First-World Contemplations – Don’t Buy the T-shirt

This is purely an opinion piece, exactly like all my other posts, and I want you to feel free to agree with me. Let’s talk t-shirts and how buying t-shirts can’t change our lives. In fact, I think buying a t-shirt can be a grave mistake. For example, one sad purchase would be the dated t-shirt. Another one is the t-shirt for an obscure event, especially if that event never happens again. If that event is a once-in-a-lifetime deal that no one’s really heard of, then take a picture of yourself experiencing that moment. No t-shirt necessary. A dated t-shirt is a little different. There might be sentimental value involved, and in such a case, you might consider how you can reclaim the material at the end of the year—and it should be in a way you will truly use. Like, a t-shirt bag is great and all, but we have reusable bags being handed out for free at every function. Is it worth the time and effort to remake a t-shirt into a bag?

We have all fallen for the myth that we are going to wear those t-shirts again. This is only true for a select few that get the honor of being worn to shreds by our brothers, sons, and husbands. As both a thrift store shopper and a donation sorter, I can assure you most households toss stacks and stacks of those custom-made, event t-shirts every year. The thrift stores, in turn, redirect those t-shirts and find other uses for them because they are donated in droves, and they do not sell. Nobody wants to sport the baby blue shirt with the “Haversham’s All-Stars 2013” on the front, and “Go HAS!” on the back.

What happens to these lonely, unwanted t-shirts? Maybe the story should be told by a movie, “T-shirt Story,” where a t-shirt with a cowboy hat and lasso gets jealous of a spaceman t-shirt. Cowboy t-shirt gets spaceman t-shirt thrown out of the house when the owners aren’t looking. Then, in an exciting twist of events, cowboy t-shirt decides to rescue spaceman t-shirt from a horrible t-shirt torturer. Maybe there could be a couple of sequels. Nyah. This story’s going to end up making me cry; I can feel it.

Seriously, lonely t-shirts are sent to nursing homes, where they are used to cover nicer shirts or they are cut up into bibs. They are also made into fat quarters for the quilters who don’t mind working with knit. Some people cut t-shirts into strips and make rag rugs. Those people are not me; but if you have the skill, I think you should go for it. For those of you into “family cloth,” have you considered the potential of these one-day event t-shirts, languishing and forgotten in your child’s drawer? Please think about that. I won’t. It makes me gag, but that’s just me.

How do I reuse old t-shirts? I use them to clean wood and as paint cloths. I also annoy toddlers with them by telling them they can’t paint unless they put a huge, man-size one over their clothes, and they hate me for it. Just so you know I’ve tried, I’ve made the t-shirt bags, too. My daughter made one that came out halfway decent. It was very small, so I stole it to hold my hairdryer. Her hairdryer is now naked and self-conscious. No worries; my daughter is still talking to me.

It isn’t that one-day-event t-shirts aren’t great, it’s that we are buying and donating an abundance of them. I’ve contemplated tallying up how much is spent on t-shirts by the average four-person family. How many sports team, club, work, church, and camp t-shirts do we consume in a year… and can t-shirts be cooked in a way that will make them nutritional? After thinking about the expense of t-shirts, I think it would be fun for budget-savvy families to start a “no-buy t-shirt” savings account. For every t-shirt they probably would have bought, they should put that money in savings. If every member of the family usually bought two t-shirts a year per person at an average price of $12.99 each, a four-person family would save… Wait. I’m not good at math. They would save money. And if families decided to use that money to help someone, they could tell people who were pressuring them to buy the t-shirt that they had committed the money they usually use to pay for t-shirts to a cause that is personally important to them.

What about the free t-shirts at events? Well, someone is paying for them, even if you get them for free. And I can’t help but wonder what would happen if event organizers considered that money as a donation for a cause instead of buying t-shirts with it. Like, instead of including a t-shirt in the registration fee, why not charge the same registration fee, figure out how much it would have cost to print those t-shirts, and advertise that “in lieu of t-shirts this year, a portion of your registration goes to such-and-such charity”? It’s trendy for birthdays, right? Basically, you get to not bring home another t-shirt for the same price that you get to help both a charity and help the overrun-with-t-shirts thrift store.

Together, I think we just might save the world… one less t-shirt at a time.

