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The Meaning Of Life, Revisited

We haven’t seen the sun much lately. When I have to endure several days in a row without sunshine, I get S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as depression caused by lack of sunlight).

Unusually cold weather – but as humid as ever – has accompanied the dreary, cloudy days, making me unwilling to do much outside beyond the “have-to” chores. And so I’ve been experiencing cabin fever, as well as S.A.D.

Yes, despite the recent revelation I talk about in this post, despite the older revelation I talk about in this video.

The other morning, I was feeling so miserable that I asked J, “Do you think it’s natural for people to get cynical as they age? To feel like there’s no meaning to life?” I compared the almost-fifty crowd, to which I belong, to the twenty-something crowd that tends to be super-idealistic and excited about life and the difference they can make in the world.

Basically, I wanted to know I wasn’t the only one in the room wondering why the heck I was here when every day is pretty much the same as the next and my existence didn’t seem to matter.

Understand, I don’t always feel this way. In fact, most of the time I don’t. But when I do, boy let me tell you, I feel it.

Our conversation went on for a couple of minutes, I’m sure with J silently saying, “Oh, brother. Here we go again.”

Then B woke up and started talking.

In case you don’t understand how we would be able to hear B talking to us from his bedroom when we were in the kitchen, watch this video:

(BTW, this house looks a bit different now and I’ll be making/publishing that video in the next week.)

I told B to be quiet, that Daddy was in the middle of saying something. He finished his piece, and I said, “No, that’s not what I meant. I mean, what’s the point of life?”

I had lowered my voice in an attempt to keep B from listening, but the concrete dome ceiling does weird things to acoustics. Namely, if someone is talking – even in a low voice – or making noise on one side of the house, if you’re on the opposite side you’ll hear it like the noise is happening right next to you.

So B heard me. And his response to my question was instant and without any hesitation.

“The point is to have fun and be yourself!”

My son is an immature eleven-year-old who has never read a single self-help book or watched any videos on the philosophy of life.

Yet, he nailed it.

I kid you not, tears welled in my eyes and a few escaped onto my cheeks.

The meaning of life, summed up in brilliant simplicity: “Have fun, and be yourself.”

Then the next question is, how to do you have fun if you feel like life sucks, and how do you be yourself in the face of a complicated world that expects you to behave and look a certain way?

I think those are questions worth exploring in future posts, don’t you?

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Oh, No! Here Comes…THE GRINCH!

To celebrate or not to celebrate Christmas? That is the question I began asking myself when I had the experience I described in this post. If you haven’t read it, I strongly suggest you click the above link and scan through it so you know where I’m coming from here and now.

If you did read the post, you might be wondering what our ultimate decision was regarding the celebration of Christmas. Here’s a hint: I did not write a “merry Christmas” post.

Yep, you got it. We decided to stick with our decision from two years ago.

Does that make us Grinches? Are we cruel parents for not giving our son the experience of getting wildly excited every December 24?

Feel free to judge us. Most Westerners who come from the Christian faith – and many who do not – don’t get people who don’t celebrate Christmas, and put all kinds of labels on them.

I know, because I used to be like that. My jaw would drop to the floor if I ever heard of a non-Jewish or non-Jehovah’s Witness (who don’t celebrate anything) who didn’t “do Christmas.”

That’s what people do when they don’t understand people who think and believe differently than they do. They label them. And judge them.

For the three of you whom I haven’t completely offended and who are genuinely interested in knowing our reasons for avoiding this most beloved of all holidays, feel free to continue reading.

Why we quit Christmas

#1: The original reason was – drum roll please – the commercialism.

“But you can celebrate Christmas without getting commercial!”

Really? So, you don’t buy a tree. You don’t buy decorations for the tree, or materials to make your own decorations. You don’t buy garland for the fireplace mantel or stair rail, or a wreath for your front door. You don’t buy and send Christmas cards. You don’t buy gifts. You don’t spend a bunch of money on food you normally don’t eat.

You most certainly don’t participate in the annual front-lawn decoration ritual in an attempt to make your lawn at least as pretty and sparkly as your neighbor’s.

