Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tawaret, Pottery Barn, and The Poisonwood Bible

Shhhhh....I'm hiding in my bedroom/office, where I'm supposed to be editing Avram's paper for the Maxwell (used to be FARMS) Institute conference for this fall. Except I can't access the paper, since his email in encrypted with a crazy password that has more symbols than letters, and although he left me the password, it isn't working. So...I'm hiding from my kids, anyway. Maybe I'll even be able to squeak out a whole blog post. Not that I can completely blame my children for not blogging. The truth is, my best Internet time is in the afternoon, after I've completed my household chores for the day, or otherwise given up on completing those chores. However, with advancing pregnancy, I find that I increasingly nap in the afternoon quiet time instead. We don't do quiet time like many people do - instead of the girls getting quiet time in their room, I shut my door, and I get quiet time (always nap time), while the girls play around the house. I seem to have singularly un-curious children, because this method works very well, and since Lydia can't open either the front or back door - they stick; adults can hardly open them - I never worry about them wandering off into the street. The most damage they do is when Lydia decides to find her own afternoon snack, and rummages through the fridge or cupboards.

But, as today has not even passed the lunch mark yet, I suppose I shall try and crack my hand at the old writing pasttime, instead of sleeping. As regards my pregnancy, I feel increasingly like Tawaret.She is the Egyptian hippopotamus goddess, who is always depicted as pregnant. Just imagine me as a vertical hippo, and you've got it about right. I'm almost 33 weeks, but it feels like every week currently measures a complete revolution of the Earth about the Sun in my life. Looking back over the last two pregnancies, I remember that the second to last month was always the hardest one for me. By the last month, I'm suddenly remembering that when a baby arrives, she's going to need lots of care and midnight feedings and endless diaper changes, not to mention time. Plus my house always needs to be better looking (ahh, nesting), and I have about fifty items to complete before the arrival. Don't forget the whole labor part, as well. But in the seventh month, none of these worries are imminent, and I only remember that I've been pregnant forever, and I may well be pregnant for the coming forever. Imagine, being pregnant for forever - that must be what hell is truly like. Then there would be no anticipation for the coming baby, which means you'd just be stuck forever as Tawaret.

In other thoughts, our local library had a booksale, where you could get a grocery bag's worth of books for five dollars. Of course we loaded right on up, and now our children's shelves are loaded with many books that look as if they've been looted from the library, which they have, except there is no due date attached. I picked up a coffee table sized decorating book from Pottery Barn, since the price was right, and I love decorating books. I do not love, or even like, Pottery Barn, but I figured I could still find plenty to interest me inside. While I have picked up some useful tips, I find myself disgusted while reading the book. Not so disgusted I stop, just enough to feel comfortably self righteous and castigated for being a part of a consumerist nation.

Besides not really liking the actual style of many of the rooms they showcase, I struggle to relate to the luxury based, more is better, and large is best mentality of Pottery Barn. The rooms are all huge, and the houses all full of useless junk, like personal spas with Japanese special soaking tubs, and guest bedrooms complete with all new toiletries, slippers, and bathrobe for your guest to not only try, but take home with them. The amount of glassware and china they espouse makes me embarrassed to be American, and part of a culture where new is best, and remodeling and updating a past-time.

We met last week for the first time as a book group (this is related to the Pottery Barn, just wait), to discuss The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. The meeting went great - it was everything I hoped for, with great companionship, good conversation, and herbal tea and muffins and fruit that made me feel genteel and lady-like. I thoroughly enjoyed The Poisonwood Bible, despite my mis-givings, and, as I hoped it would, it affected me long past the final page of reading. Although not the main point of the book by any means, I was left pondering a lot my place as a steward of the environment and earth, and how I use, or mis-use, the expansive resources I have available to myself as an American in in a first world country. As a result of these ponderings, I have finally at long last begun recycling here in Ohio, and am amazed at how, only three weeks in, almost half of the waste we produce can be recycled. If I had a back yard, and hence could have compost, I think another quarter of waste, at least, could be reclaimed.

With these thoughts in my mind recently, reading about how a kitchen really ought to have two sinks for better food prep, plus my bathtub should be larger, for more water, and my shower heads can be installed to release more water at once (called the deluge showerhead, meant to imitate a rainshower), not to mention updating my pillows, furniture, storage options for all of this extra junk, plus special wine refrigerators available for my kitchen. So much of the emphasis on this book is in comfort and relaxation, and I can see why - after two adults working overtime to pay off their mortgage on these over-expansive houses, plus cleaning and maintaining a dwelling of this size, I can imagine that all they would want in their lives is relaxation - without any time to do so.

I'll be the first to admit that someday, someday soon, even, I'd love to move to a larger house than a 1000 square foot townhome. I'd love amenities like a separate office/libary for Avram to work in when he's home working, which is often. Or a large enough bathroom to include built in drawers instead of only a pedestal sink. I know that what I have is nicer than what so many people have, and will ever have, in their entire lives. In the Poisonwood Bible (spoiler alert) when Leah and Anatole move to the states while he is a part time instructor at the University, they live in married student housing. Many around them complain about the plywood walls, and the cheap furniture. Meanwhile, they can hardly believe how nice everything in the apartment is (and they are in their thirties and forties at this point, not just young and naive and in love), and how far his stipend from the university goes for them and their children.

