After receiving many comments and questions about what our family is attempting, I've decided to start blogging it. Whether people are actually interested, or merely voyeuristic intrigued I will never know, but I think the process of remembering how to live smaller, fuller lives rather than larger, expensive ones will benefit us long after the recession has passed. More over, I hope to express to others how simple it really is and how amazingly enjoyable!
A couple of years ago I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Though I realized the agricultural system in America was probably not the greatest, I didn't understand how fully we have become removed from the natural environment which we lived. I had no idea when various fruits were in season; hell, I had no idea where my food even came from. I'd never grown any food of my own even though I had a spacious yard. I rarely made desserts in favor of prepackaged cookies. Cooking was something I had always enjoyed, but going to Burger King was equally desirable. What is more, I'd never even thought about so many of these things until someone stopped me and really asked. This was just the way I lived my life, my family had lived their lives, and everyone I knew lived theirs as well. But I was tired a lot, never seemed to have enough money even though I worked full time, didn't get to experience quality time with my son, and generally felt as though there was never enough time to reach out and grab the life which constantly felt out of reach. I decided to stop.
My full time job became a half time job. My son and I started making cookies and giving them to our friends and family. Not only could we no longer afford the packaged ones, it was fun and we could do it together. Exercise replaced shopping, the television was replaced by books (the library is free as well), and I began to spend a lot of time walking down by the river thinking about what I actually wanted rather than what I thought I should be doing. Personally, I decided to not go back to the rat race. I soon after began my unconventional life with Jules and together we haven't really looked back.
Recently, my son's father, Jules, and I decided to take it one step further. We are shifting our entire household away from packaged, processed food in favor of the simplicity of making it all ourselves. Soon we will be killing our TV and not converting to digital. We have removed a third of the yard to plant a garden, are hand digging a root cellar out of our crawl space, and are beginning to look at alternatives to the standard chemicals used in a household. This is not happening overnight, but it is making dramatic progress and our life is too. We are not trying to "go green" we are trying to simplify. We have basically decided to stop diversifying our life with consumerism and start making it ourselves. Hopefully in reading you will find small things to begin incorporating into your life and family as well.
The Spicy Barracuda is our 4 and a half year old (now 5 1/2), crazy little man. He is a constant bouncing ball of precocious energy who loves to read,
watch PBS Kids (No more Television), dance, cook and garden. It never ceases to amaze me the things he comes up with and all of his articulate declarations. The Barracuda has been an incredible help in our projects and still expresses wonder every time seeds sprout, trees can be climbed, or rocks are thrown into a river. His giggling cackle, mohawk, and love of the color purple and anything sparkly, force us to lighten up and enjoy the present. My Barracuda is my daily reminder to still search for knowledge, still strive to create, hope for better things to come, and marvel at the world around us. He is such a cheerful, good-natured child that very few days are unhappy in our household. Combined with Jules and an every growing puppy, they will soon begin eating me out of house and home!
None of this would be possible without Jules. He has been incredibly supportive (even when he thought I was crazy) and continues to enjoy our adventure together however nontraditional it might be. Jules teaches English, gardening, Earth Science, music appreciation and a handful of other subjects at an alternative high school always bringing home new and interesting topics for us to engage in. He was the creator of household dance parties and aided the Barracuda in his nickname by introducing the song by Heart. From the Beastie Boys and Wyclef Jean to Bob Dylan and Freedom Rock he has been integral to showing our Barracuda the wonders of music. An avid bicycler, long distance backpacker, and amazing dad, Jules makes every day worth snuggling into bed at night and waking up to in the morning. Out of everyone in our family, the transition away from mainstream has hit him the hardest, admitting the culture shock is sometimes hard to adjust to. Jules is my constant reminder that we don't have to be a "normal" family, we have to be a happy family.
Princess Bell Bell is our neurotic little shelter rescue. She is the softest, most snuggly cat if you are honored enough to be one of the chosen few she will grace the lap of. She frequents warm sunny windows, abandoned blanket covered furniture, and table and refrigerator tops all over the house always reminding us how graced we are to have her and the importance of a lazy nap. With the household addition of our new puppy a few months ago, we don't see her as much as we used to. Slowly that is changing and we are all very glad since she is a highly loved addition to our family and a cat in every sense of the word. Though she tolerates Barracuda very well, and enjoys me when I knit or read, she is Jule's cat through and through. A total daddy's girl!
Guadalupe the Maniac is our dopey little
Rotty (We now know her to be doberman/shepard). I may say little now, but if her paws are any judge she will soon be HUGE! She is also a shelter rescue and our families Solstice present this past holiday season. At 5 months she is easily the size of Barracuda and they have many an adventure in the backyard together. She will sloppily lope after any stick and ball loving whomever threw it for the extent of a long fetch session. She is the silliest little thing, full of big paws, floppy ears, a barrel of a chest, and the wiggliest, frolicking walk I've ever seen. We adore her and all the playful silliness she has brought into the household. Though a chore at times, she is luckily cute as all hell and with merely a look or two can convince us to keep her regardless of the trouble she has gotten into. Guadie, as she is playfully nicknamed, is definitely my puppy. She will happily sleep with me, sit with me, lay in my lap (even though she no longer fits), be prone to fits of joy when I come home, and generally follow me throughout the house. Luckily Jules isn't too jealous.
Lastly, that leaves me. I'm an ex teacher of at-risk highschool students who might return once again in the future. I work part time at a
local restaurant and spend my days being Barracuda's mom. I enjoy reading, knitting, cooking, working in our backyard garden, and learning more and more of the old world skills we seem to have lost contact with. Though this lifestyle many not be for some, it is an incredibly exciting way for me to nurture my family and experience living with them. I grew up in a household that had quite a bit of money, a large a house, and a complete lack of connection to each other or our surroundings. From that experience I would much rather have less money and more connection to each other. If it is one thing this change in lifestyle has provided, I would say it is a greater amount of time together and an appreciation for the Earth around us. In my opinion our lives have gotten fuller as we have removed the processed food and packaging. I now feel as though we are creating a life, rather than merely existing in a house.