minimalism and the holiday season

With November comes the prelude to the holiday season.  The buying season.  It makes me cringe thinking about it sometimes.  There is nothing that I need, except for a few renovations around my house.  My children have everything they need too.

The holiday season is that time of year where you feel that push…that obligation to buy things that really have no business coming into my home.  I do not need more kitschy knick knacks.  My kids don’t need more useless toys that they won’t play with.  And I certainly do not need to get deeper in debt for a holiday that seems more and more to be focused on spending money instead of time.

I am digging in my heels this year.  Yes, we have preplanned gifts from my parents, and that will still happen.  But, I have already forewarned my children that there is a strict budget in place for Christmas spending, and I will not go beyond it this year.

The great thing is, they are old enough to understand that the less we buy, the more money we can save for vacations and adventures.  This appeals to them; well more so to one of them, but the other can be fairly easily convinced…

As a minimalist (in the making), I feel that I need to cultivate the principal of spending more time together over spending more money on each other.  I hope this will become a trend with my loved ones.  Life is expensive enough without having to keep up with the Jones’, or even the exes for that matter.  I hope that one gift I can give to my children is the understanding that the holidays are meant for spending together, and not for overspending on the budget.

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glory of peace or glory of war

Yesterday was Remembrance Day here in Canada.  As a child, I would go to parade and watch as my father participated.  As an adult, I would attend out of honour and duty to those who have served the country and for those who lost their lives during war.  It has been ingrained in us that we should consider these people heroes, giving the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

I do not disagree.  They did give their lives fighting for what they believed in.  I will not take that away from anyone.

What troubles me is that I want peace in the world.  I know many people want peace in this world; yet we create things like movies, books, and yes, parades, to glorify war…all in the name of peace.  It feels like an oxymoron.  I am conflicted.

I, too, once considered a military career.  I had trained myself physically for the task, and I truly believed that this was a career path that made sense.  Life chose something different for me, and I believe there must have been some universal or divine intervention on that one because I do not know how I would have managed a career such as that with the inner turmoil I feel when it comes to war and fighting other humans.

So, how do we justify the wars and losses of life when we look at a world pining for peace?  How can we move forward when we constantly remind ourselves of the conflict that we could not overcome without mercilessly killing other humans?  Will our human race ever be able to rise above the seemingly ingrained desire to fight in order to create a harmonious planet?

I did shed tears yesterday, as I often do on the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  I shed tears this year because I fear that we will never achieve that balance, globally.  Not so long as we have people who are willing and eager to eliminate others because they believe that their way is the right or only way.

nanowrimo begins

This is the month where I tend to let all things slide.  I give my writing validation to take precedence over all my other chores because, you know, its Nanowrimo season.  Of course, I still need to go to work and tend to the kids and pets and such, but the gym?  Nah, not as important as getting the word count in for the day.  It’s easy some days, where the words roll off my fingers and through the keyboard like butter melting on a fresh, hot croissant.  Other days, it’s a painful venture, because the characters are rebelling against me and just don’t want to do what I think they should.  Or they give me the silent treatment.  Either way, they frustrate me when they get in the way of my 50,000 word count goal.

No matter which way it goes though, November is synonymous with Nanowrimo.  Unleash your creativity and join us.  It’s fun to find your inner author.

developing your style

I was told this past week that my photography had become identifiable; that I had developed a style.  I found this to be interesting as I felt like I was still working on that.  Perhaps I have developed a certain style, and I can see where he was coming from when I went back to review my own work.

I believe that in many ways, I have developed a style within a lot of facets in my life.  I have my own writing style, I am drawn to certain clothing styles, I have a hippie/boho chic decorating style, and my jewelry designs seem to follow a similar style as well.

Being unique, as all of us are, we should develop our own style.  We should not feel compelled to follow another exactly.  Learn to create something unique to yourself and leave your own footprint for the world to see.  Develop your own style in whatever it is you do.

love for the library

I love libraries.  I love the smell of books, and seeing row upon row of books in the stacks.  I love the nostalgia I feel when I enter a library and think back to my days as a preteen girl, spending my summer holidays amongst the millions of stories that lived within the library walls.

