Mar 31 2011

urban explorers [day 308]

I love exploring abandoned houses and buildings.  A friend sent me a link to an article about “urban explorers” on howstuffworks.com.  This explained my attraction to these old, and sometimes dangerous places.  I learned a few things from this article, but mostly, it explained a lot.

“Urban exploration purists advocate only trespassing — not breaking and entering.  This forces explorers to get creative when finding an entry point into a structure.”

This is true, I have been creative on ‘entering’ some of these places.  If they’re locked up tight, then I enjoy the outside.  If the no trespassing signs are visible and well posted, I leave it alone.

“It should be said that UE is an extremely dangerous and illegal pastime. By nature, old abandoned buildings are unsafe.”

This is true, as I’ve fallen through several rotted floors.  Being careful is good, but being aware and preparing for a UE trip are necessary.

“Some appreciate the old architecture and ancient machinery. For other people, it’s the thrill of just standing still in a silent, untraveled place. Others find beauty in the type of decay that can be found only in neglected buildings.”

I do find beauty, but I’m also fascinated by the personal effects people leave behind.  I’ve found many things in abandoned houses, everything from photographs to electronics.  One house had the whole backside blown out by a storm, the closet full of clothes and the vacuum cleaner from 20+ years prior, sitting there as if the people ran out quickly, never looking back.  I can’t help but wonder why people leave stuff behind, what situation made them leave and how they determined what they did take.

“Whatever his or her motive, an urban explorer finds adventure in these abandoned sites. There’s a peacefulness in these empty, concrete caves that isn’t like the solitude found in the woods. It’s an experience opposite of nature; instead of finding reassurance in the renewal of the seasons, the urban explorer finds kinship with the past.”

This is so true, it’s a peacefulness, but very different than what’s found in nature.  It’s a serene feeling, laden with curiosity and wonder.

“These explorers usually take photos of the places they visit.”

Here’s some photographs I’ve taken in abandoned places, mostly houses.  I photograph these as a hobby, but I just can’t get past the fact that people throw away buildings, houses and cars as if they have no value.  Some of these places are structurally good and it just makes no sense that they’re thrown away.  Continue reading


Mar 28 2011

the affects of effects [day 306]

It starts when we’re born.  Accessories.  “My daddy is the best” and “My mom is better than your mom” on our shirts, iconic pacifiers, hair bows in more styles and colors than Baskin Robbins has flavors, complete ensembles of coordinated clothing, all in large quantities.  When did babies become fashion statements?  Aren’t they cute enough already?  I see a lot of people talking to parents with small babies and hearing more compliments about the clothing than the kid wearing them.

It continues through adolescence, expanding to toys and games.  I have boys (thank you God) that don’t care much about fashion and will probably need future therapy for their lack of stylish clothing options.  They do however have accessories.  They have Nintendo DS’s that have lots of games, a universal charger, a fancy light sabre stylus and headphones, all packed inside a custom case.  Society says, “You need more” and we respond by buying more.

Into adulthood now, and I’m not exempt from this.  I might not have a lot of fancy, trendy clothing but I do have some nice things in my house.  Most from eBay, craigslist and thrift stores, but nevertheless, lots of things.  Accessories.  I have decorative things that serve no purpose other than to sit there and look nice.  Now I’m an artist of sorts, so this is an important topic.  I love to create things, but with a purpose.  Much of my art is chaotic, but has meaning and purpose behind it.  The vase sitting on my shelf, not so much.  I’ve been sucked into the American vortex of more is better.  I created this photograph several years ago.  This has many meaning for many people, but I see it as how we become background fixtures in the sea of stuff we own.

Continue reading


Mar 23 2011

you can take the turnip [day 299]

A long time ago, I had a friend a that used the saying, “You can’t get blood from a turnip, but you can take the turnip.”  I never paid that much attention to it, as I really didn’t need a turnip.  Fast forward many years and here we go with the turnips again.  According to my kids, I fell off a turnip truck, however if you ask them what that means, they don’t have a clue.  I’m not sure how turnips got such a bad rap, but they seem to be associated with not-so-nice references to people.  So let’s say you take the turnip.  What will you do with it?  You could throw it in the trash, deeming it useless.  Or maybe you could cook something with it, finding a small purpose for it.

I won an iPad 2 from actsofsharing.com yesterday.  That sounds really good, right?  It is.  Did I need an iPad?  No, I didn’t, but it sure is cool to have won an iPad.  The contest they were running was to see who could get the most new friends on their sharing site in a weekend.  I decided to try and win this, not only for the iPad, but because of the greater good of what they’re doing.  Here’s their mission statement:

It’s simple. Share the things you have with those around you. Nothing new, in fact, it’s something we have all engaged in at one time or another. And yet, we haven’t even touched the potential of this basic but most necessary act. Imagine a community of people like the early church, mentioned above, who made available every item which they had in their possession, who valued their neighbors as they valued themselves. Imagine being able to access tens and hundreds of times more stuff than you yourself have in your home. Imagine, before deciding to purchase an item, the ability to borrow it and try it out for yourself? In short, what if this community mentioned in the book of Acts was made manifest today, 2,000 years later? At Acts of Sharing, we’ve been imagining the implications, and we’re incredibly excited. Sharing is nothing original, but we think it’s revolutionary. And it will change everything.

