Friday, April 22, 2011

Our New Normal

Well we did it, the unthinkable. Steve moved in with his rifles and our family is going off the grid, people. With the impending Apocalypse, we've bought our beans and rice, stocked up on toilet paper and got enough bleach to purify water for a year, maybe more.  Now, we begin our journey in a cash and barter society...well, er uh, till the economy (real estate) picks up anyway.

If it's not obvious, our fam is in a bit of a monetary pickle these days.  Well, you're not going to hear me whine and blog about what I can't control.  Instead, I choose to broadcast our predicament as an adventure. From now on you'll watch us learn, in real time, how to manage and live with what we do have--and that is a dependable, single and sufficient income earned by my hard working #1 man, Jeff.   

That's a lot to be grateful for when so many (including myself) these days can barely scrape together enough change to keep food in their mouths. I'm going back to earning the 'fun' money. Too much pressure being a bread winner. Besides, I'm liking all this extra time with my kids and I'm going to start a new hobby that will save us money. Have you heard of it? 

Living the 'American dream' has made a mess of our finances. We've never had so much available credit to play with in our whole life, I think we're up to 100K+ limit now!  Irony is, paying our credit bills was getting to the point of stealing from Peter to pay Paul.  We needed to do something drastic and responsible.  So we spent the last thirty days in sort of an experiment,  living on just cash and a prayer.  Well, and creative rearranging, cutting, slashing, starving and denying ourselves and, we did it.  We survived, paycheck to paycheck. I have to admit though, I woke up in sort of a panic the other day.  I could feel big brother whispering in my ear, reminding me of all the stuff we still 'need' and it propelled me to do something even more radical and more mature... I got out of bed and chopped up our plastic money, all of it. I know, so unpatriotic.

(Don't worry I blurred and scrambled all the numbers)

Actually, we've done quite a few new things to cut corners these days. We had the Naz family move in with us and  communal living has been not only fabulous but productive! The kids are quieter, each a little less rambunctious with having a roommate buddy to hang out with 24/7 (sans the fist fights).  Having extra muscles in the house has afforded us lots of finished honey-do's like, re-painted cabinets, walls and trim...

My curtains finally got rehung, there's someone else to cook dinners three days a week and there's eight extra hands to help with daily chores.

Oh!  By the way, meet my "#2", Steve, he's doing yard-work today ((squee!)).

My only complaint is the laundry. I just cant get ahead of it.  There are nine bodies living here.  That adds up to at least fifty articles of  rags, towels, changes of clothes, pajamas, underwear and socks to launder per day, at minimum. But Lisa, you say, why not have a greener attitude and conserve, have the kids re-use their towels, take less showers and not wash their PJ's after every use? Okay then smartypants, tell me how to police them without acting like a hovering she-devil on a rampage?  I do not have the energy to fight that battle. Not with two little girls who require two towels per shower and play dress up with their wardrobe. Not with two teenage man children who smell like ground beef and sourdough bread by mid-day. Not with two pre-teen boys who wipe their mouths and snot with their shirt sleeves and collars. I'd rather just keep a-washin'

Okay, so maybe we aren't exactly 'off the grid' and we will probably have to come up with plan 'B' when the Armageddon happens. I just count my blessings, baby steps will have to do for now.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Living In Squalor

I was watching "Hoarding: Buried Alive" on Wednesday night. I love that show because it does multitudes for my self esteem. I love to gape and gasp at the slothful slovenly conditions these people voluntarily live. I can't get my head around why they would  choose to reside in such filth and clutter and chaos but mostly it blows my mind that these people are so brazenly selfish. Most of them live alone, having sacrificed family and precious relationships over their altars of garbage. The people featured on the show all seem to be poisoned by the same toxic gruel; A recipe laced with tragedy, chalked full of loose screws drowned in gallons of foul selfishness.

