7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess :: Reflections on waste month

So I was supposed to adopt seven “green” habits this month. I completely failed. I rationalize that I am already much “greener” than most people I know. We recycle. We use cloth napkins every day in place of paper towels and paper napkins. I buy second-hand clothes for myself and my kids. I experimented with eliminating shampoo for six months (although I admit I am back “on” shampoo again…mostly because it’s easier.) I bring my own bags to the grocery store and the farmer’s market. I teach my kids about taking care of the environment. We avoid chemicals in our food and spend our money to support the ethical treatment of the chickens and cows we eat. We’ve done the raw milk thing, and probably will again after our kids are adopted. (Not giving kids raw milk or home canned foods was specifically listed in our fostering paperwork!) We are already green, darn it!

These are all excuses. The truth is, I took the month off. There are plenty of ways to do more to care for our earth. But when it comes down to it, the extent of my waste month is that if I’m motivated this weekend, I just might switch my two trash cans, making the larger one for recycling and the smaller one for trash. And I’ll call it a day. Or a month. Of failure.

Sorry, Earth.

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess :: Reflections on Possessions and Media months

I’ve been off of blogs and many other media this past month, so I realize I left this blog on the downswing of one of our foster parenting rollercoaster. The coaster has headed back up again and behaviors are looking a lot better. Perhaps as a result of my media fast?

Possessions month was a bust. Not because I didn’t do it, but because parting with 7 possessions a day for a month was depressingly easy, which makes it glaringly obvious that we have too much stuff. I continue to fight the battle against accumulation and I enjoy a good possessions purge, too. Maybe someday I’ll get to a place where I’m happy with how many possessions we own. Just enough, but not so many that the maintenance of it all takes away from our real lives.

Media. I gave up blogs (reading others and writing my own), facebook, pinterest, instagram, iphone apps (except my bible), editing photos, and internet and texting except for necessity or to save time, along with live t.v. (Netflix only, and only a handful of times.)

It was a really good month. I do believe that the kids’ good month reflected my ability to give them more of my undivided attention. I’ve only had an iphone for a year now, and I’ve only been texting for a little more than that time, but somehow that phone has managed to pull my focus away from the kids when we’re out at the park or the pool or the carpool line. Of course, the internet and facebook have been doing that for years, so it was interesting to take all of that away.

I thought I’d miss more important “announcements” on facebook. I didn’t. My cousin had a beautiful baby boy, and if I hadn’t gone back onto facebook today, I would have had to wait a few more weeks until my aunt comes back into to town to find out about it. My college friend had an adorable red-headed baby girl, which I could only find out through facebook. Our neighborhood had a few announcements and posts that I found mildly interesting, but not necessarily important for me. I had two messages in my inbox there; neither were time sensitive and could be achieved via text or phone message. I’m not saying I’m going to give up facebook entirely, but the number of “five minutes here” and “just a quick look” there can add up quickly, and honestly, would often stretch beyond five minutes. And because I would take those little peeks while the kids were home, I found myself annoyed that they would dare interrupt the digital world of my wide web of “friends” with their real life desire for their mother’s attention to their actually relevant questions and conversations. I definitely realized that over the month. And the one time that I broke my facebook fast to get input on the Teacher’s Appreciation Week I’m chairing, I happened to see a friend’s new profile pic, which was a portrait of her daughters that was taken by somebody else with gorgeous results. So my one peek onto facebook yielded some mildly useful advice for Teacher Appreciation Week along with my photographer’s jealousy and self put-downs. Do you think there’s a lesson there?

I don’t think I’m overly addicted to Pinterest or Instagram. I would like to stop using my phone for them when there are kids around. Little A. gets the brunt of this because it’s usually during the carpool line where I peek at those instead of talking with him or reading him a story while we wait. I used the internet many times this month to check doctor’s office phone numbers, renew my teaching credential, and begin studying towards getting my single subject Math teaching credential (Math tutorial websites? Yes, please!) But I did discover how much time I waste on reading blogs. I only missed a few of them, and I could easily catch up on those once a month.

Conclusion: There are places I need to cut back on media and there are places I think I’m doing fine. My definition of “doing fine” is that the media doesn’t detract from the family relationships I need to be nurturing. So in some cases, I’ll add the media back but just do it at a different time of the day, when the kids are in bed or Greg is home. Even then, I think I’ll be letting go of some of the media ruts and habits I had fallen into.

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess :: Reflections on Clothes Month

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For four weeks I wore the seven clothing items shown above. (Well, it’s actually eight. For some reason, the author of this challenge decided that shoes should count as one item, but we should only pick two pairs to wear all month.) So it was pretty weird. And I think we are unfairly challenged with our California weather, which included a big rain storm and what we consider some very cold days, and then a week of extreme heat! (Over 90 degrees in February? Yes, please! I love you, California!)

Which means that I wore the same tank top every day for about a week. Twice. When it was cold there was a little more variety. Thank goodness for that jacket…nobody cares if you wear the same jacket to school drop off every morning.

