mexico [day 3 & 4]

I’m leaving Mexico right now and what an incredible weekend.  Going to Casa Hogar Elim (and surrounding areas this time) is always incredible and I never want to leave.  Being there sheds a whole new light, well, maybe not new, but a recent light on the challenge.

I really don’t struggle with any desire to shop while in Mexico unless it’s something for the orphanage or food from the Sorriana.  I didn’t do any shopping, nor did I have a desire to.  I decided to help the ‘guys’ with the construction projects, as that’s more up my alley than cooking or shopping anyway.  Continue reading

questions about the challenge.

I had some questions posted on my blog from my friends about the details of the challenge.  I’m going to attempt to answer them, although I’m not sure I’ve thought of everything, you know, like the batteries.  (day 2)

The plan:

The plan is to not buy anything new, other than groceries and toiletries.  No new stuff for the house, no new clothes, no new electronics, no new toys, no new anything.  The only places we would shop would be resale shops and thrift stores.  We can buy used stuff, but only if needed.  No shopping at retail stores.  The kids and I decided Half Price Books would be okay, but only used books.

Why?

I do not want to be materialistic and I tend to justify buying stuff.  I’m not in debt, and I have the money to buy things, but I clearly don’t need more stuff.  I have seen a different world than the one where I live.  I have ventured out of the affluent bubble I live in and I can’t ignore what I’ve seen and experienced.  I’m uncomfortable with being comfortable.  I don’t want to support major superstores and mega marts.  I want to buy only what I need, when I need it and used.  I’m going to do this for an entire year.  I guess maybe I want to prove to myself that I really just don’t need so much stuff.  Food, water and shelter.  I also want to be able to have more to share.  More financial resources and more time.  Continue reading

the challenge [day 2]

I had to work this morning and this afternoon, and tonight, we are driving to Mexico.  I’m typing my update in the car.  And no, I don’t have one of those fancy wireless internet things, I’m just typing on the computer.  I can upload later.  I can’t wait to get to Casa Hogar Elim in the morning!  I bought a jump rope and some sidewalk chalk before I started the challenge.  Next time I will have to be more creative on what to bring.  I did buy a bunch of flashlights to do the light painting with the kids.  I even taped color gels on them and color-coded them with duct tape.  I can’t buy batteries though, can I?  Hmmm, didn’t think about that.  They came with a set, but they won’t last a year.  Batteries do not qualify for food or toiletries.  When I can make purchases, I suppose looking into the rechargeable batteries makes the most sense.  The initial cost would be more, but less waste and I would probably save money in the long run.  Continue reading

I love potato chips.

Do you love potato chips?  What do you do with the crumb in the bottom of the bag?  Instead of throwing them away, save them in a container to use as an alternative to bread crumbs in your next recipe.  I use them for a much more tasty and creative meatloaf.  :)  And yes, that is in a plastic bag… but it’s the same one I’ve been using for 5 years.

the challenge [day 1]

In the beginning…

Day one of any long time period challenge is more of a normal time than a reality check of the radical decision you just committed to.  I decided to do this challenge very early in the morning, which is the time my monkeys are the most active.  Yeah, I should probably explain that.  My friend Steve says my thoughts are like a bunch of monkeys next to a banana tree, so we frequently refer to the monkeys in my head.  Monkeys are fun and cute, so we’ll go with it.

So I had breakfast with my kids and decided to tell them the news!  We will not be shopping retail for a year.  No new toys, no new video games, no new clothes.  After the silence, then denial, they reluctantly agreed that it was a good plan, although they thought a year was a bit excessive.  Well, with all the excess in our society, why not add a little more excess?  LOL  Continue reading

the challenge

I have been reading many books lately about poverty and homelessness.  Among those are Under the Overpass, Trolls and Truth and Irresistible Revolution.  I have a long list of other books that I have on my reading list, but one at a time.  😉

  

The one thing I love about all of the books is these are all about ‘ordinary radicals’, people that have chosen to sacrifice their life to follow Jesus’ examples of living.

I bought the domain name trashsociety.com a while back, with many different intentions of what I could do with it.  We have so much waste in our American culture.  We are raised to do anything and everything that will make our lives easier and more comfortable.  Well I am finally uncomfortable with comfort and irritated with ease.  There is so much suffering in the world and we can all make a difference by intentionally choosing to make some simple changes in the way we live.

