Weekend Roundup: Holiday Shopping Edition

Things I’m digging lately:

The $100 Christmas Challenge – Bill McKibben and members of his church began a challenge back in the 1990s to not spend more than $100 on Christmas Gifts each year. Sticklers among you may want to account for inflation (ha!), but this is a fantastic challenge that I’m thinking of trying next year.  We’ve spent about two and half times that this year, which I realize is less than many people, so I’m thinking that we can forget inflation and try to only spend $100 next year.  The key for us is hand-making many of our presents, which means that while the dollar figure may be low, the time (and love) factor is quite high.

40 Reasons to Avoid Shopping on Black Friday – Black Friday has come and gone, but the reasons to avoid the malls persist through the entire holiday season.

Online Deals For Holiday Shopping: Buyer Beware – And if you need one more reason to think carefully about so-called sales and great deals, this article is an eye-opener.

Contrary to the impression these articles may give, I am not anti-shopping or anti-gift.  Instead of chasing deals, I’d rather think about what a loved one wants or needs and shop or make accordingly.  I’ve also begun to look much more critically at sales and instead purchase items based on quality rather than based on the supposed savings that I’m getting.  For folks like my husband, this is obvious, but for someone like me who used to be seduced by the savings off of the MSRP for just about everything that I bought, this is a liberating awakening.


I Choose Time

I Choose Time


The holidays are upon us.  It is inescapable.  And quite frankly, I have no interest in escaping.  I love this time of year.  I love the brisk weather, the music that distinguishes this season from the next, time with family and friends, and the comfort of familiar traditions.

I have been making a list of all the ways in which I would like to celebrate this holiday season with my family.  Make a gingerbread house, pick out a Christmas Tree, attend Christmas Eve service, make cookies for loved ones, decorate my parents’ home, attend a Christmas Tree Lighting or two, find a neighborhood with great lights, and on, and on.  Do you know what all of these things have in common?  Time.  Time together as a family.

Time is my most precious commodity.  I have a limited supply and unlike money, I cannot make more by working harder or working longer hours.

If you read any of the same things I read, you cannot go a day without reading an article about how to simplify the holidays, make them more meaningful and less about stuff, all while making swoon-worthy decorations and home-made feasts.  “Skip the mall.”  “Buy and gift experiences, not things.”  “Cut back on your gift-giving.”  “Change your own expectations.”  These are all laudable, but they also carry with them guilt.  Now it is not enough to decorate and bake and attend holiday parties, but the season should also be infused with the right family activities, the right (i.e., more thoughtful) gifts, and be utterly pin-worthy.

I am ditching the lists of what I should do because it is what I have always done.  I am tossing the lists of what I should do because it is how to make this season more “meaningful and beautiful” (according to whom?).  Instead, I am choosing to do the things that bring joy to me and to my family and friends.  And whenever I have the choice, I choose time.  Time to savor the syrupy sounds from the radio, time to snuggle with my boy in his reindeer jammies, and time to share tea and stories with my loved ones.  The end result?  When I choose time, I also happen to be choosing those laudable goals of a meaningful, simple, and community-filled holiday.  One simple choice will bring you to the same result.  Join with me to shed the endless to-do lists and the holiday guilt, and just choose time.

My Holiday Wishlist: The Magic of Possibility



And so we found ourselves in Toys R Us on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend.  It was the first time I’ve been since I was a child.  I remember being so enamored of the store as a young one, thinking that it represented possibility.  Possibility of what, you may ask.  New toys to unwrap and play with, new people I could become, new worlds to explore on an icy February afternoon, how my life would be more complete with that one perfect, purple, sparkly Barbie skirt.

And so it was with a little trepidation that I walked into Toys R Us.  My habits of consumerism have taken a nosedive over the past several years, but not without a lot of work and introspection.  I wondered if I would walk through the doors and relive the youthful feeling of possibility and excitement I equated with this store, but this time geared towards my child.

Before we entered the store, we prepped our son that though we would be going to a toy store, we would not be getting anything for him.  We were there to pick out a toy to donate to a local toy drive.  I worried he wouldn’t fully understand, but I didn’t give him enough credit.  Not once did he ask for a single thing – and we walked up and down most of the aisles.  He was content to hug the stuffed animals, briefly pick up a couple of toys to see how they worked, and help us to pick out a toy for another child.  We ultimately picked out a scooter – something my husband and I would have gladly received for Christmas as a child.  To say I was proud of him was an understatement.  Great first trip to a mega-toy store, little guy!

But I also feel as if I exorcised some personal demons.  I walked through that store and felt nothing but disinterest.  Disinterest in what it represented and disinterest in the aisles and aisles of (mostly) junk.  This is not to say that I am anti-toy.  Van has some superb toys that he plays with regularly, some of which were purchased and some of which were homemade.  But, by breaking the tie of objects with possibility, I allow those very real possibilities to dwell elsewhere.  The possibilities that I dreamt of as a child are not something to be discarded, but are better if cultivated far from the halls of consumerism.

Instead of new toys to unwrap and play with, I find the magic of possibility by making something for myself that I would have otherwise purchased.  Instead of thinking about how my life would improve with a new [insert your weakness here], I take an active role and try to improve my life by learning new skills, spending time with people I love and with new friends, and exploring the natural world.  In other words, the possibility no longer dwells in a store, but dwells within me.  It is up to all of us to tap that potential.  And it is up to me to help my son to see the magic of possibility, particularly the kind that does not sit on store shelves waiting to be unwrapped.

From Our Home to Yours…

DSC_0510_01From our home to yours, we wish you a happy, healthy, and adventurous holiday season and new year!

Thank you to everyone who has been reading along with us as we traverse this great country and especially to those who have provided us with words of encouragement, warm beds in which to sleep, delicious meals, inspiring conversations, and most of all, wonderful company.

Peace and love,

Stacey, Alan, and Van