Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My Love/Hate Relationship with Pinterest

How do I begin? I guess I’ll begin where it began—this sometimes glorious, often obsessive, occasionally infuriating relationship. My good friend Alissa introduced me to Pinterest two years ago when she made a pin board dedicated to inspiration for mywedding.

Alissa is one of those rare people who burn the candle on both ends all the time, and yet, although entertaining a mild dependence on caffeine, still keep it all together and manage to lead very productive and meaningful lives. Alissa is busy the way I imagine Benjamin Franklin to have been busy—pursuing his passions vigorously, and not limiting them to one realm of interest. Alissa is far saintlier than Franklin, I’m certain, because without being paid and without even being pressured she voluntarily bore the weight of my entire DIY Shabby/Chic wedding on herself. I don’t even really remember a formal discussion about it, just her Pinterest invitation to me, opening my eyes to the wondrous new worlds of ideas for my wedding, my reaction of excitement, agreement on virtually every idea and style she pinned on my behalf, and discussion with her on how we could make it all happen.

I would say, from my experience with other brides who planned their weddings with the aid of Pinerest, most are disappointed in the outcomes of their weddings. The plans they were more than confident in only because of Pinterest did not turn out to be as doable as they believed. For example, my friend Storey, who is a bridal consultant at a national bridal chain, recently told me that she frequently has trouble helping brides on a budget find a dress in their price range because they want nothing less than an exquisite, all-lace, backless, minutely tailored, crystal-encrusted, move-over-Audrey-Hepburn, WOWZA gown they could never afford in real life, but which they saw on Pinterest.

I can hear it now: “I saw it on Pinterest, and you really don’t have it?! That’s the only one I really want!” . . . Storey, I don’t think I could do your job.

On the other hand, we have the example of my wedding. We spent around $5,000 for the whole thing: invitations, ceremony, reception with dinner and live music, professional photographer, fireworks, favors, flowers, cake and a dessert bar, decorations, my dress, AND the honeymoon. Credit must be given where credit is due, and even two years later I’m still beyond grateful to my dear friend Alissa for her help, and even for her introducing me to my frienemy Pinterest. Without her can-do attitude and renaissance-woman abilities to do anything she sets her mind to, our wedding would have either been a lot more shabby than chic, or we would have gone way into debt to afford the stylish aesthetic I so longed to have at my wedding.

The other way I defeated the fiend of wedding-lust unleashed upon me through Pinterest was in how I chose my dress. I mean, seriously, the dress really is the centerpiece of the whole event, am I right? At least it is for us dewy-eyed little girls dreaming of our wedding since we first saw Ariel’s poofy-sleeved wedding gown in 1989’s The Little Mermaid. Well, I had quite the chance to have those very poofs, though I no longer favored them as much at 24 as I did at 4. You see, I have never been a fan of mass-produced gowns ala David’s Bridal, or even those made by “designers” at little bridal boutiques. I like unique; original, but classic. Having spent a few hours in a vintage wedding dress shop only to be disappointed both in prices and in how much alteration would be required to make any of those retro gowns fit my style, I considered he offer my mother made me when I was still a teenager: to wear her dress. It had poofy sleeves to rival any. But beneath the sleeves, and some dated 80s sequins that Alissa figured out how to remove harmlessly, was my dream dress. It was perfect. It was free. Even the alterations, which were done by another friend.

I am getting long-winded here. Is this a post about my wedding, or about Pinterest? Ugh. Pull yourself together, Libby.

My point is, Pinterest could have corrupted my wedding hopes, over-complicating them into a materially-driven need to be in style, rather than a lovely night celebrating the joy and beauty of my marriage to the man I love. Without Alissa, and a bit of perspective, there could have been some major Pinterest-fueled regret.

Now my wedding is done, and yet here is Pinterest, my ever present frienemy. Have I explained yet, or maybe have you guessed, why I cannot fully embrace and love Pinterest? Pinterest is not the problem. I am the problem. And maybe you are too. We go on Pinterest for myriad reasons. Here are some of mine: to escape; to get “inspiration” for even more things I won’t really ever accomplish; to compare myself to others; to make sure I’m hip with the trends; to find recipes I may or may not ever make; to bookmark a link I don’t find important enough to become a bookmark, but in some gluttonous way can’t let go of into the void of the web (as if Google couldn’t fetch it back for me in a second); to gain followers; to market my blog posts; to check my repins for validation of my taste; to figure out what I NEED in life.

