Can We Really Make A Difference?

 

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“Is the wave of sustainable living, local-centered economy and ecological awareness a marginal movement, or can it actually have a global impact? I’ve heard many people say that we won’t be able to make any difference, because for every conscientious consumer there are a million reckless spenders, and for every organic backyard garden there are a million plastic bags of junk food. Others say that the yearning to return to closer, more self-reliant communities is nothing but hopeless nostalgia of people who have failed to adjust to a modern world.”

Read more in my latest Mother Earth News post.

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Goodbye, old home

95% of our things are packed, half of those have already been moved to the new place, and my husband is going off tomorrow to the old home to wrap some last things up and meet the moving van, while the kids and I are chilling for a few days at my mom’s .

It’s been such a time consuming project that I have hardly had time to stop and breathe, but we still took a little tour of the surrounding area to say a bittersweet goodbye to all the places we loved. I did love this home. Two of my children were brought here from the hospital. So many projects, meals, stories and games were shared under its roof . So many fun hours spent in the garden, weeding, planting, watching chickens scratch around. It’s hard to believe we’re really leaving… That actually, we’ve already left.

I look forward to posting more updates in days to come, as we settle in at our new home. Thank you for all your support as we travel along this journey!

 

On supporting local economy

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I’m passionate about supporting one’s local economy, in particular local farmers and artisans, but sometimes prohibitive prices make it difficult. Read more in my latest Mother Earth News post:

“When it’s possible and our finances allow, I’m usually willing to pay more for a locally made or grown product of superior quality. How much more? I’d say about 20% above what I’d pay in a chain store for a similar product of comparable quality. This, when I see a justifiable reason for the higher price – such as extra input of time, care or cost of materials.”

I’d say it goes both ways: customers ought to be willing to pay a little more, and farmers/artisans charge a little less, for this to work. I really struggle with myself when I find myself forced to support a large chain store rather than a small local business due to financial constraints.

The trouble with “measuring up”

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A huge stumbling block in the path of people who wish to simplify and live a quiet, slow and purposeful life, is being part of a social circle who all have bigger houses, more possessions, fancier gadgets, who take trips abroad every year, etc, etc.

An important thing to remember when you say to yourself, “how come they are able to afford it?!” is that you don’t really know whether they can. You don’t really know what goes on behind the closed doors of people’s homes, or in their bank accounts. Perhaps these people are living way beyond their means. Perhaps they are in debt. Or perhaps they afford their super-fancy, extra-packed lifestyle by maintaining two careers which leave hardly any family time at all.

And if you are a mother who stays home with her children, some people might deliberately or accidentally make you feel inferior, or this feeling might come across on its own when you’re reading about someone who “successfully” combined a career and family. And again, the true price of what it all entailed is seldom brought up.

Or perhaps you just walk into someone’s house and lament how this lady has it all together while you don’t, and seemingly never will, and forget that no one has our unique set of strengths, weaknesses, experience and family situation. I’m not saying we shouldn’t learn from one another. But this learning should be a thing of strength and growth, not just useless comparison that leads us to feel debilitating inferiority.

Maybe, when you were growing up, there was a child of your parents’ friends, or perhaps a cousin who was so much more accomplished than you, who spoke German and French and played the violin, and could do all the things you could never even dream of doing. Perhaps your parents spent your entire childhood and adolescence unfavorably comparing you with that “role model”, until you felt about that unfortunate unsuspecting child the same way Emma Woodhouse felt about Jane Fairfax – an almost unconscious grudge that is as unjustified as it is difficult to overcome.

G-d made us unique. He wants and expects us to improve, but not by striving to become the image of somebody else. His boundaries are wide enough so that within them, we can freely be just what we are.

Image: lovely oil painting by Trent Gudmundsen 

Summer fun

The house is full of cardboard boxes, and all our stuff is nearly packed, except for a few last minute essentials. To celebrate this, we went away to spend a few days with my mom.

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A little boy on his first bike. It was a birthday present, and it’s blue – Israel’s favorite color.

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He was so happy and proud of himself. This was the first time he really experienced the freedom of having a pair of wheels, and he just wouldn’t get off. He rode like the wind!

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Dancing and splashing in the fountain.

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They had so much fun!

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Building a fort with blankets and pillows. The kids stayed in this cave for hours, and performed the most delightful puppet shows.

The countdown

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I have shared this little video of some of our potted plants which, like me, are waiting to be moved to more permanent soil.

The countdown to our house move is now past the one month mark, and about 90% of our things are currently in boxes, making the place a maze of cardboard. I can’t wait to get to the new house so I can unpack and rearrange it all.

It’s exhausting, but also oddly addictive – once you start packing, you can’t stop filling those boxes. Please wish us luck as we go through this process once again… and, oh, also wish us many peaceful years at our new home. I really don’t feel like doing this again anytime soon.