The Spider – a lament

spider-web
Image by George Hodan

Worthy was I of purest love;

He loved me not at all.

His schemes wove tethers ‘round my wrists;

He watched my fences fall.

 

Drop by drop, he plied his pen

In lies yet unrevealed;

A spider weaving glit’ring web,

His stings were yet concealed.

 

In desperate straits, but steadfast still,

I could not but perceive;

My virtue lured him like a fly;

His web I could not leave.

 

To friends he painted fallacies,

Sincerity his guise;

‘Til silence, my worst enemy,

Convinced my soul to rise.

 

In vain I begged for mercy;

His coldness was as ice.

He had no conscience to restrain;

He made my love his vice.

 

The spider took the coward’s path,

He heeded not my cry.

He drained me of my last defense,

And forced my hope to die.

 

The door, it loomed like Cerberus;

I slipped away by night;

I climbed the steep Mount Tartarus,

And did not slow my flight.

 

My tired soul found haven:

A cell, a squalid shore,

Where I battled in reflection,

My fevered mind tried sore.

 

I searched; I found no comfort.

I slept; I found no rest.

I ate and took no pleasure in it.

My spirit sore oppressed.

 

I reached to enfold my loved ones,

A solace amidst my pain;

I grasped at salve for my malady,

To stand and live again.

 

But there was none would help me;

Both judge and friend drew near;

They praised the sinner, claimed him saint,

Denying I’d aught to fear.

 

They said if I would go to him…

They told me to forgive.

“This lord, this man of good rapport,

Commit to him and live.”

 

My spider had betrayed me

To mother, sister, friend.

Denied even by the bishop,

Who claimed hell was my end.

 

Hear the words, oh humanity;

Spoken from the Divine:

For God hears the cry of the innocent;

The Lord says, “Vengeance is Mine.”

 

*Inspired by Samuel Richard’s Clarissa Harlowe, or the Story of a Young Lady

The Treaty with Edie

Rilla sorts out writer-ish things with Edie, her rather critical inner editor.

Rilla: Okay, Edie. We’ve been working together for some time, and I think you need to understand something I’ve figured out about me—us.

Edie: And that is…

Rilla: I write for the joy of it. I truly believe we’re not seeing eye-to-eye on this, and I need you to get onboard so I can finish The Zorce Collection.

Edie: Meaning, you want me to stop being honest? You’d rather I didn’t tell you the uninteresting, unpolished, unprintable things you write are trash and need to be burned?

Rilla: Yeah. Pretty much.

Edie: I can do that. In fact, I have no problem letting you wallow in the mire of your own dumb compositions.

Rilla: Now Edie, you’re a good editor. You’ve saved me from a lot of mistakes, I grant you–

Edie: And this is the gratitude I receive for being there for you at all hours? All hours! Because you know I wake you in the middle of the night so you can know about that typo in the comment you posted yesterday! Who else would be as concerned about your image? Protecting you has been my top priority for over thirty years now, and all you can say is, ‘You’re a good editor, Edie, now shut it’? I see how it is.

Rilla: That’s not what I said, Edie. Nobody’s doubting your loyalty here. I don’t want you to quit; I just want you to look at our work as a personal reflection rather than a marketable product.

Edie: ‘Our work.’ Thank you; I appreciate that. So, you’re saying the trilogy you’ve been wrestling with for years is now a personal reflection? You’re going to spend—who knows how many—years to complete three books, and then you want to stick it in your little diary and call it a day?

Rilla: Yes. That is exactly what I mean.

Edie: (jaw-drop) What a waste of your life! Why would you want to do that?

Rilla: It’s simple. I need the freedom to write what I want to write without thinking of who’s going to look at it and what it’s going to make them think. We did that last time, remember? Where did it get us?

Edie: (nodding) I see your point. We’ve been trying to peg this story down for almost a decade.

Rilla: Ugh. Don’t say that.

Edie: Well, it’s true. But, I will admit, you’ve been able to eke out a few good stories, even while you were blocked.

Rilla: Thank you. So, what do you think? If we work on The Zorce Collection as a reflection of our life rather than a product, how would that change the approach?

Edie: Well, obviously, I wouldn’t have to stop you mid-scene to ask if the scene itself is really necessary.

Rilla: Yes.

Edie: The dialogue could be as long as you want it. The word count wouldn’t matter.

