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Archive for May, 2010

No, I haven’t gotten Chapter 1 of the Radical Homemakers discussion up yet.  I’m sorry!

And given that all five of us are about to head out in the ol’ SUV into the wild blue yonder (aka the Midwest) in a few short hours, it’s unlikely to happen any time soon.  Bad blogger.  Bad.

Which reminds me, please pray for us… 15 hours in the car with three children aged five and under.  Should be interesting… fun, but interesting.  🙂

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Grow Your Heart Monday

I know I’m supposed to write about Chapter 1 today.  It’s in my notebook, but has yet to make it to the screen.  I’ll get there.  🙂

In the meantime, my bloggy friend Andrea just posted this gotcha-day video… and I have to tell you, it got to me.  I mean, they ALL get to me… but this one did in particular.  Bryan and I so identify with this couple’s heart for adoption, and we are deeply encouraged by how God blessed their leap of faith.

And it has me (weeping and) thinking: What will our gotcha-day look like?

So the question for today really is this:  How will God use you to change the life of an orphan?

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Belated Easter Photos

Yes, I know Easter was more than a month ago.  My scrapbooks are like three years behind… so believe me, I’m doing well with only a one-month delay!  🙂

After having Annie’s birthday shindig the day prior, we had a relatively low-key celebration to mark this greatest of all holidays.  Our dear friends, the Lewis family, joined us for dinner and a wee little Easter egg/basket hunt.  Here are some of the highlights:

The table is set...

... and the gang's all here (and yes, that's MY man with his eyes closed... it was the only shot I got, so sorry honey!)

Jonah finding his eggs in the backyard

Bode sporting he and Jonah's "big" Easter gifts: Lego headlamps for camping. Note to self: This is what happens when you send your husband (alone) to REI to return something... he comes back with THIS. 🙂

Annie in her pretty dress!

The whole Starr clan after church (Annie was wiped out by this point)

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As promised.  Pictures galore… mostly from Jonah and Bode’s spring tee ball games:

Daddy and Annie bonding at the playground

The boys' pre-game warm-up routine

Bode up to bat, with Coach Daddy helping out

Look at that arm!

Jonah in ready position

Snack-time chaos

Annie cheering on her brothers from the stands

My handsome oldest b-baller

I also realize I haven’t yet uploaded pics from Easter, nor have I done an Annie update in awhile… so I’ll try to do both of those later this week, ‘kay?

On the adoption front, we’re doing okay.  Still waiting on the Lord for the necessary financial provision, but we’re working hard to get all our ducks (aka all that lovely paperwork) in a row so we’re ready to quickly finish up the dossier once those funds do come in.  We had our first home study meeting last Friday with our sweet case worker, and I think the boys won her over with their charming good looks and extraordinary manners… or maybe with their constant questions and unintended comic relief.  Either way it was a good night.  🙂

On tap for this week:  Dropping off all our signed/notarized agency policy documents (done this morning!), getting the CDHS child-abuse check form in the mail, and going on a family “field trip” to the local passport office.  Each step brings us a little closer!

We’re also in full garage-sale-preparation mode (June 4-5!) and have begun hitting up our friends and neighbors to donate all their unwanted treasures.  Already one of our neighbors has donated himself and his hot dog stand full of Nathan’s Hot Dogs (yum-O!) to sell for the festivities.  How awesome is that?!  Another dear neighbor — who happens to be a crafty GENIUS — has agreed to donate one of her many beautiful creations for a raffle (more information coming up soon for that!), and yet another is making some great signs to publicize the sale.  Kisses and hugs to each of you (you know who you are!).  Each donation that comes in means more to us than you could ever know, so please, please keep them coming!

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I’d like to start by saying that for the 20 or so pages of this book, I have SIX pages of notes.

About half of these consisted of the memories the reading generated in my mind from my own childhood.

Another third were disclaimers, disagreements, and caveats I felt necessary to note for myself — and for this little discussion — as I read along.

The rest were just gems of universally applicable nuggets of goodness.

For today, I’ll focus on the latter two groups; the first likely will take more than one post for me to thoroughly think through and digest.  And despite paring it down… and not even commenting on much of what I noted in the introduction alone… this has turned out to be a marathon post.

My apologies.  I promise my next one will be full of cute kiddo pictures and little else.  Agreed?  🙂

So first, the disagreements/disclaimers/caveats:

1.  Just so you know, Im probably going to ignore a lot of the more femi-nazi empowerment rhetoric in this book… because frankly I don’t think it either necessary or appropriate for our discussion, nor is it the reason I picked up the book in the first place.  So no, we will not be engaging in an in-depth analysis of the (horrible) Feminine Mystique in this forum… nor will I even link up to that garbage; if you want to read it badly enough, be my guest to go find it yourself.

2.  This is related to #1… but I just want to be clear:  It’s obvious Hayes is not a Christian woman.  In case you needed a hint, she classifies the folks like me as “ultra-religious” people who apparently “cook, clean, toil, serve and remain silent and powerless.”  HA.  My husband is rolling on the floor laughing right now at that ridiculousness.  But God also uses unbelievers to bless and share His truth… and as long as we recognize her “we are woman, hear us roar” comments and themes for what they are, I know there will still be some great information within these pages from which we can learn and grow.

Onward.

