Keeping up with the Greens

I remember the first time I heard the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” in high school. Strangely enough, it came out of the mouth of one of the most judgmental, “high and mighty” teachers I’ve ever encountered. But, I digress. This KUWTJ mentality has followed me throughout life, whether I knew what it was called or not. I think, as Americans, we can all relate to this aspect of our society. You have to be a very strong-willed, independent person to not buy into it.

And I’m not that strong. One of my biggest challenges in life is trying to find the balance – of being content with who I am, how I live my life, and simply not caring what others think. I suck at it. You know who’s really, really quite good at it? My husband. I admire him SO much that he’s his own man. Whether we know where our future leads us or not, he’s confident in his own abilities and in the fact that happiness will find us no matter what. It’s something that I admire in him and, at times, it’s all I have to keep my head above water. That’s a good thing about our marriage – somehow, when one of us gets to the point of desperation (be it from any frustrations that may find us), the other one is buoyant enough to pick the other up.

Admittedly, we’re not a KUWTJ type of household. We live in a sort of protective bubble. It may be a slightly crooked, grass-too-long, cat toys everywhere sort of bubble, but it’s our escape and happiness from regular stresses. I don’t care what the neighbors do to their home; if I make a change, it’s for my OWN enjoyment. If I want to paint my shutters, sobeit, it’s because I think they’re shabby and am prouder of my house than to allow it to wear shabby shutters. (That’d be a good company name. “Shabby Shutters.” Hee hee.) But, when out of the house and in the “real world”, it’s easy to see what friends and co-workers have or do and feel a twinge of “I’m not good enough.” It’s not even that I want what they have; I’m not possession-bound. I’m more concerned about being judged for NOT wanting what they have. So…I’m quiet.

But, these days, there’s a new form of KUWTJ. It’s called KUWTG – Keeping Up With the Greens (or Greenies), and I’m not sure if it’s an actual term used out there, but I honestly just pulled it out of my you-know-what, so maybe thousands of other bloggers have discussed this already. Who knows? 😉

Regardless, thanks to the popularity of the green movement (which I fondly like to think of as a popularization of liberalism and hippiedom – perhaps it’s the only way to force issues without getting political or needing to back a particular politician?), any yuppie who can afford organic is all over it like that silly Juicy sweatpant trend from a few years back. I hate to be judgmental, but I can’t help but think that they’ll follow it until the next big thing comes in.

And, hey, maybe I shouldn’t be judgmental. Over the last year, I’ve made some life changes that, I’ve found, tend to bring everything from polite jabs to full-blown eye rolls. I have yet to get a true argument, but I’m ready when it comes. I tend to face the whole “going organic” thing (although we’ve by no means gotten to this stage yet — hey, we’re newlyweds, and have some debt we’re dealing with — all natural and hormone free is as important to us, right now, as organic) with some humor, mostly because that’s how I’ve learned how to deflect rudeness over the years. I think it’s amusing when my students catch me eating a slice of delicious non-organic pizza, and am ready to joke with them, mostly because they do it in a non-vindictive, “we understand that it’s how you are” sort of way. If only adults could be more understanding. Or, at least, all of our family. Some are very kind about it; others…well, they’re family, and we love them, even if they think we’re nuts.

So, there are two sides of the coin here: the judgmental, non-organic (or at least less understanding) side, and the “you’re not doing enough” side.

While I have yet to be TOLD that I’m not doing enough to live a healthy, sustainable lifestyle, the more research and reading I do, the more the Green Guilt sets in. I create garbage. In moments of weakness, I consume not only non-organic foods, but *gasp* high fructose corn syrup (although my body reacts noticeably to it and I feel completely sluggish and strange from that, and artificial preservatives; trying to finish off a 2-liter of cream soda my sister kindly bought for me has got me napping after school lately). I buy new rather than used. I. Fail. Miserably.

I’ve come to terms that it takes work to build up to a green lifestyle. As with all things in life, it’s about the journey and the learning process moreso than an end to a means. I mean, I don’t want to be Ed Begley about things, after all. I just want to do my part, live healthily and responsibly, and teach the same to my children. I’m not out to convert anyone (which is why I’d at least appreciate some understanding from loved ones); this may be part of our religion, but it’s not everyone’s, and I’m not out to make it so. I’d like to become more of an advocate one day, but I’m simply not confident enough a person to do so. Like I said, I just care too much what other people think.

So, I turn to my wonderful husband and remember that we’re a team here. It’s just us. Our life is ours to live, and if we inspire others, GREAT! But we’re not out to compete. We’re running a race together, slow and steady, and there’s no finish line to worry about. We’re proud of what we accomplish and shaking off the stumbles we encounter.

Who’s Better?

Life isn’t a competition. And goodness knows that a marriage REALLY isn’t one. I’ve never been in for competitive sports, but it seems that I might just have a pretty competitive nature by design. My dad WAS into sports of all shapes and sizes, so maybe I’ve just inherited a pride at doing something well.

Nevertheless, I thought I’d wave a “hooray for us” flag but also show how truly flawed (and human! Get that!) Dave and I are. Particularly, I mean, when it comes to our newer eating habits and greener lifestyle. You can read my first post ever for what set us on this journey.

