiney, mopey lovesick High School girl in me buck up and be a woman.
By the way- here's my scone recipe:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 stick of butter (cold) cut into pieces
Combine first four ingredients, the cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.
In another bowl, combine:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
1/2 dried cranberries
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
zest of lemon
Combine both bowls and mix until you have to knead the dough, then turn it out onto a floured surface and knead a few more times.
Slice into wedges, brush with a little cream, and bake at 425 degrees for however log you'd like to- I like them underdone, so, about 15 minutes.
Enjoy--and do the right thing- make a pot of tea with them, or a good cup or coffee!
Posted by Carolyn at 10:34 AM
Feb 7, 2007
The last couple days in California. the weather has been gorgeous. It's been warm, sunny, with a light breeze. But we have winter weather on it's way, so everyone around our town has been burning and clearing and doing last minute stuff before it gets too cold again.
Well, I decided it was time for me to finally get some bulbs in the ground that I never planted in the fall. I felt so much guilt about buying them, then never planting them. So, with the "fall-like" weather we've had this week, I felt I'd been given another chance!
I got out a shovel and planted on Monday. Then I noticed how much the pine needles had balnketed the area around the house and since the baby wasn't fussing, I went for it and just raked for an hour or so.
Then yesterday, I saw that it was a burn day (we have days where it's legal to burn and days where you have to have a permit), so, I gathered up some piles, strapped the baby to my back and burned!
I have so much guilt over the house and the way I let it get disasterous, but with a fussy baby, being inside seems impossible. She loves being in the wrap outside, and so this was a good way to get things done.
I've been so depressed this last couple weeks (yes, the funk continues). I even messed up a little and bought a baby sling from my friend in the preschool coop. I justified it because she made it with vintage material, but I feel pretty guilty about it. And the pair or wool longies I bought from her, too. I was weak.
But yesterday, out in my yard, looking down the hill at my house, with my kids collecting sticks and singing songs, and my baby asleep up against my back, everything was somehow ok again. I'm not off-track, I'm not a slob, I'm just here....now. And I know that all the sweat and yard work helped me get there.
Posted by Carolyn at 8:39 AM
Feb 6, 2007
One of the best parts of any journey is meeting new people. Well, this journey is no different. We have already met a lot of you, but we felt like it was time to get some more communication going...So, we have added an email address link at the top of our page (right below the "Subscribe with Bloglines" button).
Please, drop us a line. Introduce yourself. Use it to ask us questions. And then we can actually respond. Oh yeah, and don't woryy...we will only use your email address for personal communication, no SPAM ,no forwards, no ads, etc.
We look forward to hearing from you!
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 8:01 PM
Feb 4, 2007
Last fall, my son learned to ride a bike. He was five and had come home from his friends house boldly proclaiming, "I want you to take off my training wheels Daddy." So I did. Then we took him to a nearby park--that is a lot more flat than our property--to send him on the beginning of a very long adventure. When we arrived, he donned his helmet, straddled the seat and pushed off. He coasted for an instant and then POW! He got up, dusted himself off and tried again...POW! After several trys and a little coaching he pushed off again and went almost ten feet until the front wheel turned and he ate it, hard (thank goodness for the facemask). He screamed in frustration and kicked his bike. "I can't do it!" I know just how he feels.
As we pulled into the driveway late last night, the brakes on our van went. It's also time for new tires. Both Carolyn and I have teeth that hurt and the estimate to fix them is well beyond what our insurance will cover. A lot of the kids spring clothes don't fit anymore. I've ruined two of my best work shirts in the past few weeks. We need a new rug (seriously this is a need...trust me, we've thought it out in painstaking finality). Our savings are low. Our bills are high. I can't do this!
(Deep sigh) I am so amazed at how expensive life seems some times. It is no wonder there are so many poor people in this world. When I get into a cycle of depression because of concerns about money it urks me, which sends me swirling deeper into depression. This is a hard time for me. The fire in my belly is waning. I feel like it doesn't matter how much I cut out, cut back, give up, sacrifice; there is no end to the stress that money brings me.
Money traps me. Or, at least, I let it trap me. I have been trying to honestly assess my emotional reaction to financial concerns since we started this journey and I've realized that I have a LONG way to go. The problems with consumerism are much more deeply embedded than I previously thought. I thought that giving up the rat race was a sure way to defeat my fear but, at the moment, it seems to have thrust me directly into the belly of the beast.
Let me give you an example. My depression, coupled with sick kids, a hectic month, and a tired wife have casued a lot of tension in our household lately. My only time of solitude is during lunch, so I snuck away and drove to catch my breath. I found my self pulling into a dozen different retailers looking for a fix...literally. For some reason, the first thing that came to my mind in crisis was, "buy something, it'll make you feel better." I resisted the urge, but the realization was terrifying.
Anyway, I have nothing pithy to say. I'm just trying to learn how to ride this bike. Hopefully, like my son, I will be able to saddle up and do it. He worked through the tears and nailed it on the next try. It's amazing what kids can teach you.
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 8:59 PM
Feb 1, 2007
Because I haven't. And I have a sneaking suspicion I may have dropped it somewhere. Which means it's gone.
And I am bummed. Sure it's just a little used baby shoe i bought from another mama last week. But the fact that I have already lost it due to the fact that I haphazardly stuffed it in my purse at the pediatricians office just steams me. (and yes, I did call and ask if any had seen it)
I'm doing so well at buying used and everything, and having to possibly replace something that I only received a week ago makes me feel like I'm not worthy of living this way. My stuff is disposable. And I obviously cant take care of ANYTHING. Not even an $8 pair of used Robeez.
I read an awesome thread on Mothering.com today about how this mama went to visit family in a foreign country. She said their house was totally uncluttered and they lived with exactly what they needed and nothing more. Then the discussion turned to our culture and how everything in Americas is disposable.
The comments struck me because I have always lived this way. It's OK to let your $60 sweater lay on the floor and get trampled- I mean, it's not like I can't buy another one. Or, it's OK to trash my minivan- I want a different car sometimes anyway. If I let my lunch bag get gross and moldy- I can buy a cooler one.
It's OK that I'm a disorganized mess- if I lose something, I'll just get another one. Like a shoe.
I cant do this anymore. My car is a mess. My kitchen is a mess, my head is a mess- and my possessions are getting trashed because I have too many and I don't take care of anything. Can you tell I'm a little disgusted with myself?
I'll try to clean out my car in case, by chance, I missed it somehow, but I'm fairly sure the shoe is gone. And it'll have to be replaced. Let's hope I can manage to take care of the next pair.
Posted by Carolyn at 9:17 PM