ArtPrizeSunday 008

Image by jvh33 via Flickr

I just came back from a lunchtime stroll through a retail store where all the Christmas do-dads were lined up on the shelves in all their glittery splendor. It seems the Season of Panic has begun.

I imagine that is how retailers want us to start feeling right about now – panicked. What do I need to buy to have the perfect Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Years? Because it does have to be picture perfect – just like in the store displays and commercials – doesn’t it? Or does it?

In the past I have always begun (to the dismay of many) thinking, talking about, and planning for Christmas in late July. This is partly because the majority of my family’s birthdays fall between August and December and it is easier to think of birthday and Christmas shopping in one lump. The other predominant reason is that I’m a planner by nature and like to think and work ahead so I can cram as much holly jolly in as possible.

This year, however, I’m going a different route. I vaguely thought about Christmas some time in mid-July, but let it pass without much ado. When my sister sent out the annual “let’s get the gift list rolling” email, I proclaimed this to be The Year of No Stuff for me (well, except for an airhorn, but that’s a different post altogether).

Now, here it is September, and *gasp* I haven’t made a shopping list, haven’t bought a gift, haven’t started addressing Christmas cards – don’t even have Christmas cards, and I’m still not panicking. I have decided to let the seasons and holidays unfold naturally and prepare for and enjoy them as they come. I’m toning it all down a few notches – will even be purging many of my decorations as they come down out of the attic.

Don’t get me wrong – I love, love, love this time of year, but somewhere along the line it’s all gotten to be too much of everything and not enough of the right things. For years my husband and I have had an ongoing discussion about the holidays. I tell him he hates the holidays, and he tells me, no, he does not hate the holidays! The truth is he hates the hype of the holidays – how it comes weeks or months before the actual event. So this year, I’m flexing my newly found but growing, minimalist attitude and giving my husband, my daughter, and myself the gift of a low-key holiday season. Less decorating, less fretting, less gifting, less its all got to be perfect, and more fun and togetherness.

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Inspiration comes from a variety of different sources – a book, a song, a beautiful vista. This week my inspiration came from my sweet baby girl who reminded me with her effervescent personality, that life should be fun.

Nuggets of wisdom from Little M:

– Just say “Hi!” and people will say it back

– Smile with your whole face

– Anytime is a good time to read a good book

– It’s okay to sing, even if you don’t know all the words

– Water is a toy all by itself

– Sometimes, squealling, being noisy and silly is REALLY fun

– Laughing makes you feel better about everything

– Shoes are not required

– Always say “please” and “thank you”

– Start everyday with hugs and kisses

– End everyday with more hugs and kisses

– Every meal does not have to be fruits, veggies, and protein

– Barney is not such a bad guy after all

Thank you Little M. You are my Sunshine.

Love, Mommy

When I first started working as a teenager my commute to work was 8 minutes in traffic. As I moved around my hometown, my commute grew to 15 minutes, then 20, then 25 – all completely manageable and even luxurious by today’s standards.

Eleven years ago I moved to my current town and my commute to work has ranged from the 1-1/2 hours (minimum) it was a few years ago to the mere 45 minutes that it is now. My husband also commutes to work. His average commute time is right around one hour each way. On a really, really good day he can get to or from work in 30-40 minutes. However, there has been any number of days where it has taken him up to three hours to get one way.

At 45 minutes I consider myself relatively lucky for this area, but I’ve never completely adjusted to the idea of commuting. Yet, compared to the growing number of workers participating in Extreme Commuting, our commutes are a cakewalk. That realization doesn’t make it any easier to accept or appreciate the long hours spent in the car. I used to be person who loved to throw a bag in the car and hit the road on the weekend. No more. These days when the weekend comes, I don’t want to leave my driveway if I don’t have to do so. (Sometimes the thought of a trip to the grocery store five minutes away seems monumental.)

In putting together this post, I ran across a very informative article in The Washington Post that cited a litany of ill effects from commuting, many of which I recognized from personal experience. The part of the article that struck me most, however, was this sentence: “Long solo commutes are especially tough on women, Novaco said his research found. Women, he said, generally “had more responsibility for getting family up and running and were significantly more likely to report being rushed to get to work.” My life, in a nutshell.

Prior to the arrival of our daughter, Little M, my husband and I generally managed to shrug off, or at least learn to deal with, the physical, emotional, and daily life effects of commuting. However, with the entrance of Little M, that has changed considerably. It’s one thing to realize your garden is a mess because you don’t have time to weed, its an entirely different thing to realize your child is growing up way too quickly and you are missing it because your life is spent in the car.