Repurposing

Darling 2T top made from repurposed material

Some time last year, Etsy (an online market for handmade goods) issued a challenge for its members to not buy any new clothes for… was it three months?  Six months?  Instead, participants in the challenge were to “repurpose” their old clothes — cut up the cloth and sew something new, embellish it, or otherwise change the old item’s look into something newly refashioned.

I didn’t participate, because I’m crafty/artsy only in spurts, not really as a way of life.  Plus, not buying new clothes for three months is no challenge.  I hardly ever buy clothes.  If Clinton and Stacy came over to tell me What Not to Wear and went through my closet, instead of throwing out garbage pail-fulls of clothes, they’d be like, “Umm… where are they??”

But, Etsy’s challenge was a good one.

Yesterday, I read some blip by some actress from a TV show I’d never even heard of, let alone seen, about how her character is “back to finding who she was” before she had a husband and child, and about how that was particularly apropos because she herself was doing the same thing, returning to acting after having a daughter two years ago.

Now, please understand me.  I am NOT totally against women serving in the workforce.  I think too many moms are working, but there are situations where it is certainly warranted.

In fact, I find myself wishing I had a nursing degree so I could work one 12-hour shift a week, like an acquaintance does…  That would be cool.  A meaningful job, pay for more than a pittance, not too much of a strain on myself or my family…

But, for every mom who has to work, there are at least as many moms who are like the mother who — to my shock and chagrin — told a pregnant mom in my hearing, “If you want things to be easier after she’s born, go back to work as SOON AS YOU CAN!!!”

But, I (sort of) digress.

I’ve been thinking about what that actress said…

On my walk this morning (YAY!!!  I’m back to walking!!  At least once!!  Let’s hope it becomes a habit!!  And then becomes actual running again!!), I thought, “I so don’t want to go back to who I was before I had a husband and children.”  Speaking of chagrin, I cringe every time an old friend says, “I remember when you said…” or something of the like.  In other words, I’d like to think that I’ve grown up a bit since then.

I don’t think my interests have changed all that much;  the same things that piqued my interests years ago, still do… like writing, and singing, and reading, and running, etc.  In that sense, I’m still who I was.

But, my focus has changed.  My time-expenditure has changed.  My thoughts have changed.  My priorities have changed.  My opinions have changed.  My convictions have changed.

I’ve lived my married life and life as a mother and life as just living…  and… I don’t know how to say this, exactly, but it’s like all those experiences from the last 14+ years have been  incorporated into who I am NOW, and I just wouldn’t ever want to go back.

Unless, as a single person, one makes serious, concerted effort to not live entirely independently, as a single, one most often (in my observation and experience) lives a very self-focused life.  You live by yourself.  You process things through the filter of, “What’s best for me?”  You spend all your time at your own discretion, primarily on your own interests.  Then… you bring that into a marriage, and into your motherhood.

(Being a Christian throws another wrench in the best-for-me thing, too, because really, our cause should be the cause of Christ and His Kingdom… but that’s another topic altogether.)

I’m not saying that the self-focus of a single person is bad, per se.  But, when one chooses to marry, and even moreso when one bears children, if you live only to pursue your own interests, and retain that best-for-me filter, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Families are, by nature, not about one person and her interests.

It’s not like those interests disappear, but they do need to become repurposed.

If you write and you’re single, you can stay up with your journal and a neverending cup of coffee at Denny’s until 2 a.m., and there’s no one who will pay for it, other than yourself.  However, if you do that and you have, say, five kids… well, the kids suffer, as does the home.  It’s not like one should stop writing and tend only to husband and children and home, but one would almost certainly need to pick a different time in which to write.

And so on.  (Actually, the “examples” section of this should really be expanded — there are a whole host of examples about things to which my life and its efforts have been applied that I never previously envisioned, but have turned out extremely rewarding.  But, I’m out of time, and if I save this this as a draft, it’ll languish in my drafts folder, and never get published.)

And, it’s not like you even need to suffer for it!  Lives, like hand-crafted items, can become more meaningful, more interesting, more intricately detailed… and simply a better use of materials, if simply repurposed.