A few months ago, I was channel flipping on my TV (my nice big flat screen TV that I just really needed to buy with the monthly satellite TV package that everyone needs in order to live because we must be entertained if we’re awake, right?) and came across a show called Hoarders.  If you haven’t seen this show, check it out http://www.aetv.com/hoarders/index.jsp.  It’s a little bit like watching a wreck.  It’s awful, quite disturbing and yet you want to look at it.  I’ve watched many episodes of it and came to one conclusion.  The only difference between these hoarders that are being showcased for reality show entertainment and the rest of us watching is that the rest of us don’t have a problem getting rid of our stuff.  We buy stuff, lots of stuff and when we are tired of it, we give it away or worse yet, throw it away.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have been guilty of this many times in my life.  And being a person who loves to buy used things, shop at thrift stores and is all about getting a great deal, I appreciate that someone bought these things new.  If people didn’t buy new cars and sell them, there would be no used cars for people like me to buy, which by the way, I drive a 14 year old car that I bought used.  I wouldn’t trade it in even if I had unlimited money.

So now that I’ve yapped a long time, let me step down from my soap box.  What’s the challenge?  The challenge is no new stuff for one year. This means no shopping in retail stores, with the exception of groceries and toiletries.  (I don’t want CPS taking my kids away for my radicalness)  Groceries and toiletries are the only new things we will buy and will, in the process, learn better ways to make those purchases.  The only places we will shop is thrift stores or resale shops.  No major purchases either.  Now the one small issue here is that sometimes I have to buy things at work for stage sets or marketing.  I will still have to make those purchases because I need my job.  (Or do I?  Okay, a subject for another time)

I will be blogging this challenge.  It started yesterday, May 27, 2010.  Stay tuned…

a new set of paint brushes…

My light painting endeavors have stepped up a notch.  I made a new set of paint brushes.  No, I didn’t pull out chunks of my hair and attach it to wooden sticks, I’m talking about light painting brushes.  Never heard of light painting?  Here’s how it works…

If you have an SLR (digital or film), place it on a tripod and set the camera on manual.  Set the aperture on F8 (works well for most simple light painting, although you might have to adjust) and the shutter on the ‘bulb’ setting.  If you can get a cable release for you camera, most of them have a lock feature that will keep the shutter open until you close it, that way you don’t need to be at the camera holding the button down the whole time.  Hold the shutter button down and have people ‘paint’ with the flashlights.  Oh, and this process must be done in the dark or in extreme low light.  Anything that has light on it will show up in your photo.

Now that you have the details on the camera end, let me tell you about the art tools.  Your flashlights are your brushes and color gels are your paint.  You can do this without the color gels, but I like using them, well, because I love color.  This photo is of my new set.  I had a set of color gels leftover from my pre-photoshop days.  These are the same as theater light gels.  Cokin makes the photography set and a company called Roscolux makes some as well.  For the new flashlights, which I made to take down to Casa Hogar Elim for the kids to play with, I used duct tape to attach the gels and color coded them with the duct tape.

The black cards on the left have a set of colors I made from gels and photo mat boards.  They have velcro on the back so I can attach them to a flashlight easily.  And no, you don’t have to get that fancy with it.  You can just hold a gel over the light.  Simple.  I do a lot of this so I have an entire suitcase of flashlights, from pen lights all the way up to my Cyclops.

Cyclops is a very large flashlight… 15 million candlepower.  The light bulb in it is a car headlamp, if that gives you a reference point.  I have some color gels that fit over Cyclops.  This ‘brush’ comes in handy for light painting buildings or any really large spaces.  Cyclops is rechargeable and cost about $40 at Costco.  You can also get some nice 1-2 million candlepower lights at any retail store.

Some other types of lights that work well are pen lights for drawing, LED lights are good, but make sure to get the very bright ones.  I prefer the warm light color of the incandescent type bulbs versus the new LED’s.  Not as energy efficient, but if you’re picky about the warm tones…

Okay, let me show you some examples of light painting.  I did a series for an art gallery showing a while back.  The show was called ‘excessable’.  It was photos of how we have so much excess in our culture and the entire series was light painted.

These were all painted with several different types of flashlights, each exposure lasting anywhere between 3 and 10 minutes.

Here’s a photo from light painting with the kids at Casa Hogar.
You can also do light painting using black and white.  This is from a film camera, my Nikon 6006 with Illford B&W film.  You can also get the ghost images with the light painting by painting a person or object, then moving it and painting the space where it was.

This is one of those art things you have to experiment with a lot to get a feel for what your final images will look like.  It is a lot of fun though!

free stuff

When we arrived to the Mission Arlington conference Saturday morning, Tillie was quick to put us to work. What better way to see what is going on there than to experience it first hand? Works for me, I’m ready! She quickly found drivers for the three buses filled with garage sale leftovers. She then asked for volunteers to go with the drivers to take these buses to specific apartment complexes to give it away. I have no idea what other jobs she had, as Christine and I jumped on this one.