I think I hate selfishness the most of all things noxious in human beings because selfishness is the root and pulse of every vile deed. All of us are innately selfish to a degree but  the hoarders' selfishness is epitomized in such an explicit heap they make it easy for me to feel superior.  They provide an extreme benchmark to which I can compare myself and say, wow Lisa, you're only, like, a level one hoarder (selfish), so you're still OK with the world.  I feel justified to ridicule them on the TV and sneer when they blubber about how they 'just don't understand why' they do this. Cry babies. I tell them why. I belittle them as they lament over their hoard and waffle over the possibility of exchanging it to get their families back. I would spit on them (in a virtual anonymous way) if I could. For one sick, self-aggrandizing hour, this show provides me a pretend world to unleash my hate-venom for all things selfish.  Until I met Kelaine.
Kelaine is an eccentric artist who hoards banana peels,  penguins and frogs. She says she got that way because her mother didn't love her and never made her feel welcome in her own house growing up. Kevin, her live-in boyfriend of 11yrs, was begging Kelaine to reclaim just the kitchen and living room so he could cook for her and entertain company. Kelaine snarled that Kevin's expectations were 'unrealistic'. But upon later sessions with her gentle, coaxing therapist, Kelaine came to realize something poignant about herself and she chokingly admitted, "I've never said I wasn't selfish...No one in my world matters to me as much as I do. I mean, that may be wrong...but its honest." She was visibly regretful that she'd made Kevin to feel like her mom made her feel and the sorrow of it caused her to decide to change her hoarding ways. And with that I decided I liked Kelaine.

Rarely have I witnessed a person, so put on the spot, own up to their selfishness without excuse. All it took was someone who didn't judge Kelaine and showed her an ounce of kindness to spark a little flame of introspection and *pouf* love motivated Kelaine to change.  And in that moment I realized someone should spit on me (in a metaphoric pseudo kind of way).
There's a nugget of truth a wise friend of mine just said to me a couple days before I watched this episode. His words punched me in the throat and rang in my ears:  "And oh, this thing about 'loving the sinner, but hate the sin' is about the most disingenuous piece of manure ever. People who spout off that non-sense hate other people's sins, but not their own"--David Cho.  Here I just wrote a dissertation on how to play nice and make friends meanwhile, I'm holed up with my television ripping total strangers a new one.

Shame. on. me. 
Though I'll probably continue to watch Hoarders because I think I'm addicted to the show. But I'm going to give the folks a little more grace from now on and not snark at the TV so much. Fortunately for me there is no camera crew filming my selfish indiscretions (wouldn't you like to know) so I gotta give these brave people props for putting their junk out there and trying to change, which is leaps ahead from where I sit.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Religiously Outing Myself

Radical Views on Faith and Why I'm Starting Over

I'm rebellious and I like pushing peoples' buttons, love is like that. That's why love is my most favorite law, because its reckless and unruly, it has no boundaries and there are no laws that supersede it. Love can't be bossed around. I'm kind of a nosy person too, but love is an interloper and even undignified at times so that makes me feel better about thrusting myself on people who do and don't know me that well. Love also multiplies and illuminates the great in people regardless of what else is lurking or lacking in their soul. How awesome that I can shine the light of it on someone whose bulb is burning out and recharge them!  Love is forgiving, it overlooks mistakes and faults and who doesn't need this kinda grace in their life? Love in action, makes it possible for us to push through the rough patches. The best thing about law of love is, anyone can live by Love's mandates and reap its benefits! Agnostic, prostitutes, Muslims, celebrities, scientists, politicians, teenagers, my cat, even Christians.

Yes, I said Christians, and I am one of them. Aren't Christians, by definition, people who exude love? I wish, but we've screwed a lot of things up these past 2000 years and have quite a bit of apologizing and reformation to do before we will ever be famed as a group notorious for its bleeding love instead of religious rhetoric. 
Most of us are not a hopeless bunch though, and if we want the world to know what we're really about, we're gonna have to start by being a lot nicer. I think it begins with making making friends, real friends, outside our clique of 'Born Agains'.  

We need to have other friends beyond the church walls, with people we share common interests besides dogma. Friends are the family we get to choose so we should pick them based on how they enrich our lives, not whether they'll take our advice or affirm our philosophies. It is possible to be friends with people we like and admire who don't share the same religious views, have different morals, values, ethics and political views. As long as we are respectful and kind and agree to disagree it is possible to be great friends because that's what love does and we all are capable of loving. 

I'm not talking about missionary friendships though. The Bible tells us  that God, the Holy Spirit, is the one that draws men unto Him. It's not the Christian's job to convert or browbeat people into believing Gospel.  We have not failed humanity or God if someone doesn't take our word for it. Where we fail is when we withhold love (as if it were a commodity) from others because they don't buy what we're selling.  Just grasping the concept that God is in control and trusting that love always wins really takes the pressure of those of us who believe we're supposed to share the 'Good News'. What a relief we don't have to peddle the Bible or have an agenda to be friends with anyone, we just have to care for them. Cliche, albeit true, people just don't care what you believe unless they believe you care.

