Monthly Archives: March 2013

going au naturale

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On this journey I’ve learned so much about myself, specifically how wrong I was, believing that I made my own decisions and lived life by my own rules. There were so many ways that our consumerist culture had trained me to buy – buy – buy. We are taught from infancy to consume. Women are taught that we must wear deodorant, wash our clothes with laundry detergent, clean our homes with chemical-scented cleaning products, have a facial cleanser, shave our legs with shaving cream, wear makeup, use a separate shampoo and conditioner, etc. Men have been trained likewise.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned I can do without buying. Making your own cleaning products and healthcare products is cheaper and healthier.

Making laundry detergent: this worked well for awhile for us. However, due to the fact that I have a very active, sweaty family, I eventually had to go back to commercial detergent because our laundry stopped smelling clean and still smelled like body odor after washing. But I am the only one I’ve ever heard of having this experience. Most people who try it swear by it.

Going “no ‘poo” or no shampoo or conditioner: I was doubtful about this one. My hair is super fine and looks dirty within hours of washing it. I have to brush it throughout the day so it doesn’t look limp and stringy. I thought that by not using shampoo I would turn into a greasehead. But it didn’t happen that way. It turns out shampoo and conditioner left deposits on my hair that weighed it down.

Washing my face without soap: the oil cleanse method: Success! I love the oil cleansing method. I don’t even have to moisturize afterward. I do keep a natural moisturizer with SPF for summer, but the oil cleanse method is all I need if it’s winter or if I won’t be in the sun.

Shaving cream: actually, I have never shaved with shaving cream. Just soap. Lately we’ve been using a natural glycerine soap.

Deodorant: I’ve tried many natural deodorants and none have been great. Some have worked a little, some not at all. I just resorted to washing my pits a lot until I started using this recipe. Keep in mind that many natural recipes use corn starch, but corn starch nearly always uses genetically modified corn, so it’s best to replace the corn starch with arrowroot (update January 2014: this recipe gave me large red cysts under my arms that didn’t go away until I went back to conventional deodorant. I wish it would’ve worked for me, but it didn’t).

And lastly, I sent away for some henna to color my hair. I have been coloring since I was in middle school, since my natural dark brown color washes out my pale complexion. Now that I’ve got a little gray in there, my natural color is even more unflattering. As much as I would like to be at peace with my own hair color, for now I prefer to color it. I will update more on the henna process later (update January 2014: henna works great!).

I’ve been wearing makeup for as long as I’ve been coloring my hair. It started with just eyeliner, then I started wearing blush, mascara, and eventually liquid makeup, concealer, eye shadow, lipstick, the whole works. Lately I’ve been experimenting with wearing just eyeliner and lip balm and am pleased with the results. I only wear my “full face” for church and special events.

As far as house cleaning goes, I really need nothing other than baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice.

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a suburban hermit: becoming a naked blogger

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Every day I hike with my dog in the fields, woods, and hills. It’s essential to our day to get a little bit of physical exercise and increase the peace in my life. This is where I reflect on my life and it’s where I decided to begin this new blog.

I’ve had many blogs in my past and always felt I was trying to portray something that isn’t really me. I was focused on readership (or lack thereof) and making my posts more interesting so I could bring in more people. It was a popularity contest and I got tired of it. This was supposed to be my creative outlet, and it was stressing me out.

So here I am. The real me. My life might seem boring by many standards, but it brings me joy.

On my hike yesterday with Indi, I was reflecting on some of the changes that have happened since my boys started public school after three years of homeschooling. My boys are 15, 14, and 12, so they are fairly independent. At this point I feel I am slipping into more and advisory role, rather than a teaching and serving role. Not that I don’t ever do things for them, but I have stepped back a bit to allow them to grow more independent in preparation for their adult roles.

Homeschooling was a magical time for me. I wish they had enjoyed it as much as I did, but the truth is that they missed a lot about public school.

So when they went to school, the house felt very empty. It was as if I had been fired from my job. I had to find a new purpose and new focus during the hours they were away. It’s taken two years, but I’m finally finding my way.

It’s been said that loneliness is unchosen solitude. But solitude, when it is chosen, can be very sweet and brings with it some lovely benefits.

So I began treating my daytime hours as a retreat from the world of clutter, noise, and activity. A suburban hermitage.

I don’t turn on the radio, watch TV, and keep computer time to a minimum.

The silence has changed me. Joy takes me by surprise frequently. I am completely overcome when it happens. The walks every day are part of that joy. We are too disconnected from the natural world nowadays. But silence is another thing that’s missing from our lives. I was surprised, again, by how stretches of silence have calmed me, centered me, and help me to focus on my priorities.

about me

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It was the loss of my mom that woke me up.

