Saturday, December 20, 2014

It's a wonderful life; and I'm taking it for granted.

In the past couple months, I've been feeling much too sorry for myself. 

It all started with Logan falling outside and breaking his tooth. Then followed the dentist trip straight out of hell. Not naming names, but we had to hold our son down while they worked on his tooth. He screamed bloody murder, broke blood vessels in his face, and we all left traumatized. Shortly after, Logan and I fell in our hallway. He was fine; I was not. Stitches and a busted up nose later, I was on the mend.

However the craziness was far from over because Logan fell AGAIN. This time at the playground. He chipped his other front tooth and busted up his lower lip resulting in a drive straight over to a new dentist. The bad news didn't end as they proceeded to tell us that he needed to be put under and have crowns placed on his top four teeth. Apparently his enamel is thinning at an alarming rate. To start with, the idea of putting our child under anesthesia is horrifying for me. I, myself, have never been put under, so it's such a foreign concept. Combine that the crazy mess of bills we're looking at, and I am freaking out.

This spiral of, let's call it "bad luck," ended with me walking right into our wooden chest and bruising my toe to the point it looked broken. If you guessed, I bet you'd say we're looking forward to the close of 2014 and the start of a fresh year. You'd be right.

But my feeling sorry for myself is a waste of time, and in fact, a bit offensive. I HAVE A WONDERFUL LIFE. I have a beautiful son, a loving husband, and terrific family. I do not have any reason to feel like I've been dealt an unfair hand. Plenty of people in the world have, but I'm not one of them.

I wrote a blog post last week about hyper-consumerism not being in the spirit of the season. I stand by it 100%, but how can I say that and not also say that self-pity isn't in the spirit of the season either? I can't, that's how.

Never in my life have I been without something that I needed. And very rarely have I gone without something that I wanted. But there are so many people who go without the basics: shelter, food, and clothes. For me to take my life for granted is to metaphorically spit on their struggles.

My life may not be perfect, but my son is. He is the best thing I've ever done. He brings so much joy and light to the world. I should never be unhappy a day in my life because he is here with me.

So, from now on, I'm going to be more appreciative and really get into the spirit of the season.

I hope you all have very happy holidays!

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Where Are You, Christmas?


That is the word that comes to mind when I picture how I want my life to be. I want my home to be uncluttered and unburdened by crap...ahem, posessions. A simple, small yet effcient home surrounded by my lovely family. There is a beautiful garden outside where we grow our own food along with chickens for eggs and a cow for milk. And any purchases we have to make are from small business owners.

As I take steps to get closer to this dream, more and more I am rejecting the "modern" way of life with its fast-paced, consumer-driven and wasteful mindset. I have to be honest and say that I think we're slowly (or not so slowly as the case may be) poisoning ourselves. It’s not just our bodies, livestock, produce, or the environment we're destroying with fast-food, GMOs, GEIs, and over production, but we are also facing emotional unrest due to hyper-consumerism.

What has occured to me (and many of you parents out there) is that each generation is popping out even more entitled than the last. The worst part is we have no one to blame but ourselves. It would be easy to point the finger at others or at the government because as a society we've become much too "me" focused, but we as individuals keep that fire burning. The money that drives this problem comes directly from our pockets. What can I get? What do I want? Me, me, me.

So, I want to know when will we rise up and say enough is enough? Or when do we turn our attention to something other than our own needs? When do we look at what greed and excess has done to our beaches, forests, waterways, mountains, oceans, etc? When do we start teaching our children that having the fanciest car, the highest paying job, or that new TV doesn't make you better than everyone else? We should be teaching them to look towards those less fortunate; they're out there, and we could make a huge difference in their quality of life. We should be teaching them through our actions not just through our words. And we better start now if we don't want to end up old and uncared for because our children are too busy worrying about themselves to have any concern for others, even their own parents.

So, I'm going to say it, "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!"