I decided to take the good a step further.  If I won this, I told my friends I would share it on AOS.  (yes, it will be listed the minute I receive it)  Okay, one more step, I also told them I would donate $500 to The Samaritan Inn, our local homeless shelter.  So let’s look at the big picture of what happened here.

  • 55 of my friends are now sharing their stuff.  Not everyone will use this site, but several of my friends are already sharing their things.
  • Those 55 friends have more friends they can share with.  This will grow the sharing community.
  • My friends and I now have an iPad to share.
  • The Samaritan Inn received a nice donation and the homeless community was helped in the process.
  • A friend of mine decided to do a similar deal with her friends, and  as she said, she shamelessly stole my plan.  I wish everyone would steal plans like this!  That encouraged me to be more competitive.  [insert evil laugh]
  • I’ve now multiplied my accessibility to stuff without buying anything new and I’ve done the same for my friends.  Continue reading

Mar 17 2011

the one for one model [day 295]

Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoes, was a keynote speaker this year at SXSW.  Not only was it incredible to hear his story, but just to hear the magnitude of positive change his company has created in the world.  Here’s the best part.  Blake made this statement at the end of his talk.

“From this day forward, TOMS is no longer a shoe company. It’s a one-for-one company.  Our next step is meeting those needs around the world.”

Yes, TOMS is now a one-for-one company.  In June, they’re launching their next product.  You buy one, somebody in need gets one.  It’s a for profit model, and an extremely successful one.  I have to say here that I would love to go out and buy a pair of TOMS shoes.  With my one year of no retail shopping, unfortunately that’s not an option.  If I buy them used, a person in need will not get a new pair of shoes, however, even in the secondary market, good can still be done.

  • If I get them at a thrift store, that money goes to charity.
  • If I wear them, I’m marketing TOMS and this one-for-one model.
  • If I buy them used, paying less than retail, I’ve saved money that I can donate to one of my favorite charities.

How else can we apply the 1-for-1 model?

I’ve been pondering this question for a few days now.  I don’t know how anyone can hear the TOMS story and not wonder how we can all be a part of it.  TOMS is obviously onto something here.  I have a few ideas of how this could be applied in other ways to benefit TOMorrow.   Continue reading


Mar 5 2011

the sky is falling [day 283]

Giant, shrink-wrapped books.  They’re everywhere.  I think it rained phonebooks, although I don’t remember seeing that in my weather forecast.  Flint Lockwood must have made another machine, but this one storms phone books.  They’re on top of the mailboxes, on the sidewalks, in the grass, they’re pretty much everywhere.  They’re taking over the neighborhood.

Why do the Yellow Pages still exist?  Simple, because advertisers are still giving them money.  Let’s look at the logic here.  Are these businesses just clutching on to a past dream of advertising success, unwilling to let go?  I walk my street twice a day and nobody is bringing these books in the house.  Now the advertisers are probably paying for internet and print, so as long as they’re getting new customers, they’re probably not concerned with the details, they just want the results.  How many people still use phone books?  I’m sure there’s a small percentage and I’m all for print some for the people that want them.  But why are they mass producing them to throw them in people’s yards when 99% of them will go in the recycling bin, or worse yet, the trash?  I find it funny (the disturbing kind) that they have a dumpster specifically for phone books.   Continue reading


Feb 20 2011

window panes & shiny rocks [minimalist challenge item #3]

[item] 3 vintage window sashes without glass and 2 containers of polished rocks

[purchase info] A friend gave me the windows and the rocks were leftovers from a creative element at church

[time in my possession] Less than a year

[last used] Never

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Easy

[destination] Given to a friend

[info] I gave these to my friend who’s putting her house back together after a house flood.  She wants a “zen” bedroom, so she’s going to use these items in her new decor.  I like them, but I’m downsizing, and they’re just not high on the I’m-going-to-do-something-with-this list.


Dec 19 2010

cool art made from junk mail [day 207]

I got an awesome little gift a few days ago, unexpected and very much related to trash society.  The gift?  An origami box with a photo album inside, all made with junk mail and paper stuff from the recycling bin.  Check it out…

Continue reading


Nov 11 2010

addiction? maybe… [day 168]

One of my favoriet scriptures is James 4:17.

