Last month I was supposed to be working on the Waste part of the 7 challenge. When I began thinking about this part of the challenge, I thought I was already doing pretty well on that front. I have a family of four and we fill up our recycling cart at the same rate if not faster than our trash cart. Usually, our trash cart is only half full on the day the trash is picked up. I am guilty of looking at neighbors’ trash cans on trash pick up day and thinking, “Wow. They are Wasters.” Needless to say, there was a high horse to fall off there.
And fall off I did. Because, while I do recycle absolutely everything I possibly can, the point remains that if I have something to recycle, that means I’m buying something that’s prepackaged. Deli meats, canned spaghetti sauce, boxes of noodles, yogurt cups, all that stuff comes in recyclable packages. And some things I consider to be necessary are packaged and aren’t recyclable. I mean, when I think about all the Styrofoam egg cartons…but how do you get around that? Aldi only sells one kind of egg!
I guess it all comes down to how much trouble I’m willing to go to in my attempts to reduce waste. I think I kind of phoned it in on this part of the challenge. And that is unacceptable. So I’m doing a re-do in March. Here are the more specific goals for the month:
-Start (and, please Lord, finish!) potty training Isaac in the second half of the month. He’ll be 3 in June and with another baby due in July, now seems like it’s time. My “method” relies heavily on not wearing a whole lot of clothing for the first few days of potty training, which is why I think this should take place in the warmer part of the month. I greet this part of the challenge with a great deal of trepidation–potty training my firstborn took about a year, and I am not exaggerating.
-At least try to get Ella out of nighttime Pull-ups. I’ve heard some parents have success with waking young children up and taking them to the bathroom before the parents go to bed. I’m just not sure about this one. One problem is I go to bed about an hour to an hour and a half after my children. Is that enough time? Another problem is I abhor the drama that always follows when my poor little four-year-old is incoherently sleepy. To willingly bring that upon both of us is going to take some girding up of mental toughness. If anyone else has experience with methods for getting rid of Pull-ups at night, please share. I’d really prefer not waking her up because I think she barely gets enough sleep as it is.
-Sew a couple of handkerchiefs for myself. Yes, I just used the word “handkerchief.” And the word “sew.” I hate, hate, hate buying Kleenexes. Which is why my husband is always asking in a very nice but what I hear as accusing tone, “Don’t we have any Kleenex?” I just don’t think to buy them, and when I do remember, I say, “We don’t really need those.” But my husband and my kids really enjoy a soft nose wipe for the winter months. And the allergy ridden spring months. And probably all the months in between. I could care less, I’ll use a brown paper bag, but I do grab a Kleenex if they’re handy. I’d rather use something that’s reusable, though. So, hello, old fashioned-ness. (I have the same goal for nursing liners, but I won’t go into great detail there. Details about Kleenex usage are quite enough for one day).
-Reduce our dependence on boxed cereal. There are lots of reasons this is a good idea, one of them being most cereal doesn’t keep my kids full past 8:00 a.m. Another reason is a lot of those colorful boxes pose major recycling problems. Another reason is it’s mostly gross and we throw out half of the box. Is there a drawback? Oh yeah, cooking and washing dishes before 8:00 in the morning. Dear friends, bring on the easy breakfast ideas.
Those are the goals. I could think of more, but my children are pretending to be firefighters and I probably should go put a stop to their throwing open the front door and yelling “Fire, fire, EMERGENCY!” for the whole neighborhood to hear. Because a false 911 call is even more wasteful than a Styrofoam egg carton.
Hmm…a lot has happened in my 7 Challenge since I last updated. In September I read and reviewed 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. To read the review or catch up on posts about how the 7 Challenge is going, go here.