Dave is S-T-R-I-C-T that we not even set foot inside a Walmart. It seems that he’s quite proud of the post I once wrote about giving the place up. At the same time, out of convenience more than anything, we’ve stopped going to Aldi for fruits and veg. While this, of course, hurts our budget a little more, it really forces me to ask myself whether we neeeeeed the food items that we’re buying rather than turning it into more landfill waste. So, he definitely gets a gold star as far as his concern of the quality of our food and how much (or little) we waste.

Thanks to a looser schedule, however, I get a gold star (go me!) for the actual purchasing of the foodstuffs. I’d say that about 90% of the time, mostly out of necessity and, like I said, a much more accommodating work schedule, I purchase the groceries. During the summer, it might be a little less since there are more farmers market visits (although, the local ones run when I’m free and Dave’s at work, so the percentage may still be in my favor), and it’s fun for us to go shopping together. Sounds sick, but we truly enjoy discussing what we want, why we want to try it, and persuading each other to try something new. It’s very good for our relationship, so we do try to go grocery shopping together every month or so. But, still, the point is mine!

Here’s another area that Dave excels: *gulp* He eats his fruits ‘n veggies. Mind you, neither of us is altogether wonderful at doing this. Our lunches still consist of mostly soup or sandwiches and chips (all-natural, but still). We could be doing lots better. But, when I get an orange in my lunch bag, a vast majority of the time it somehow finds its way back home. Dave, however, eats it. So, point for him. Yeah, we both have to do a lunchtime makeover. Heck, I’m lucky enough that I have a husband who willingly MAKES mine for work everyday. Yes, you read that correctly. I’m a lucky lady, alright!

But, I get the next point for green thumbery. (No, that’s not a real word; yes, I think I’ll continue to use it on a regular basis.) While Dave helps me in any way possible with our gardening, such as when we built our first raised bed garden last year, but I’m usually the one tending and harvesting and planning. I sometimes got behind on it last year, but overall, it was definitely my baby — and, boy, have I got some plans for the 2011 Victory Garden! So, my point. Yessssss!

Stuff. Things. Possessions. Crap. Call it what you will, but Dave gets the point as far as our green initiative of decluttering is concerned. He’s the king of Ebay, sending NUMEROUS orders out weekly, all in an attempt to surround himself only with what he a) needs and b) is emotionally attached to. We’re working on a wabi-sabi existence (whether he knows that’s what it is or not ;-D), which I’m sure I’ll get into in a future blog post. Dave’s embraced a simpler life; I’ve still got tons of clothes and stored items that I’ll probably never use. Simultaneously, I’m trying to follow Dave’s lead of using what we have before purchasing new (which is hard — his mom, as any mother would, expects me to keep an eye on his clothes, etc, to make sure he looks acceptable for life’s expectations…I always say “It doesn’t matter what I look like, but he has to leave the house halfway presentable. He’s the one being criticized by viewers.”) Regardless, he does a great job with simplicity and I need to learn a lesson from him — Point, Dave. *By the by, I’ve read more about wabi-sabi recently in a magazine, but cannot remember for the life of me where I first discovered it. If it was on your blog (Sarah? Maybe??), please feel free to let me know so that I can give credit where it’s due! Thanks!!*

Greenery and sustainability! We both do our darnedest to be green, and should be proud of our efforts, I think. This is a very close category in terms of “scoring.” While we do produce more trash than we’d both like, we’re obsessed with recycling and reusing, when possible. We buy recycled toilet paper and, when possible, paraben-free soaps and shampoos. However, I think that I get the sliiiiiight edge here. I’m the one with sneakers made from recycled products, a new steam-cleaner (which we got for only a few dollars after using our Macy’s wedding gift card for using them as a registry) which reduces the need for a crapload of cleaning products, and an itchin’ to revert to cloth napkin and handkerchief usage. I’m learning how to can and freeze (hoping to have shelving dedicated specifically to my homemade canned goods and cold storage for root vegetables in the basement when it warms up a bit), and am still trying to figure out a better way to compost, for our needs (last year’s attempt may be deemed a disaster — we’ll see when the spring thaw comes). I’m dreaming of the day when our pennies are saved enough for newer, Energy Star appliances (but, again, using what we have until it’s no longer usable…*sigh*). And, while I have a newer car, it’s the bane of my existence — I wish that I’d considered longer and gone with a more compact Subaru wagon or VW that we could run for a couple of decades, or had saved up more for a hybrid. Sooooo, I’m a little…obsessed. I think I do a lot more research about green living and read more about how we can make life changes. Oh, and I’m already planning for 21st century parenthood (although Dave’s on-board with all my hair-brained schemes — cloth diapers and homemade baby food, anyone??). Did I mention “obsessed”? Yeah. Point, Meg.

So, at 3-3, it’s pretty obvious that we’re tied. That makes me pretty darn happy — I didn’t really want to win, anyway. There are areas that I’m very proud to know that we are succeeding so well at, while others are disappointing, to say the least (compost: fail — always sad to admit a failure, but, dangit, I’m going to figure it out!). I think the fact that we’re about 9 months into the true life change experiment and it seems that we’ve made some real changes is encouragement enough. Go, Team Dellecese!!! (My actual last name is legally McCoy Dellecese, no hyphen, but that gets confusing. ;-D Besides, we’re still connected by the Big-D.)