According to Hayes, radical homemakers are “men and women who (are) pursuing homemaking as a vocation for saving family, community, and planet.” (1)  I especially appreciated her description of “mainstream American culture” as that which

“views the household a a unit of consumption.  By this conventional standard, the household consumes food, clothing, household technologies, repair and debt services, electricity, entertainment, health-care services, and environmental resources.  In order to be a ‘successful’ unit of consumption, the household must have money.”  (9)

And this not so little truth:

“Mainstream Americans have lost the simple domestic skills that would enable them to love an ecologically sensible life with a modest or low income.”  (12)

Ouch.

As to the first, I have been as guilty as the next person.  (And yes, I said guilty.  On purpose.)  It’s the American way, right?  If we’re tired, we can just order a quick pizza or fast food… never mind what’s in the ingredient list or how much less money we could spend simply by spending some thoughtful moments planning our week’s meals at home.  If we need quick entertainment, cable or pay-per-view are at our fingertips on any of the six or more HDTVs we have in our houses… while our backyards, bikes, and local trails sit empty.  If big is good, then bigger must be better… right?  Isn’t that what the almighty value meal and the Hummer have taught us?

(Side note:  One of our neighbors does in fact own SIX televisions… for the TWO people living in the house.  Seriously.)

As to the second… well, I guess the question is: should we really be investing in learning and honing these skills?  I really resonated with Susan Colter, the first woman Hayes mentions, when she spoke about her parents not being “particularly invested in having a home”:

“It was sort of ‘let’s do as little as we can just to get by and make sure we’re fed, and the house isn’t an absolute disaster.’  The sense that I got was that [homemaking] was something to be avoided.”  (3)

Not that my parents — my mother, anyway — was like that AT ALL; in fact, much the opposite was true in my house during my childhood years… for which I am abundantly thankful, by the way, and will comment on more at length in later posts.  Rather, Susan’s words hit me personally as a parent.  That’s so ME.  My family.  We are consumptive freaks, friends.  Too often I catch myself just trying to rush through the day, focusing on what things we need to buy, putting out the proverbial fires and doing what I think somehow MUST be done, and stressing about not having enough money to do this or that, all at the expense of all those time-intensive but integral things that make “home” what it is:  a place of retreat, rest, and family togetherness.

On that point, I thought this was perhaps Hayes’ most valuable gem so far:

“If there was one unifying belief among [the homemakers she interviewed], it was to question all the assumptions in our consumer culture that have us convinced that a family cannot survive without a dual income.  They were fluent at the mental exercise of rethinking the ‘givens’ of our society and coming to the following conclusions:  nobody (who matters) cares what (or if) you drive; housing does not have to cost more than a single moderate income can afford (and it can even cost less); it is okay to accept help from family and friends, to let go of the perceived ideal of independence and strive instead for interdependence; health can be achieved without making monthly payments to our insurance company; child care is not a fixed cost; education can be acquired for free — it does not have to be bought; and retirement is possible, regardless of income.”  (17)

Wow.  There’s a lot of scary stuff in there.  Do those thoughts somehow threaten your need for security or challenge your conception of what “the good life” should look like?  To be honest, some of them scare me to death.  True homemaking like this seems so hard, so foreign, out of reach.  “I don’t know how to cook”, you say.  “I have a black thumb… there’s no way I can make anything grow.”  “I live in an apartment/on a tiny lot/in the city/far away from my extended family.”  “I don’t have time… we’re so busy with activities/school/fill in the blank.”  The excuses we all have are manifold.  And if we let them, they will keep us from changing anything about the consumption-based status quo in our own lives.

I have come to realize over the last several years that the kind of homemaking Hayes describes doesn’t necessarily require a particular giftedness… it does, however, require willingness.  A willingness to learn new things, to make small changes over time, to ask for help and to welcome advice, to entertain thoughts of what our homes and families might look like if we just focused our effort in different, more meaningful places.  What would suffer if we did that?  Are those things really that important or essential?  Food for thought.

Like you, I am really just beginning this journey of growth as a homemaker (although its seeds were planted many years ago… again, more on that later).  But I find my stride becoming just a bit more confident with each baby step I take.  Last year, it was creating herb garden, relying on one of my dear friends to know what to plant and how to cultivate it; this year, we’re doubling its size and adding vegetables and strawberries.  I learned how to make plum jam a few years ago (thanks to that same friend) with the wild plums we have in our yard.  I’ve limited our grocery runs to every other week, buying fewer processed foods and instead forcing myself to use fresh and flash-frozen foods, getting creative with what we already have on hand.  We have owned two homes during our marriage, and both were purchased on only my husband’s income (even though I was making almost twice his then-salary when we bought the first one).  Baby steps… and I have a long way to go… but steps in (I hope) the right direction nonetheless.

Our little family’s goal is to keep moving forward on that path… but its destination is not some kind of uber-feminist fantasy of creating our own personal eco-friendly utopia here on earth (because… and I’ll get more into this later I’m sure… this moving away from a consumption mindset can create a whole new idol, another false righteousness, in our hearts and minds). Rather, it’s a deliberate effort to respect and reflect God’s infinite mercy, to honor His creative work in nature and in the family unit itself, and to give credit and praise not to ourselves, but where (and to who) it rightfully belongs.

Just so you know where I’m coming from.

There was so much more in that reading, but I’m assuming we can get into the details more as we progress.  In the meantime, here are some questions to think about (please feel free to discuss in the comments!):

1.  What resonated with you most in the reading?

2.  What scares you most about moving away from a consumptive mindset?

3.  What baby step(s) do you think you could take to reduce your family’s consumption?

4.  (not in the book, but it begs to be asked) How could such steps bring praise and glory to where it rightfully belongs, not to us but to God?

For next week, we’ll read Chapter 1.  Slow and steady wins the race, people.  🙂

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