Creating a New Culture

May 20th

Cheesy Smiles

Like minds

I am feeling a bit redundant around here lately; gardening! sewing! cooking! happiness! — plus the occasional buffalo.

It dawned on me yesterday how foreign I’m feeling in this culture; also, this is why the craft/travel/cooking/faith blog community makes me feel so reassured. When watching the occasional television show, or browsing magazines at the airport, I notice how wildly different my values are. I am not sure who Heidi and Spencer are, or why they seem to be in every “women’s interest” magazine. I’ve learned they are the products of brief fame via reality TV. At least with sports figures, we can justify our adoration by their talents. What exactly do these two give to American culture, other than heaps of ridiculous photos?

I had a fairly lengthy conversation with Jessica and Shelley about my irrational dislike for  socialites. Ultimately, I don’t understand why anyone would want to accept the life handed to them without trying to make it their own. If I were an heiress, you’d better believe I’d have studied at an Ivy league and be doing something worthwhile. The last thing I’d want to do is wander southern California with a Starbucks cup in one hand and no ambition in the other — like the swarms of other trust fund, glassy-eyed, underfed girls my age.  Not to mention if I had that kind of fashion budget, I’d never be caught in dirty sweats, barefoot at the coffee shop. (An entirely different post.) My God, what I’d do with that fashion budget…

And so, from this browsing, I bought a copy of The Atlantic, read a fascinating article about a happiness study conducted at Harvard and was amazed how 5,000 words and no papparazzi photos later, I felt like I’d actually gotten my $6 bucks worth. I’m not turning my nose up at gossip magazines, reality television or living a fast food lifestyle. To each is own. It’s just not mine. The older I get, the more I find my joy in living a simple life, the harder it is becoming to relate. Imagine if we had the papparazi following Mugabe and Castro and the future of their countries interested us in the same way? If you could drive through a fast food restaurant and get a great, organic salad for $5. If we celebrated teachers and education the way we do starlets and fame.

Have you ever felt this way?

Thankfully, I’ve got similarly minded friends and a faith that reminds me regularly of the virtues of frugality, simplicity and finding joy in experiences not things.  If the Internets is good for anything, it is bringing together people who share similar values and interests — whether they are baking your own bread and moving to a commune or cackling at the fashion faux pas of the rich and famous.

If you wouldn’t mind — I’d appreciate hearing your opinion on American culture. Where do you find yourself recoiling? Where do you find yourself jumping in with both feet?

~K

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43 Responses

  1. Right on Kelli!

    I totally agree with you. The older I get the more I realize that the key to true fulfillment is not what is given to you, but what you give. I am knee-deep in returning to a simpler way of life and due to the economy have jumped in both feet into frugality. I can’t see myself totally without technology though, how else would I blog or read your blog! 🙂

    T

  2. Great post Kelli. I have to admit that even though I have really worked to simplify my life and ground it in virtues you speak of, I am still immensely entertained by pop culture (I am a self professed magazine and tv addict). But I think this is okay because I see the difference between the lifestyles and do not have the false hope of having such a life. My younger self wasn’t as good at distinguishing between the two and in some ways I am still paying for the mistakes I made in trying to be something I am not. That said, I am so much more confident in who I am and how I am living my life now… And I agree that this blogging community helps bring together like minded people and reinforces the virtues and values of simplicity, frugality, sharing, creativity, joy in experiences etc. Kelli – Thanks for sharing your perspective with us every day!!

  3. Great post. I’m SOOOO patriotic. It breaks my heart seeing the decline of family values and God in our society. And, those two pretty much sum up what you’re seeing (in my opninion). I don’t watch TV shows, have no magazine subscriptions, spend time lots of time with family, and I pray that we’ll re-focus our energies on what’s truly important: God & family. Our country is a miracle–the freedom and diversity is amazing. But, accountability, work ethic, caring for neighbors are so important to continue this great nation. I don’t want to see these lost in current and future generations. (I also can explain how these values fit into smaller govt too.) I love the USA and am so proud to be an American. I think we have the power/talents to achieve great things, but it takes everyone to do his/her part.