It took me stream-of-consciousness writing that entire list before I came upon the last one, which is really the one that sums up the hate part of my love/hate with Pinterest: “to figure out what I NEED in life

. . . If we let it, Pinterest will tell us who we are. It will tell us what we need to look like, cook like, and live like. It will affirm us or make us feel unworthy, but in either case, it will be a misplaced guidepost for our life’s meaning and goals. 

I still do love to hop on Pinterest and keyword search something amazing like “dark chocolate cherry cheesecake,” “neon peplum top,” or “how to can tomatoes.” I still enjoy trimming the boards/pinners I follow down to only that which I truly appreciate or am inspired by, and scrolling down to take in all their latest pins free of any unsightly tattoo boards or too many workout motivation pins. But I need to be aware of and make a conscious choice not to use Pinterest as a compass for my life. I need most of all to not allow Pinterest to tell me what I need to own or how I need to look. This is, after all, a blog about being frugal and yet still enjoying beauty in your surroundings. Pinterest can get in line behind Crate & Barrel for sources of my material-lust, but I’m not going to let them beat me.

Food Cynicism

Yesterday I began reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. (When I’m finished, I’ll be sure to do a book review for whoever may be reading this blog. Probably no one, but oh well.) Later, I found myself at the local whole foods store (Pomegranate Market) wandering the aisles, comparing unit prices and competitors’ prices on such things as coconut oil and free range organic eggs. An hour of perusing and all I left with was exactly one pound of the cheapest of their soft-skinned organic fruits, which happened to be some lovely crimson-fleshed plums for $1.99/lb.

Let’s condense that into one sentence: I started reading a book about the chaos of dietary culture in America and then wandered through an organic grocery store for an hour without getting anything but a few plums.

I think the Omnivore is me, and my dilemma is debilitating. I shouldn’t be spending half my weekly take-home pay on food from the grocery store. Nor should the food that is most affordable be so loaded with chemicals and additives that the ingredient list is longer than this blog post. Where is the middle ground, people? Why is it that the more chemicals we add to something, the less it costs? Is it just me, or is that backwards? An ear of corn, grown naturally, picked, and left untouched should cost so much less than the same ear processed and altered to oblivion in a lab, shouldn't it? Doesn't that processing cost something extra? But hey, I'm just an ignorant bystander.

I know the argument for why organic whole foods cost more, but I don’t really buy it. They don’t HAVE to cost more. We knew nothing BUT organic for the first few centuries in America, and now suddenly it’s marketed as some higher plain of eating that only the rich can attain.

I am a cynical woman when it comes to the food industry in our country. Capitalism is not the friend of the American eater. While I can’t claim by any stretch of the imagination to be an expert on the complex realities of the American food industry, I will still put my opinion out there: the way we are artificially supporting ourselves with GMO foods, out-of-season staple foods shipped thousands of miles for our constant demand, box-to-table processed meals, and other “convenience” methodology for feeding America, we are really setting ourselves up for famine and starvation on a wide scale. We have an artificially-supported system. When those artifices fail, where is our back-up plan?

I’m not going all doom and gloom here, I am just explaining why I am praying for a change in our country and I’m starting with me. Part of why I started this blog was to keep myself accountable by regularly talking about the ways I’m simplifying my life, and one of the major ways I’m doing that is by eating naturally as much as I possibly can.

On that note, I'll just add that I am praying hard for a Trader Joe's to come to my town. Though perhaps in a year, I will have changed my tune and be praying rather for more small farms in my region to sell me more local goods.

*update on the NuttyRhubarb Oatmeal I made myself for breakfast yesterday and again this morning: DELICIOUS. I added a little honey today because the rhubarb is quite tart, but it was delicious without it as well.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Introvert Projects While Husband is Away

It's 6:20 am and I'm dressed and ready for the day. I still need to make an aeropress of the Moonshine Coffee David got me in Minneapolis, but my rhubarb is roasting for the Nutty Rhubarb Oatmeal I'm trying out by Pastry Affair. Today is going to start well, at the very least.

For the first half of the week David will be camp speaker at a little Bible camp a few hours north of us, so I will be going to work each day and coming home to a blank canvas of introverted possibilities.

I think tonight I will be purging my bathroom closet. When I got married, many well-meaning ladies from our church got me gifts of highly-fragrant lotions. I don't know, maybe it's a subtle way for Christian ladies to say "congratulations, you get to have sex!" but instead of lingerie gifts, which are equally awkward, they buy these young brides lotions that reek like a bordello. Oi. I have a sensitive nose to begin with, and on top of that, none of these lotions smell like me. I can just see it now, a romantic evening alone with my husband, our eyes meet, he takes a step to close the 20-foot gap between us, but before he can, he meets the oppressive cloud of artificial fragrance and steps back in fear and dread.

