In simplifying, I have found that the most precious resource squandered in life is time. It's not really a suprise. We fill our schedules with clutter just like we fill our homes with clutter; usually for the very same reason.
"If I'm not busy, I must not be important."
Have you ever thought that? I have...far too often. In fact, that very statement has caused me a lot of troule in recent months. I didn't notice that the clutter problem had moved from my wallet to my planner until recently. Last night, we had dinner with some friends that we haven't seen in quite a while. They all asked where we had been and I proceeded to tell them about my hectic schedule, my tremendous comitments, and my lack of creative freedom.
"What ever happned to your video thing?" one asked me.
"I just haven't had any time," I replied. Why? Why didn't I have any time? Sure I work, so does almost everyone I know. Sure, I have kids, so do a lot of people. Sure, I have...wait a minute...I don't have a real excuse. In fact, I have been busying myself with many things that don't really need to be done. Things I don't even really want to do. Wow, this thing will creep up on you in the wierdest places.
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of traveling to Cambodia (if you ever get a chance, go; it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen) and during one of our excursions we got stuck in a downpour. One of the villagers offered us his home (hut) and we all-along with the family-sprawled out on the floor for a rest until the warm rain stopped. Everything shut down and everyone rested together, in the middle of the day. We layed there for an hour telling stories, singing songs, and took cat naps. I remember waking up feeling so rested and so alive.
Our "culture of more" requires too much movement. We commute to work, run to the store, drive the kids to soccer, ride the bus from school. I think that if we just slowed down enough to walk places-or better yet, lay down and watch it rain-we would feel less fragmented as people. If we could unclutter our calenders, our souls would have room to breath. We are surrounded by so much beauty (and I don't care what your surroundings, there is beauty there...if you're willing to see it) but we squander it to feel like we're worth something.
Our worth has never been contained in who we are, what we have, who we are, or how much we do. Unfortunatley, many of us-myself included- have often believed that lie. I'm going to stop. How about you?
Mar 30, 2007
In simplifying, I have found that the most precious resource squandered in life is time. It's not really a suprise. We fill our schedules with clutter just like we fill our homes with clutter; usually for the very same reason.
Mar 28, 2007
A few weeks ago, our son went to a birthday party after school. He and a few friends, piled into a van and were wisked away to a magical land know as Straw Hat Pizza; at least that's how he remembers it. Since that afternoon, he has been begging Carolyn and I to take him there again.
"They have the best games there, and the pizza tastes good, and they have Sprite," he has repeatedly informed us. Well, tonight we went.
I was able to get off work a little early and Carolyn has been feeling a bit under the weather, so I rounded up the two oldest kids and we made the short trek to Straw Hat Pizza to appease Wyatt and give mama a break. After ordering our pizza, we chose a seat and I gave the kids $5 to play video games. I told them that we were only going to spend the $5 and then eat our pizza, usually the money goes quicky and they cry for more, but tonight was a little different.
They never actually got to the video games, because Straw Hat Pizza has an enormous collection of carnival-esk games that spit out tickets. You can then take the tickets and exchange them for useless little trinckets. Needless to say, it takes hundreds of tickets to get anything of substance and the games are less than willing to give out said tickets. But, we took what we collected (65 tickets I think) and exchanged them for a rubber duckie and a coin purse. The kids were happy enough to finally sit and eat.
While we were eating I noticed that there were two other Dads (without Mama's) and their kids at the next two tables. I made small talk with the dad that was closest, "I didn't expect this."
"Me either. I promised I would take them to McDonalds, you know one with the play structure, but the one next door doesn't have a play structure."
"Well, it looks like they're having fun."
"Yeah, it's just a lot more expensive."
We both laughed and went back to eating. He and his two boys finished, and exchanged their tickets at the prize counter next to our table and then left. The other dad, who had a daughter, came up to our table and asked my son if he wanted a plastic soldier his daughter had "won" (she wasn't interested). He excepted and thanked the man. A moment later, it got stranger...
