Sunday, August 28, 2011

Radical Homemakers, Shannon Hayes

I read and really enjoyed Radical Homemaking by Shannon Hayes.  She is the author of 'The Grassfed Cookbook', which is supposed to be really good. 

It always amazes me that I can read something by somebody with completely opposite views on religion and politics then myself and yet totally agree with their conclusion.  We came at the idea from completely opposite poles, and yet came to the same conclusion. Go figure!

Hayes lives with her husband and 2 daughters, along with her extended family, in upstate New York.  They are 'Radical Homemakers' and do their best to live sustainably and on a small income.  Choosing, rather, to make home and family a priority over 'things'.

She had found, over time, that they were not the only family to choose to live such a 'radical' lifestyle.  And she decided to write a book highlighting the lifestyle and various other 'radical homemakers' like herself. 

She divided her book into 2 sections.  The first section answers the question 'WHY' people chose the radical homemakers lifestyle, and why it's considered 'radical' today.  She goes into a lot of history (albeit very subjective in my opinion) of the home and lifestyle in general.  And esp the role of women in the home and how it has changed so drastically since the Industrial Revolution.  She talked esp about how homemakers in the mid 1900s were stripped of their meaningful, creative soul-enriching jobs, and simply became chauffeurs and maids.  No longer expected to come up with tasty, nourishing meals, or make the home a place of true comfort.  They became prone to depression, which led to numerous books about finding meaning outside the home.  And this led to a mass-exodus of women out of the home and into the workplace.

This, in turn, led the home to become one of consumers instead of producers, adding to the burden on the environment and family that is so evident today. Children suffer the greatest, as their needs become 2nd tier in importance.  And they suffer in mind, spirit and body.

It was really fun to read (and wade through a LOT of feminism and new-age type stuff) and get a clearer overall picture of why we live in such a 'fast-paced, consumer-oriented, 2-wage earning family' world.  It connected a lot of dots for me.  And helped me to appreciate where I want us as a family to be.

It's always nice to know we're not alone in our radicalness.  :)

I thought this quote summed it up quite nicely: 'When Americans worry about impoverishment, we tend to focus on whether we have enough money rather than on whether we will be warm, dry, well-fed, healthy, loved and happy.  That is because we are accustomed to functioning within the extractive economy, whereby all the basic necessities of life are presumed to be exchanged for money.  The problem with this system, of course, is that only those people with money are able to have their fundamental needs met.  In a life-serving economy, poverty and wealth are not merely defined by cash assets, but rather by ensuring its members equal ability to acquire basic needs and attain a level of comfort and satisfaction that is not strictly reliant on financial income.  Inescapably, money still plays a role, but can't eat it, it takes a secondary position.  In the extractive economy, money has become more than a mere token of exchange and simple commerce; somehow it has become a  yardstick by which we measure each person's personal value and, hence, our own self-worth.  In a life-serving economy, money is simply a tool to draw upon when another direct exchange for something of actual value cannot be worked out.

I would love to live in a world where most of what we need, we get locally and through barter, and simply use money when necessary.  I really liked that all of the people she interviewed seemed to walk that line between old and new quite nicely.  They knew money had a place, but it didn't run their lives either.

She also insisted that it followed four 'tenets': ecological sustainability, social justice, family and community.  It must allow for proper care of the earth, helping others outside of ourselves, putting our families needs first and reaching out to our community, and even being inter-dependent on them.

Another quotable quote: 'Understanding that true wealth is not measured in dollars but in time and self-direction, there is a financial advantage to allowing the time to rest and replenish our souls.  ...This wealth includes friends, skills, libraries and, most especially, afternoon naps.  The more of this true wealth we have, the fewer dollars we require in order to make us happy.  The minute we start to fall short of these assets, however, we start requiring money to buy help, buy relief, and buy entertainment.'   Wow, LOVE that quote!  It's so true.

We have lost sight of what is truly important in America today. We have so much 'stuff', that we are blinded by it.  And the more we fall apart, the more help we need in trying to put ourselves together.  And the vicious cycle continues.  It's the 'rat race', and I'm tired of it and slowly weaning the Innis family from it all.

It reminds me of that story of a person taking a jar and filling it with sand, and then trying to put in some big rocks.  The rocks don't fit.  But, they pour out the sand, put the rocks in first and then put the sand in after, and it fits.  It's so important to decide what the 'rocks' in our lives are, to put them into our lives first, and then slowly, add back the non-necessities of life. 

The second section of the book is devoted to answering the question 'HOW'.  Trying to explain what it looks like to live in a 'radical homemakers' world.  And how to go about making the transition if you are interested.  This part is mostly interviews from other radical homemakers as they make this lifestyle work for them.  It was so great to see so many different types of families and situations make this work.  Each one was different and added to the overall picture. 

After talking to the various radical homemakers, she came to the conclusion that they all went through a 3 stage process.
1. Renouncing-their current path of consumerism and business
2. Reclaiming-they 'entered a period where they worked to recover many of the lost domestic skills that would enable their family to live without outside income'. She said it could take years or a lifetime for some.  And it's 'an exciting and deeply fulfilling period'.
3. Rebuilding-after renouncing and rebuilding their lives and skills, they entered this period, in which they 'worked to expand their creative energies outward. Their homes had become more sustainable and meaningful places, and now they were applying their talents and skills to bring their communities and society along with them.'

I had goosebumps-it's so TJE!  And I believe scriptural.  God expects us first to meet our own needs, to grow and learn.  And then, after taking care of ourselves and our families, he expects us to reach out to the community around us.  They both happen throughout our whole lives of course, but I think we tend to stress the 'starving world' over our own family, and I really don't think that glorified God.  

I feel I am slowly coming into the rebuilding phase. Finally!  I am still reclaiming and still teaching my own kids, and that will continue forever.  But I am starting to 'surface' and be able to think about things other then sheer survival.  It feels good!

I feel blessed that the Lord brought this book into my life.  I would struggle with suggesting it to people because of it's intense liberalism and anti-God content.  But yet, even with all of that, we end up at the same place.

Life is too short to waste on spinning wheels that go nowhere fast.  I want the Holy Spirit to guide and direct me to be sure I keep the truly important things before us at all times, and use the rest of the world to further those aims. 

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