One of the first things I did in the 7 Challenge was begin a 3 month ban on buying clothing for myself. On December 19th, I successfully reached the end of the ban without buying so much as a hair accessory. It was not that hard, actually, as I found out I was pregnant in the middle of those three months (yay!!!) and there’s not much that’s less fun than buying clothes you know won’t fit in a few months. However, the part that proved to be hard was my hankering for new boots. At the end of last winter, I swore this fall I would buy real leather boots. Well, that decision changed. Yes, sometimes it was a bit humiliating to wear my 3-year-old, peeling pleather boots from Target. I counted that as the “challenge” part of the clothing challenge. However, I’m afraid I may have been a little too successful in avoiding clothes shopping. Today I set out armed with my Christmas boot money and the intention to find a pair of leather riding boots. I also thought I might check out the purse section of some of the stores. Here’s what I came away with: one pair of boot socks. No boots. What’s worse, I only tried on one pair before saying, “Eh, I’m done shopping for today.” Clearly, my shopping endurance needs exercise. (In my defense, I found that I might need to rethink the whole riding boot thing as I have short legs that are made to look shorter by tall boots. I guess I should’ve thought of that before setting my heart on a certain style). In short, the clothing challenge has created a new kind of clothing challenge for me, but it certainly took care of the excess part of my clothing tendencies.
The third month of my 7 Challenge came and went without any blog fanfare. In the Stuff segment of the challenge, I planned to get rid of 7 items every day for 30 days. I knew it was a tall order when I started, because as I mentioned before, pack rat I am not. We ended up getting rid of 3-4 things per day for the Possessions month. Not quite the goal, but probably more realistic since we regularly clean out our house. Taking every single item out of our kitchen cabinets in order to paint them definitely helped us get rid of a few things.
The hardest part of the stuff challenge was finding somewhere we felt would put our discarded items to good use. I wanted a place that would connect us with people in need or at least give the items we didn’t need straight to someone who did need them. This is really a horrible complaint to make, but why do so many charitable organizations make it so difficult to give to them? I’m sure there are good reasons. I’m just the frustrated donor with two small children and no time to figure it all out. Maybe it was good for me to realize that I am not an angel of mercy if I bring in a few bags of donations to a volunteer-run donations center. My poor little feelings were hurt when the workers there acted as if my donations were more trouble than they were worth. Clearly, I needed to be taken down a few pegs and realize the glow of giving is not the goal, but the change of heart and mind and actually making a difference needs to be the end I strive for. Still, if you work somewhere accepting donations, I’m sure I’m not the only one who would appreciate a courteous reception. I’m not even talking about a thank you…just don’t yell when the confused donor puts down her things on the wrong pile. There, that’s off my chest. We took most of our things to a local charity, but ended up taking our last load to the convenient and always receptive Goodwill because we needed it out right away the charity wasn’t open. If anyone who lives near me has places they like to give their unneeded household and clothing items to, let me know!
Starting January 1st, the fourth month of the 7 Challenge will begin. This is the Media month, and I’m actually looking forward to it. I deleted the Facebook app off my phone a few weeks ago because it was too tempting to look at all the time when I was lying around trying not to think about nausea. I still checked it in the web browser, though. However, today I woke up and thought, “I am sick of knowing all this stuff about people.” I mean, I love people, but when did it become imperative to know so many details about the every day lives, likes, and dislikes of mere acquaintances? This is by no means a rant against Facebook, just a personal realization that I really don’t need to check it that often. So the original plan was to only check/post to Facebook at 10am, 2pm, and 9pm, but I’m actually horrified that when I wrote the original plan, I thought that would be cutting back. I think once a day at most is plenty. I’ll only read blogs between 6-7 a.m. or 9-10 p.m. Internet surfing will be an after the kids go to bed thing, except for when I absolutely have to know something like what time Panera Bread closes or is that spider with yellow markings on it poisonous? Finally, I’ll only watch four football games a week. Just kidding! Seriously, this one is hard because I’m married to a guy who loves college football and it’s bowl season. I happen to enjoy it a good bit, myself. Still, I think I can watch just the game our home team is in and the National Championship and call the football season done. I think. As for TV and movies, there’s nothing I can’t live without for a month.