And what about all those holiday movies and music that you own? Sorry to burst your bubble, but the people who produced the movies and recorded the music were hoping to make a buck from them.

If you want to remove the commercialism from Christmas, you remove all of those traditions. What’s left of the celebration?

And let me tell you, if you’re a parent, despite your best efforts to teach your children that Christmas is not about the gifts, if you give them so much as one special toy every December twenty-fifth, by the time they’re four years old they’ll have figured out the gig. And they will become greedy every late fall, and have trouble sleeping on Christmas Eve night due to their excitement over gaining more stuff.

And particular woe to the parent who lies to their kids about the fat guy in the red suit!

#2: It’s not about Jesus.

I tried for years telling myself that Christmas was all about celebrating Jesus’ birth, even though I knew darn good and well He wasn’t born anywhere near December 25. Jesus was born either in the spring or early to mid-autumn, not in the winter. Jesus told His disciples to remember His death, not His birth. Jesus is not the reason for the season.

Was His birth important? To an extent. He had to be born as a human to reintroduce us to our heavenly Father, right? But He never talked about His birth.

Which leads me to…

#3: Traditional Christmas celebrations are full of pagan rituals.

Why? The institutional church invented the holiday to counter the pagan practice of celebrating the winter solstice. So they took all those pagan practices and tacked artificial spiritual meanings to them.

“Big deal,” you say. “Doesn’t mean I’m worshiping Satan or anything.”

Maybe not. But it also doesn’t mean you’re worshiping God. If you’re going to celebrate the holiday, at least don’t rationalize it with a false sense of spirituality or holiness.

#4: Christmas is full of disappointment and stress.

“Why did she give me X when I asked for Y?”

“Not another Christmas party!”

“What the BLEEP should I get so-and-so for Christmas?!”

“I won’t be able to pay off my January credit card bill!”

“So-and-so bought me a gift, but I didn’t get him anything! Now I need to run to the store and figure out something and Christmas is two days away!”

“So-and-so didn’t like the present I gave her.”

So far, I haven’t given any reasons that are different from anybody else who has written an online article about “why I don’t celebrate Christmas.” Maybe you’re looking for one.

Okay, I’ll oblige. Here goes:

#5. Mainstream society has dictated the holiday.

For the most part, my family doesn’t follow mainstream society. We don’t have any debt, not even a mortgage. We retired in our early forties. We eat a high raw, whole-foods, plant-based diet…and therefore look and feel much healthier than most other people our age.

Although we are believers, we are not part of the institutional church. Our son’s education consists of living life (referred to by many as “unschooling”). The three of us live happily in under 600 square feet.

I could go on, but you get my drift.

We had already given up Easter, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day because trying to live up to the culturally dictated expectations of each holiday was stressful, and increasingly felt more artificial.

Not to mention that two of the above-mentioned holidays involve unhealthy eating.

Christmas was the last, simply because it had been both my and J’s favorite holiday as children. But we finally realized that it, too, felt artificial. Forced.

Every day is a day for celebration

We finally came to realize that celebrating life on a daily basis is much more enjoyable, and with none of the stress. We celebrate by having fun together. We celebrate by engrossing ourselves in the hobbies we love. We celebrate by watching silly videos together.

I’m done grieving the loss of my childhood. In actual fact, I never really lost anything. Instead, I’ve gained a lot of wisdom and experience and a new set of memories.

Far be it from me to “should” on you. If you’re an extrovert who loves to cook and bake and have a bunch of people over for a party, go ahead and take advantage of the fact that you (and most of your friends and family) have December 25 off from work and throw a big party.

If your family loves to get together to watch football, go ahead and use Christmas as an excuse to do so. Whatever.

I’m not going to tell you to stop celebrating Christmas just because we have. I don’t think you’re evil or inferior if you do. It’s hard to let go of a tradition that is as ingrained in our culture as the Christmas celebration, especially one that, for many – if not most – of its celebrators contains so many warm, beautiful memories.

My family has simply chosen to view every day of life worthy of creating warm, beautiful memories – and not to call one day holier or more beautiful than another.