The girl that was running the prize counter tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a slip of paper.
"The man that just left said he got all he needed and asked me to give you the rest of his tickets, there are five hundred and fifty."
I was a little stunned; and at first, my thoughts leaned toward, "oh good, more junk." Then I realized what had just happened...a perfect lesson.
I pulled my son and daughter over and explained that someone very nice had given us some tickets and that they could choose something from the prize counter. Elated, they chose a little green lizard and a small stuffed lamb. By this time someone different had come to run the prize counter. He informed me that we still had three hundred and fifty tickets left. I asked him if we could pass them on, he gave me the strangest look.
"We have everything we need, can I give the rest to him?" I pointed to the third dad.
"I guess," the attendant stammered.
I walked over to the dad (the one who had given my son the toy soldier, "One good turn deseres another, there are 350 points left on this thing, let your daughter get somethiing she really wants."
"Are you serious?"
"Yeah, have a good one."
We walked out to the car and I strapped the kids in. I sat down in the front seat and Wyatt asked me who had given us the tickets and why. I told him who gave them to us and that he had enough to get what he needed so he gave us the rest, then we got something fun. Since we had all we needed, we gave someone else the rest.
"So another kid is going to get something fun too?"
What an unexpected moment. In a small little pizza shop in a nearby town, my children got to see what the world could be like if we all just took what we needed and passed on the rest to others. Pretty soon, the whole world would be fed.
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 10:26 PM
Mar 25, 2007
There is nothing quite like the feeling of a summer evening. Your skin is still steaming from the long sunlit day and the smell of freshly cut grass is everywhere. If you're lucky, there is a nice breeze that's not too warm wisping away the remains of your cares. Nights like this almost require a spread blanket, a cool drink, and warm friendship. It is easy on summer nights, to gaze toward the countless stars and dream of other worlds and perfect unity. It is easy to get too far into deep conversations about things that no one talks about but everyone thinks about. It's easy to see life for all that really matters.
It's felt like winter for a long time. This season has been remarkably mild for us in Northern California. We haven't see much rain and the tempratures have remained fairly warm. But, it has still felt like winter for a long time.
Spring smells wonderful, summer is a lot of fun, I adore the cozy reflective coolness of fall, but winter is death to me.
I have been sick all winter, I have been depressed all winter, I have been empty all winter. Worst of all, I gave up my one vice for the season...shopping. During the winter months I used to spend amazing ammounts of time in stores or on-line shopping. Even when I wasn't shopping, I was thinking about what I needed for this or what i needed for that. I used to saiate my ailing psyche with clutter. I would fill every space to push out the emptiness. So here I am.
Spring seems to be here (although we may get snow this week:() but it hasn't quite caught up with me yet. My soul is still thawing. It is ridiculous how much consumerism is embedded in me. It is under every rock, in every crevice, spliting me open like freezing water in the cracks of a rock. I know...I sound like a broken record, but I am learning that I have been bred to consume.
It is no wonder that America has become such a place of disparate economics. We are encouraged and almost required to consume, that it seems, is the American way. The pictue I posted was from a fireworks show near our home last summer. The fourth of July. The day that the United States stood up against the wrong in the world and declared that they were taking a different path. A path down a road that would prove difficult but rewarding. Again today, I feel like it should be the fourth of July.
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 10:52 PM
Mar 22, 2007
It's here- and this year, it finally matches up with the weather, unlike last year when it was still snowing at this time.
I'm glad it's spring. Spring reminds us that things become new again- no matter how dried out and dead they seem.
I feel like I've fallen off the Compact wagon a little. I bought the girls shoes for Easter. At the mall. I put out an ISO for them and didn't get an answer- so I just went and did it.
Yes- the mall again. I should just say the heck out of there. I caught myself in Naartjie with armloads of dresses and shirts for the kids when I said- "Oh...what am I doing?" I pt them all back. It was really weird. Maybe I was mesmerized by the lights or something?
Spring. There is no Spring in the mall- unless you're talking about new spring products. But for real- there is no season there. The light is the same the temperature is the same- nothing blooms but greed and self-consciousness.