Here’s where the media challenge will get hard: limiting my children’s media time. They are 2 and 4 years old, and they love “movie time” more than life itself. I wish that weren’t the case. I try to carefully select their video viewing and limit it to 30-45 minutes a day. In the last two months that I’ve been dealing with frequent all-day morning sickness, this limit has gone by the wayside more often than I like to admit. In January, I’m going to make video watching a privilege and not a right. Maybe an every-other-day privilege. It’s hard to not give in to the lure of the TV babysitter when you’re home all day with the kids, you choose not to send them to preschool, and you are an introvert who needs time to think and be quiet. But I chose all of this (save the introverted personality), and I really do believe we can get to a better place of interactive play and alone times of imaginative play without resorting to Dora and Thomas and that crowd quite so often. I’m pretty sure it will be a painful process, so say a prayer for us in January. =)
Part of January’s media challenge will be to finally read The Unwired Mom by Sarah Mae. She’s one of my favorite writers and I’m looking forward to her book on getting out of the technology driven lifestyle. If you’re interested in reading it along with me, here’s where to get it. (P.S. It’s only $4.99 right now on your Kindle or as a PDF! P.P.S. I am not affiliated with or even known from Adam by Sarah Mae).
So that’s where I am in the 7-month Challenge to Mutiny Against Excess. As the New Year approaches, maybe you can think of some truly realistic goals that would help you to think more about the excess in your life. It’s a pretty wide open subject and can your challenge can look totally different from mine or anyone else’s. I’ve enjoyed mine so far, and hope you’ll think about creating your own.
It’s Month 2 of my 7 Challenge. I crafted this 7 Challenge along the lines of Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. You can read my review of the book and what my modified 7 challenge includes here.
Food Month Is Done…Sort Of
Month 1 was all about reconstructing my thoughts about food. Jen Hatmaker picked 7 foods to eat for four weeks. I picked 7 poverty stricken countries and ate like the people in those countries for one day each. Except…I only finished five of the countries. But I’m making up the rules in this challenge, and I see no reason why I can’t overlap and do two more countries while I’m in the midst of the second month. Here’s to ultimate control.
It was hard look at reality as I pried open my half shut eyes to really see how little so many people have. The realization has intensely affected my thinking. For example, the only TV show I follow (unless Downton Abbey is on) is The Biggest Loser. I used to love watching those contestants defeat their food addictions and other demons and move toward a healthy lifestyle. Last week, I watched the Season 16 premier and could hardly stand it. How do we as Americans and people from other wealthy countries allow ourselves to stay so blind? To not share our vast food supply? I know, I’ve rolled my eyes when “do-gooders” have talked about “those starving Africans,” too. And I’m ashamed of that. Because the difference between what we have and what the poor in other countries have is ridiculous. Yes, we have our food hardships in America, even if they are the polar opposite of many countries’ food challenges. I don’t want to belittle North American health struggles, because I struggle to eat healthfully as much as the next American. I simply don’t think our struggles would be so hard if we realized how little others have. And it’s not like now that I’m aware of the suffering, I’m all of a sudden cutting our grocery bill in half and giving all kinds of money away. It’s not that easy. But I wish it could be.
Uganda is Calling
The country I ache for most right now is Uganda. I learned more about this country through reading Kisses from Katie, by Katie Davis. Davis went to Uganda on a short term missions trip and found it impossible to leave. She couldn’t say ‘no’ to the orphans she knew needed her. I know all of us can’t leave everything and adopt 14 children at age 19, but I am inspired by her do something attitude and her love for her Lord and His people. I find myself asking, “what am I doing that matters in my culture? In this world?” I hope to figure this out sooner rather than later. I don’t have answers yet, but a desire to do more is stirring inside of me.
It’s clear something is stirring because we were about $50 under budget for groceries last month. People, that is no small feat. Part of that is because we were out of town for a few days, and part of it was from my eating way less 5 days out of the month. So I will be able to give a donation to Hunger Relief International, which makes those faint-feeling days totally worth it.
And while I can’t snap my fingers and adopt all the orphans of the world, I can support orphans and impoverished families in Uganda very easily. You can, too! Check out the shop that Katie Davis’s ministry, Amazima, runs. They provide training and materials to a very poor group of Ugandans who are refugees from the northern part of the country. These people are often in abject poverty. With the help of Amazima, women are able to feed and clothe their children honestly by creating necklaces and other jewelry. And it’s beautiful!
