Archive for July 22nd, 2012

July 22, 2012

WWGD (What would Grandma do?)

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know that I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to simplify things in my life.  I know, the whole “simplify” thing has gotten a little overused, okay, a lot overused, but the more I think about it, I think that is for good reason.  I think it’s needed, simplification that is, because life has gotten so busy.

I remember summers as a kid, I got up, went outside and played with my friends… all day long.  It wasn’t until 4th or 5th grade that I became involved in organized sports and at that, I don’t recall it taking up a lot of time.  I did take dance classes from a young age, but even that was only one day a week if I remember right.  And in my spare time?  I played.  You see there weren’t cell phones or iPads or iPods for that matter.  And games we played were in boxes, cardboard boxes, not Xboxes.  My point is that life wasn’t so scheduled and obviously not filled with technology.  Now things are different. (Man, this makes me sound old, doesn’t it?) My son is an active kid.  He’s involved in a sport nearly every season, because that’s what kids do these days.  And while I’m grateful that he’s active, athletic and enjoys sports, the fact that all sports are organized and that each of them is usually two nights a week is a bit much.  And if they overlap, then you’re looking at three or four days a week.  Add to that swimming lessons or music lessons and there really isn’t time left to just be a kid.

And us? We grownups aren’t much better.  We have our own stuff.  And if we have kids there’s the stuff that supports the kids: PTO meetings, volunteering for school, scouts, sports, you name it.   That leaves little time to just “be”.

Obviously, this has bothered me for a while, but I think it became more evident in the past couple of weeks when my son didn’t have anything scheduled in the evenings.  I realized that I’m far less stressed and far less crabby.  I’m not racing from one thing to another or stressed over making an early dinner, grabbing dinner on the road or a late dinner afterward.  The lack of scheduled activities has opened up the possibility for evening walks or just hanging out together.

Combine this sports break with the farm tour yesterday and it’s got me thinking that simple really might be better.  I visited three farms on the Eat Local Farm Tour yesterday and while each one was different, the resounding similarity is that their life is more simple.  Now by simple I don’t mean easy.  These people work hard, very hard.  But it is also obvious that they love what they do.  Maybe I’m crazy, maybe it was just my perception, but everyone I met also seemed… happy.

At one farm, the owner told us they didn’t grow up farmers.  Didn’t inherit a farm.  She and her husband used to live in the metro area and commuted every day.  Then they had kids and they wanted something different, so they bought the farm.  They knew it wouldn’t be easy, but they also knew they needed a change.  Before, they spent little time together.  Now, they work together and their kids work with them.  They work long hours and take few vacations, but they are happier.

Another farm, a small, sustainable, organic farm had a little bit of everything.  Bees, chickens, crops, sheep, goats, pigs… They try to produce everything on site that they can in order to create a fully sustainable farm.  The fruit and veggie scraps go to the chickens and the pigs, the animal waste gets composted and feeds the gardens, and so on.  They have honey and beeswax candles and soaps and… they do it there.  Small, predominantly self-sustaining and again… happy.

No, I’m not ready to move out to a farm and commit wholeheartedly to that lifestyle, but going to these farms did reinforce the direction I’m heading right now.  Life wasn’t always so busy.  People didn’t have all of the “stuff” we have now and I wonder, was it easier?  Were they happier?  Were relationships closer?  I have to think the answer is yes.

My Mom grew up in a small town in Iowa.  One of six children in the family.  They had a large garden, relatives had chickens and their uncle owned a store.  They did pretty much everything themselves.  Gardened, cooked, canned, cleaned, ironed, baked, mended… and while my Grandma did a lot of it, they all took part in what needed to be done.

When I was growing up my Mom often spoke of their schedule growing up.  Monday was wash day, Tuesday was baking, Wednesday… I know I have the details all wrong, but you get the idea.  They knew what needed to be done and when they were going to do it.  Their meals were the same way.

Lately, as I’ve been thinking about how I can simplify things in my life, I’ve been thinking a lot about my Grandma.  How did she do it?  The gardens, the cooking, the canning, the mending.  She had six kids yet she did it all.  They all lived a more simplified life.  This simplified life some of us are trying to recreate.  It’s not new, its generations old.  We may have a new twist on things, but it’s not new. My Grandma did it.

Thankfully I still have my Mom and Aunts to go to with questions.  And while I’ve asked a few questions in the past, I still have a lot more.  Luckily, I can still learn from them, from what they learned from Grandma.  And as days move forward and I continue to try to figure out how to do things “better” I’ll continue to wonder, “What would Grandma do?”.  And from there, hopefully I will find a more simplified way of life.