  4. P.S. Who are Heidi and Spencer? Seriously. And, I laughed at “underfed girls.”

  5. Amie A. May 20, 2009

    Kelli,

    I am with you. While I love modern conveniences and gadgets, there is definitely something to be said about simplicity and frugality. We splurge occasionally, but our day-to-day lives are very simple. We like it that way.

    A couple of major things in our lives that make it simple, happy, and keep us grounded:

    1. We have no cable tv. There are a few channels worth watching, but for the most part, I find it full of gossipy reality shows (even though they seem so far from reality). There seem to be so many negative messages and marking scemes that we just don’t think it’s worth paying good money for. We love movies & dvds, so we just compensate there.

    2. We schedule down-time. Our kids are in school (however, we’re starting homeschool in the fall) and they are involed in one sport at a time. That leaves some time for social activities, reading, homework and chores…but most importantly…family time and alone time. This gives us the peace to just “be” sometimes.

    3. We live within our means. We pay our credit cards off every month. We enjoy our money and enjoy nice things, but overall we do a pretty good job of realizing our wants vs. needs. My husband and I talk about this on a regular basis and I find that it grounds us to support one another in being proud of the fact that we are individuals, whose worth doesn’t come from things ilke having a fancy brand new car every couple of years and that being frugal is an accomplishment. It is a reward in itself not to have the worry and stress of being in debt. This keeps us “light” and happy. Each other and our family is the focus.

    4. We remind ourselves to be thankful. Even though, as a kid, I was rushed to grow up and didn’t seem to appreciate many things, my mom still exposed me to beauty in the world…culture and art, nature and music…all of the little beautiful things easily missed. Sometimes our kids seem to act like I did when I was a kid…there are times when I catch glimpses of them enjoying and appreciating and thanking God for providing these experiences.

    All in all, for me, life is a process of learning and becoming more wise (hopefully). I know there are going to be peaks and valleys and all I can do is roll with them. All the while living a simple, uncomplicated life.

  6. I’m still in my JV, now FJV, universe, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Although I wish more people would follow along or at least be O.K. with my being so “behind” or whatever.

  7. Totally with you on this … also disgusted by the inordinate amount of money and attention given to professional sports.

  8. The wastefulness of American culture saddens me deeply. We have so much, and use so much. We throw away everything, from disposable silverware to disposable people (which is really what a lot of these reality shows are about – people we use for our entertainment, then toss away for the next group). We are perfectly willing to spend $200 on a purse, but can’t find it in our hearts to put $20 a month towards a local charity. We spend $3.50 on a coffee but won’t toss the change from our five into a donation jar for the homeless. What is up with that??

    With all that said, I count myself among the hypocrites. I save that dollar that I could have tipped my waitress, but for what? Another cute blouse at the Limited? I support library book sales and book excahnges between friends, but rush out for the latest hardcover from my fave author. I’m still digging out from a hole of debt, but have no problem using my credit card to buy tickets to a concert. I decry the useless celebrities, but I love to read about them in trashy magazines.

    It’s a constant struggle for me. Thank God for his grace and for my communities of friends who support me in making changes for the better.

  9. Kelli,
    I understand and agree with what you are saying, I don’t even bother to turn the tv on if I have nothing else to do, it just doesn’t occur to me because I know it’s a waste of my time, I rather sit down and think about stuff. I also value a simple life, and I am happy to have friends who are just like me. I do like comforts and I buy stuff at times that maybe I don’t need, but I always think about it twice before shopping. Do I really need this? and many times, I just won’t buy it. It’s a way to satisfy some needs that when you stop and think, they are not really needs. If I instead satisfy the need of having something by the need of creating something or cooking something, usually that makes me happy enough that I don’t need anything else. It’s a matter of values and needs, and what makes one happy inside. Maybe being close to God for some, for me maybe playing guitar. Things like that fulfill me and make me want to get closer to people who share similar values. As you said, the blogging world has lots of that and that’s why we are here, right? feeling connected to people you feel a connection with right away. I wish this also happened in a regular basis with people around, but is a more rare occurence. But when it happens, oh, it is great:)