I need to focus on the values I want to instill in my son, so he doesn't grow up to be an all self-serving and self-important man. Luckily, I can't think of a better place to start than bringing back the importance of the meaning of Christmas in our home. However, I know that not everyone celebrates Christmas, many celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, or nothing in particular, but I think the magic of the season is still felt all the same. Because, for my money, regardless of your religious beliefs, if you can't love a little extra and pay it forward during the holidays, when can you?

To this day, The Gift of the Magi is still one of my favorite stories. It's a story of self-sacrifice, giving, and enduring love when a husband and wife sacrifice their most prized possessions to buy one another the perfect gift. Gift-giving is seen across the board during the holidays and it is a wonderful way to show someone how much you care. Unfortunately, it has been perverted by corporations to be a time to spend large sums of money, *cough, credit cards, cough*, on very impersonal presents. Just think back to the madness that is Black Friday as it creeps into Thursday, better know as Thanksgiving, pulling people away from their families in the name of consumerism. Black Friday is toxic. It brings out the very worst in people as they (quite literally on occasion) fight over material possessions and, in past years, people have actually died from being trampled, which is horrible beyond wordsHow is this in the spirit of the holidays? How is this us as a community putting our best foot forward? It's not. End of story. I'm done with Black Friday. Forever. And don't even get me started on Cyber Monday, which magically lasts a week. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Monday only one day out of the week? I know what you're going to say, on a bad week everyday feels like Monday, and I understand, but no. There is only one Monday. Keep Cyber Monday on Monday! But, I digress. 

Now, Small Business Saturday (SBS), I fully support. Good values come along with SBS because they are stores that refused to cater to the crazy consumers' demands. Instead, they spent time with their families and allow their employees to do the same. These business owners are the ones who deserve to be recognized and rewarded with your hard earned dollars. Many of you know that, so keep #shoppingsmall! By doing this, YOU help everyday men and women, moms and dads, support their families. Be apart of the solution! 

For my family, we sacrifice an income so that I can be a SAHM, which is a wonderful opportunity for me. As you might imagine this makes finances tight, especially around the holidays. The pressure to PURCHASE presents is out of control. The ease at which we shell out money would be horrifying to my Grandfather who saved and worked hard all his life. It horrifies me, too, but I struggle with feeling insignificant, even embarrassed, if I'm unable to buy a lavish, STORE BOUGHT present for a family member or close friend. So, this year, I took a step-back and really considered what we could afford without using credit and the answer was not much. That got me thinking; I could make presents! My hope was (and is) that the time put in to making thoughtful gifts will reflect my intent to give a perfect present even if it couldn't be store bought. As this crazy idea to make the majority of my gifts started to really take root, I realized it didn't sound so crazy and it might even be fun! In fact, my husband and I are only exchanging homemade gifts for Christmas, and even our upcoming anniversary. My husband also reminded me that the presents that he remembers the most are unique and have been made by loved ones.

These are some of the pages I'm working on for my son's Activity Book. For anyone interested, I'll be doing a small tutorial post after it's completed. I can't wait to see my little man playing with it!

In addition to pulling my family out of Christmas consumerism this year, I want to find ways to give back. I have been blessed with a priviliged life as has my son. I know that while I worry about money there are those worrying about having a next meal, a place to sleep, and shoes for their feet or a jacket for the cold. I know that the Christmas trees--home to less fortunate childrens' wish lists--are filled with items as simple as balls, or even more heart-breaking, clothes. When a small child is asking for clothes (which they should never be without) something is wrong with our world. How can I buy and buy and buy for my own child without considering others? For that reason, every Christmas I want Logan to pick a toy to donate and I want our family to sponsor one child's Christmas list. For me, putting extra joy in the world is what the season is all about. Plus, if I can teach Logan to be altruistic, I'll be pleased.

Afterall, Christmas is not about receiving  presents! At least, it shouldn't be, even though the season has been twisted that way. Many stores will urge you to "buy big" this year because who will believe you care without that $100 sweater or that $1000 computer in tow? According to the advertising, the money I spend on you equals how much I care about you. Christmas should be a celebration of family, compassion, hope, and joy. At the end of the day, the key to a happy life is to focus on giving, not receiving and to surround yourself with the people you love.

Happy Holidays, y'all!