No. Thank. You.

I could never throw these smelly perfumed gifts away before, they just formed a large pile in a wicker basket in the bathroom closet, never touched, and for heaven's sake, NEVER opened. Now I have overcome the mental barrier I had against getting rid of it all. By deciding to a) go all natural and eliminate artificial/harmful chemicals from all my foods and beauty products, and b) simplify my life so that I live with less and am happy with less, I can now do a purposeful purge without guilt.

Along with the perfume grenades (otherwise known as any lotion/body wash made by VS or B&BW) I will be purging my cosmetics. I'll be ridding myself of anything I haven't used in the last 6 months, and anything older than 2 years. Cosmetics do expire, and those that don't change at all in the course of a few years are probably LOADED with chemicals.

I will reduce my makeup down to that which can easily fit in one makeup bag. That's my commitment. I wear so little of it now anyway, I should easily be able to fulfill it.

As for smelly lotions, they is gone, baby, gone.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Post-Industrial Pioneer Life

I wish I could sew. I wish I could tan leather. I wish I could weave fabric from raw wool, or linen from sun-whitened flax. I wish I had a homestead from which I could provide abundantly for my family.

Basically, I want to be from another time, where everything was done by hand out of need. Skills were passed on from generation to generation and people were self-sufficient, getting what they could not make for themselves by bartering with their neighbors. We lived off the land and could discern between the gifts God gives us to live on and the luxuries we don’t truly need. We knew our communities and relied on each other. We didn’t know how to be wasteful because we needed to use all we had to its fullest potential.

I’ve always been annoyed by the “Green” movement, as if being environmentally-minded were some new trend where you recycle, buy canvas bags for your groceries, and plant trees on Arbor Day. None of that is bad, of course, but the people I see being all hyped up about it are the same people I see at Starbucks and Ikea. I just don’t know how we can be “Green” and still live like a typical American in the post-industrial age.

Wow, I sound like an ogre, or at the very least, a self-righteous hipster. I hope that all my opinions and the way I live my life doesn’t express arrogance or judgment, but rather, what I want to think about, live out, and display for onlookers is that I don’t buy into what the world approves; that my choices are influenced most heavily by my conscience, and my commitment to follow Jesus before anything.

So… what does that look like? It’s tough to put it in words, but I think mainly it means I use what I have with thanksgiving, I make no financial decisions that are beyond my means, I joyfully give to others from what I have, and I make the best of the digital age by learning as many pioneer skills as I can to amplify the resourcefulness of my lifestyle.

Deep breath. Let’s pioneer.

Friday, July 26, 2013

You Don't Need More Stuff

Too many of us have had a poor education in the art and joy of frugality. When we hear the word “frugal” we cringe at the impressions of shabbiness and self-denial the word has always implied for us. I am fighting that mindset in myself, because I know it isn’t true. I love beautiful things, and want my home, wardrobe, and appearance to reflect my sense of style. But that doesn’t mean I have to meet up to some Martha Stewart Living standard or ride a LOOKBOOK trend wave.

“You need more stuff.” This is the lie we tell ourselves whenever we feel unsatisfied with our lives, when we are tired, or when our neighbors appear to be flourishing beyond our level. We compare ourselves and endlessly strive to fit a mold made by man.

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:6-10, ESV)

Such a simple truth, and yet it is so powerful. I really need to meditate on these verses when I am tempted to crave more material; more clothes, more products, more of the “new,” more to distinguish me as ahead of the curve.

But what is life really for? To have “more”? To surpass my neighbor? What an endless, tiring march into spiritual ruin. But I want my life to be an expression of deep thankfulness to God for His goodness, a testimony of His love to others, and a reflection of the true beauty of His created world.

My frugality then, is not a default mode in which I must function during a season of financial scarcity, but the principle I will continue to live by during seasons of plenty. I find the truest and most satisfying expression of my aesthetic needs in this: to use what I have to its fullest potential, creating things of beauty that I might have otherwise overlooked, and never allowing myself to think I “need” anything beyond what I already have.

I will cook creatively with food that’s in season.

I will use the clothes I have and not replace them until they are used up. I’ll wear the pieces I love and donate the rest.

I will create d├ęcor from things I already have and make the best of the small, shabby kitchen of my 1980s-furbished apartment.

I will walk or bike instead of drive when the distance is short.

I will borrow books and movies from the library.

I will buy used instead of new when possible.

I will become a better seamstress and get creative.

I will draw and paint my own artworks.

I will grow herbs and vegetables.

I will make my own granola.

I will can.

I will eat leftovers.

I will love every minute of it.