Today at preschool they are going for a walk to see the bulbs that were planted in the cemetery last fall. THAT'S spring. Life from death. Beauty in the Greenwood cemetery. Little girls running and pretending to be ponies.
It's apparently like pulling teeth to get me to stay down to earth and on track with these changes I'm making. I guess I should take it day by day and look at each days choices as an opportunity to change.
Posted by Carolyn at 11:33 AM
Mar 20, 2007
In the journey toward simplicity, it becomes apparent that many of the worst things in the world can be solved. Most of the poverty, hunger, and thirst of our fellow earthlings could be solved, or at least severley lessened, if everyone with the means would sacrifice a miniscule amount of their wealth.
Here is a staggering statistic from globalissues.org...Americans spend $8 billion a year on cosmetics; it would cost $9 billion to wipe out world thirst for one year. Simplicity, it seems, can save the world...literally.
This Thursday (and this weekend) is World Water Day. Take some time to sign up and get involved. Be a voice for the thirsty in this world.
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 11:22 AM
Mar 17, 2007
I bought these Chacos around the time my son was born, 6 years ago. I wear them a lot.
Lately my friends have been commenting on how cool they are a few of them have bought them for themselves. But- they got new ones. Nice colors, differnt strap configurations.
So, I hop onto Zappos and check out the new styles. Holy crap!!! Their are some really cute new styles. And one thing I've disliked about these is the toe loop- I would buy the ones without it next time. Hmmm....maybe REI has some on sale...
Oh, wait- I'm compacting!!! I'd better check eBay. Theres a few- I'll have to wait a few days to bid.
So, then, at preschool the other day- everyone is wearing their Chacos. One of my friends says, "I knew I had to get them when I saw how well yours have worn--you'll have those for years!!!"
Yeah...years. Great. Oh yeah... the toe loop!!! "I'd love to keep them that long, but I don't like the pulling that happens on the toe loop!"
So, my one friend, who's had hers for a few years says- "Oh, mine have the toe loop- I found a way to adjust them so you don't use the loop-- look, just like the non-loop ones!!!"
Thanks alot! Now I have NO excuse for getting new ones. Why am I surrounded by such good women?
Posted by Carolyn at 12:32 PM
Mar 16, 2007
I went to bed at 10pm on Wednesday night, but was awoken at 11:30 by my friend saying "Time to go...the contractions aren't stopping!"
We had been waiting for week or two for my friend to start labor with her fourth child.
I was thrilled when she told me she wanted me and two of my other good friend with her for this, the birth of her last baby. I have an inability to perceive how people feel about me, and this made me feel awesome.
My poor friend was overdue and tired, and so news of labor was such a relief!
The next few hours of watching her ride in and out of contractions was amazing. The was her second home birth- I cant believe I've had all my kids in a hospital after seeing how beautiful and calm it could be at home.
She labored quietly in her bathtub and then on her bed. The lights were low, tea was steeping, the dogs barked here and there out in the woods. No beeping, no phones ringing, no machines.
No blood pressure cuff squeezing every few minutes, no one obsessively eyeing the heart rate, no IV's- just life, as God intended. I was dumbfounded by the beauty of it all.
The baby was healthy and beautiful, needing nothing more than her mama.
I don't mean to get into the whole politics of medical birth and all, but I couldn't help but draw parallels to simple living.
We are so hooked up to the machines and monitors of this society. Media sustains us to the point where we barely exist without it. We want every accessory for every item possible. We substitute the artificial for the real constantly - sunless tans, treadmills, air conditioning, baby bottles. None of these things are bad by themselves- just part of the larger picture of where humankind is going.
I will treasure my memory of this birth and remember through my choices and mind set that what we really need is what we already have.
Posted by Carolyn at 8:23 AM
Mar 13, 2007
Our weather has gone from snowy and cold to warm and gorgeous. I am typing write now in a summer skirt and t-shirt, and sent Wyatt to school in sandals!! Violet is wearing a sun dress and I finally dont have to worry about finding a hat for Scarlet today!