If you don’t find something you like at the Amazima shop, try Kanzi, a division of Pearl Ministries. My husband’s cousin worked with this ministry and I can tell you that I’ve seen the jewelry in person and it’s gorgeous. There are also many little handmade items like this adorable wooden giraffe that would make great gifts for the holidays.
Moving On: Month 2
Month 2 is a challenge focused on clothes. This is a two-part challenge. Part 1 is sorting through my clothes and giving away as much as possible. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this part of my 7 challenge starts at the same time the weather is turning cold here. It’s time for me to switch out my summer clothes for winter, and it’s a perfect time to help those in need prepare for the cold season. My extra clothes will go to an organization just down the street from us called Sharing God’s Love that provides needy families with food and clothing. (I wanted to contribute my extra clothes to refugees or women’s shelters, but the organizations here don’t take clothing).
Part 2 of the clothes challenge is to not buy any clothing for myself for three months. I began the no shopping part of this challenge on September 19th, so I’m already a month into it. For someone who thinks she doesn’t like to shop, this challenge is proving a lot harder than expected. I promised myself at the end of winter last year that this would be the year I would buy some good boots, really dark jeans, colored corduroys..I was reckless with my promises to myself. While I’m still wishing I had bought boots in August before starting this challenge, I’m learning a lot as I wait. One of the things I’m reminded of is that (a) I don’t need as much as I think I do and (2) once I determine what I really do need, I should go for quality. I am a sucker for rock bottom prices. Anyone got good recommendations for quality boots at a decent price? I’ll be in the market for some on December 19th. =)
So I’ll be cleaning out my closet this week and may even post some pictures of the process. Brace yourself. I encourage you to think about what you need and don’t need in your closet. How could you bless people who really do need what you have but don’t use? There’s a balance between beauty and just too much stuff, and I’m looking for it right now. Won’t you join me?
You know what one of my least favorite foods is? Rice.
You know what most of the world eats every day? Rice.
It’s Day 1, Month 1 of my 7 Challenge, and I’m already struggling. When faced with the choice of rice or nothing, I usually choose nothing.
As I laid out in my review of Jen Hatmaker’s book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, I’ll be starting this challenge with a month to re-think food. I’ll take 7 different days scattered throughout the month and eat like the impoverished people in one of the 20 Most Impoverished Countries around the world.
I’m starting with Haiti. This country is in dire straits, people. It’s average caloric intake per day is 450 calories (the American average is 3,500). The average household income is less than $2 a day, which puts it at No. 19 in the 20 poorest countries list. However, food prices are sky high in Haiti, compared to other impoverished countries. One meal of rice and beans costs $1.50. That means only one person gets a decent meal per household per day. Half of all deaths in Haiti are caused by starvation. 15% of children don’t make it to age 5. I could go on and on with grim statistics, but I think we all get the picture. Haiti needs help.
So today I’ll be eating one meal of rice and beans. Besides having had plentiful food yesterday and being able to look forward to plentiful food tomorrow, I’ll also have the added bonus of clean water. 40% of Haitians do not have access to clean water, and an unknown number of those that could have access cannot afford it.
I’m feeling more than a little overwhelmed with all the problems in Haiti. So what can I do? Eating like a poor Haitian for one day hardly seems enough to make a difference. But the point isn’t to fix everything in one stroke–the point is to do something. I’m going to start out by praying for Haiti this week. Next, I’ll make a donation based on the money I didn’t spend on food for me today and hopefully a little extra to Hunger Relief International. HRI works in Haiti and Guatemala to ease the suffering of the hungry in these countries.
As I think (obsess) about what I’m not eating, feed my children cinnamon toast and milk, and sip my nice glass of cool, clean water, I try to put myself in the shoes of those parents who wake up with nothing to offer their children. It’s impossible for me to know that burden. But it’s also becoming impossible for me to sit back and do nothing, knowing that so many live in that situation every day.