Cool repurposed butterfly brooch

Vintage watch becomes repurposed as a necklace

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About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on January 12, 2009, in Christian Living, Clothes, Encouragement, Family, Introspective Musings, Motherhood, Writing. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. While it’s true that single people don’t always have to consider others as much as you do when they make their budgets, buy their groceries, and pick their bedtimes (sometimes they do, esp. if living in community), I think the characterization of singles as “selfish” comes across as a little uncharitable. I know many, many single people who exemplify lives of love and service. The type of character growth you’ve experienced does not only come in the married-with-kids setting. Marriage and kids (as great as they are) are not THE way to unselfishness. In fact, being single grants many people the time/emotional energy to meaningfully serve their friends, neighbors, community, and world in ways that busy families often don’t have the inclination to do. We would all be much worse off without the single and childless people around us pitching in wholeheartedly. Please don’t discount other ways of loving, serving, and living that are different from the one you have chosen/been blessed with.

  2. You’re right, Erin. It was a poor choice of words. “Self-focused” might be better, but not by much. Independent?? That might be more exact.

    And, I think that I was speaking (writing) out of… what I’ve personally come out of, or am coming out of. Not everyone is nearly as self-focused as I am/was.

    I think I’m also responding to what I keep seeing in/hearing from so many places — the idea that moms need more and more “me” time. http://www.google.com/search?q=%22me+time%22+mom&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a Granted, here I am at 10:47, and I’m happy that everyone is tucked in bed and I’m by myself. And, there are certainly pursuits that I enjoy that no one else in my family does. I think I function better when I have some time to myself daily! But… I think in America, in general, we’re not short on time to ourselves. Our culture idolizes self, and idolizes independence. I see that coming out more and more and more — admonitions, almost, for mothers to abandon their own families to pursue their own desires. There’s a real celebration of selfishness in our culture, and that bothers me. That is what I’m protesting in this post. I’m not saying that all singles are selfish. There are a lot of other self-focused people out there… and self-focused women who have families are that much more concerning to me, because their actions can have serious effect on their husbands and families. Nationwide, women file for divorce at twice the rate of men, and only about 6% of them file for reasons of “cruelty,” including infidelity.

    The servant-hearted single people of whom you speak are, I think, in general, in America, in our culture, unfortunately not the norm… not the trend. There are always, blessedly, people who, for the better, buck the trend and become leaders and live exemplary lives. But for every one of them, there are 100 women who drive their families (or their own selves) into debt by buying $800 purses and $300 shoes, and make themselves completely unavailable to their own spouses and children (or any other kind of service) because they’re spending an exorbitant amount of time doting on themselves.

  3. Some me time is ok and necessary. The homeschool crowd goes the opposite way and says a mom does not need me time….I did not read the article you referenced. The self indulgent go for the $800 purses. But the middle ground is best. Have time for yourself. You are a better person for it. Get the bubble bath. Do your hair. Read a good book. Find silence. And be a mom out of your abundance. It is very ok to care for self. Love the Lord your God with all your heart…..and your neighbor as yourself…..um, the assumption is that there is some self-love and respect, for your limits as a person, for your strengths and giftings.

    Raise the coffee cup to all those moms out there, don’t loose who you are in the process.

    Goodwill, darling. I went yesterday and found brand new Liz Claiborne for $3. Renovated Sam’s pants collection…you know, the holy collection that you are embarrased about when he wears them at church. I got about 5 pair for $2 each. Nice size 6 not holey pants. Now that is repurposing. $20 goes a long way at Goodwill or some other nice second hand store.

    Can’t speak for singles…I was not one for very long.

  4. Lisa ~ You’re right, too, in that the larger homeschool crowd of mothers compete as to who is most self-sacrificial, and that’s to nobody’s benefit. I’m not among them. I’m so introverted… I do need some time to myself, and most often wish I had more time than I do. But, it’s easy to go overboard in the wrong direction.

    Your Goodwill, my eBay. 🙂 I got six pairs of pants and two dresses and a shirt for Audrey recently for less than $30, including shipping. One pair of the pants was a brand-new pair of Calvin Klein jeans. Your deal at $2 each is better, though!!

    I have been thinking about taking a morning and hitting thrift stores. We have only about 3 months of jeans-wearing weather around here, and the boys’ jeans that I bought in October are all mostly holey already. They live on their knees, apparently.