So, things are looking up. It's amazing how a little sunshine can make things seem better. I guess consumerism grows best indoors. Being outside (comfortably) makes my brain feel different- it totally changes my perspective.
Right now I'm in a good place. My house is ok--I've been keeping my sink clean and things are generally picked up. It's so freeing to know someone could drop by and it wouldn't be the embarassment of a lifetime.
Also I'm waiting on a friend to have her baby, which is exciting! It will be the first birth I get to see for real (other than my own).
Things are feeling "real" again, if that makes any sense. At least for this week!
Posted by Carolyn at 9:06 AM
Mar 10, 2007
Well, I slipped a little. We belong to the REI co-op. For those who don't know anything about REI, it is an outdoor equipment store, and a potential problem for me. I love to be outside. I hike, bike, geocache, fish, you name it and I'm there. Some of this requires stuff, some of it begs for more stuff than I really need. But, anyway, we joined the co-op several years ago. As a member they keep track of what you buy and at the end of the year you get a dividend check that you can use in the store or cash in. We haven't bought much there this year, but a few friends and family used our number for their orders and the dividend was a little nicer than usual. So off to REI I went. I came back with a new Camelback backpack which I found for 50% off plus 20% off and with my dividend it was free, awesome...I thought. Carolyn didn't.
She pointed out that even though it didn't technically cost us anything, I broke our pledge. She's right. It wasn't used, at least it replaced something I had to throw out, but it wasn't really something we "needed." I was a little perturbed at first, but after a little thought, I'm owning up to a slip.
One of Carolyn's best friends was up for the weekend and all of our daughters (our 2 and her 1) were spending the day playing together. Wyatt and I decided to skip the estrogen frap and get outdoors. I strapped up my new pack (can't return it, honestly, I checked it out) and we were off to find a geocache that has eluded us for a while. It was a lot harder to get to than I expected.
We started at the bottom of the canyon where two forks of the American River meet and began our long trek out of the canyon. We went through many different types of trails and talked about boy stuff (millipedes, rocks, poop ;)) and struggle to the top where I took the picture above. Forrest Hill Bridge stands in the distance, it is the highest bridge in California and the 3rd highest in the US. It really is an amazing site. As I sat here tonight, looking at the pictures, I realized something.
We have, as some of our new friends have pointed out, been walking through this thing with our heads down. We've been focusing so much on not doing, not buying, stopping, reducing; but, we've lost sight of the whole reason we got into this journey. We began in search of truth and joy regardless of our material status. We wanted to forsake stuff for life. In reality, we've just replaced stuff with drudgery, or become so driven in the reduction quest that we forgot how beautiful this world is and how many pleasures are ours for the taking. We're not seeing the forest for the trees, so to speak.
Yeah, I slipped, there's no excuse for that. But, one step back helped me to see how far we've already come. It also is beginning to sprout a (hopefully) more realistic view of the purpose of simplifying. I think we're beginning to come out of the first canyon.
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 9:46 PM
Mar 7, 2007
It all started on a sunny morning in Southern California....ok, I wont do that to you either....much.
I was born in Southern California to middle class parents in a growing middle class neighborhood. When I was 4 my dad was transferred to New Jersey, which was a huge change for my very Californian parents.
My dad loved New Jersey- and nearly dumped his telecom career for farming. My mom was ok with it too- she fell in love with antiques, but missed California. I was crushed at 9 when my parents decided to move to Northern California. I was leaving my green field and my woods for a barren concrete backyard behind an ugly stucco track house.
We lived in the San Francisco Bay Area throughout my Junior High and High School years- going from house to house (my parents liked to move). I wanted to become a fashion designer (my worldview was a TAD different back then), and decided on FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising) in San Francisco. I love that city and was told I'd probably do well at that school. But my parents felt I needed to go to Christian College for at least a year- then
I could go to design school.
