Continuing Education

4 Mar

I have been taking a photography class for the last 7 weeks. I have had such a blast! Tom gifted me the class for my birthday and it was really the perfect gift. I have been wanting to learn how to use my camera better since I got it two years ago. It feels so good to learn new things and be creative as an adult. I think we often lose that ability to let ourselves be creative when we are adults. That is so sad to me. Why is it encouraged to be creative when we are young- to use our imaginations, but almost frowned upon when we hit a certain age? We have to buck up and get a real job that pays real money. I guess we do have to make money to survive. But I think it is so important to nurture those creative parts of us as an adult.
Here are some of the pictures I took for my class:

Be Mine

12 Feb

It has been Valentine central at the Mulherns. Here are some of the projects we have been working on. Hope you have a very happy Valentine’s Day!

Denim Betrayal

9 Feb

My go-to pair of jeans have forsaken me. They are wearing out in the crotchal area. I was really not expecting this. I thought we had another year together at least before they would succumb to my constant wear and tear.

But I did not let them give up to easily. I patched them on the inside and you can’t tell at all. I am wearing them today, and although they do not feel quite the same, (they rub a little weird and I am not digging it at the moment) they serve their purpose and will last a few more months.

I also fixed Tom’s Peru pants that split, and some pjs we got for Noah from the thrift store that are super cute, but have a hole in them we did not see until he was wearing them. This took me maybe 20 minutes to fix three items of clothing. It is so silly that we throw out perfectly good clothing that have a lot more life left in them because we are too lazy to take five or twenty minutes to fix them.

I have been trying to just do menial tasks that I am being lazy about but, I know will only take me five minutes to do (or less). It is some good advice that Gretchen Rubin gives in her book the Happiness Project that I have been reading for months. It is a really good book, but I always get distracted by fictions such as this one.

It makes my life so much easier to just (for example) clean up the bath toys in the bath tub after the boys have their bath. Instead, I wait and then step on them when getting into the shower. It is the same for mending clothing or fixing things around the house. Isn’t it so much easier to just throw it out and buy something new? It is. But, I think I feel more of a sense of accomplishment when I take the time to fix something and keep on using things until they really have nothing left to give. This is one way I am trying to be a producer rather than a consumer. Takes a little more time but it is quite satisfying.

Happy Birthday to you…

1 Feb

The tri-birthday madness is coming to an end in the Mulhern house. We had my 30th (I am so old), Noah’s 6th and Tom is 31 is on Friday. (Actually, Tom is just turning 29, but he always makes fun of me that I am older, so on here I can make fun of him and he can’t do anything about it. I am such a nice wife).

I went a little nutty with Noah’s birthday. I made almost everything in the goodie bags, including the Yoda finger puppets pictured above. Noah wanted a “Lego Starwars” birthday extravaganza. I made little bags and stenciled a Lego man on the front that Tom had cut out and designed. So, were were doing so good with the “handmade” birthday party.

Then we decided to go to CHUCK E. CHEESE.

Chuck E. Cheese is the opposite of the Compact. It turns children in to gambling addicted terrors. I am being a bit over dramatic, but I can say with no hesitation that we will NEVER be doing another birthday party there again. It is so wasteful and chaotic and awful. Noah cried when Chuck  sang happy birthday to him. It was really scary. I felt like crying too.

All that being said, the children will look back at the time when Noah had that awesome birthday at Chuck E. Cheese. Noah still wears the crown that he got there around the house, and we didn’t lose one child from the party. (I counted 7 heads about 200 times in a two hour period).

Noah the Birthday king

Penance for shopping – Write a post

20 Jan

One of the grey areas of our year of not shopping is purchases I have to make for work. As a youth pastor I have a budget for curriculum, books, nachos, NERF guns, and other important aspects of youth ministry. There are often times I have to purchase something new for the church or youth ministry and generally this allowed. Last time Malora and I did not include my purchases for work in the plans for the Compact and this time around we left the door pretty wide open as well.

This morning I purchased 4 books. All great books and all relevant to my job working with youth and young adults. I could have gotten away with my grey sneak but I have the inability to keep anything wrong I have done from my wife. This evening I said to Malora,

“There was an awesome sale at the bookstore today and I bought some really great books all 20% off. They are for work and I really need them”

To which Malora replied,

“What about the trillions of other books on your shelf that you have never read. You cheated, you can’t do the Compact. You have to write a blog post about this and confess your mistake.”