Rilla: Yes.

Edie: Ooo, here’s a big one: I wouldn’t have to alert you every time you divulge something that hints at your own painful experiences.

Rilla: Bingo, Edie. That’s the one that’s holding us back.

Edie: So, are you calling this a memoir now?

Rilla: Absolutely not! This is Casey and Ivan’s story. They need to be able to speak, and they can say what they need to say much better if they don’t have a self-conscious author in the mix second-guessing and censoring herself.

Edie: I see.

Rilla: What do you think? Can we give this a go?

Edie: You know how I despise that long-winded garble you call your style. Will I have to wade through that again? I refuse to work with you unless I can still rip apart the scenes that don’t speak the way I think they should.

Rilla: I’ll make you a deal; if you’ll give me time to get the scenes out on paper, I’ll take you page-by-page, through the section when we’ve finished. You can clean it up to your heart’s content.

Edie: It has to be crisp. You know that’s very important to me. Clean and crisp.

Rilla: Well?

Edie: I’m willing to try it. Anything to get this monstrosity out of our head.

Rilla: Thank you, Edie.

Edie: And when we’re done, who knows? Maybe you’ll want to publish it anyway, and…

Rilla: No. Edie.

Edie: I don’t see why. Can’t you just think about that an itsy-bitsy bit?

Rilla: No. We write The Zorce Collection, and it’s done. That will free us to work on (whispers name of fully-written children’s story draft).

Edie: Ah. Yes, that’s been dangling there for some time.

Rilla: Are we agreed?

Edie: We never agree, but I will concede with this one set of stories–which is all I’m giving you!

Rilla: Good enough.

“Get off the Internet” Challenge

Last week’s short story, Disconnected, was prompted by a little experiment here at home. I promise; we were not plugging our brains into any USB ports. The challenge for our family for five days was to get off the Internet.

We rely heavily on the Internet to work and communicate, so the goal we set was to get off distracting media, like Youtube videos, tv shows, movies, and game apps. Even social media was not to be used for scrolling through posts—there had to be direct communication going on. (One concession was made: music could be listened to while work was happening.)

That first afternoon, I learned how much I rely on a screen while I’m eating. I usually eat lunch well after lunch because I get carried away with my work in the mornings. That quick bite is usually my time to catch up with Facebook and Youtube subscriptions. When I sat down to my sandwich, I felt the lack of a distraction. I was unentertained.

The withdrawal from watching shows or movies wasn’t as hard on me as it was on the kids. They were used to watching videos about cats scared by cucumbers and videos about making chewing and eating sounds to see if the listeners found it calming. They didn’t even have the videos of people commenting about the videos with the chewing sounds. Riveting, I know, but they had a hard time prying themselves away from the video-watching.

There was a great amount of unrest in the family atmosphere for those few days. I found it enlightening. Basically, because we didn’t have a device to flee to when a small conflict surfaced, the conflict became an actual annoyance. Fortunately, the conflict was then resolved sooner. No one could escape into their video-watching hidey holes to forget about it until the next confrontation.

The best thing that came out of our few days was sitting down together and talking. We played more board games and made more jokes and got in more arguments. It was great fun! And without the screens, we talked more at meal times. Interestingly, we didn’t eat at the table; we ate in the living room, where the seats are more comfortable. So, picture us in the living room not watching TV. Can you picture us? We’re sitting on the comfy, cushiony chairs, and we’re talking and eating. Novel, right? I think I understand why the Romans ate their meals reclining on couches. Seriously, has no one noticed that dining room furniture, in general, is not that inviting? Why do we make our eating room so stiff when eating is a pleasant activity and should be surrounded by all kinds of pleasing things in keeping with its… pleasantness? We also have our Bible study in the living room, so it became an easy transition from eating to reading together.

All in all, I think it was a great challenge. I stopped mulling over how I could effectively fix other people’s problems online and stopped caring how many plates I could fill on Diner Dash to move up to serving shrimp tempura. Instead, I became, naturally, more aware of doing nothing. I found myself breathing deeply and relaxing and just being. Doing nothing meant I had time to connect with me, which is so important, and which I tend to forget to do when my nose is stuck to a screen.

I hope you, too, will think about how you can spend your day being a little more connected—to yourself and to the people living right beside you. What do you like to do to keep connected?