So, I visited a couple- one of which was in New York that we were able to see while visiting friends from New Jersey. I eventually choose Nyack, and so that next summer- I was off to New York.
I met Matt at college and we were engaged in my second semester. I dropped out of college before we got married and got a job as a dispatcher in the town Matt grew up in. I felt I had found my career! I loved that job. There was possibility of me going to police academy if I choose to, and the pay was great.
We were both working so much after we got married, and like my mom, I was really missing California. So, we moved.
I tried for almost a year to get a dispatching job here, but ultimately the departments were run differently, and the wouldn't just hire any old kid that came in the door- there was a ton of applicants for each position. So I gave up on that an took random boring clerical jobs.
When I got pregnant with Wyatt I was working for our friends who are Chiropractors- this was my first job here that I enjoyed. But after having Wyatt, I realized I was not going to want to work. I had found myself. I was a mother. And I couldnt have been more surprised.
I desparatley wanted a home to take care of and settle down in and hated our apartments. But with Matt working for the church- buying a home was impossible. When he changed jobs...I quickly begged for a house and put an offer on one. The only one we could afford.
It was important to me to get back what I'd lost when my family left New Jersey- I wanted my kids to be able to wander around in open space and hide in a grove of trees. So, we choose to move to the end of the road in a rural gold rush town.
I am sort of living my dream life right now. I love this community- I have amazing friends, and this town is about as Mayberry-ish as it gets. We get snow a few weeks a year and its not too hot in the summer. And we're 35 minutes to the nearest traffic light.
So, my only job outside the home is doing co-op preschool. Ok, not a real job, but it's work, and I find it tremendously furfilling. I love circle time- it is my chance to sing and be hammy without any critcism!!!
I hope thats a sufficient amount of info. I'm not the writer here...Matt is. (and he is frequently annoyed by my abuse of puncuation!)
Posted by Carolyn at 11:55 AM
Mar 6, 2007
Well, several people have asked about where we came from, who we are, and why we wanted to change so badly...and since Carolyn is asleep, I'll go first.
It all started one cold New Jersey day...just kidding, I'm not going to give a total autobiography, just a small glimpse. (I'll save the rest for my next book) I was born into a middle class family in rural New Jersey (yes there are rural parts) and grew up as most middle class kids do. I had everything I needed plus some until I was in my teens. By then, my family had come into a little more money through hard work a dumb luck, so I finished out high school in relative wealth. I went (more like...was forced) to college in New York and studied Music, then History. It was there that I met the most beautiful and wonderful woman in the world and quickly asked her to marry me, but before the nuptials, I slipped out into the world for almost a year as a touring Sound Engineer.
I came back from a forty city tour and quickly married Carolyn. We started out living in New Jersey but decided that there was more adventure out West, so we loaded the U-haul and left our lucrative jobs for the browner pastures of California. The "job" I had lined up in Calfornia fell through while I drove across the country, so we spent the next three months looking for work. I finally found a job in construction and was three years into a new career when I made a sudden right turn and became a youth pastor.
Five years later, I was worn out, fed up, distraught with apparent disconnect of what Jesus asked us to do from what the church (at large) was actually doing in this world, so I hung up the vocational ministry hat and went back into construction.
My life has been filled with times of much and spiced with times of little, but I never failed to realize that the more I had, the less I lived...so after leaving vocational ministry and starting over, I decided that I needed to break the cycle and "live" to the fullest all the time. Thus this journey.
Some have asked about our living arrangements. This is our first home, but it is smaller than our last three apartments. This was slightly by choice, but mostly the due to the surge in California real estate over the past ten years. We never had the money or credit to buy before, but when I got a new job we were able to swing it and this was the first house that really fit. Our families thought we were nuts to get something so small, but we used the, "find us something better for this price," argument skillfully enough that they left us alone long enough to sign the loan. Before we did, Carolyn and I both decided that we would do everything possible to make this a permanent home, not a stopping point to something bigger. So this journey has been brewing in my mind for a while.