  10. Stacey S. May 20, 2009

    I couldn’t agree more. Another thing that gets my feathers ruffled is the young men who wear their pants below their hind quarters. I have two stepsons that do this as do their friends and frankly I do not care to see what boxer shorts they’re sporting today. Plus it makes them all walk like penguins. As soon as I see that walk I feel nauseous. I also agree with finding comfort and inspiration in the blogsphere and so many creative and positive peeps.

  11. Being a college kid myself, I admit to reading the gossip sites and having the $2 Starbucks iced coffee in hand sometimes. But for me, it’s less about status or desires or coveting that which I don’t have…it’s more about actually wanting a good cup of coffee on the go or reading the sites because I like to realize how fortunate I am to NOT be like celebrities. I like to put a positive spin on the barftastic attention we pay to celebrities – we can use a family like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s to show that there still are people who practice family togetherness, albeit public and expensive family togetherness. We can take the domestic abuse Rihanna/Chris Brown scandal and use it to teach young women and men how NOT to behave in relationships. If we as a public make up our minds to view this obsessed society as an optimistic learning opportunity, we can’t really go wrong. I think it’s a matter of having a positive outlook rather than a certain faith, socioeconomic status, education, or whatever. With an eternally positive (although realistic) outlook, how can you go wrong?

  12. The only reality TV I can stand is Top Chef these days. There’s nothing ‘real’ about reality TV. They’re on TELEVISION for Pete’s sake, they’re not acting like their normal selves.

    And I’m proud to say although I see Spencer and what’s-her-name on the covers of magazines, I still have no idea what made them famous. I think an MTV show? I dunno.

    But one thing I also don’t get is what’s “hip” in fashion. I don’t mean what looks good, or what’s “in” as far as style, I’m just not up on what designers are popular w/ the kids these days. Shayla asked me the other day if I’d heard of these $90 cotton t-shirts that were all popular these days. Can’t remember the name of it now. Hold on, let me google… Ok, yeah, I can’t find it. Some regular t-shirt that has designs and a dude’s name on it? Lord, it’s just like when we all wanted Guess in junior high because the cool kids were wearing it.

    How about this, how about I GIVE you my budgeted clothing money and you go find cool stuff for me? 🙂 I’m off topic…

  13. Although I should say that I AM up on what books are popular w/ the kids these days. Ha! I have my priorities, and they include trashy YA books.

  14. Julie May 20, 2009

    Hi Kelli,
    Loved your pictures from your trip.
    I am not a Starbucks kind of person. Though I admit to watching too much reality TV and purchasing a People Magazine from time to time. I would love to live a simple life…..
    My one wish would be to have a small farm, with an organic garden, and some farm animals. Of course these animals would never be sold or put down, it would be a sanctuary for them.
    Recently, I completed volunteer classes to assist hospice patients. This was something that has drastically opened my eyes to what is important and what is worth while in this world. I also recently started back to church. I am ashamed to say it has been about 2 years since I attended a mass. I am a Catholic, however some of my beliefs are not of “The Catholic Way”. After many discussions between me and my God, I realized it is HIM I answer to. Not an organization. So I attend my mass, pray and talk with my God. After all he knows me the best and I have to believe he will guide my steps in this world.
    I am a positive person. Believing in kharma and all that is good. I do not preach religion. I believe God asks us to love each other and our duty is to help others along in this world. I try to surround myself and be positive to all people I encounter. Hence, why I read African Kelli!! 🙂 Giving back to others, as you have and continue to do. Is what life is all about. Though we all have our days—and when there is nothing but sad or bad news around me. I try remember to keep going, try to make a difference for just one more person. After all we are all here to serve each other.

  15. Hello Kelli –

    Thanks for such an honest and thought provoking post.