I have to admit, Malora is totally right. I do have tons of books on my shelf I have never read, that I have wanted to get around to for a long time, and this is the year to do it. So, for the next year I will not buy any new books for personal pleasure or for work…pleasure. I will also try to bring the concepts of the Compact into my work purchases and decrease the amount of NERF bullets I buy (we go through a lot of NERF darts every year).

It’s hard because that has kind of been like a parachute to this whole experiment and a way to get around the rules. I think that it will be an important step in breaking free from the stream of consumerism.

Plus, maybe I can finally get around to reading the pile of books I need to read.

(Update 1/28/11) I returned the books to the bookstore on Wednesday and have started tackling the pile of books I have in my office.

King Corn & the food we eat

20 Jan


Last night I watched the documentary King Corn. It is a film which follows two Boston film makers who move to a small town in Iowa called Greene, Iowa to attempt to raise an acre of corn. They follow the corn from kernel to it’s final destination in the North American food cycle. This final destination is the stomach of a cow or the artificial sweetener (high fructose corn syrup) in…well…just about everything. It is an entertaining documentary and right up my alley of experience driven experiments (much like the Compact).

It is scary how much of the food we consume comes from corn. On average we consume 75 pounds of high fructose corn syrup every year. The vast majority of the corn grown in North America can not be eaten until it is processed and turned into other things. It really made me rethink having a bowl of ice cream because essentially I am eating a bowl of milk and corn, which actually now that I think about it sounds delicious.

We have tried to put a limit on the amount of processed foods we eat as a family but it is often hard to get away from. We mainly eat fresh home cooked stuff because of Malora’s arthritis but as a youth pastor there are often many late nights full of tim bits, doritos, and coke.

Very thought provoking documentary (although I haven’t finished the whole thing yet). Anybody else seen this movie? Thoughts?

Chugging along

12 Jan

Photo by: Brandon Johnson

Here is a list of what we have purchased so far on the compact (other than the items “allowed” on the list):

Snow pants for Noah (we left his snow pants in Lethbridge at my parent’s house at Christmas. We tried to make it work with layering until we were going to see them again, but the weather has been AWFUL… so $5 snow pants from Goodwill).

Cloth bag from Planet Organic. I have no brain and I keep on forgetting my bags at home.

I think that is IT! So far so good. We ordered the Action Bible for Noah’s Birthday before the compact began (cheating…maybe) and it arrived today. So, no more little packages arriving in the mail this year. I am ok with that I think.

I have to share that my Mom and Dad are doing the compact this year with us, and they are doing SO good. Their electric mixer conked out and they went to the friendly neighborhood thrift store and picked up a “new” one. They are super committed  and doing really well.

I think that Birthday parties for boys are going to be a bit of a challenge for us this year. Unfortunately, we live in a land of DSIs, video games and plastic, plastic everything. I have been making capes in the past for gifts, but is that becoming passe for a six year old? I feel sad if it is. I think girls are easier. I can whip up a tutu in tutu seconds and I think that is a real crowd pleaser. Oh boys. I need some ideas, so if any of you crafty people out there have ideas, I could use some.

Getting back on track

10 Jan

record player
So one of the goals that I had when we started this whole compact life thing was to write about it at least once a week. I have already failed. Although technically 1/1/11 was written on a saturday and being the last day of the week I don’t really think that counts as not writing for a week. Regardless, I will try to be better in the many weeks ahead.

One of the presents that I got for Christmas was a Briefcase USB Turntable. It is an awesome turntable because it has speakers built in and a usb port out so I can record records onto my laptop. Very cool…thanks mom and dad Leask. I also received a cheque in the mail from my grandma for Christmas and I said to Malora, “Let’s split this baby and buy anything used we want.” I had in mind to buy some records to go along with my record player. I really want some vintage Johnny Cash, U2, or Radiohead records.

Malora lovingly reminded me that the point of this whole not shopping year is to, not shop. I said, “Of course and I am all on board for that, but I want to buy used records which are USED.” Malora once again lovingly reminded me that I didn’t NEED any used records and that we are not supposed to buy things we don’t need. We buy NEEDS not WANTS.

At first I was a little annoyed by the fact I couldn’t go out and buy whatever I wanted, even if it was used. But, in the end Malora was right and reluctantly I agreed. We so often fall into the trap of thinking we really need something when in actual fact we just want it.

It is a hard habit to overcome, but it is one that I hope will become more natural in the coming year. On Sunday some friends of ours, the Duecks, who are also doing their own compact gave me a copy of Simon and Garfunkle’s Bridge Over Troubled Water. We have so much and we really need so little.