    Thinking about this more last night…. I guess it’s more like larger social commentary. The women (and few men) who, by and large, read this blog are not the kind who are likely to be of the Bridezilla, “Super Sweet” variety. However, even though shining examples can be given to the contrary, the hyper-independence which permeates our culture does invade our marriages, motherhood, and values, and I think we need to be vigilant to guard against it.

  5. I totally understand you, Karen.

    There are many single people who are generous and self-sacrificing….those who SEARCH OUT ways and places to serve. They are indeed vital to the church and society!

    However, being married with children those opportunities (and requirements) are all around. You just CANNOT be self-focused and be married with children. Just try it. The kids will for sure wake you up too early, demand too much, eat too much, cost too much, etc. Your spouse will for sure ask for help on a project when you had something else planned. And we have endless opportunities to lay down our lives. Not that married people shouldn’t also serve in church, school, missions, etc. But, molding character? That practically happens by itself in families (if we don’t actively fight against it!).

    Perhaps that is one reason why the Bible says: “God sets the solitary in families…” (Psalm 68:6)

    I think ideally, there shouldn’t be “single” people. Unmarried doesn’t have to mean “single.” Everyone should have a place in a family–for the good of the person and the family.

    And, Karen, I love the idea of repurposing our interests, goals, etc. I can totally see that. It’s a great analogy. We can “have it all” if we let it take a little different form than it did in the past.

  6. That’s funny that you wrote about wishing you were a nurse, I’m hopefully about to go back to school to get my nursing degree to do exactly that. What a perfect career for a homeschooling mom.

    Texas Tech has a one-year, Web-based BS-to-BSN. So, I’ll be building on my previous bachelor’s degree and ending up with the preferred four-year nursing degree. Although the nursing part of the degree is a year-long program, I have to meet some prerequisites, so it will probably take me almost two years from start to finish.

    I actually tried to get in this semester, but it didn’t work out (timing/financial aid). I think it may be more of a matter of timing than a closed door, so I’m going to try again next semester.

  7. Ok… that top is absolutely ADORABLE. I’ve a pile of clothing laying in wait for my creativity to take flight… too many projects and so little time.

    Karen… this is a GREAT post. Our lives do need repurposed and OFTEN. I am in a rut right now, at a point where so many things seem overwhelming and I need to repurpose my outlook, my expectations so that I can find my current purpose and therefore, find my joy.

    I have the same nursing desire… I actually went to school to become an RN and stopped just shy of entering the actual RN program (all pre-req’s done, CNA done, etc…) because life grabbed a hold and I just couldn’t fit it in. We also have a family friend who works one 12 hour shift a week as a NICU nurse. She said they look at all expenses as “that’s x shifts”, so it makes their family take everything in perspective.

    Currently I take care of a baby all day/four days a week, which is a natural extension of my Mommydom and helps a bit with the grocery bill. It would be awesome to make that in one 12 hour shift!

  8. Oh… had to add… re: clothing-

    My closet- same!!!! It’s pathetic. I did just cave and purchase two new pair of jeans ($37 total) because the one pair I owned wore through… literally. I won’t buy anything new for another year at least!

    Goodwill- bought Kaylee (8 yo) two pair of BRAND new pants for $2.49 each yesterday. Tags still on! One pair were brown cords and the other were sailor inspired jeans. Very cute. Last week we got Kyler (8 yo) two pair of Levi Slims in great condition for under $3.00 each. I also found myself an Ann Taylor Petites black blazer (retails around $90) for $8. It’s so exciting to find these deals.

  9. glutenfree4goofs

    I’ve been peeking in on your blog for about 6mo now and baked the sugar cookies and ginger bread cookies this christmas, delicious! Just a few days ago I finally gave in to the internet world (lol) and started a blog! Kinda fun I might say. I like your spot and will keep coming back to see what is new over here. You and I are quite similar, Christian moms, gluten free, love singing, the outdoors, jogging, my youngest daughter shares your little one’s middle name. I like your thoughts and perspective. I too have recently taken a hard look at my life’s purpose. Who cares if the floor isn’t swept today, but have I rocked my baby? Someday she won’t want to be rocked. Did I play with my boys? Someday they won’t want to play. Did I call my Mom and my Dad? Someday they won’t be there to call. Firstly (even though I wrote them out of order) did I kiss my husband? Ah well, I could go on and on- have a nice day! Maybe you could teach me how to get some of those cool widgets on my site! I love the weather one!

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