    I have to say that I often feel like a foreigner around here, too. I don’t have or want children, don’t have cable television, like movies that most people don’t, have only within the last month gotten a cell phone (and made one call to my husband to see if it worked), don’t watch sports (save the Wimbledon finals) or reality TV. I occasionally read the magazines(a perk of working out at the community center), but as a someone who really likes clothes and buys more than I need, I focus the pictures (how superficial is that?!).

    As for the people featured, I cannot definitively say whether or not they have different values than I do because the focus is generally on the fashion (or lack of it), the parties, vacations, etc. Besides, on the occasions when celebrities do discuss more serious topics (George Clooney on Darfur is a good example), they are often a focus of ridicule and mockery, so maybe many of them keep their humanitarianism private. As for what they give to American culture, I’d have to say a break from the seriousness that pervades our lives. They are a means of escape and wonder.

    I also can’t say definitively that any one accepts their life without trying to make it their own. Isn’t life about choosing our own path, Ivy League, ambitious, or not? I certainly don’t get how people can drink and party all the time, but if they’re up for it and have the means, who am I to argue? Their fashion budgets are certainly enviable, as well, but I also think they should have the ability to leave the house a little dirty and not be judged for it.

    I think that is part of the simple life you are discussing. It isn’t always about dressing the part, or making a choice someone else sees as being right or obvious, but being comfortable enough in your own skin to show that you get dirty and have a coffee addiction.

    If the paparazzi followed me around they would learn that I sometimes take long stretches between showers, love to eat cheese corn in the car, wear shawl collared sweats from Target more often than is cool, and make faces at people whose fashion sense varies drastically from mine. It would not be pretty on film!

  16. I’m not sure you want the first chapter of Adam’s American Manifesto in the comments of your blog, so i’ll be brief.

    I think that most of my discomfort about my life is summed up by this post. I LOVE pop culture, i love being good at trivia and having knowledge about a billion useless things. Also, i really like nice, shiny, expensive things like iPods and computers and Lamborghini’s and HD tvs. However, my dream life, the one i’m constantly threatening to throw my hands up, quit my job, sell all my possessions and go claim is in the woods of Montana or Wyoming or Oregon, with a beat up truck i can fix myself, good hard manual labor that leaves me exhausted-ly fulfilled at the end of the day and absolutely doesn’t include a TV, a cubicle job or even a computer.

    How do i talk one thing and end up walking another? It’s a balance that so far, i haven’t even come close to finding…with semi-torturous results.

    Thanks for posting on this topic. I’ll let everyone know when i start my commune in the woods. Come join!

  17. You know my stance on this, given that we spent the weekend hashing it out 😉

    The latest thing to bug me though, is the Organic Craze. Just the fact that “Organic” isn’t an all encompassing, feel-free-to-turn-your-brain-off-and-buy, kind of distinction.

    I’d love to see more consciousness about products produced locally, organically and sustainably with profits going to the producers rather than oil companies and big business.

    And that is all the kvetching I plan to do today 😉

  18. Amen.
    No time to write the book that will answer your questions today, but know that you have a soul sister, and admirer and a friend right here. And I am ever so thankful.

  19. You are such a real woman, Kelli! I love it.

    Feminism (the mentality that women can do anything men can do so that they can receive respect and honor from others) has removed the feminine qualities from society that make women lovely…ie: serving others with no ulterior motive other than to love them, deep satisfaction from domesticity, building community. Woman weren’t built to be equal with men and do everything they do. We can, but really, just look at us. We are different. We are emotional, nurturers, relational and domestic by nature yet equally reflective of the image of God as men are. Embracing that concept alongside a personal relationship with Jesus is simply exhilarating. Not the easy road, but deeply satisfying.

  20. Sharon May 20, 2009

    Thank you, Kelli for always writing and leading your life straight from your heart. This month marks 40 years that I’ve been an RN. That’s lots of years of hard work. But there is something so satisfying in being a nurse. There is a long waiting list to enter nursing schools these days…I think people are finally realizing what a better person it makes you when you can do something good in this world.

