Friday, April 25, 2008

We Don't Know What We're Missing

When I moved down here to join my husband four years ago, there had just been back-to-back hurricanes that decimated the area. As you might imagine, housing of any sort at that time was at a premium, since there were so many displaced families whose homes had been damaged beyond the point of live-ability. At that point, you had to pay expensive rents for the most basic four walls and a roof, and our first rental was a good example of that.

You see, I'd had the cutest of small cottages for a house in Tennessee, with walls painted in warm ochres and buttermilk shades, large vintage poster prints, bookcases with books everywhere, and open cabinets in the kitchen with neat stacks of dishware, a comfy armchair, fireplace, and a tiny dooryard garden brimming with perennials and regular hummingbird visitors. A red front door and trailing vines up the brick elderberry bush entwined with a white lilac were right outside the dining room picture window just next to the birdfeeder and its flat platform tray that had a constant entourage of mourning doves pecking for seed.

And my dog, Shadow. The best dog I ever had...ever. The most intuitive and loving and gentle part-black lab mix Heinz 57 dog, whom I still miss to THIS DAY. He would ring the string of camel bells that hung from the inside doorknob of the front door when he needed to go outside. He would sleep in the hall between my bedroom and my daughter's bedroom doors at night, our protectors. I miss Shadow!!

Shadow was one of the hardest parts of the move, the other being leaving the one place I'd lived the longest...for 14 years. After the hurricane, the ONLY place we could find to rent did not allow any animals. We appealed to the landlords for an exception, but they wouldn't budge. And the shelters in Florida were so overburdened with animals at that point that finding a temporary adoptive family for a Tennessee dog was impossible in our situation. I had to leave my dog to an adoptive family in my Tennessee town. I won't even go on further about was a hard decision, and I'm still sad.

I'm not sad I joined my husband here...where he is is my home. The rental unit we found was the most run-down place I'd ever lived, but Jack did a lot to get it in order before the big should have seen it before. It was a tiny, squat square of concrete blocks, painted over some decade past but not since, and the exterior looked like someone had sneezed on was dingy greyish-white with huge smears of pinkish and greyish mold streaking the sides, especially anywhere the roof water ran down. The interior was not much better. The roof and fascia were infested with termites. The front windows and door were those moveable strips of glass that open outwards, but couldnt because the hardware was stripped, but still managed to leak any cool interior air right to the outside. They were a safety hazard, too...very easy to break into. The back door was a few strides from the front door, and was an ill-fitting sliding glass door, again, with broken track and easy-to-break-into latch. The kitchen cabinets and bathroom were indescribable, except to say that the only thing I've seen worse so far were the outhouses in Romanian campgrounds in 1985. These at least flushed :)

Well, Jack got in there and bleached everything, and painted many coats of fresh white paint. He repaired doors simply so they'd close, or the holes someone had put their fist through would now be filled and sanded flat and then painted. The fronts of the kitchen cabinets were so rotted, the laminate was blistered loose and hanging in strips. The insides of the cabinets were murky, sticky, filthy, and rotting. The stove had one eye that worked and the oven was burned out and had loose wiring hanging from the inside. There was a tiny sink, just enough room to put our table and sit 2 or 3 people if you didnt scoot your chair out too much, and two tiny bedrooms.

We did do the best we knew how to with it. Off came the cabinet door laminate, everything got a coat of white paint (or two or three), including all the interiors of the cabinets, and everything was fumigated. The police were out every night to the neighbor across the street who aired her romantic grievances publicly with a loud and repetitive vocabulary usually starting with the letter F, standing in her driveway throwing out the latest boyfriend. There was a pit bull chained in an empty lot directly across from us. Our front door had no doorknob and had to be pulled shut and locked each time with a key just to keep it closed.

This was our honeymoon suite :) heehee

We knew it would be temporary, and we lived there about a year.

During that time, we opted for no TV...after all, where would we put it?? The only few square feet where equipment would fit housed our computer and the paperwork for our small home business.

Living there was good for us. It taught us a lot about scaling down our possessions, and using what is most necessary. It also taught me how much I adore having a place to do laundry in my own And having a stove that works, and an oven that works, and trees to look at from the windows that DO close and a door that DOES have a doorknob :)

All that to say that an unexpected thing happened related to the TV. We kept our TV because we enjoy watching movies. But during that first year, we had no TV service because we kept thinking of that place as temporary and didn't want to get cable service hooked up until we moved elsewhere. And we couldnt get reception without cable service. Then we moved a year later to a much nicer, very clean and spacious rental (yay!), and we had become used to going without any TV reception. We opted to forgo it a bit longer, and kept using the TV just for a monitor to watch DVDs and videos now and then. That lasted a year.

Then we moved here and again, the same thing...we just don't like seeing ourselves being nickled and dimed in so many areas of our budget, and TV was one of those nickle and dime parts of our budget. So we've been without TV reception for four years now, and have seen no programs on either standard TV or cable at ALL. We have found we can check out DVDs for free from the library and get a lot of the awesome PBS documentaries and dramas as well as every sort of movie, how-to video, or musical production that way. They even have some television series...some are old re-runs and some are contemporary...all without commercials.