We were poor managers of our money. In 2007, my husband and I had a very busy and stressful life. We lived in a large house we couldn’t afford in a cookie-cutter midwestern suburban neighborhood. We were so upside down on our payments that we would have had to come to the table with money–that we didn’t have–to sell our house. Since we couldn’t afford to sell and couldn’t afford our house payment, we thought we would lose our house. We spent way more than we made each month and used credit cards to make up the difference. I was a mom of three boys, ages 9, 8, and 6 and had a part-time decorative painting business, all while I was working toward a master’s degree in education. I was afraid I would have to quit school and get a real full-time job to keep the house which we never really wanted in the first place. Our lives were defined by fear of losing everything we had, which meant we were owned by our stuff.

I was failing at editing our time. We were very busy with kids’ activities every night of the week. Every time one of my boys expressed even a little interest in a sport or activity, I would sign them up for a team or a class. We were rarely at home. Our time was not our own.

Our life didn’t reflect our core values as a family. I am an artist at heart, an introvert, and I love quiet, calm spaces and a life that has room to breathe. My children are active, brilliant, creative types. My husband is also brilliant, a little less of an introvert than I am, a great provider, and loves being with his family more than anything else. As a family, we love creating, being outdoors, and laughing together. We read a LOT. We create music, web sites, movies, beauty, and memories. We are also vagabond wanderers at heart who love to travel and explore new cultures and meet new people. Yet we lived in a suburb with a small yard that we couldn’t all fit in, and a house that was too big. The stress was wearing on the kids, who just wanted to hang out and be kids. It wore at our marriage as we didn’t always agree on how to manage our financial issues. It wore away at my health causing insomnia and migraines.

My mom was dying. My sweet mom had an extremely aggressive and rare form of cancer that she was fighting. She had been my best friend and was an anchor for our extended family. .

In March, 2007, everything came crashing to a halt. My mother had been in and out of the hospital over the winter for some health issues during a time when her cancer was under control. During a surgery for a non-cancer issue, the surgeon had discovered that her entire abdomen was riddled with cancerous tumors. We were told that she had a few months left to live. The same week, I received a letter from the university where I was completing prerequisites for the M.Ed. program. My application had been rejected.

I woke up. I was crushed by not getting into the master’s program, but took that as a sign that it was time to step back and take care of what truly mattered. My husband’s mother moved in with us so that she could run my household for me and I could focus on caring for my mother. I spent several days each week at my mom’s home, caring for her, speaking our last words to each other, and making last arrangements. In June, she went to heaven. My mother-in-law lived with us until after the funeral, cooking, cleaning and getting the kids to and from school each day. She was indispensable during this time.

With the kids out of school for the summer, their activities over, and my mom gone, it was time to think about what came next. I didn’t feel like trying to apply to another school and the painting business had been drying up for nearly a year anyway.

Over the next year, we made some big changes. I inherited some money from my mother that allowed us to sell our house and pay off all our debt. We moved out of the city to a smaller city about an hour away. Our new home is, as I like to describe it, on the seam where the midwestern plains meet the Appalachian foothills. We are near the Hocking Hills region of Ohio, a beautiful scenic area known for its hiking trails and outdoor activities.

Our current home is much smaller and we cut our mortgage in half. In retrospect, I wish we would have waited to buy, or even rented instead, but for now our house meets our needs nicely. Our home will be paid for within two years and we will be completely debt-free.

I homeschooled the boys from 2008 until 2011. This allowed us to spend more time together as a family and take back our lives. Today, the boys are back in public school, but we are very careful to edit their activities. We travel several times a year and regularly hike together, go on missions trips, and explore the beautiful area we call home.

It doesn’t end here. Shortly after my mother’s death, my sister and I inherited my mother’s stuff. She had kept not only her own stuff, but stuff that belonged to my grandparents and great-grandparents. Our little house was now stuffed full.

I vowed never to do that to my children. I never wanted my own boys to be slaves to my stuff or to have to spend a solid week going through it all after my death. I never wanted my boys to be married to a house, as we had been, or to be slaves to debt.

We are currently in the process of being selective about our lives. I am a minimalist at heart, so much of this blog will expound on minimalist philosophy. Yet, minimalism has been written about at length already, so this will not be a minimalist blog. Besides, minimalism is a simple concept and doesn’t need many more ideas added. This blog will be about how we select what we allow into our lives. It will reflect my heart, which focuses on family, creativity, and living life on our own terms.

Welcome.