However, if the Christmas season has seemed more and more artificial and stressful to you, and less like a real celebration, may I suggest that you do some thinking and re-prioritizing. May I remind you that there is no law forcing you to observe the holiday.

P.S. – Don’t feel sorry for our son. He gets plenty excited just before his birthday and half-birthday, because of the gifts he receives on those days.

But in case you’re wondering, yeah, if I had to do it over again, he would never have received a gift on his birthday.

Grinch? Maybe. Minimalist mom who struggles to teach her son about the evils of materialism and consumerism?

Definitely.

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Discovering My Value As A Human Being

I recently discovered that I’ve been living with a low self esteem for years and years. Most of my life?

Anyone who knows me would think this is crazy, because I tend to be optimistic and have a Pollyanna attitude about life. Even so, I’ve struggled with depression. So many times I’ve screamed inside myself, “Nothing ever goes my way! Life sucks and God hates me! Why do I even bother trying to do XYZ?”

I know I’m not alone in struggling with feelings of worthlessness. At an early age, we’re taught that achievement – especially in the area of finances – is what gives us our value as human beings.

I can’t believe I bought into it. In fact, had successfully deceived myself that I was not at all materialistic, that money wasn’t important to me. I’ve heard all the sermons, could preach some of them myself. Even give you chapter and verse from the Bible.

Then came my latest novel…but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up a minute.

Make money with a blog?

B is a toddler. I am working tirelessly on my health-nut blog, trying to earn an income from both affiliate links and people buying my MLM company’s product. A still, small voice whispers into my spirit, “You don’t have to do this.”

But J is miserable in his job. Other women have “retired” their husband with both blog and MLM incomes; why can’t I be one of them?

That is my reasoning at that time.

I continue blogging.

The biggest check I ever get from my MLM company is around $20, and the biggest affiliate payment I receive is $10.

Make a full-time income as an Indie author!

Then, several years after people begin to make huge monthly incomes with Kindle, I decide to try to get my piece of the pie. I’ve already written a couple of novels that have been rejected by numerous literary agents and publishers, so I self-publish them. Am surprised when the first few reviews are four and five stars, so I keep writing novels.

By the way, J has already resigned from his position and we have moved out into a rural area to live off our investments and become part of the homesteading movement.

“B, can’t you see I’m writing?” becomes my mantra. My son wants to share what he’s been learning, or do something with me, or wants help with something, but he “knows” he’s not supposed to bother me when I’m pounding on my NEO2.

When am I not pounding out words on my NEO2? At first, I try for 3,000 words a day. Too stressful. Then I cut my daily quota in half. Much better, but still my voice continues to reverberate around the house with phrases such as, “Give me ten more minutes.” “If you can leave me alone for the next half hour, then I’ll…”

In other words, I make my writing more important than my son.

God has called me to be a writer, is my reason this time. A writer of books, not of blog posts. Even though we don’t need the money, I still need to be an author, because God has put it on my heart.

But then, look. I average $200 per month on book sales, and that’s if I’ve recently done a paid promotion. No way! I should be making at least ten times that per month. I need to get serious. Build an e-mail list, plan to write at least three books per years, up my marketing.

No pressure there.

“Look at those YouTubers. They make TONS of money!”

“I need you to take B out for an hour so I can make some videos.” So I say to J early one morning, receiving a heavy sigh in return.

Apparently, writing 1500 words per day on a novel that keeps my mind ties in knots most of the time while my pre-teen son clamors for my attention is not enough stress for me. I have to make videos for YouTube, too. In order to do that, I need quiet. So J and B have to leave the house for a certain amount of time two to three days per week.

Woe be unto me if it starts to rain the morning of a day I’d planned to create a few videos!

After seven years and nearly 600 videos, I still don’t have 2,000 subscribers and average $50 a month in income from the streaming ads YouTube puts on my videos.

Maybe I need to do more, or make them more professional, or create an entertainment channel, or…

It takes a novel

A while back, I wrote a post explaining how a memoir I’d recently read helped me with worry – to do less of it, that is. During the past month, the novel that I was writing helped give me a wake-up call regarding my value as a human being.