We headed out to our bus with Mark and Joan. Mark was driving and we figured we would just get in the bus and go. The bus, an old handicapped city bus, was packed so full there was no place to sit, much less get in. We decided to sit on the steps of the bus and ride along. Probably not the safest thing, but it’s God’s work and to me, it made perfect sense.

None of us had a clue that MA did this kind of stuff. They go to garage sales that are over and pick up all of the remaining items. What an awesome way to get this stuff to people that can use it, not to mention it’s a great way to be green and help others.

When we arrived, we found a grassy area by the office and mailboxes to unload the bus. Storm clouds were rolling in however it was not raining yet. Our instructions? Unload the bus, knock on doors to let everyone know that we’re there with free house wares, clothing and other free stuff and give it all away. Honestly speaking here? I did not want to knock on doors. I quickly offered my services of unloading the bus. Turns out we all started unloading the bus before knocking on the doors.

I’m not sure what got into me at this point… well, it was obviously God, but after about ¾ was unloaded, I said, “I’m going to knock on doors.” I quickly ran off to spread the word: free stuff. It was about 10am? Not a lot of people answered their doors, probably one in four or five. I was also reminded yet once again that I don’t speak Spanish and should really learn just a little bit.

As I was going door to door, my brain was on overdrive. This is not a world I am familiar with, yet it felt very comfortable, like I was meant to be there. Some of the million thoughts running through my head… I didn’t plan on doing this today. What was I planning? I need to learn some Spanish. These people can cook, that smells good. I wonder how many times this building has been painted? These doors are heavy and have a lot of locks. My knuckles hurt. I wonder what these people are thinking when they look through the peephole and see me? It’s chilly in these hallways. I wonder how many people are over there getting stuff from the bus? How do we do something like this in Frisco? I live in a palace. I have a lot of stuff. How can this world be a 40-minute drive from where I live? Why haven’t I been here before? I worked for a low-income property management company, could I have done something to help people? Can I still contact them now and do something? Wow, many of the apartments that opened the door have a picture of Jesus on the wall, some with candles. Okay, you get the picture, through my ADHD eyes.

Mark came looking for me, apparently I just kept going and knocking. Well, I hadn’t gone to all the doors yet, right? I knocked on a few more and went back. The area was swarming with people! How incredibly cool is that?


As people were shopping, or as I like to call it, treasure hunting, it began to rain. Just a little bit at first, but that didn’t slow down the hunters. Tillie had told us before we left the we might have to do the rain plan since it was going to rain. So what was the rain plan? It was the same as the dry plan. Always was, still is and will continue to be that way. Helping others doesn’t stop with a little rain, or even a lot of it. I’m guessing when we have a few snowflakes and all of Texas goes into an unnecessary panic-shut-down mode, Mission Arlington does not.

While I was knocking on doors, a gentleman that sells taquitos came by and left a food package for us. We didn’t have anything to drink, but they smelled so very good. As the shopper traffic died down, we sat in the bus and ate our food. There was a baggie of green chili sauce that smelled so good, I could have just opened the bag and ate it all by itself. Without drinks, if it was spicy, we were all in some trouble. I decided to try it. It was not too spicy, but it did have a little kick to it. The others declined the green mystery sauce. I had some left over, and yes, I packed it up and placed the green liquid gold into my backpack to finish later.

It started to rain much harder, so we moved all of the stuff onto the sidewalk under an eave. The few shoppers that were there stopped to help us. We moved everything right in front of the mailboxes so we were hoping the mail person didn’t come anytime soon.

We got a chance to talk to some of the later shoppers before we packed up to leave to go back and be assigned to our next adventure. We only brought back maybe a fourth of what we had. As we were about to drive away, the mailman showed up. God’s timing is perfect.

There are so many lessons to be learned here, and this was only the beginning of the weekend. I suppose besides the obvious lesson of always helping others, it was weighing on me a lot of just how wasteful we be. I’m not judging anyone here because I can be wasteful too, purchasing things I don’t need, getting sucked into the strategically placed retail ‘impulse’ items and buying things to make my life easier without thinking of the consequences.

After this experience, I’m even much more intentional about shopping at thrift stores, not retail stores. I’m trying to be better about not being wasteful and teaching my kids that as well. And don’t get me started on impulse purchases. My kids and I have a plan. If it’s something we didn’t plan to buy when we went to the store, we walk away for at least 24 hours. If we remember the item and we still want it (and can afford it), we can go back and get it.

I’m not sure what the shoppers were thinking about this whole process, maybe a subconscious appreciation for the people that bought the stuff in the first place. Maybe they were happy to get some free stuff, needed and wanted. Maybe they didn’t even think about it at all. Either way, I hope they felt loved.