What I have realized about myself, is that I often choose things to make me happy. When I should be happy with or without things. Having dose not equate joy, but I often appraoch life as if it does. So that is what I am seeking to change through this journey. So far, I have found that this thinking is so inate in me that I cannot make changes slowly, I need to thrust them upon myself so they don't fall by the wayside. So if my approach seems radical or forced...it is by personal necessity. Also, I think best while writing, so many of my posts are realy soul exploration.
I hope that gives you a better understanding of who I am, where I came from and why I want to change. If I missed anything, feel free to ask.
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 9:14 PM
Mar 4, 2007
So, after last week and it's storms, I was left feeling a little wacked.
Wyatt had a snow day on Wednesday, and the other days were late starts- where they wait until the plow finishes (or until the plow operator go off their breaks). So we were all messed up and off our regular routine.
The problem is- I was here....alot. Looking around, watching piles grow. Wondering where the heck to put wet snow boots and snow pants. Trying to keep mud off my beloved couch. Watching "The Last Unicorn" more times than I can stomach.
I've heard people up in Canada and other cold places actually get sores from being indoors so long. I can see that. I didn't get any sores, but I grew a nice little crop of discontent.
I start looking around at these walls- they are pretty close together. Theres no where to go with anything. No closet to stuff things in, no garage to pile up boxes. Just this space. No place for backpacks, no plack for Wyatts stick collection. No bathtub. No dishwasher. I cant bring my piano here. I cant set up my sewing machine. I cant set up my easel like I did in the last place. No air conditioning. No room for a stove. No flat areas outside. No place for Violet to ride a tricycle. No place for patio furniture.
Did I mention no bathtub? (oh, I did...)
I love this house? Sometimes. But alot of the time it makes me insane. It makes me face that I have too much crap. It makes me think about what I really need to live.
I just need to survive the Cabin Fever long enough to not have a breakdown and start pulling real estate flyers. And perhaps a little bit of good old counting of blessings would be appropriate right now.
At least I have a cabin, right?
Posted by Carolyn at 10:01 PM
Mar 2, 2007
We just passed the two month mark. As Carolyn stated in her last post we've, "been feeling the burn." This is a hard task, but well worth it. I think this journey is becoming more difficult becasue we are passing the fad stage and beginning a lifestyle. It's becoming easier to identify consumeristic traps, so, we are less likely to be "tricked" into buying something we need/want. Now, we are aware of the complexities and our "stuff" is starting to get the best of us. Let me explain...
Before, we might have bought somthing gratutious becasue we thought we needed it, when, in reality, it was really just a marketing created need. Now, we are fighting the same fight on a different plane. We are running into our wants, either for particular things, or for the promises the marketing makes. We are finding it easier to justify purchases because of our training. We have been trained that in order to be happy, we must buy. Ouch. So, needless to say, we've been looking for a good way to boost our resolve in this area.
I have always believed that the best wasy to learn and remain accountable is to teach. That being said, I think it's time that we take this thing out of our liitle sphere into a larger arena. I have no idea what that means. Any ideas?
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 11:52 AM
Mar 1, 2007
Ok- I so wish I could have thought of a better title. But - more thought would have meant me giving up and going to bed. I'm pooped- Thursdays are crazy- full of all the normal run around school stuff plus violin lessons and music class. And being the low-capacity person I am- I get tired.
So, I'm terrible at this simple living thing. Just terrible. I am feeling the burn. Luckily it's more of a world view problem than a day to day struggle. I cant seem to live in the day that I am present in without grasping for what might be better tommorow.
I must remember what is great about today, and why today and what it holds is sufficient.
A few of my friends have had a week full of terrible stuff. Car accidents, cancer, family problems, etc. My prayers are with them.
Life is colorful, aint it?
And here I am whining that I dont have the wall space to move my piano here from my moms house. Kind of makes me sound like a crappy person.
I dont want to be a crappy person.
I have a blessed life and I'm grateful for it. I should prove that by using my brain for good instead of greediness.
Posted by Carolyn at 10:22 PM