Tag Archives: American

Re-considering my excessive life

I’m reading the book 7 (an experimental mutiny against excess) by Jen Hatmaker. I highly recommend it, but you should know:  it’s wrecking me. And even more frightening, it may wreck my family and my life as I know it. (But in a good way.)

I’m tinkering with the idea of radical reduction. This idea has been rolling around in my head for a few years, usually after Shane and I read a Francis Chan book or visit an underdeveloped country.

I reduce. I do.

I clean my closets and my atticattic-090. I sell stuff. I even pray about reduction. My personal theme for last year was “Simplify.”

My family has reduced on purpose many times, twice leaving the cushy world of outside sales for a blistering life in church ministry. I keep my work hours low to reduce stress and scheduling chaos in my home. I live in an old house in constant need of upkeep (which it rarely gets). I almost never see the inside of a mall or a department store; I shop clearance, with coupons, at already-discounted venues. I hire out almost nothing, not even my nails.

And yet, I have an excessive life by the world’s standards and even most Americans (whom I don’t know, but it’s still true).

I need a spring-cleaning of all things wasteful and self-indulgent in my life. I call my lavish middle-class living “normal” on a good day and “unfair” on a bad day. I want more, even though I have the spiritual maturity to know that “more” never ends and will never satisfy.  What follows these realizations is typically the good Christian mom approach–I decide that being better organized, setting better boundaries, re-adjusting my priorities, and guarding my family time will provide the structure and results I’m craving.

Unfortunately, that mindset also reeks of a self-absorbed, middle-class Westerner who feels guilty about having too much, but doesn’t want to live like the rest of world does. After all, choices and variety comprise the mantra of the  privileged. In case you didn’t realize it, that’s us. You’re privileged, and so am I. You’re sitting at a computer right now reading a blog. That’s what privileged people do. The underprivileged are scouring their countrysides for food and water. (That’s about 95% of the world.)

Even with this knowledge, I’m afraid to make any serious commitment to this idea of eliminating excess because I’m a conservative excessive. That seems like an oxymoron, but it’s true–I’m not a radical, trend-setting, follow-the-latest-trend kind of person. I hate that stuff. I’d prefer to plod along, always mindful of the perimeters around me. A little old-fashioned, if you will. Let me do my conservative artist/teacher thing and don’t make me try anything dangerous. I can’t even accept a new fashion trend until it’s no longer trendy. Like right now, I finally have a great supply of scarves, but last year, the infinity scarf thing hit the market. Really? Can’t I just keep wrapping my old scarves around my neck? (I do.)

I don’t have the personality of someone who reduces her food variety to only 7 healthy foods or discontinues clothes-buying for an entire year. That doesn’t sound fun to me, however conservative I may be. That challenge does not excite me to change myself. If I truly want a change, I will re-arrange the furniture or paint the walls. (You can always move stuff back or re-paint!)

Hence, the reason I am musing.  I’m trying to work up the nerve to really reduce. And I’m not talking about streamlining our kids down to one sport so we have more breathing room, because often that’s just a euphemism for grooming a super-star (extra trainers and coaches are in the future). Here’s the question of the day: Do I really have the courage to live simply and give away the excess? Could I extricate myself from the rat race completely, without tip-toeing back onto the racetrack?

As I re-consider my excessive lifestyle, I’m struck with a new thought. Perhaps intentional reduction is a re-interpretation of freedom.

Am I free? Or am I shackled by my emotional connection to having more?

I don’t like the answer.

 

Confessions of a suburb mom

I am not a philanthropist, not a CEO, not a socialite. I’m just a suburb mom, and I have some confessions to make. Frankly, I’m a little tired of the pressure put on our families to succeed and surpass. At what, I don’t know. Our city? The world at large? Whatever this lofty goal is, it’s exhausting. And it’s cramping my style. I have a few bones to pick with suburban culture.IMG_3330

1. I don’t think I should feel embarrassed to walk to the bus stop in my pajamas. We all wear them. And our kids go to school early. None of us moms wake up with make-up on and hair done. Just because I’m not magazine-ready at 7 am, that doesn’t mean I won’t be doing anything today. I don’t even have elementary kids anymore, but this still bothers me. Pajama moms, I salute you! My embarrassment has subsided now because I usually drive my kids to school and no one can see my pajama pants or bed hair from outside the car. I will shower, I promise. I just don’t think I need to impress the other moms who are on their way to work already.

I work. Just later. And sometimes in my pajamas.

2. Swim team is not an essential element to summer. There, I said it. My kids play sports all year, so we like to take the summer off. No competitions, no practices, no schedules. Except for swimming lessons when they were little, of course, because it would be a crime if my kids couldn’t swim. I just wish I didn’t feel the need to explain it. Obviously, the pressure is still getting to me because here I am putting it in a blog. My kids didn’t do swim team. Yet another great American tragedy. They didn’t do cotillion, either. Gasp!

3. I like to do my own housework. I do. It’s a confession because the truly successful suburb moms hire out all their housework. Lawn guy, handyman, dry cleaning, maid service, day care, spa, hair salon, dog groomer, pool guy, nanny, take-out. But not me. I iron. I cook. I dust. I weed. Don’t get me wrong–sometimes I resent it. But mostly, I just resent feeling feeling provincial because I do it. I actually like laundry. You wash it, dry it, fold it, ta-da! Something got accomplished today. Something that can’t be compared to someone else, that will never be discussed because it’s too insignificant. 

4. I’m a soccer mom, but I’m not a soccer mom.  (You know the difference if your kid plays soccer!) I don’t like soccer moms and dads. They are birthed sometime after their kids stop chasing butterflies on the field and before their children actually become skilled. Soccer parents’ behavior gets incrementally worse until their little soccer stars become older teenagers and threaten them into silence. But until that time, moms and dads are screaming at refs and calling fouls they don’t understand. And their kids are learning that life should always treat them fairly and that performing is critical in their relationship to their parents. Hence, the next thing I have to confess.

5. I am so over the competitive spirit of the suburbs. It’s akin to Olympic fever. It amasses intense training, strategy, and celebration, all with a sense of family patriotism and urgency to win now because we might not get another chance. Kids are placed on course to achieve, plain and simple. The future seems to hang in the balance over every event–school, music, sports, manners. Parents pick the kind of college they want their kids to attend, and they plan backwards, all the way into preschool. Every kid must have a sport, an art, a premiere education, a social life, a religious foundation, and a host of extra-curriculars like Boy Scouts, community service, and foreign travel. It’s all good stuff. I’m not arguing that. But unlike the rest of the world, we believe that all of it is essential. And to provide such illustrious opportunities, both father and mother must work themselves to death.

Solution?

No idea, other than move to a farm and try non-schooling. But that would really stress me out. And I draw the line at growing my own food. That’s at least one reason I am a suburb mom.