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Saturday, August 23, 2008

A tub and trendy values

I'm finally caught up on laundry, but only because my husbands turned off the water to the washer. I'm done with dishes for the night, but only because we ate dinner on paper plates. And now as I prepare to unwind for the evening, my husband informs me that he's just going to redo all the plumbing to the downstairs bathroom and washer. No big deal. This is the bathroom renovation project that never ends. With a lot of luck and even more prayers, we just might be able to bathe in a tub by the end of the week. But, that's what I thought last week before I realized the entire underside of our quaint clawfoot tub was rusted and had to be stripped, primed with two coats of Rust Bullet and painted with two coats of latex. And the drywall installation took a bit longer as well. Last time my husband and I owned a home we could make our own we were newlyweds with lots of time (aka no children) but little funds. Now, although not rich, we've saved up money for home repairs but we've got no free time and the minutes we eek out here and there are constantly sabotaged by these four. Notice the quality rusted seating.

Oh a lighter note, country living is all I hoped it'd be. Lots of fresh air and open space for the kids and lots of wildlife to explore; outside and inside our home. Like bats. If you've watched 'The Great Outdoors' with John Candy and Dan Akroyd you can imagine how last night went in my house. Ah, the thrill of nature.
Despite the setbacks and surprises I wouldn't change a thing. In fact let me use the tub and the bats to illustrate some points I've been pondering lately. (In my usual round about way. If this gets diluted forgive me as I'm still very sleep deprived.)
Lately, the media is all about living 'green' and lessening your carbon footprint. There is also plenty of press about trying to save money. And there is no shortage of books out there on downsizing, organizing and in general, simplifying your life. Three separate lifestyle goals, 'green' living, frugal living and simple living, all supposedly better than the usual disposable, materialistic consumer culture the majority strives for. If you chose one of these lifestyles and followed it to a T you'd be doing pretty good for yourself because any of the above three would be better than what the general public does. But individually, each is incomplete because none have Christian values at their base. Take the tub for example. We're doing the 'green' thing because we're recycling a tub that otherwise would've made it into a landfill. We're doing the frugal thing because fixing up an old tub is much cheaper than buying a new reproduction claw tub. But we're not doing the simple thing because a person who embraces simple living would've hired out this job weeks ago and turned over their credit card number to the contractor and the designer and gone off to Vegas to avoid the stress that comes with tearing up a bathroom. So there are times when a person who practices simple living will throw money at a problem; a common mainstream solution in a society that underestimates the value of hard work. Likewise, a 'green' person would throw in the towel if he/she realized it might harm the bats nesting in his/her attic and outsource the work to a pricey eco-friendly contractor. The frugal person might just charge ahead and used the most toxic materials available to restore the tub, the fumes of which could kill all the bats in a 10 mile radius, just because they're the cheapest.
As a Catholic I was to save money on the project but not at the cost of the natural resources, like the frugal person. But unlike the 'green' person the health and well being of bats is not more important than that of my family so I'm not going to turn my attic into a bat sanctuary. And while living simply, and eliminating clutter and stress from our lives is important, spending money and relying on disposable conveniences and unnecessary indulgences is the wrong way to do so.
Catholics protect the planet and its resources because they're a gift from God. We live simply because Christ lived simply and to keep out focus on heavenly reward not earthly possessions. We spend less to avoid debt, usury and because fewer expenses means we need less income, therefore more time can be spent with our families serving Christ rather than working for the man. I bet you didn't know being a Catholic worker could be so trendy.
Every so often Catholic ideas become popular; just not the part where Christ is involved. Without Him, they morph into quasi religions of their own, fanatics and all. (St. Al Gore anyone?) Don't settle for the values society hands us when your Catholic faith offers you that and so much more. Living your faith ensures a healthy environment, a little money in your pocket and a simpler life, even when your bathroom is torn up and you've got four kids.

Friday, August 15, 2008

New Beginnings

It is with much joy, and much lack of sleep, that I announce major changes for The Next Worker. On June 27 at 315pm we closed on a beautiful old house in South Jersey with just over an acre of land. At 214am June 28, we welcomed into the world our fourth child and second son, Fulton Ambrose. God is so good.
The last six weeks have been a whirlwind to say the least. I feel guilty even blogging when there's so much that absolutely HAS to get done, including sleeping but any good writer undergoing such developments feels incomplete unless she can WRITE about them. Besides, I can't do more bragging to my friends and family; I need to move into the realm of strangers in which to share my joy.
I've got so many priorities right now I hardly know where to begin. I wind up starting several things but ultimately I wind up doing something trivial because the rest of it is so overwhelming. Just having a new child is one thing, having three other small children is another. Purchasing a fixer up is one thing, fixing it up with a newborn and three small kids is another. Preparing for another homeschooling year is one thing, trying to write up lesson plans with a newborn and a new house and did I mention the three other small children is starting to seem impossible. Oh, and did I mention I started a homeschooled girls field hockey team and I'm volunteering for our local homeschooling support group? Have you caught your breath yet? Because I'm still gasping for air.
But despite all this it is hard for my husband and I to not just want to jump headfirst into all the ideas I've hashed out on here; self sufficient living, the agrarian lifestyle. simplifying, etc. At least as much as such ideals are possible on an acre in Jersey. However, most people are living on less than an acre in suburban areas just like us. Our new homestead could hopefully serve as an example of how to put the Worker principles into action on a small, readily accessible scale...if we can ever get past this initial starting point (which includes tearing out our only full bath and relying on sponge baths for the last two weeks.)
So now The Next Worker is going to change course a bit. While passing along the wisdom of Day and the Worker movement is still central to what we're doing the blog will now focus on fulfilling these ideals and what concrete steps we're taking towards living this 'Worker' lifestyle we've imagined for ourselves. I always felt I couldn't live up to my expectations because of the situation we were in. Now that we've secured the house I'd been dreaming of, will we fall short of our goals, succeed beyond our wildest dreams or fall somewhere in between? Could we realize what we sought for so long isn't possible at all?
Now the rubber meets the road. We're off and running. Already our new situation has presented opportunities to help people anonymously, offer hospitality for groups of people and be on call, with a door always open, for friends in need. I think the biggest problem will be not setting our sights to high right away and getting discouraged when life (aka four kids, homeschooling, a full time job, etc) prevents us from doing what we want in a timely fashion, which means, right now!
For now, we need to finish the bathroom. Then there's minor cosmetic stuff inside we want to tackle like painting since this house is disgusting but there's several major projects we're having a hard time deciding between. And the yard! Heaven knows what we will find out there next but already we need to think of how to get it in order for next spring.
I'm hoping to work out my thoughts through posting and maybe, if we can fix our camera, start posting pictures. Eventually, I would love to have our own Path to Freedom type thing going but that's a few years down the road. Stay tuned! I'm happy to be back. And feel free to leave advice by way of personal messages or links. I'm always looking to learn more. I love new beginnings.