But you know what? It wasn’t a big deal. Nobody said a word about it. Whether they noticed or not, I don’t know. I’m guessing not. The ladies in our group who work in offices had a much tougher time this month. In my life I rarely see the same people two days in a row. I did get tired of my two tops (black tank top bought second-hand, light blue long sleeved from American Apparel) but it made my morning prep time SO easy!

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We did add seven accessories from seven different countries or charities to pray for, which made it easier to mix things up a bit. Rainbow scarf from a second-hand store benefitting homeless women and their children. Gray belt from Goodwill. Orange scarf from a second-hand store benefitting a battered women’s shelter where our Midge stayed before she came into foster care! Green beads from Haitian Creations, giving women a way to earn money for their families. Off white hat made in China, where we have missionary friends and where our good friends are in the process of adopting for the third time. Purple beanie from Krochet Kids, another organization giving poor women a way to make money to support their families. And silver Africa necklace to remind me to pray for Northrise University, a christian university in Zambia that is changing lives and making a difference in their country.

For many in our group, it was a new idea to think about who made the clothes we wear and whether the price was actually giving the workers a fair wage or not. (If you don’t think about it, it’s usually not.) It’s been a few years since I started making a concerted effort to buy second-hand and research stores’ ethics ratings before buying. And I’ve definitely backslid in being purposeful in this area. The hoodie and boots I wore this month were most likely not ethically sourced. So it’s good to think about it again.

And this month really did remind me of how few items of clothing we really NEED. So I did this:

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BEFORE: 225 clothing items, not including accessories, pajamas, workout gear and shoes

Do you see that silver metal basket in the back left with the army green pants and rainbow scarf? That’s the basket where all of my seven clothes lived for the past month. So I pretty much wore what was in there plus shoes. Mind-boggling. Makes me wonder why I have all that other stuff. Which leads me to:

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AFTER: 114 clothing items (and I purged a lot of pajamas and other stuff, too.)

My new wardrobe is a few items over half of my old one. I will admit that I saved two large boxes of clothes on a shelf on the left side of my closet. These are the clothes that didn’t make the top 114, but I like them just fine and I’m not sure I won’t miss them. Isn’t that ridiculous? I’ve lived on 7 clothing items for a month without any problem, yet I think I won’t be able to squeeze by on 114 items? But I did put those extras into a box, and if I don’t need them for a few months, they’ll go off to be donated like the rest. It’s a start, right?

7 : An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess :: Finishing up Food, Starting Clothes

It’s been over a week since food month ended, but it’s still affecting me physically. The first four days after food month ended, I spent much of the day with a stomach ache…like the food I was eating was just sitting there like a rock. The digestive issues I’ve struggled with off and on for more than a year but were completely gone during food month…they returned. And for the last week, my energy has been so much lower than it was during food month.

On day five after the fast ended, I found myself eating beans with an egg for breakfast, Seven style. I couldn’t believe it.

I’m trying to figure out my new relationship with food. I know sugar is bad. Very bad. Poison, some would say. I know that cheese as a big portion of a meal (paninis, grilled cheese, many mexican foods) is not agreeing with me. But how am I going to move forward from here? I still don’t know. But I do know that I am oh-so-happy to add an avocado and enchilada sauce to my egg and beans or tomatoes breakfast. I’m going to keep messing with my diet until I feel good again but don’t feel deprived.

And Clothes Month.

Seven items of clothing: two pairs of pants, one long sleeved shirt, one tank top, one hoodie sweatshirt, one jacket, one pair of boots.

And this morning when I got dressed and looked in the mirror, I realized that my first outfit doesn’t look cute. And pair number one of pants are inching uncomfortably down, thanks to the Seven-induced weight loss. Which is generally a good thing, but not so much when you have only two pairs of pants to wear all month. Hmmm. I’m not sure that I chose wisely.

But whatever. Because I don’t have to wonder what I’m going to wear when I wake up in the morning. Who cares? I anticipate a much quicker morning routine. And hopefully a much better focus on what Christ thinks of me rather than what other people think of me. This month’s going to be a breeze compared to food month.

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pardon the lack of makeup. and the awkward little boot lift…my five year old photographer told me that my feet weren’t in the picture. obviously he was mistaken!

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess :: Reflecting on Food Month

Eggplant tomorrow!!!

Eggplant tomorrow!!!

This is it. Month One of 7 is over today. Shopping at Trader Joe’s and the Farmer’s Market this morning was like a shopping spree! Beets! Strawberries! Broccoli! Swiss Chard! Avocados! Asparagus! Lettuce! I can’t wait to eat them all! (Except lettuce, which is really just a vehicle for other goodies, in my mind.) I even went back to the store after the kids went to bed (because Tyler now requests french toast for his birthday breakfast tomorrow and I have no appropriate bread) and picked up some jicama and an eggplant. I cannot WAIT to eat them. Preferably all tomorrow. It’s been a very hard month for me, as I knew it would be. I think it will be the hardest of the seven months for me. And what did I learn?

