Thursday, May 31, 2012

June's Simply Living Challenge: Waste not, want not

Rubbish dump

This month's challenge is one I have been considering for some time. Now that television is switching over to digital I have wondered what will happen to all those analogue TVs. When I flush the toilet I wonder why we use precious drinking water to get rid of our waste. And what about all that toilet paper? Oh the trees, the trees! And if it is recycled - what about the resources it took to recycle it?  As I take yet another plastic bag full of rubbish out to our green bin, I wonder how we can cut back. Hah - it has just occurred to me that it is funny that the bin is 'green' - because our town isn't. We don't have recycling bins. Is this the only town that doesn't?

And the word travesty comes to mind. A child who lives on a tip in a developing world would be horrified to see the waste I generate. I throw my kitchen 'scraps' in the bin for goodness sake. And why do I have so many scraps anyway?  I am ashamed by my total lack of respect for what my waste could have been, other than landfill.  I waste time. I waste money. I waste the world's resources. I waste my energy focusing on things that are trivial or not life giving. I waste, waste, waste.

Well I am declaring war on waste. I'm starting small, with baby steps, but I know those steps will mature into bigger steps as I grow more and more intentional in this area. So here are my first tentative steps today -

 Step one: I am going to use the car less. Now that one is easy. I have just left my job so I don't need to get to work any more AND my car has conveniently died. It has been stranded down the road for the last few days, where it gave up the ghost. We are unsure about whether or not my 20-year-old plus car will be able to be resurrected. Either way I am going to use transport more wisely. We don't have public transport here so I will be walking, riding (perhaps - I have to confess I am scared to death of bike riding down a hill), catching a lift or sharing my husband's car, inviting people to my home and making good use of each trip to town.

Step two: I am a big tea drinker. When I boil the kettle I will use it immediately (instead of re-boiling) and I will cover it with a towel to keep the water warm, so I don't need to boil it so frequently. Maybe I will get myself a flask. I may even use a pot or kettle on my wood burner!

Step three: I will turn everything off at the wall.

Step four: I love this one - one candle lit night a week, when we try to do without electricity as much as possible and we focus more on one another. We have already started this. Dinner looks better (lucky thing as I am not a great cook). I am sure I look better to my husband too - that lovely soft glow! We congregate together in front of the fire and  sleep comes easier. I can't help pretend that we are living inside Pride and Prejudice! My daughter and I think it's a lot of fun. I'm not so sure about the men.

Step five: Until I have a better solution I will cut down on my generation of scraps, and I will take what I do have to my friends who have hens.

Step six: I'm going to educate myself about this topic of waste. I have so much to learn. I will also read as much inspirational 'stuff' as I can. Today I started with writings from Wendell Berry and I have jumped right into Jen Hatmaker's book '7: an experimental mutiny against excess' starting half way in, at the month on 'waste'.

Step seven: I will waste less time on Facebook, and mindless trawling through the Internet. (I just noticed I have chosen seven steps - perhaps Jen Hatmaker is rubbing off on me already.)

I will finish with some words from Wendell Berry on waste. Mediate on them with me and let's see what we can do to make a difference.
...all of us, have become a kind of human trash, living our lives in the midst of a ubiquitous damned mess of which we are at once the victims and the perpe­trators. We are all unwilling victims, perhaps; and some of us even are unwilling perpetrators, but we must count ourselves among the guilty nonetheless. In my household we produce much of our own food and try to do without as many frivolous “necessities” as possible — and yet, like everyone else, we must shop, and when we shop we must bring home a load of plastic, aluminum, and glass containers designed to be thrown away, and “appliances” designed to wear out quickly and be thrown away.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

REUSE, REPURPOSE, RECYCLE – MORE THAN YOUR MONEY’S WORTH by Georgina Kalwak from Nans Common Sense

If you read the above title, you would think that this is about reusing and recycling our day-to-day items; well, that would be partially correct. There are a lot of us out here who diligently repurpose our belongings, so that we can save money, time, sanity or stretch the life cycle of the things we buy.  Why? Because we want to feel like we are “good” consumers. What we don’t sometime challenge ourselves to do in the quest of consumerism is think of how it can change us for the better and make us more caring and empathetic towards each other.

