Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Real Toys

I am on a seemingly constant quest to rid our house of "junk" toys. I don't think I ever realized how utterly plastic our world has become until I had children. It seems everywhere you turn there's a game or toy that will supposedly help your child to grow and learn all these wonderful skills and attributes. My only question is, what did children do before all of these toys and gadgets? Gee, they must have been awfully deprived.

This whole toy issue thing is quite often on my mind, so as part of my exploration of it, I recently asked my grandfather what kind of toys his brothers and sisters played with when he was growing up. He said, "None. We didn't have any. We grew up in the Depression." Yet my grandfathter is a kind, loving, compassionate, intelligent man... certainly not deprived of any necessary skills for life.

I consider myself to be someone who strives to live a simple life, and I know quite well that marketing tools are aimed at creating a false sense of need in us in order to get us to buy more stuff. However, I must admit that there are times when I wonder if I am depriving my son by limiting his toys. Isn't it amazing how powerful these marketing moguls can be, that although I don't even have a television spewing out commercial advertisements at me, I'm still impacted by them? We are surrounded by such a culture of excess that it is difficult to escape its lures.

But one thing definitely sticks out the most in my own childhood memories. And, believe it or not, it's not the Cabbage Patch doll! To this day, I can remember my secret, special spot. Whenever I wanted to be alone or to find quiet time, I would go to an area of my parents' yard where no one could see me, and I would just sit and close my eyes and simply be. Or I would go outside at night and sit on the stoop by our garage and look up at the stars in the sky and be filled with peace and wonder. Another joy was crawling in a small space in the back of one of our coat closets where no one could see me.... Or creating a tent out of bedsheets and blankets, a house out of a cardboard box.... Sneaking books under my pillow at night so I could wake up and read by the moonlight. No toys, no plastic, no flashing lights.

So when thinking about what my little boys "need" in order to grow into the men God created them to be, I keep reminding myself that it is all pretty simple. Time to explore the natural world, time to to create, time to play, time to simply "be." Sometimes I think we make things more complicated than they have to be.


Anonymous said...

I really identified with your description of seeking out secret places as a child. I have some strong memories of finding myself in similar places as a child, although I think I was torn between being comfortable and uncomfortable with the feeling of aloneness. It was sort of a precursor to experiences to come, as my family became missionaries in Holland and I experienced an all-enveloping sense of isolation, even depression, as I came into my teens. Anyway, I love the ideas of your blog, and the orthodox framework you base them upon (I share the same). I first saw Everyday Synergy mentioned in a CVA newsletter, and I've since been referred by a couple of other animal advocates, Tracie Russell and Kris Haley. I'd love to connect sometime, there's so few of us speaking up for animals from an orthodox perspective. Could you possibly send me a quick note through my site sometime? I looked for email on your blog, but couldn't find it.
Ben DeVries, Not One Sparrow

Stephanie said...


Thanks for commenting and sharing about your experiences! I'm so happy to hear that you resonate with some of the thoughts and ideas I've been sharing as well. It's wonderful to feel as though I am not alone in recognizing the connections between our faith and the animals, etc. I agree that there are few people speaking out for the animals from an Orthodox Christian perspective. That was a great part of my motivation to start this blog. It sounds as though you are an Orthodox Christian as well? I will connect with you through your site.


Anonymous said...

Hi Stephanie,

You have the most beautiful writing style! It’s so captivating and really draws me into a topic. You also have many unique quotes that I’ve never seen anywhere else. I love the two book links from the Orthodox veterinarian and would like to add them to the Books, etc. section of my website The Animal Healing Project (TAHP).

As an aside, I was accepted to the humane education program at IIHE but life got in the way (ill parents, Lyme disease, etc.) and then I felt called to begin the TAHP ministry as a unique way to do a form of humane education. I guess God has a way of working things out better than we can plan for ourselves!

Please drop me an email through my website-I’d love to connect with you more in-depth.

Best regards,

Tracie Russell

Stephanie said...

Hi, Tracie,

Thanks for your kind words. The IHE program was a wonderful experience for me. I definitely think there is a need for more Christian voices to humane education. So it's wonderful to hear that you are embarking on a similar endeavor. As well as Ben DeVrie's "Not One Sparrow" project. Too bad we don't all live close enough to talk in person :-)

I'll drop you a line via your site as well!