But befriending someone for the sake of beguiling them into our belief system is not very friendly or even genuine in my opinion.  My father-in-law is right. Who wants to be friends with someone whose sole intent is to change them?  Even Jesus didn't do that. He came to earth to say; "I love you just the way you are, follow me and I'll take care of you, I'll comfort you through the bad stuff. You might sink in your troubles but I won't let you drown. When you fall, I'll pick you up.  If you break, I'll glue the pieces back together. If you get lonely I'm here and I'm listening.  If you lose faith, I have faith enough for both of us.  You may get sick but I can heal and when or if it's time to go, I'll take you home with me"  Isn't that the attitude we all should have towards others anyway?

Some of us need to stop manipulating, stop befriending non believers for the sake of or on the condition we convert them. Cults do that. We weren't called to brainwash, we are mandated to freely love others and share where we believe that love originates from, like Jesus did. Take it up with Him if you don't believe me, His friends were thieves and prostitutes. If we love like He loved, we don't need to strong arm anyone into our brand of faith. If Christians truly believe that God IS love, then Love (God) is perfectly capable of persuading people all on Its own--as long as that love is being expressed through us daily and organically.

I wish some of the brick and mortar churches would just let God be God and stop putting its faith in marketing twelve step programs of seven methods and three formulas we can use to find the ten keys to redeem a sinner. We don't need to sell Jesus with a light show and a latte on Sundays. We don't need  to tickle the ears of our audience with a rock band or a feel-good message to lure them into becoming a member of our 'church.'   Loving others and telling them the truth, IS relevant enough. People are the church, you and I. Where we gather is a place for worship, fellowship, teaching and encouragement.

Now here's a funny, you can thank me later:) 
I'm not opposed to making worship a fun and culturally contemporary experience, I still go to a church, but I'm disenchanted by what I see corporate greed and power and pride have made of some of our hallowed buildings. 

If being a Christian is not a religion but a relationship, then it's time I started acting like it. I think God is rousing a lot of Christians from a religious coma these days. It's time we stop depending on one pastor to tell us what to do (as if God ever intended his church to be run autocratically) and start taking responsibility for our own spirituality. We are not robots and the church is not a machine. I suspect God is tired of us being run this way and frankly, so am I. 

Hokay, so if you're still awake after reading this essay and wanna hear a true short story about a friend of mine that illustrates such radical parallels on faith and friendship, read on... (you can do it!)

I was with one of my bff's, Stephany, recently at a pub in downtown Vancouver. She was visiting from Hawaii for just a couple of days and this particular watering hole was a familiar hangout to gather all her peeps together for a short visit, she's pretty popular. Actually, Stephany is kinda famous among her friends and I'm sure it's because she's one of the kindest people we have ever met. 

I've known her since we were 13 years old. The nice girl image she projects is not fake and the the love she exhales is not duplicitous. The light she radiates and the warmth she emits actually attracts people to her. She doesn't even have to try to get people like her and if I were a jealous person I would make her go live in a gingerbread house, wear fondant underpants and eat gumdrops the rest of her life for being so sticky sweet all the blipping time.  But I'm not envious, I'm just like the rest of her friends who want to be around her.  I'm not trying to paint Stephany as a deity, I mean, she is an angel most the time but when her wings fall off she flies on her broomstick and you'd best lay low. She is a normal human like everyone else, capable of the full gamut of emotions, but what makes Stephany special and sets her apart is that she's made it a conscious life goal to love people and love them unbiasedly.  Pretty ambitious enterprise for a girl who doesn't subscribe to any particular religion, but she lives it.

I'd waited all week for my turn to be with Stephany and meeting her in a bar at 10pm on a Thursday night was all I got this go round.  But no sooner did I find a seat than she was up flitting about the room working her friendly prowess, that's the thing with social butterflies I suppose. So I just sat there, alone, staring into my glass of lime water, listening to her cool friends Tasha and Shina croon on the open mic.  Until I overheard her other cool friend, Steven, gushing over Stephany behind my back. I turned around to see him with his arm over her shoulder, staring into her eyes in the most serious platonic way (she's married to another really cool and really giant biker dude) and Steven said to her "Stephany, you are the most beautiful person I have ever met. You're not just gorgeous on the outside but your gorgeous on the inside and that's why I love you." 

I can only hope at the end of my life that what Steven said to Stephany is something my friends will also say about Lisa. I want to make others feel necessary and loved and appreciated like Stephany does.   Whether Stephany believes in God is irrelevant to me, I want what she and Jesus have in common, God (love) living through me, making a difference, infecting others with the kind of love that is contagious.