We haven't tried Netflix yet, simply because we haven't exhausted all the good stuff we can check out for free at the library here. We are not non-TV watchers, if you count the TV as a monitor only rather than getting regular reception. But when we want to watch something, it's deliberate...we put something in when we want to watch that specific thing.

What I didn't realize was that I'm not being brainwashed to buy products, to think of myself as "deserving" of this and that consumer retail item, to eat fast food or restaurant food, to compare my body to those of airbrushed supermodels, to buy certain brands of trendy toys/foods/healthcare items/gadgets, and I don't have any idea what the cutting edge is in fashion or home decor.

When we want the news, we listen to radio and look for ourselves at any newspaper in the world on the internet.

We miss the constant barrage of these things...though I'd never have thought of them as such:
1. fear-mongering
2. manipulation of the news facts
3. vulnerability to it economic, fashion, healthcare, travel, consuming
4. being told to buy buy buy certain products
5. being told we're deprived if we don't buy those things

The constant stimulation to buy things came SO often through the TV! And now that it's missing, I marvel that I'm so much more resistant when I do hear the advertisements...after all, it's so constant on things such as the TV that we often tune them out but don't recognize how automatically those repetitious product-hawkers replay in our heads...the catchy jingles and slogas and visual images DO effectively advertise....EVERYTHING.

I'm very very sobered by what's happening in the world. We are taking action in small ways, and sometimes bigger ways, for our own family in response to those. But there's a big BIG difference in now and THEN

I realize that the constant barrage we used to have, mostly through the TV but also from other places, produces a REACTION rather than a thoughtful responsive action. There is a difference.

It just dawned on me today that we don't know what we're missing, and that's why we don't feel like simplifying, reducing, becoming wiser in the ways we work or spend or buy or create or interact or recreate...any of these things...are something extraordinarily "abnormal." We turned off the noise. Now we can think. Even if we don't think MORE than we used to, we're not distracted by all the "noise" of advertising, of suggestion. We have underestimated just how effective that noise was. When it was turned off, we didnt lose our ability to unwind by snuggling up on the couch with a good movie...we lost the voices telling us we were discontent and needed something better or something more, or told us WHAT something we should consider.

I think the constant barrage of all that noise, not only from advertisers on TV but also the frenetic pace of the corporate world and its set up of disconnects, is an overload. When in any area it is quieted for a length of time, things sort of settle into a peacefulness (not complacency) that comes as a sense of relief. Even with all the other demands and deadlines, removing one or two major contributors of that constant advertising or other "urgency" can bring some balance.

I realized today I have no idea what the trendy toys know, the ones everyone HAS to have for holidays or birthdays or because the updated one just came out. I have NO idea what is even on TV! I can't really be an informed small-talker in conversation when it comes to these things...I never saw a single episode (or sometimes even HEARD of) most of the TV programs that are on now. For example, I Googled favorite TV programs, and here's the list of the ones they consider the most popular:

One Tree Hill Don't know this one.
America's Next Top Model Never seen, but surely it's self-explanatory.
Dancing with the Stars Same here.
Gossip Girl Never heard of. Went through enough dramas like this when my daughter was in junior appeal to me now, ha!
Big Brother 9 George Orwell? Haven't heard of this one.
American Idol This was around before we went no-TV-reception. I sometimes watch youtube clips.
Biggest Loser I'm aware of what this one is. Wish I could be on it! Not sure I'd want a million people watching me get on a scale at ANY weight, though :)
Grey's Anatomy Never seen. Have heard of.
High School Musical 2 Never heard of, never seen.
Rock of Love This one has me mystified. Alcatraz has built some honeymoon cabins? A fundraiser concert for third world hunger?
NCIS No idea what this is.
House A lot of folks I know like this. I still don't know what it is.
Lost Saw the pilot a few years back. Then I moved to Florida and any further recollection of this show is...lost :)
Hannah Montana I have no idea. Is this the 2000's answer to the "Blossom" of the 90s?
Smallville The opposite of Megalopolis? Never seen.

Before you feel sorry for me and write me off as a culturally-deficient freak (which I may be! :)), remember...
I haven't known what I'm missing!

The only reason I know what tapas is is because I sometimes read foodie blogs. But because I haven't been TOLD what I should think is the latest and greatest thing to read/drink/eat/watch/listen to/buy/believe I also have an interest in learning to cook some dishes that are Moroccan, Mexican, Native American, fermented, Middle Eastern, Indian, raw, juiced, local, heirloom and open pollinated, unprocessed, and without packaging. I want to learn to cook flatbreads and grind my own grain for bread I knead myself. And to make my own butter.

And these are some of the things on my Wish List...which I may or may not get someday, but if I do it'll be because they're something that'll be thought out and be a nice "fit" for our family over the longer-term, and not end up in a yard sale six months later, or thrown away.....