Long story short, I struggled to finish it. Two or three times I almost gave up. I didn’t understand, because I was excited to start it, loved the characters, and the first half of the book flowed really well.

By the time I finished it, I was done. I mean, DONE. As in, it was supposed to have been the second book in a four-book series. Now I’m not even sure there will be a third book in the series.

My plan was to begin proofreading it last week. I have yet to even download it to my Kindle (that’s how I do my proofreading).

What have I been doing instead?

Decluttering. Reorganizing. Rearranging. Dusting before the dust accumulates to obnoxiously noticeable levels – and not feeling resentful of the task because I wanted to get more written in a novel.

I have been paying more attention to B. I’ve been staying on top of planting the lettuce for the indoor garden. I’ve been doing more for my own enjoyment.

I’ve been feeling happier and less stressed than I have for a long time.

I blame it all on the novel. Because…

I realized that it was all about the money.

Somewhere during the past couple of weeks when I was finally laser-focused on my home and family, I began to ask myself why I was working so hard to try to make a decent income at writing – or YouTube – when I didn’t need to.

This wasn’t the first time. Ask J. We’ve had several conversations where I begged him to tell me that I didn’t need to try to make money.

The thing is, I didn’t get to the root of the problem until now.

That root is the belief that I am not a valuable human being unless I am making money. To make money – having a lot of people buy my books, getting a lot of views and thumbs-up on my videos – is to feel important. To feel like I’m contributing something to the world.

The more I distanced myself from the novel, and the more I decluttered and planned a reorganization of our home, and the more I engaged with B instead of blowing him off, the more I began to ask myself, “What’s so wrong with contributing to my world? Why can’t I just be happy with making my home a happy, comfortable place to be? Why do I have to prove to the world that I’m a great writer or video creator?”

Answers: 1) Nothing; 2) I can; and 3) – and here’s the clincher – because society has taught me that I’m a useless, worthless nobody unless I’m achieving something tangible, the most prized achievement being, of course, money.

The hell with society!

The fact is, my very existence makes me valuable. I am here because God wanted me to be here.

Your very existence makes you valuable. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, the truth is that the Creator of the universe created you because He wanted you to exist.

I am worthy. You are worthy. Regardless of the amount of money we make, regardless of what we achieve in life.

Does that mean you ditch all your goals? Give up on your dreams? No. But it might mean you need to re-evaluate some things. It might mean taking a long, hard look at the real reasons behind your goals and dreams. Are they really about you and the kind of person you want to be, or are they about pleasing others or forcing yourself to fit into our culture’s idea of what is valuable or attractive?

I’m not giving up on writing novels. I’m not giving up on creating videos. But moving forward, I am going to write and create videos because number one, I enjoy the activities, and number two, because I care about what inspiration and help others might gain from my creativity.

I am no long going to chase a dollar bill.  My value as a human being goes far beyond anything this world can give.

So does yours. 

 

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Can You Use Ener-G Egg Replacer For Pumpkin Pie?

Can you bake a pumpkin pie with Ener-G Egg Replacer? Does that vegan egg substitute work for that traditional recipe?

When B recently expressed a desire to eat pumpkin pie again – it’s been a while since I baked one – I thought, why not? I can whip up a vegan one, since I have almond milk and that egg replacer.

I wasn’t sure that the cornstarch-based thickener would work in place of eggs, but I thought I’d give it a shot.

The following photos provide the answer to, “Does Ener-G® Egg Replacer work for pumpkin pie?”

The filling isn’t exactly oozing out everywhere, but I did end up having to scoop it out with a spoon. It was just too gooshy to take out with a spatula.

First of all, no, there is no crust. I was going to make one, but B decided he’d rather eat it without.

Second – I know, I know, it looks really gross. But it actually tasted delicious. Instead of pumpkin pie, we had pumpkin pudding.

So next time someone gets a craving for pumpkin pie, I’ll simply toss all the ingredients in my Vitamix, then cook the whole shebang in the saucepan until thick. But if you’re determined to bake an actual pumpkin pie, and want to make it vegan, you need to look into an alternative egg replacer.

Happy baking! 🙂

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