Life is absurd. And life is precious. Family is a lot of both.

Monday, July 29, 2013

House Keeping

According to our kids, the use of cloth napkins for ordinary meals is somewhat pretentious and weird.

"My friend thinks we're all rich and fancy," reports one of them.

"As if," I reply in my head.

We are neither rich (at least by first world standards) nor fancy (by anyone's standard). But, yes, we do have a large collection of cloth napkins which we use every day.

I don't remember why we started it, but I think it had something to do with a ski trip to Italy when we were young and childless and stationed overseas. The hotel served breakfast and dinner each day in the big dining room. Naturally we had crisp cloth napkins. Unnaturally we were asked to keep the same napkin throughout our stay. Just fold it up and place it on the table to await your next meal. I think a few had to be replaced after spaghetti night, but mostly everyone kept his or her personal napkin and used it over and over all week.

  
The napkin drawer. So not fancy.
It made sense to us--less trash, less laundry, less fuss all around.

Another thing our children report makes us "fancy" is our use of Polish pottery 24/7/365. I don't believe in buying things just to be put away and saved for something special. I believe in using it all. If it gets used up (the good body lotion) or stained (the pale linen blouse) or broken (yeah, the pottery), that's fine with me. I might sigh a little over something I know I can't replace easily, but the only way I can fully appreciate beauty is by living with it--not just looking at it when I open a cabinet or drawer.

Take care of the beautiful things, but enjoy them thoroughly. I guess that's my motto when it comes to stuff.
Part of the pottery we use for every meal..

That's our motto as well when it comes to the environment.

Some people think we are tree-hugging wackos. Others think we are use-it-up-who-cares-about-the-future types. I suppose it is because we send mixed signals.

We recycle extensively (six years of living in recycle-mandatory Europe rubs off on a person). We use cloth shopping bags (I'll admit it's as much because I hate the avalanche of plastic bags as it is concern for the dolphins). We garden without pesticides (and grow champion weeds while our tomatoes and cucumbers fight to survive). [Footnote: this year we caved and sprayed. The mighty harvest of veggies has us thinking we may stick with that until we can afford a full-time gardener to pull weeds and pluck bugs.]

What makes us seem insensitive to the planet's woes? We willingly and happily grew our family to eight (clearly not buying the overpopulation argument). We drive an SUV (see above why we legitimately require that much seating). We're a little suspicious of electric cars (since making electricity burns a lot of fuel). And we think natural gas is a really good alternative.

How to explain our seemingly oxymoronic take on this lovely planet Earth we call home? Consider this analogy.

We have a house. It  makes us very happy. We take good care of it. We fix leaks, repair walls, tend the yard, scrub the floors and fixtures, wash the windows and fight the dust war as best we can. We do not appreciate anyone who trashes it.

And yet....

We live in the house. We use it for shelter and pleasure. We are not afraid to knock down walls or tear up flooring or replace something if it will make it a better place for our family. The house exists to serve us. It does that well. In return, we take care of it, ensuring that it will be a functional and beautiful shelter for our family now and any family in the future.

If the Earth is the shelter God provided for us all then trashing it is wrong, selfish, and a horrible thing to pass along to those who come after us. But it's here for us to use and enjoy, not worship or glorify as something worth more than those who walk her surface each day.

Taking care of the Earth is a lot like taking care of our house. There is a constant battle with people dropping trash and crumbs and dirty socks all over the place. Everywhere you look things are stained, chipped, and in need of scrubbing. The list of hoped-for improvements is long and expensive. Yet it is a thing of beauty, comfort and happiness. And it is well worth maintaining, even at the expense of our time, effort and money.

As for going green, my suggestion would do more for the Earth, I believe, than banning plastic bags forever. If we want less visual clutter and fewer toxic fumes, let's ban socks for all teenage boys. In my little corner of the planet, at least, that would go a long way.

The smelly socks and shoes. Always and forever piled by my front door. Argh!




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