This was a very humbling bit to read, because Avram is a part time instructor here at OSU- he recieves a stipend as well. Although we don't directly live in student housing here (we did at BYU), we do live in an apartment of the same size and styling. More often than I'd care to admit, I've coveted having more money, and someday owning a house, where I can paint the walls, and have more space, including beautiful storage space not part of our limited closets. I don't want to decorate in the Pottery Barn style, but I would someday like to decorate my house, with furniture that is more than just what I found in the moment at Goodwill, and with exotics like installing architectural detailing (mouldings! window seats! Dormer windows! Built-in library shelves floor to ceiling! - ok, so the middle two are probably just pipe dreams). I don't want to ever reach the point where my physical belongings become so much that I am chained to their preservation, up-keep, and re decoration when style inevitably change.

I don't think that just because there are people in Africa who live in one room homes, and are consistently going hungry, and live at the mercy of thoroughly corrupt governments means that I should sell all my belongings, and either move to live like them, or feel guilty everytime I turn on my hot water, or wash my clothes in my personal washer and dryer. I do think that being a good steward, however you term it, is appropriate. We've all heard the cry to finish our food, because there are starving children in Africa. Of course, we are not going to then box up our un-eaten food and then ship it to Africa, only to arrive weeks later covered with mold, as a token of goodwill. However, the less that we consume overall, the better our "carbon footprint" if you want to sound trendy, is. In the terms that I like, the better stewards we are of what Heavenly Father gave us, the less food we through away from having eyes larger than our stomachs. And ultimately the less we consume, whether food or plastic or new belongings just to have new things, the more resources there are for others in the world. Now I sound like I'm espousing the trickle down economics as given by Reagan, but you get my idea. I'm not sure exactly the best methods, once we use less, of giving the extras to those in need, but my personal favorite areas of helping (and this is sadly mostly theoretical until Avram makes more than a part-time stipend) are the LDS Humanitarian fund, and the PEF, or Perpetual Education Fund.

I would expound some more, but I now have two children clinging on me - I guess quiet time is over.


  1. Thora, you are hereby removed from the list of people I unabashedly judge, because they don't recycle! And I applaud your desire to compost too. Which, by the way, you can still do, even in an apartment, if you put your mind to it. You can have a worm bin, like your mom, (and I bet your kids would love it!) or even make a small compost bin like this one: Do it, you know you want to! Then get some pots (thrift store/garage sale/curb) and grow something. Even just a house plant, though you could easily find something edible. You will catch the bug, and then I can talk your ear off about composting, gardening, and the three Rs.

  2. I, too, became an avid fan of Tawaret when I was pregnant. I referred to the impending labor as my "Hippopotamus Test."

    Your post echoed a lot of things I've been thinking about, too.

  3. because i'm moving soon :D i have been struggling with wanting to buy all kinds of great stuff to make my apartment look just how i envision it, and being poor/frugal/wanting to do things in a responsible, earth-friendly way.

    and i hate it when i see "before and afters" online and the before looks fine to me but apparently is not stylish enough.

    anyway i like your post. but now i am afraid that the time i was going to call you (abraham's nap time) is also your nap time. so now i think you should call me, if you are awake. although i forget what we needed to talk about. i guess what i'm saying is, call me if you aren't napping and you need to talk to me about something.

  4. I have been feeling the yearning to to be a better steward, too. I hated living in apartments because they didn't have municiple recycling programs and I was too lazy to recycle on my own. But now, not only do I recycle, but I've started a small compost bin in the backyard. I've taken my actual trash from 5-6 bags a week down to 1. And I feel really good about it.

    I had to wait until I was almost 35 to get into a house. It's fantastic, even though I don't have window seats, dormir windows, or built in libraries. But I do have blue walls in my kitchen. It's heaven. Be patient. It'll come and you'll love it.

  5. I echo the thought that being pregnant forever is what hell must be like. and the rest of your post was good too.

  6. by the way, something i read somewhere: put a bookcase on either side of a window, then find/build a bench or chest to put under the window, and put a cushion on it. and you have a window seat!

  7. Love your private time idea. Cuz you're the one who really needs it! Hope you can enjoy some extra naps these days.

  8. Well, I'll be honest, I have never had much to do with Pottery Barn; but if I could buy ALL of my nursery decoration from Pottery Barn Kids, bet you bananas I would! We will probably never, ever, be in a price bracket that will enable me to, but for now I will always relish the PBK bed that I picked up on craigslist for Lily. Beautiful.

  9. Have you thought of bonsai? You can bonsai a fruit tree (I like avocados, but they do take up more room than other fruit trees). Feed it lots of compost and they'll produce fruit, though not any faster than a full-size tree. My mom started an avocado tree from an avocado pit, as a "science project" for me. Several years later, we planted it in the back yard, where it grew into a full-size tree, and we got lucious avocadoes for years.

  10. I really enjoyed reading this post and can agree with it all.

    Way to go with the recycling. I was kind of upset when we moved to California and they MADE us recycle (well, they make us pay for it whether we do it or not) but now I love it. We've gone from taking the garbage out 4-5 times a week to one time/week. And I just feel like I'm doing my part now. We also just happen to have a compost bin in our backyard and started using it when we moved in. And now I can never go back.