Good bye beautiful jacket

5 Jan

I love clothes. No, like I really love clothes. I sometimes try on my outfits the day before I wear them, and model them for Tom. I have done this since I can remember. I love looking at fashion trends. I find cute little outfits that I just HAVE to have.

That being said, about a month ago, I bought a new jacket. Did I “need” a new jacket? Not really. But, the “fashiony” jacket I had was like FOUR years old… so pretty much ancient. And then my warm jacket is TEN years old and in perfect condition. So, I decided, I needed a new jacket. I bought one from the Gap and I got it for 40% off plus another 30% off. Really. It was the deal of… well it was a great deal. I loved this new jacket and the jacket and I were getting along quite well. Quite well until I stepped on it weird and ripped the button off the hood. It was a fatal rip. I tried to fix it and the kind of material it is just does not deal well with a needle and thread. So, I called the Gap and they said I could bring it back. So today… I brought it back to the mall (cue dramatic music).

I parked right where the store was so that I didn’t have to walk by all the beautiful store windows with the pretty clothes and I looked at the ground until I walked into the Gap. It was my hope that they would have another jacket there EXACTLY the same so that I could just exchange them and that would be that. But, they were all sold out. I just got my money back and walked out. BUT NOW I HAVE NO BEAUTIFUL NEW JACKET AND I CAN’T BUY ONE FOR THE WHOLE BLOODY YEAR. I am a little upset about this. But at the same time, a little disgusted with myself. I have TWO perfectly great coats. But I look at them with disdain because they are not this season (or last season, or this decade’s season… I digress). But I have a warm jacket to wear to keep me warm during the blistery Alberta winter. How many times do we all look at something we own that at one time we loved and think that it is not good enough anymore? Who is it telling us that it is not good anymore? I guess all the advertising around us is saying that nothing is good enough. I didn’t think that I really listened or was affected by all that, but obviously I am.

I am going to try and wear my jackets with pride this year and remember how I felt when I first got the jackets. I will try and channel that feeling to 2011. I am telling myself that my ten year old jacket is vintage.


2 Jan

Last time we did the Compact we had a set of “rules” well, they were more goals really. We thought we would flesh them out a little more. The goals are mostly the same… anyway here are the tweaked rules and goals for the Compact 2011.

Yes, we can buy:

Food- groceries, dine out a maximum of 2x a month

Safety items- light bulbs, batteries, tires (if one explodes)

Used items/thrift store- as needed. Last time we perused the thrift store a little too much. We will only be in the thrift stores when we need an item and only look for the item we need.

Personal care- Deodorant, tooth paste, cosmetics (again as needed, I am not going to go wild a MAC or Sefora).

Entertainment- rent movies, get items at the library, or if we ever get to go out on a date, we will go to the theater for a movie or a concert. Let’s be honest, if it happens that Tom and I get to go out together, just the two of us, it is a MAJOR treat that doesn’t happen near enough. We are going to take full advantage if thatsituation arises.

Nasties- Underwear and socks. Used = yuck.

Gifts- We can buy experiences (concert, play, theater tickets), used items or hand made.

Education- classes (Tom), coffee (for studying at coffee shops), school supplies.

Making crafts, art, or gifts- try to find items used, or buy new supplies only as needed.

Here are our goals:
– Bring less “stuff” or clutter into the world and our home
– Break our addiction to consumerism
– To be more creative in the way we live our life
– Spend more time as a family doing fun free things
– As a period of fasting – to remove any hindrances in our walk with Christ
– Save money
– Gain a new and Biblical perspective of money
– Become more generous and instill that in Noah and Jude
– Save ten percent of what we save in the year and give it to a charity
– Blog once a week
– Become more of producers than consumers

I was listening to the radio a while back and the guy who created Veggie Tales was being interviewed. It was a really interesting interview and one thing that he said really stuck out for me. The idea of being a producer rather than a consumer. He said if one of his kids comes up to him and says he wants to watch tv, sometimes he says, “let’s make a movie, here’s the video camera”. I love that idea. I hate being an idle consumer. I am totally guilty of it though. I often catch myself thinking, “what can I get from this?”

I felt that we became producers the last time we did the compact. We made a lot of gifts and repaired clothes and didn’t just mindlessly buy things to replace broken items in our lives. Or buy things to replace broken parts in our lives. I think that many people in our culture (including myself) tend to buy things to make ourselves feel happy- even if it is just for a minute. I want to find other ways to find happiness in life. There are so many glorious things all around us just waiting for us to notice them. Like my children waiting for me to watch Toy Story 3 with them and eat popcorn apples and cheese. Until next time…