1. There are a LOT of really tasty healthy foods in this world. My seven were very good choices. I never did completely tire of the chicken, rice, beans, tomatoes and eggs. I can’t believe it. I chose the beans because that’s what most of the world’s poor eats, and also, I’ve long been wanting to incorporate more into our diet here. Mission accomplished. I’m happily eating beans at almost every meal. The apples got a little tiresome, mostly because they were my only portable food so I ate them a lot. I told Greg tonight at dinner (rice, beans, sauteed spinach) that I think it will be a long time until I eat spinach again. And then I went onto Pinterest before my late night store run, and what did I see but a spinach salad with avocado, chicken, pine nuts, and vinaigrette. And do you know what I ended up buying a 1 lb. tub of at the store tonight?! Spinach and all other 7-worthy foods aside, there are SO many good fruits and vegetables we can enjoy. I’m so lucky to live not only in a country with great access to food, but in a state with a healthy mindset. Everywhere I went there were quick options for healthful living, even some that fit into my food rules.

2. You’d be surprised what you miss. For the first two or three weeks, I REALLY wanted sweets. And cheese. And butter. And perhaps it’s because I have the flu and am not really well yet, but I’m not even that interested in the cake I’m baking for Tyler and Greg’s birthdays. And I’m almost repulsed by the thought of donuts tomorrow for birthdays. (In fairness, I was never a huge donut fan.) But I thought after four weeks that I’d be DYING for sweets that first day! No! I am salivating over a quinoa salad with diced vegetables and lemon dressing. And the last of the greek pasta salad I made for the family earlier this week. And grilled eggplant and peppers on my panini tomorrow at lunch!!

3. Eating well makes a difference in your body and energy levels. I’m not sure whether it’s the diet or my new exercise regime (probably both), but I lost 10 pounds this month. Seriously. This was not my goal for exercising or for eating the seven foods, but boy, what a nice perk! Even better, I feel more energetic all day long. In light of this and of #2, I’m trying to figure out where I go from here. I’ve been watching food documentaries (a favorite past-time of mine) and I read this month that studies have shown sugar to be more addictive than cocaine. I am not surprised. I don’t want to jump back on the sugar bandwagon and lose all of this healthy momentum and hard work. On the other hand, I don’t want to give up sugar altogether. I feel like an addict who’s been clean for a month, asking her sponsor if she could just have a hit now and then at parties. I’m not sure what’s going to happen but I’m thinking about it.

4. You can’t force spiritual growth. It happens organically, one day at a time, one bible reading at a time, one prayer at a time. I need to remember that this is a seven month journey, not a four week sprint. I had been hoping for my spiritual life to break wide open like the winter ground popping up daffodils. That didn’t happen. I did have my morning run “moment” and other than that, spiritual things are just plugging along day by day. But that’s okay. There were so many other great benefits, and I know God had His plan for me this month and for the next six months.

5. People eat a lot. At every event. And really, if I plan ahead, I can avoid most of the unhealthy stuff just by keeping myself full of little snacks here and there (ALMONDS!!! Where have you been all month! I miss you!) and by perhaps being the one who brings the healthy but yummy dish to the potluck?

So there it is. My month is over. I didn’t even bother to eat lunch today, because, really? It was going to be beans and rice and an egg over top and anyway I’m sick so what’s the point. Honestly, I almost cut my month short on Tuesday when I came down with the flu. I’d done almost a month, so what difference would the last four days make? As it turns out, a lot of difference. It wasn’t until today that it actually dawned on me that I hadn’t been craving sweets or cheese anymore. I will admit to these three cheats for the month: 1) I accidentally popped three grapes in my mouth during week two while rinsing them for the kids’ snack and didn’t realize it until the next day. Oops. 2) When I got the flu I had two cups of tea with honey and lemon. 3) Again, Tuesday’s flu had me adding hot sauce to my rice and chicken in hopes that the heat would help my body fight the fever. No luck.  Other than those three, I was a clean-cut 7 champion. I did it. And even that feeling of accomplishment makes me feel like it was worth it, too.

I recognize the gift it is to be creative in my cooking. To start with plants and turn them into something delicious and healthful. I am really glad I did this and I’m even gladder that my “council” of women for this 7 journey are sticklers for rules. Because from day one I had decided that I’d let myself use all kinds of spices and a little bit of cheese or nuts here and there to “garnish” my dishes, when we really know that there would often be almonds garnishing the air in my hands as I scarfed them down. So because of the “council” of ladies, I didn’t eat cheese or those nuts or anything else non-7-approved, and I feel like it was a bigger accomplishment than it otherwise would have been.

A little bit of self-control and self-deprivation and self-examination never hurt anyone. I am thankful for it.

And I’m glad it’s over. Bring on the eggplant. I think I’ll saute it up and make a garlic yogurt dip for it on the side. Ahhhh….