Any book with a number in the title scares me. I try not to be too limited in my thinking, but I must admit that math gives me a panicky feeling. I know this is illogical. I try to talk myself out of it: I got an A in Algebra 2, for crying out loud! Apparently, the effort that A took left its scars. Big ones. I would rather give a speech to 2,000 Nobel Prize geniuses than repeat a single week of college Pre-calculus. Maybe it was due to my aversion to numbers that I hadn’t really considered reading Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, though I’d heard a lot about it. Then some of my friends started sharing her blog posts on Facebook. I read them, and that was all it took for me to say, “Okay, I have got to read this woman’s book.” I’m really glad I did.
I love Jen Hatmaker for making a thought provoking, challenging book that is so hilarious. I laughed out loud right in the midst of my musings on how catastrophically out of whack consumerism and starvation is in the world. (Okay, to be honest, I would have laughed, but my heart has been heavy due to a tragic event in our church family. That I kind of laughed should be a testament to how funny Jen Hatmaker is, because I was having trouble reading through my swollen eyes, and that is not an exaggeration).
Note: From here on out, I’m going to call Jen Hatmaker just Jen, because she’s that personable and I don’t think she’d mind.
7 is a challenge that Jen gave herself to live with less in several different areas of life. The challenge areas are: food, clothes, spending, media, possessions, waste, stress. Each challenge lasted for 4 weeks. Her main premise is that our culture as a whole is “trapped in the machine of excess.” Her desire was to “fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence.” I’m in agreement with Jen. The American Dream has gone from a desire for freedom to a desire for way more than we need. And it happens to be sucking the life out of us, one overworked, overeaten, over stimulated hour at a time. What’s worse, it’s sucking the life out of entire nations who aren’t getting any relief from their suffering because we’re too fat and happy to notice them. I’m talking about me, not you. Or maybe that is you, too. Whatever the case, this book was life changing for me. So much so, that I am beyond thinking about this stuff and ready to take actions. For each of Jen’s challenges, I’ve come up with a version of my own.
Jen’s challenge: Limiting herself to 7 foods.
Yes, just 7. My first reaction to this was, “WHY?” I came to see that she wanted a concrete way to discard the burden and the blindness that her love of food was putting on her life. I was more drawn to the challenge that several of her friends gave themselves for the first month: to pick seven of the world’s most poverty stricken countries and eat like an average person from that country for three days. They picked Haiti, Ethiopia, Uganda, Afghanistan, Bolivia, Cambodia, and Sudan. Jen and her friends came to understand more about their misuse of the food abundance in America and came away from it with a desire to do more for those who don’t have enough. Jen also realized what an idol food can become.
My challenge: Pick my own impoverished countries that I feel particularly burdened for, research their average food intake, and eat like them for one day each. I wish I could do three days, but I’m a mom of littles, and I don’t want my family to suffer a grumpy, malnourished mother. (Who am I kidding, they suffer the grumpy mother regularly). I’m still working on fleshing out this challenge, because I’d like it to include a way to transfer my eating less to some hungry person eating more. Also, I’d like to add a book to my reading list about each impoverished country I choose. If you have any ideas, please tell me!
Jen’s challenge: Wear 7 pieces of clothing for four weeks. Her discoveries about how she views clothing and how she expects other women to view her clothing were enlightening. Her honest evaluation of her excess clothing made me think twice, for sure.
My challenge: Part 1 — Clean out my closet and give the excess to refugees. Part 2 — No clothes shopping for myself for 3 months. I think this will be an easy challenge, because I don’t really like to shop. I ignore clothes to a fault sometimes. You know, that moment when you realize you have nothing that fits the bill for the event you’re attending in, oh, less than half an hour. I don’t think about what clothes I need. Except for those new boots I promised myself last winter…. However, I think it will be an interesting challenge to share with my four-year-old daughter, who is a budding Fashionista. (Help.) I need to think through ways I can show her how abundant her clothing is and how some little girls have next to nothing.
Jen’s challenge: give seven things away every day for a month. And not just to Goodwill, but to tangible people who will benefit from Jen’s entire family’s acknowledgement that they have way more than enough.
My challenge: Same as Jen’s this time. I’ll be honest–I’m a little worried. I keep our house at a minimum of stuff to begin with. We get rid of things all the time. My husband hears “Hey, can we get rid of this?” on a regular basis. Still, our house feels cluttered. But the point isn’t to de-clutter the house. The point is to find good things we don’t truly need and give them to people who do really need them. I’m hoping to connect with a ministry that supplies refugees with basic household items for this month’s challenge and the clothing challenge.