 

Be your own friend

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As mothers, we are nurturers, giving to others as naturally as breathing. But what happens when you feel your fountain is about to run dry? I can tell you it happened to me more than once. In the early years of marriage, with two children under two, living in a remote place with no close friends or family support and with a husband who worked long hours at the time – there were many, many days when I felt overwhelmed.

Nurturing ourselves is something we usually have to take charge of, because no one can know our material and spiritual needs as well as we do. We are the ones who know whether we are tired, hungry, in need of a shower, or preoccupied about something that keeps sitting in the back of our mind.

Basic needs have to be taken care of. Of course, sometimes we will be required to step out of our usual limits to take care of others, such as at times when there is a new baby, or a child is sick, or any other emergency. But it doesn’t work in the long term. We simply cannot ignore our own needs on a regular basis and still expect ourselves to have the mental energy to nurture others. One can only give what one has, it is a basic law; just as I cannot give a thousand dollars if I don’t have them, I cannot give relaxation and peace of mind to my family if I’m an overwrought, exhausted nervous wreck by the end of a day (or even worse, close to its beginning).

Of course, here we reach a point when an argument might follow, discussing what is a basic need and what isn’t. We are all vastly different and come from different cultural backgrounds; some would say that going on a vacation abroad or having two cars is a basic need for them. I will, however, focus on three things that are important to me in order to get through a day successfully: food, sleep, shower and (I know it’s a fourth) some quiet, peaceful time.

I will start with sleep, because lack of it is what makes me malfunction most seriously, and it isn’t something I can simply catch up on whenever I need to (as opposed to food). Recently, when I realized I can hardly drag myself out of bed most mornings, it occurred to me I simply must make getting more sleep a priority. To do this, I basically had 3 options: go to bed early, get up later in the morning, or take a midday nap. Now, getting up later in the morning is not a really feasible option most days, and I can’t always count on getting quiet time in the middle of the day. So my only real alternative was going to bed early. Of course, it would mean missing out on things I could be doing during the evening (whether housework or my own projects), but as I found out, I don’t really do anything constructive anyway when I’m too tired, so it’s not a big miss-out.

Then there’s food. Here we’re doing good; I sit down to eat with my kids at least 3 times a day, and often we have a snack once or twice in between. However, I mostly make one-dish meals (pasta, soup, crustless quiche, stuffed peppers) and there are those days when cooking just doesn’t fit in. On such days, I’m thankful for frozen leftovers, and when it comes to the worst, there’s always eggs, toast and oatmeal.

Then there’s spiritual life. I consider it a must, like food or sleep, but it doesn’t have to happen through solid long periods of inward reflection and prayer. I simply close my eyes, for a few moments several times a day, to lift up my thanks, sorrows, hopes, requests and frustrations.

Now we come to a point which, I have noticed, is often debated, regarding its necessity and even advisability. I’m talking about having one’s own projects and making time for them, for enjoyment and personal growth. Here I see two polar attitudes; there are those who say your own comes first and you are entitled to anything as long as it makes you “happy”. Others self-righteously give up on anything unrelated to motherhood and housekeeping, and feel it would be selfish to have any hobbies, friends or intellectual pursuits.

I am somewhere in between. I certainly have enough in my home and with my children to keep me busy from the moment I rise till the moment I go to bed, but I find it stimulating, enriching and uplifting to carve out time for writing. Being an author is another “me”, something that exists apart from the daily grind. There are also crafts, reading, expanding my knowledge about things that interest me. Those things  occupy only a small portion of my time, but it’s like the icing on the cake. An added bonus is that kids who have a mama who loves to learn and create will love doing those things too.

Others come first. I cannot keep little children waiting (not for any considerable length of time, anyway) for their meals, naps, baths, boo-boo kissing, storytelling and discipline. But I can and will make sure that I am not forgotten either. For long hours every day, I’m the only adult in the house, and I sometimes feel alone; sometimes there’s the pressing need for a friend, a mature, generous, motherly-type friend who would kindly ask: how are you feeling? Is there anything I can do for you? What would make you feel better, more at peace, more comfortable?

I don’t have to wait for someone else to ask those questions. I can be my own friend. I can ask myself: how am I feeling? What can I, realistically, do for myself right now? What would make me feel better, what can help me relax? Is it a cup of tea? Baking some cookies? Curling up on the couch while my children are playing on the floor? And sometimes, in the desperate busyness of a day, I can tell myself, “hold on. It’s crazy right now, but as soon as things calm down, as soon as the little people get their necessary portion of attention, you can have some for yourself.” It doesn’t make me lazy or selfish. It makes me a responsible mother who teaches her children self-worth and self-respect.