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My Year of Buying Nothing

That time I broke the rules (Halftime confessions!)

By Lee Simpson

It’s the halfway point in my Year of Buying Nothing (YBN). And it's time for truth-telling.  I regard confession as necessary - the spiritual equivalent of washing one’s grubby hands before dinner.

Three times, I have transgressed and purchased something inedible. My sins of commission are, like many other confessed events, a mixture of the sneaky, the inadvertent and the hedonistically deliberate.

My big reveal starts with that tiny barely there sin. As an intermittent, enthusiastic cook, I favour big-batch cooking and freezing. Meal preparation is a joy, while other times, it's an enormous yawn. Among my tools in preparing for those inevitable off-days are masking tape and a permanent marker for labelling. But I forgot this aspect in my YBN preparation. When my masking tape ran out, I raided my husband’s tool kit and used painters' ‘frog’ tape as a substitute. And when my pen disappeared, I freaked, uttering words unsuitable for the pulpit or even the church parking lot. Desperate, I then snuck into the dollar store and bought a cheap marking pen. Hah, curses! Foiled again! In my furtive haste, I grabbed red, not black, and because of some evil combo of colour and chemistry, the pen failed to mark the green tape. For a month, I limped along, covering freezer containers with inadequate paper and pencil arrangements. Then one morning, while tidying tea towels in an overstuffed drawer, my old marker miraculously emerged, and I seriously prayed out my gratitude.

Now for sin number two. My daughter’s family planned a move to our area. In my joyous over-eager, motherly need to “assist” these completely capable young people, I purchased a local newspaper with real estate listings. I did this spontaneously: I was in the middle of buying mushrooms for supper and there, at the checkout, was the paper. Of course, I realized this once I was in the car. And this is where true sin occurred: I could have taken the paper back at that moment of revelation. But the devil purred in those dulcet tones, “Keep it; the kids will be so happy." Hmm, not so much. Later that day, I received a call from my daughter letting us know that they’d found the perfect place. I then guiltily turned the paper into fire-spills for the wood stove.

And the final (so far!) evil deed? I bought a Scandinavian décor book for our daughter. I discovered it at my sister’s and couldn’t coerce her to part with her copy (no, Sis, I wouldn’t have given it up either!). So I futilely searched library data bases. Then finally, for the first time since January, I logged onto that online river of temptation, Amazon.com, and ordered the book gleefully. My daughter will be caught off-guard by this gift-for-no-reason (that’s just not like me). But I envision her snuggling on the couch with that book and dreaming together of a future in which she turns her heap of bricks and wood into a life-time refuge for family, friends and wayfaring strangers.

So will I be tempted again? Certainly! But caving again? Unlikely. Confessing is hard - and ultimately useful. I know my bête noir now. The printed word and image was God’s gift to our reasoning minds, but in my YBN, there remain other modes of satisfaction.


Rev. Lee Simpson is a writer in Lunenburg, N.S. New posts of YBN will appear every other Friday. You can also check out a short documentary about Lee at http://www.ucobserver.org/video/2014/04/ybn/.
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