1. Chickens
2. A few hand garden tools
3. Tons and tons of poop ...for tons and tons of compost!
4. A worm bin and worms
5. A top bar beehive
6. A whole ginormous plot of heirloom tomatoes
7. Red clover sown everywhere nothing else is growing
8. Bee plants, tucked in everywhere
9. A canner and pressure canner
10. Sheep
11. A Welsh cob
12. A farm dog or dogs
13. Herbs for our health
14. Homemade soap
15. A clothesline of clean laundry
16. Some canvas and paints, to get back into painting
17. Lots of visits from friends to cook for and enjoy!
18. Two milk cows
19. Some beef cattle
20. Did I mention chickens?? :) :)

oh and

21. LAND, any amount small or large, that allows us to have chickens, cow, and bees.

and possibly, if miracles ever occurred

22. have children with this husband I adore; yes, even at this age :)

(That's up to God. I havent been able to have any more children since my daughter was born two decades ago)

Anyway, we've gained by not being told what we're missing.

What we NOW think we're missing has changed to what better represents our own individuality, need, and contents us best. We desire skills, time together, and the lasso tightening to draw all our efforts home rather than dispersing us.

Maybe be not being told what we're missing, we now know that what we have is sufficient, and we are happy keeping it that simple. Sufficiency is a vital and living thing...not deprivation or poverty mentality. Change is constant, and we need to change many things. Now we can think more clearly about what those should continue being, without the distraction and constant interruption. We can be a vital community member, connected to each other in many ways, and still nurture a quietness of mind a little bit freer of marketing/advertising overload. Things become clearer, and we can ponder solutions and not be so wearied by the frenetic. And we can think for ourselves, because we should. We don't have to rely on a steady diet of being told statistics of how everyone else thinks, buys, and lives.

OK, this has run long...too long!

I am missing a couple hours of sleep on this, my day I'm off to collect 'em while I can! There's a whole To Do list for the busy, busy afternoon...

I have really been enjoying reading so many of your blog posts recently...SO enjoyable! I appreciate the other bloggers and readers "out here" so much...thank you!


Meg said...

I love this post.

We don't have cable either but, like you, we have an old tv that we use for watching movies. We can also catch some local channels with a set of rabbit ears, so we occasionally watch sports. When we do, it's amazing how ridiculous the commercials are.

On the rare occasion that we have to go to the mall for something, the window displays and ads just boggle my mind. I can't believe (well, no, I can) that people are buying all that stuff.

You are so right that everything becomes much more clear when you disengage from the big corporate noise machine.

I will send you guys some happy thoughts regarding #22 on your list :D

Drew Kime said...

You can check one thing off your wish list this weekend. Put a cup of heavy cream in a small Tupperware container with a good seal. Have the kids shake it like crazy for a minute or two each, then pass it to someone else. (No kids? Count this as your workout.) Keep going for about 10 minutes. Open it up and presto, your own butter.

How To Cook Like Your Grandmother

sugarcreekstuff said...

We went with no tv for an entire summer. We did do library movies. We now have local channels only and if the kids want to watch sponge bob, they can on the computer. I think it's crazy to pay for something that makes you sit so long.

Twinville said...

I love that you have chickens at the very top! And at #20, too! hehe

And land...very important for all those critters and plans, of course.

But I also was quite drawn to your #16 because that is also one of my creative outlets, that unfortunately I don't find enough time for me to do.

I like to pencil sketch and chalk and water color. But I recently bought a canvas that I am planning on painting my very first oil painting on...

I don't know why I'm nervous about it. I think it's because it's such a big blank white fill up with something just from me.

Ooooh! The pressure!


I hope all your wishes and dreams come true!

Rev. Sweet said...

Our family had opted for internet over cable TV though we have an antenna and still veg out at night too often.

Chickens are my current goal.

tina f. said...

Re: #22; YIKES! I strongly recommend waiting for grandchildren. Of course I'm different than you in that respect. Much as I'm crazy in love with my granddaughter I could not IMAGINE having another kid of my own at this stage of my life. (I'm just three years older than you.) But if that's what you want then good luck on that.

As far as the butter goes, Drew is right. That is the easiest way to make butter quickly. HOWEVER...if you want a really delicious version check this out :

I've made it a few times and I have to ease off because I end up eating this butter four times more often than regular butter!!!

edifice rex said...

Since moving into my house I did get cable but I opted for the cheapest package available which is basically local channels and the weather channel. I also bought a new TV since I had the money and my other was SO old. Now, I rarely turn the thing on. People don't realize how much time they waste with that thing and how it can influence you also and the information they choose to give you can rarely be trusted. I am astounded at how much time one of our local news channels devote to American Idol! And there are people starving and being abused all over this world and they are fascinated with who got thrown off some stupid program about singing! I mean, if you like some of the shows that's fine; I have watched some occasionally but we really put too much emphasis on meaningless crap.