When we are young adults, most of us learn to balance our checkbooks; we learn rudimentary book keeping skills. But in the middle of those rudimentary moments, occasionally we realize that these skills do carry over to other areas of our lives. For example, my grandmothers used to talk sentimentally of their years as younger adults and how wonderful it was that neighbors helped each other out, especially during the Depression Era.  Home made soups, hand-me-downs, and garden surpluses were shared with love for those around them who were in true need.  It was more than just basic good deeds; it involved math. As times grew tougher, creativity needed to stretch to new depths to meet the demands of a sinking economy.  The necessity of learning to budget in these ways in the simplest of terms was translated by my Nan as, “It builds character, gal.” Those math skills were tested time and time again over those desperate years.  Trial and error does prove to build character.

Character then translated to me as values, not only just skills. Things I learned that also built character were the value of working for your money and not being handed something for nothing.  When applied, I learned a sense of accomplishment and ownership; something I now try to pass on to my sons.  Learning to savor the moments of wanting something by not giving in to immediate gratification is another wonderful character trait.  At times it’s a sweet anticipation and at others it’s agony. Price comparison and waiting for deals have helped me better negotiate situations as an adult.  This breeds generosity, which equals even more character.

As I travel over the years, my world has expanded and it’s been a blessing to have been able to see beyond my family’s needs and myself and realize others were sometimes in much greater want.  To say I felt wealthy at times, even if it was only a few dollars saved for a rainy day, is an understatement. I have come to find out, a sense of security is worth more than a momentary impulse to buy something that really is unnecessary. Another lesson learned has been discipline. That skill has carried over to so many other areas that there’s too many to list.  Last but certainly not least; I’ve learned to give. As life has taken funny twists and turns, I quickly realized that God has provided for me no matter what and that it’s okay to let things go.  You can never out give God. His love in any shape or form is always returned tenfold.

So, it is an often-quick review of all these things that make me continually miss my grandmothers (Nans). But I can say one thing is for sure - if they had not taught our families the important lessons of reusing, repurposing and recycling, maybe there would be little character in our family. Lord knows there is certainly plenty of that! And those lessons would not be getting anyone’s money’s worth!

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Grace Tree

Kneeling at the altar, waiting for communion, I asked God - "When did it become about 'so and so', instead of you?" Moments before I had been sitting with a very difficult visitor, our guest. Why on earth had he offered to come, when all he wanted to do was criticize? Usually I find our church a sanctuary of peace, but not that morning. I was on edge. I had lost my focus. I was getting angry.

As the chalice made its way to me I believe God gave me this picture. I drew it as soon as I got home and painted it a few days later. I am the tree. The roots symbolise being grounded in Christ. The trunk and branches are strong. Healthy, life giving fruit grows abundantly. The fruit bursts open and the most fragrant and delicate blossoms gently land on the people beneath. This is grace. Only through Christ could I extend grace to this difficult person.

I returned to my seat. Our guest continued to try to explain what was wrong with our theology to my daughter beside me. I sat with my eyes closed, still and focused while others received the Eucharist, and through Christ I extended grace prayerfully. The peace I felt was profound.  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Would you open the door?

I have been greatly affected by something that happened last weekend. It was Saturday. People would have been sitting down to lunch. A young Aboriginal man, with his throat cut, was knocking on doors - crying out for help. But no one did help. He died at the side of the road, perhaps on someone's lawn. (Police are still investigating. At the moment there is nothing but rumours, the street, the time someone called the police, and the young man's name.)

The street where this young guy died was once our street, not so very long ago. He might have knocked on our door. If we had been living there still, would we have opened the door - to a hysterical black man, covered in blood? I hope to God we would have. But I just can't be sure. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May's challenge - Debt/Finances


 The Simply Living Challenge for May is - Debt/Finances, and my writing partner - Ellen Scott Grable is going to lead us. I just know we are going to have a few life changing moments. 

Some of you will remember that earlier in the year Ellen was giving me weekly challenges. One challenge was to live for one week without spending money (other than meeting debts). She had given me no warning, so I hadn't stockpiled. I remember thinking - How on earth will I feed my family, including two teens (one an 18-year-old young male who constantly eats me out of house and home)?  I bartered and 'paid it forward' to a fridge full of food, more food - and fresher food than we would normally have. I made from scratch. I felt like I was truly providing for my family. I grew closer to my friends as I became more dependent on their generosity and support.I knew the story behind everything I gathered. I also learnt what was important - and what I could do without. Amazing. 

Then she challenged me to write down every expenditure for a week. Oh my goodness - what perfect timing. After a week of spending nothing, any expenditure seemed so incredibly extravagant. ($3 for a second hand jumper - forget it. I will make do with something from home!) 

 Ellen has my utmost respect because she walks the talk. If we can learn anything about good money practises it will be from Ellen. So welcome aboard. (And she IS a sailor.) We have an interesting voyage ahead. 

Over to you Ellen....