  21. I agree with you wholeheartedly! I am actually proud to say I have never, ever watched “American Idol,” “Dancing with the Stars,” not even “Survivor,” no reality shows. I just don’t give a crap. I’ve never watched “Talk Soup.” And I have to hear my lunchmates blather about it and I still don’t care. The only things I watch on TV are a few things on HGTV and a few things on PBS and maybe Letterman once in a great while.

    There are too many good books and good blogs to read so that is what I do most weeknight evenings. I like cameras, laptops, cool jewelry, a few creature comforts but I live in a definitely modest, 60 year old house with a low mortgage and am very happy with just that. I work in Scottsdale and hate the North Scottsdale “scene.” Blurp!!!!! I go to Starbucks sometimes but prefer Fair Trade, Copper Star, etc. My latest car is the first I’ve ever had with a moonroof and I was all excited about that.

    I might know who Heidi is but I definitely don’t know who Spencer is.

    It seems so many people are shallow and anti-intellectual. I think some people think I’m a snob but I don’t care–I really do like art exhibits and the symphony and I really don’t read People magazine.

    I think the whole sustainability thing is really cool even though I don’t do much of it personally. Wish I did but I guess other things take up my time. I have a whole list of “to-dos” and watching crap tv isn’t on there.

    But, like others have said, giving back is important to me. I don’t do nearly as much as you do but I try to do as much as I can (incidentally I mentioned you in my May 16 blog) and I’m looking for ways to do more.

    So, yup, I pretty much agree with everything you said…

  22. Hmm… I seem to be a little more “plugged in” to the culture than a lot of your blog readers! I can’t imagine giving up TV, as shallow as that sounds I know it’s true. It’s how I unwind, and I love shows that make fun of celebrities and reality shows. (The Soup, anyone?)
    I’d say I experience the most “culture shock” when it comes to food – the ways that corporate America manages to process and repackage fat, sugar, and carbs is quite astonishing sometimes (have you seen the Domino’s Pasta Bowl? It’s pasta, in a bread bowl. Crazy.) Sometimes I wish I could just take America for a walk through a farmer’s market or at least cordon off the inside aisles of the grocery store!

  23. I am in agreement with you (though, I actually have no idea who Spenser or Hiedi are; and I’d probably kick it in sweatpants). Unfortuately, many of our elected leaders are following the socialite path. I just caught the last bit of the Rachel Maddow show and Congress was basically acting the same way. In January when it’s popular “Let’s close Guantánamo Bay!” But when someone spins it as relocating terrorists to your backyard (aaak, don’t move to my neighborhood), suddenly there’s a vote 90-6 in the Senate prevent detainees from being transferred to the U.S. WTF? Like we don’t have worse people already in our prison system. I guess if your constituents demand reality nonsense, you begin to act it out for attention.

  24. Ahh Kelli. You, AmazinGirl, never cease to amaze with your grace and observations. I just wrote, like, a BOOK in response, then promptly pushed some wrong key and my words shot off into the nethersphere. Oh well.
    Anyway, in a nutshell, Me: “Hey Babe. Lets defect to far, northern Canada, live off the grid, grow our own zucchini from polar bear dung and commute by dogsled. Whaddayathink??”. LoveofMyLife: “But, Gorgeous, people’s CORNEAS freeze up there…”. Me: “Goggles and mukaluks, Darling…I hear technology is a wonderful thing…”. Him: “…and then there’s the killer deer…”. Sigh. Ever the pragmatist, him. I’m currently trying to convince him one can surf off the coast of Oregon (or Maine), until then, its porch-zuchini for us… 🙂

  25. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I think you’re missing a key piece.

    Everyone is a function of their experiences. You make the comment about what you would do as a socialiate, but that is only true because you are applying your experiences to a life you’ve never lived.

    One of my favorite authors (and I’m sorry, you’ll have to deal with Sci-Fi), Steven Brust wrote [paraphrased and butchering his far better phrasing I’m sure]:

    “You can no more describe it, that you can taste your own tongue.”

