If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you will know that I have lots of ideas that often pull me in different directions. We are still trying to sort out the specifics, but our ultimate goal has always been to live a more healthy, sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyle. Secondary has been to fix up our house. We vacillate between staying here and moving. We also talk often about whether or not I will continue to work full-time.
I know a lot of this has been gone over before in previous posts, but I need to clear my head, and writing is usually the best way for me to do it. Bear with me.
I still feel very strongly that our country is headed for disaster. I don't mean this in a conspiracy-theory kind of way; I just mean that we (as a country) have had our priorities jacked up for about as long as is sustainable. Our goal has been progress. Progress at any cost, and progress for its own sake. As machines and computers started to do the work of people, it was thought that people would work less and have more time for leisure. The opposite has been true. We work more. We spend less time as a family. We value entertainment over relationships. We value convenience over authenticity. Newer, Better, and Faster have become the gods that America worships, and we serve them at an extremely high cost to ourselves and our future.
And I DO NOT want this for myself or my family. In many ways, we have opted out.
Our only television lives in the basement. I will not raise a child who is a mindless consumer. We avoid toys and clothing that are feature popular characters. He has no idea who Dora and Diego are, has never seen Blue of Blue's Clues, and identifies Cars characters by the type of vehicle they are instead of by name. I intend on keeping it this way for as long as possible, as I feel very strongly that kids are exposed to too much advertising too early. Mommy and Daddy should be the central figures and examples in the lives of our children, not characters. Too many people rely on "educational" television to teach their children. Shayne and I will rely on ourselves. We strive to set an example of behavior for our children to mimic, instead of telling them to do as we say and not as we do. We are our children's best teachers, and as a result, we are becoming better people. We are far from perfect, but it's important for our kids to see that too. We make mistakes. We are human. But we can always strive to be better.
We spend lots of time outside. Ethan has never once become bored or cranky outside. It's the ultimate entertainment, and it moves at the speed of the child. All it takes is a parent or caretaker willing to supervise instead of getting something done. It's not realistic to spend all day, every day outside. Meals still need to be cooked, showers need to be taken, and the laundry doesn't put itself away. But it's been an important lesson for me to organize my time around my little guy's need to play and explore - not the other way around. Babies accommodate the parent's routine. Toddlers need accommodation, otherwise they become cranky and confused. Having a loosely structured day, with the child's needs foremost, make for a much happier home. Please don't confuse this with accommodating a toddler's every want and whim. There is a difference. Children need to play. They also need boundaries. They do not need to be allowed to tyrannize their parents.
We grow and raise some of our own food - more every year. And we are working on cooking more and more from scratch. In addition to being healthier for us than conventionally grown food, our organically frown veggies are healthier for the earth. And the less food that is shipped across the country, the lower our country's gas consumption. We also have the peace of mind from knowing our eggs were laid by happy, free-ranging hens, that our home-canned food is additive free, and that we are raising our child to think about where his food comes from.
We live within our means. We could afford a larger house, with a larger payment. We could afford a new car. We could afford to take a cruise. Well, none of this right now, since I was paycheck-less for a while and our house and car both decided to fall apart at the same time we had big vet bills for our poor old kitty, but our household income is higher than that of the average American family. But we don't live like the average American family. We choose to save money in our own retirement fund instead of relying on Social Security or pensions from our jobs.
We try to live small. Less stuff means less to clean, less to take care of, and less to weigh us down. It's a work in progress, and we aren't true minimalists or ascetics. We just try not to have anything that isn't useful, beautiful, or that we don't love. It's hard. Especially with the constant bombardment of media and internet images. Even though I have all the ads blocked on my browser, I still visit blogs and message boards, and I see houses and property that I wish I had. I have to constantly remind myself that we are where we are supposed to be right now, and there is always a lot behind the pictures that I don't know. Maybe the people are swimming in debt. Maybe they received an inheritance. Maybe they scrimped and saved every penny for many, many years to be where they are. There are so many variables that it's an exercise in futility to try to compare yourself to anyone else.
These are the main tenants of our existence right now... But where are we going?
And the truth is, I don't know.
I'm trying so very hard to figure that out right now, but I'm not making any realistic headway. I just feel pulled in six different directions... Over the next few days, maybe weeks, I'll be trying to work through my options and feelings. Stay tuned...