Sunday, September 20, 2009

My ah-ha moment

My post today was inspired by my blogger friend Audra. A sweet person I am thankful to have met in blogville! We are both journeying through a slow year and she was sharing her "ah-ha" moment when she decided to attempt to live outside of the "american dream". I thought I should share mine...probably should've before, but that's what fellow bloggers do...they inspire you through their writing! :) Don't you love blogging?

My anti-cosumerism moment of all things convenient, as I call it, began about almost three years ago. wow...I didn't realize that till now. We ( my family) and I sold everything to move to Washington state. I think my ah-ah moment actually started before we left, when after ridding myself of everything I once thought I couldn't live without, I walked away feeling a breath of fresh air. I sold some stuff, but mostly gave a whole lot away to a woman I had never met, whose house had burned down and she had lost everything! The only things we took with us were clothes and books for homeschooling.

After arriving in Washington, we stayed with my sister, I watched her kids and took care of the meals in return for a place to stay while we tried to found a home. It was a long process as we had to sell our home back east. My husband was taking a huge cut in pay, when we decided to settle in Mt vernon rather than the Seattle area. Thus we were pretty much paying for place to stay and eat, that's it...not much left over for shopping for things, clothes, entertainment. I gave piano lessons to help and babysat for a little while. To others looking on the outside in, I'm sure it appeared we were "suffering" and pitying us for what we didn't have. We realized later none of that "stuff" really bothered us or made us feel less than our neighbor. We lived outdoors most of the time, in that every chance we got, we went hiking or climbing in the Cascade mountains, we drove less and rode our bikes nearly everyday anywhere we went. We'd pack food and spend hours on the beaches up on the rocky bluffs and watch for sea lions and pick up starfish off the sand and put them in the water. My kids learned about all sorts of living creatures in tidepools, surviving in the wild, and learning to lean on each other for friendships. My sister and I became very close, we had not spent time with each other in the 13 years or so since we had both been apart with our own families. We also did alot of outdoor living with them, foraging berries, snow tubing, beach combing, trail riding, hiking, ect.

Enjoying life with my family was priceless in comparison to living a lifestyle keeping up with the american dream and having the perfect home. I was much happier spending time on a mountain trail and looking foward to another adventure with my family.

Then just before my husband graduated from Army training, my kids and I did something I had thought a lot about. Instead of staying with family or renting an apartment for a "small" down payment, electricity bill, water, get the phone on, ect, I rented a cabin for 5 weeks near Deception Pass, one of our favorite beaches to wander! I wanted to prove to myself as well as to my kids, that material things aren't everything, that you can survive without things, that if worst came to worst, we could make it on very little and still be content and happy!

We stayed in a very small two-room cabin. It had a bunkbed, table, dresser, double bed. The first four weeks were just my kids and I. The girls and I shared the double bed and the boys got the bunks. We cooked over a fire ring everynight.We bought a cart of firewood for 20 bucks and rationed it for the whole month. Twice we were also given wood from fellow campers that we got to know. The nights it rained, I cooked beans in the crockpot and we ate raw food. We did have electricity, but no bathroom or running water. So we had to hike up the camp to the public bathroom and shower. I used the water pump outside for water, heated our water on the fire, put in a big basin to wash dishes, hands, ect. I never did feel like I was truly "roughing" it. I was going to just buy a tent and "go for it", but my washington pals told me that with the rain everyday I was sure to get washed out and end up moving into something else. The cabin happened to be a good thing.

I miss staying up after dark chatting around the campfire, gazing up into the tall douglas fir trees, the moon outlining their spiny branches. Bird watching around our cabin and the racoon that visited us everynight from his perch in the tree (he chewed a hole in our garbage can eventually). I miss the adventures of a new peak to climb, a new camper to get to know, chatting with the lady who walked her four cats in the evening around the park, sitting at the top of the bay and watching hang gliders, ships coming into the harbor and seagulls following us for our lunch. I especially miss the snow-capped mountains, beckoning me to attempt a higher peak the next chance I got! I miss the rain, staying inside the cabin playing cards or sewing with my kids. Ah, the simple life! :)

There weren't many chores. We only had an iron skillet and one pot for the grill over the fire. I bought each of us a dish and utensils for eating, so we never had dishes pile up, because we had to wash it to use it for the next meal. The boys made sure we got water every night and morning, and the firewood was kept dry and my oldest started the fire everynight for the meal. I guess dinner was the longest, if we didn't want raw food, which when it's cold, I craved something warm and sometimes it took awhile to get a good fire because of the wind or lack of kindling to start the green wood. I would say a solar over would be good, except that the sun rarely comes out in Washington;) I got used to the grey skies actually.

We didn't have room for toys, so my kids rode their bikes all over camp, played with sticks and imaginary foes in the woods, and lived at the park! Their cousins came a few times and even camped out with us! It was incredible to watch the kids entertain themselves all day with things around the camp. One weekend we had some campers come stay in the cabin next to us. They had two kids, for which my children were estatic to find new playmates, except that their parents made sure they had every possible electronic gadget to keep them busy during their obvious memorial day getaway weekend. Instead of chatting around the campfire and getting to know each other again, we watched sadly from our campfire as the parents read their novels or texted busily on their cell phones, as their kids exercised their thumbs for hours on the gameboys.

Our recent move to New York was our fourth trip across the US...well by car anyway. Our last trip was aboard a greyhound for four days, Not fun! Good experience though. I do live in a nice house, a nice but used, paid for car, and I still need dining room chairs. But I no longer need to fill a void for material things to make me feel content or happy. I'm not trying to keep up with everyone else my age or where I live, so there is no pressure on me to do or buy the things they requre to make it in their life. It's a wonderful feeling of freedom. My things I own, such as the house I live in, the car I drive, the clothes I wear, do NOT add value or character to my name. I know that's not the way people typically judge another before getting to know them, but my self-confidence and self-esteem do not ride on "things". The way I treat others, take care of my family, and take care of myself, are what gives me happiness and contentment with my status in life.

My main source of contentment and joy is the simple fact that I answer to no man save Jesus Christ who loved me no matter where I was in life, died for my sins and gave me the liberty to live a free life in Him. To serve Him and to serve others are the primary source of my joy and contentment in life!

Here are some pics of our life at camp this past year!

One of our favorite spot to sit and watch life!

Playing a board game on a rainy day!


Q said...

Awesome, thanks so much for sharing this.

Very very inspiering. I want to do somthing similar to what your family did in the cabin.

Audra said...

Aubrey, thanks for the mention, glad to know I inspired you much in the way you inspire me. Love the story, funny thing that my trip to a rental home for two weeks made me realize how much I could/can do without. I am begining to get the feeling of breathing easier. Not all at once, as this is taking a while to get through, but slowly I look around and realize I don't miss a thing!

HOPE said...

What a wonderful life lesson for the kids...

Values of living...loving...and giving...

and putting the LORD..FIRST with thankfulness.


Carrie said...

What a great post!! It sounds like you had a wonderful experience. We always talk about when we're going to travel across the country with our little camper and experience all the beautiful sights of this land we live in. Washington State must be a beautiful place.