17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

I have so many ideas in my head, many of which are goodwill ideas.  I know I should be doing a lot of them, so prioritization is hugely important.  I found a great place to use my creative gifts in a unique way, or to reword that, my friend Amy threw me, yet, another challenge.  “Oh, this looks like something that’s right up your alley.”  Anything creative is right up my alley…

Here’s my new addiction.  zooppa.com Here’s what it is, from their website.  “Zooppa is the global social network for creative talent. We are the world’s largest source of user-generated advertising, committed to the vision of real people and leading brands working together.” I am entering a few of the design contests, using humanitarian type ideas for the businesses participating.  Here’s one I turned in yesterday.   Continue reading


Oct 11 2010

inspiration boomerang [day 138]

My friend Becca, out in California, had a great blog post last week. cookieandclaire.blogspot.com She said my blog had inspired her and she’s planning to do Christmas a little differently this year… all handmade gifts.  Well she has inspired me back!

Last year we did Christmas in a non-culture conforming way.  We gave our little envelopes with magnetic poetry words and our Christmas card was a blog site, whydidyougivemethis? I also blogged the 25 days of Christmas and made a book called Excessable Christmas.  It’s about living differently and not practicing the cultural chaos and consumerism during the holidays.

(The entire book is available on my blog iembracechaos.com or a hard copy is available for online purchase, all proceeds going to Casa Hogar Elim.) Continue reading


Jun 16 2010

recycling the recycling conversation [day 19 & 20]

On day 14 of the challenge, I blogged about a recycling program I set up at our church building.  I have received some emails about my “free recycling program”, challenging me with the question, “Is it ethical?”

Let me start by saying these people have some very points, and I do take this very seriously.  If I in anyway thought this would be a problem, not only would I have not done it, but I also wouldn’t be encouraging everyone else to join in on it.  There’s something else you should know, these comments (as far as I know) are from people that don’t personally know me.  They were sent to me anonymously through someone I do know.  With that being said, I’m glad to see some opposing views, as it opens the door to some awesome conversations.  I encourage your feedback!  Please feel free to post your comments on my blog, good or bad.  I think debate about critical issues is a good and healthy process.

Issue #1: Confidentiality

Someone was worried that we were recycling confidential papers that might have information about people in our church.  We have a shredder and all of that type of paper is shredded.  No worries there.  :)

Issue #2: Residential vs. Commercial

Instead of trying to paraphrase this, I’m going to quote this person.

“The question of ethics still remains. The recycling program set up for a business is set up for a business. The recycling program for a home is set up for a home because they assume the volume will be less and there are typically more homes in a city than there are businesses so the cost evens out to a lower amount per home based on volume.  So by taking the business recycling to your home, you are circumventing the city regulations/rules/costs, etc. by using your home instead. If everyone starts to do this, then the cost of the home recycling item on residential bills would need to increase to help pay for it. Long shot that it would be a volume buster but you never know. I’m pretty certain the city wouldn’t really want for this to happen. Just not sure it’s an ethical thing for the church to be doing.”

I believe this person has a great point.  My thought is that we are simply filling up the leftover space in our bins.  Extra pick-ups cost more and nobody is bringing that much home.

Issue #3: Why bring it home?

Again, I’ll just share what I received.

“I don’t get why you have to take the recycling home when you can just take it to a recycling pick up place.  They have several in (our city).  Don’t they have those in other towns?  We almost always fill up our recycle bin, so I wouldn’t just take some home from church to throw in mine.  I personally think it’s in poor taste  for a church to suggest this, even though it does save them money.”

Again, I take these comments seriously and my intention was to be a good steward of God’s resources.  So after all of the feedback, I decided to take a little field trip.  My kids and I visited the recycling center here in Frisco.

The Scoop on Recycling

I looked around at the recycling center.  It’s been a while since I’ve been over there, and they still have the fun painted recycling containers.  We went inside and I found someone that could answer my recycling questions.  I told her where I work, explained in detail the program I set up and my reasons for doing it.  Then I asked the big questions, “Is this unethical?  Is it okay to utilize the extra space in our bins?”  She suggested that we bring it to the center and gave me the hours of operation.  The home bins are not a problem, however, due to the nature of our business type recycling, they have specific bins for paper and cardboard.  It’s not a problem to bring some of it home, but it does make their jobs easier if we bring it to the center.

The Solution

I will modify the program to bring everything to the center and only use home bins for small loads or overflow if needed.  Once this is in place, we will be able to expand our recycling to plastic, cardboard and other materials.  My son also decided to get a bin for recycling batteries.  We can bring those to the center as well.

Also, someone suggested I contact a few local schools.  Some of the schools have programs for recycling where they get credit or financial benefits for the amount the collect.  If any of those apply in our local schools, we will work with them.

One last thing.  I’m teaching this stuff to my kids, not only the recycling part, but the process of finding creative solutions to making our planet a better place.  I very much appreciate the people that gave their time to voice concerns.  Their input prompted me to do more research, and in the long run, will make this program successful in many ways.  If there are other concerns or questions out there, please post them.  This is my intended purpose for trashsociety.com.  I want to start people thinking creatively…   How we can significantly cut down our waste?   Why is that even important?  If you’re reading this, then you must be somewhat interested, or really bored.  😉

Here’s some  more pics from the recycling center…