Jen’s challenge was a good old-fashioned media fast from everything not work related. I always think this type of challenge would be a no-brainer challenge for me. I don’t watch TV, what’s the big deal? But her challenge included blogs, Facebook, sports news, and everything else not work related. Yikes. No sports news! There would be troubles. However, I’m going to try it.
My challenge: Limit my media to certain times during the day. I will allow myself to read blog posts from 6-7am. I will check/post to Facebook at 10am, 2pm, 9pm, or not at all. No internet surfing at all until after the kids go to bed. Otherwise, my media will only involve work-related or research related usage. My e-mail will have to be a continuous thing because it’s my main form of communication, but I think I can limit it to checking it every hour to two hours. And it’s football season, so…sports can’t completely go unless I want to spend hours away from family and friends on the weekends. Football is king in South Carolina, people. But I do plan to seriously limit it.
Jen’s challenge: seven habits for a greener life. I’m summarizing it as a serious cutback on waste and use of natural resources. Before you roll your eyes at the liberal tree hugger, please know that I happen to be a conservative tree hugger. I was totally convicted by this chapter. Give yourself a chance and you will be, too. It’s sad to me that people who believe God doesn’t exist are so often the only ones concerned about God’s creation. I can’t put it as well as Jen does, but I hope you read this part if no other part of 7.
My challenge: get Ella out of pull ups at night, buy less prepackaged food, recycle everything possible.
Jen only allowed herself and her family (her husband was on board for all of this, by the way) to pay money out to seven vendors, two of which were online bill pay and her children’s school. This translates into no eating out, no shopping for fun, no family outings that cost money, etc.
No, seriously. I’m not shopping for anything outside of basic food and household needs like toilet paper. No home goods, no clothes, no potentially life changing organizational tools, no the-neighborhood-needs-my-flower-beds-to-be-beautiful plants. I’m going to have to choose this month wisely. We’re coming up on Christmas…this will have to be an after Christmas month. Which brings my grand total of months I’m not shopping for clothes in this challenge to four. This is going to be interesting…
Jen’s challenge: Keep Sunday as a true day of rest and pause seven times a day for prayer and reflection.
My challenge: Stop clothes shopping.
Oh, I kid. My challenge will be to (1) Become a planner and (2) Set daily goals for my gratitude journal.
Much of my stress is caused by not planning ahead for things. Just this morning, I totally stressed my kids out with trying to get to MOPS on time (didn’t happen). I didn’t have anything prepared. It’s no coincidence that all the moms got a nice little reminder email about labeling sippy cups and bags this afternoon from the childcare workers–see, I’m spreading stress to everyone by my lack of planning! Those poor childcare workers. Anyway, the goal is to plan for the next day the night before.
The other part of the stress challenge is based on Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare. I have kept a gratitude journal for a long time, but I’m too sporadic for thankfulness to truly take root in my heart. Thankfulness isn’t thriving in me yet. I think stress would be obsolete if I could be grateful in my waking moments. I don’t consider myself to be a particularly stressed person, but then I think about the discontentment, the insomnia, the way I get fed up with the mess I live in, the inexplicable nightmares I’ve had since childhood, and I think there’s definitely proof of stress. The beauty is I truly believe it doesn’t have to be there. I’m going to strive during the Stress month of this challenge for peace that I know is attainable.
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So there are the challenges for the next seven months. I’m eagerly looking forward to tackling (most) of these challenges. My overarching desire is to find ways to positively help those who really need it. I don’t want to just simplify and clarify my life. I want to relieve pain in others’ lives, even oceans away. I hope you will cheer me on and give me ideas on how to do this when my brain is too consumed with the self control to not…buy…another…book!
If you have the wherewithal to read this droning dribble about my 7 Challenge, then I guarantee you will enjoy the book 7 so much more. It will make you laugh and remind you that you have the power to make a difference in this world. And if you want to join me on my own 7 journey, you’re more than welcome.