    That is a useful thing to keep in mind when looking at the world around you. It’s always hard to taste your own tongue.

    IMO.

    -Jot

  26. Well, I’m not american, but I can tell you it’s the same here in Italy (and no, this is not a consolation). Every time you turn on the tv there’s someone talking like she/he has all the answers, and she/he is just someone partecipating in a reality show. Since when we started to listen to people like that as a role model, instead of doctors, scientists, researchers, writers, poets, ect? It scares me so much to live in a so low-values society. It scares me to see so many young (and they are thousands) standing in line for a screen test foar a reality show, and so less for the vernissage of an art gallery! (or anything else about culture and art).
    So I guess the globalization has made all our “western” society alike, your problems are mine. The good aspect of America, you decided to take a turn for good and elected Obama. We still are in deep s…. with our Prime Minister, he’s the first one to choose tv “celebrities”, or starlets as companions. I’m sure that if you would be so kind to search your major papers at the voice “Silvio Berlusconi” you will know how miserable I feel……

  27. All the food people throw away here and how wasteful this throw away culture is.

    And although we all like to snark, if we didn’t spend our time snarking about celebrities, the paparazzi wouldn’t have a job. So seeing these web sites and magazines just makes me think, what about people who are struggling just to get by in places like India and Africa? It’s sad. 🙁

    But I do like the way people helped after 9/11, the fact that the Coast Guard will search for one single missing person who could be in distress, and the fact that there’s so much research to make things better. Those are all good things.

  28. Hi!
    Unfortunately I think that this is a universal problem(As I live in Norway with Norwegian culture as a reference). Media is setting the agenda for what we should be concerned about, sadly people (talking large scale here) don’t recognise the media’s reasons, it’s all about money and power.

    I am wondering what did the happiness study say?

    Teachers and education, well I am all aboard for focusing on that one, may be I am disqualified as it’s my occupation, but I live in the belief that if people get educated the world would be a better place. A lot of the cruelness and ignorance that is happening in the world, happens because people are not educated.

    Hurray, for the internet and for it’s ability to bringing people together.

    EWian

  29. I think East or West home is best…….I am from Kenya nd I miss home…do I want to go back YES! but also I have issues with a lot that is going on there..but guess what….its HOME SWEET HOME!

  30. I consider myself to be quite well-rounded in that I love to read about international affairs etc, but also keep afloat on celebrity stuff. BUT, I don’t watch reality tv shows and hate that it takes nothing but five minutes of really trashy/bad/embarassing behavior to make someone famous. Not to mention I’m tired of all the actors/singers/models/fashion designers/basketball star. I’m all for broadening horizons but I liked the old days where a model was a model and an actor was an actor.

    I wasn’t raised in the states and was raised by a single father so I’ve always had an understanding that magazine covers are airbrushed and nobody is that perfect. Hopefully I can pass on this to any daughter I might have.

  31. Debbie May 21, 2009

    I totally agree with you. This week is the 100th birthday of a dear friend of mine. He & his wife were my neighbors and friends for 18years. They have lived their lives by paying attention to family, friends and neighbors. They make time for worship and prayer. They have served their country and community and still look for ways to help those in need. They believe that money or objects have little to do with happiness. They have demonstrated that true happiness comes from time spent visiting with family & friends and time spent helping out where needed. Although my friend has had some serious health problems this past year, he is happy to be celebrating his 100th and visiting with all wish him well.

  32. I would love to say that we live in the woods or on a farm with no tv and a fabulous library down the street, but the reality is, we live downtown in a suburb just west of Boston and we have TV and pop culture all around us. Most of all, my kids are immersed in it–they are 18, 16 and 14, so this is what they see at their friends houses’, in their school, all around them. My concession to pop culture was not to give my daughters Barbies when she was young (she got them as gifts from others at birthday parties though), not to let them watch TV except for PBS for less than an hour a day, not to see any movies that weren’t G and later PG. Then they got older. And they went over kids’ houses, and they saw TV and movies and things I would not have wanted them to see.

    Ultimately, I’d rather them hang out here with their friends than at someone else’s house. So my youngest son watched American Idol last night, and I watched it with him. My older son plays World of Warcraft with his friends. My daughter and I watch Grey’s Anatomy together.

    I find, as a parent, that as my kids got older, all the things I swore I would never do got worn away. When my daughter came back from South America and wanted to pierce her nose, I said fine but no to eyebrow or tongue. My husband and I have so relentlessly mocked reality tv shows that my kids have little interest. I pick my battles, and now I reserve the heavy leverage for making sure everyone is safe and not in bad situations.

    I don’t know if I think our culture is good or bad, but as long as my kids are in it, so am I. Once they’re all out of the house though, I am confident that our TV will hardly be turned on!

    BTW, my daughter is getting back from The Gambia next Friday, and she has filled out journals…one made by a very special crafts person. Thank you Kelli!

  33. Ok, I take it back. I also LOVE LOVE LOVE So You Think You Can Dance!

  34. I like Amie A’s answer…. we don’t watch tv…. well at least not the normal tv. It we are watching something it is usually something to do with history or religion. We do love movies but try to limit those to just weekend nights. Tyler and I find ourselves just chatting more and more at night. I think part of that is because by the time the kids go to bed we have to connect to each other or we will be lost to this world. NO THANKS TO THAT>>>>
    This last week we were able to see some authors that were just incredible speakers… The Shack’s (brain fart and forgot his name) and author John Eldredge who wrote Wild at Heart and a couple of others…. it was so cool hearing about these men and how they came to write their books.
    Ok, go off a little…. I do love my microwave, car, and air conditioner, oh yeah and my mac!!
    We are actively teaching our children that we are different from a lot of families and that’s exactly how we want to be. At the moment I’m fighting the cell phone that EVERYONE of my daughters friends have at 12 years old. For crying out loud, why do kids 12 years old need their own phone??? I’m about ready to give mine up so she would see how we don’t really need on with us all the time!

  35. I very much believe in working hard for what you want, determining what makes your “want” list is very personal. For example, I want to be a productive person in the world, so I do what I can to improve myself as well as find ways to give to those who need help — when it makes a difference in the quality and dignity of life. And the latter is where my aggravation button can get easily pushed over into the red zone. There’s a sense of entitlement becoming pervasive in our society, an expectation of “gimme” without lifting a finger to help yourself. I believe in being proactive in solving our own problems and asking for help when there’s a true need (which takes courage). But expecting something without working for it gripes me very much.

  36. Mike Mathers May 22, 2009

    Two years in the Peace Corps over here in Moldova has in some ways been lonely because I’ve been away from my culture but also, it’s given me the first chance I’ve ever had to really understand it.

    What I mean is that not having Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, or the 4th of July has forced me to define the meaning of these traditions for myself, rather than the television. Getting down to the core of the celebration, rather than trying to purchase it at target has given me some of the best (insert holiday here)’s of my life.

    The point is broader than just holidays, but its an easy example: it’s only when we somehow escape all the marketing and look inward that Americans have any idea what our culture is. Well, that’s my opinion at least.

  37. This is a thought provoking post. I think one of the reasons I’m drawn to the crafty blog community is a sense of shared values. I don’t buy into the culture that the media feeds us–that, to me, is not American culture. Rather, I see our culture as one in which curiosity, helpfulness, and independence are valued. I long to make whatever household goods I can (clothes, towels, etc.) and to produce and put up food to enjoy in the winter. I connect to my great-grandmother, a pioneer woman, and I think a lot of young women in our culture feel the same way. We have so much freedom, it would be a shame not to make the most of it!

    P.S. I loved the baby buffalo pictures!!

  38. Jeanie May 23, 2009

    Hi, Kelli:

    I’m not even sure where to start on what I think of American culture. It could get long.

    Much of today’s culture is a disappointment to me. This is a great nation. There is so much potential here but people burrow into their own little world, they worship the earth (recycling does not get you to heaven), we continue let the children lead the family by the nose…

    I don’t get it. I totally feel like a foreigner. I am 43 years old and I was raised back in the idyllic days where your friends’ parents were “Mr. and Mrs. LastName”, not “Sue and Tom” or “Jason’s parents”. When you actually had to ask permission to use the telephone, and it was attached to a wall in a common place so you didn’t sit there and talk smack with your buddies using embarrassing slang because your parents were right there as were your little siblings.

    After our TV died last year we did not replace it and we do not miss it. I did see the Heidi/Spencer people on a magazine and I have not one iota of a clue who they are. I am sure Heidi and Spencer could care less that I don’t know who they are. I went to your link Fashion Faux Pas in your post and the only two people I had ever heard of were Robin Wright Penn (from the Princess Bride) and Fergie — from some band — and doesn’t that band sing the song about lady humps? Oh my word….

    I think there is a lot of depravity in this world, and having traveled in the Third World, it just makes me really sad that we have so much and yet SO MANY (but certainly not all) make everything trivial.

    Just the other day I was so HAPPY because my husband fixed the latch on our bathroom’s medicine cabinet. It hasn’t stayed shut in a few months but I only noticed it when I was in there. I have a 14-month-old baby — I only remember things like that in the short-term…so imagine my FOR REAL JOY when Thursday morning I went to shut it and IT ACTUALLY SHUT.

    I am glad that my life is simple. I am most glad that my faith in Christ is my most important relationship.

    There’s a lot about HERE that I don’t get and will never get.

    Sorry, this is getting long. I’ll stop now.
    Thanks for the post, Kelli.

  39. Kelli,
    What a wonderful post! Thank you!
    BTW – I googled Heidi and Spencer just to see who they are.

  40. Kelli, I could not have said any of this better than you already have. Finding your own way, making life your own no matter what you’re born with…these are the things that make a Life.

    I can see how someone who has been given everything except the values of work and community could fall into the trap of bad fashion, ornamental pets and over-priced everything. Compare Paris Hilton to Ivanka Trump. Similar financial backgrounds, totally different results.

    While there is no denying I would LOVE to have bales of money to work with, I am also grateful to know what it means to make every penny count. My family and I live in a beautiful house, drive functional cars, send our kids to private school…but we do this by being very, very careful and realistic financially. We do it on the income of an engineer and a part-time nurse, and we are not in debt. I buy the best local, organic food I can find…and I buy my clothes at Value Village. There lie my priorities. 🙂

    I have no idea who Heidi and Spencer are.

  41. I should add that even though I do most of my clothes shopping in the local thrift store, I manage be properly dressed when I stop in for my expensive coffee…at the little independent coffee shop one block down from Starbucks! What can I say? I live in the suburbs of Seattle and appreciate a good cuppa joe.

  42. Allison May 26, 2009

    Kelli,
    I’ve been thinking about your post for a while. First of all, and I know you already know this, but you are so lucky to have a group of friends who share your values. I have been disappointed lately to have to defend my decisions to start composting, to grow a few vegetables/herbs on my balcony, to do some serious decluttering to simplify my life. Sure, I am lucky enough that I could afford to go to the Whole Foods down the street for all my food and continue shopping for things I don’t need, but I don’t want to do these things anymore. I’m not one to push my lifestyle or values onto my friends and relatives, but maintaining relationships with many of these people is becoming increasingly difficult.

    I’m somewhat ambivalent about American culture. I know who Heidi and Spencer are, I read gossip magazines at the gym, but I have severely limited by TV watching. It makes me sad that people would spend hours and hours watching ridiculous reality shows rather than reading a book, talking a walk, engaging with their communities or a thousand other more productive things. At the same time, I live my life how I want so I don’t feel like it’s my place to really criticize others’ choices. One significant concern I do have is whether frugality and green-living will continue to be hip once the economy improves. I suspect it will not and the vast majority of people will go back to their old ways of living above their means and ignoring environmental and social realities. I hope I’m wrong.

    Anyway, thanks for this post. It’s been really interesting reading all of the replies.

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