Libraries, I am afraid, seem to be losing their appeal.  With the advent of ebooks, ereaders, and google, libraries seem to be less frequented by society as a whole.  It saddened me recently when there was a vote in my community where a new library was proposed to be built, and more than half the votes declined building the new branch library.  A part of my heart broke when the results were posted.  It seemed to signal the end of an era: an era where everyday life could be escaped and instead lived in the adventures awaiting in the library stacks.

But libraries still do amazing things.  They house audiobooks and videos alongside traditional paper books.  They house events for writers and readers, programs for preschool, children and teenagers.  They host author readings and interviews.  I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to photograph three published authors for my local library this past week.  It was an honour to do so, and my nervousness quickly melted away as I had the chance to learn just a little bit of each author as a person, not just a master of the written word.

For those who still strive for simplicity in their lives, don’t forget about all the pleasures the library still provides.  Revel in the books and stories still available within your reach without adding to the clutter in your minimalist home.  Take in a book club discussion, or volunteer with other programs your library provides.  It is worth it.

do nothing

One of the things that I have noticed as I get older is how much I value having simplicity in my life.  I value a quiet existence.

When I was younger and eager, I had grander plans for my career.  I set myself up for a workaholic lifestyle.  I was no stranger to this; my father did the same, and even now, he still continues to do so even though he should maybe be enjoying his retirement years.  I worked hard, worked extra on my own hours assuming that this is what life was supposed to be, and at some point I would be rewarded with all the fruits of my labor.

It took a couple of decades (plus some) to realize that this is not the life I wanted.  I did what I thought I was supposed to do, then at the end of every night I would crash into bed for a couple hours of sleep only to rise again early the next morning and do it all over again.  I was exhausted, fuelled by caffeine and deeply unsatisfied even if I didn’t realize it at the time.

It took a major life event to change all of that for me.  It took a complete upheaval in my personal and even professional life to realize that I was miserable with what I was doing, and looked at how I could change my life to enjoy what I had.  The key was simple.  The key was a simple life.

Your job or your career is only a means to an end.  It does not define you.  It finances your life but it is not who you are.  

Once I looked at it in this way, my personal life began to flourish in ways I never saw before.  I love my personal time now.  I choose what to do with it.  I take classes in what interests me, not what I think will give me more advantages for work.  I create.  I love.  And sometimes, I do nothing.  Doing nothing was a difficult concept to grasp, but now that I have released so many of the career-focused ideals I enforced upon myself, I can now see how wonderful and refreshing doing nothing really can be.  I highly recommend it to anyone.

Enjoy your life.  Relax.  Take time to appreciate things.  Do something for yourself.  You won’t regret it.

mental health

Taking time for mental health is something often forgotten. While many separate mental and physical health, they are closely linked in my opinion. When something is weighing heavily upon us and we have difficulty dealing with it yet still continue to go about our daily lives, we end up with mental trauma and anguish. 

Taking time to ensure we have good mental health is equally as important as making sure our bodies are healthy. If you suffer from anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, or anything that is making your quality of life less than ideal, please visit a medical professional. Please do not wait until it goes too far. 

If you see a loved one suffering, do not avoid them. Engage them and offer your support. People need to know they are cared for.  You might be the one thing that shows them that life is still worth living. 

reframing

We all, at one point in time or another, have experienced something negative.  Something beyond our control that affected us in a less than positive way.  Perhaps it was the abrupt end to a relationship or being forced to move out of an apartment before you were ready.  Maybe you were released from a job that you were incredibly good at, and still cannot figure out why it happened.

These kinds of things can affect us in a negative way, sometimes leaving us to think that we did something wrong or were responsible for the event, and as such, we take responsibility for the consequences.

But what if we shifted our thinking?  What if we reframe those events to see that events can happen independent to us, even though they affect us?

Positive things can happen from negative points in our lives.  What if that relationship needed to end in order to see that there was a host of mental and emotional abuse involved, creating a harmful environment to you, but you just couldn’t see it until you were on the outside looking in?  What if that apartment that you loved was simply too expensive, but you found a smaller flat closer to work that allowed you to walk there, thereby allowing you to spend less on rent, not have to pay for public transportation, and increased your level of physical activity which not only results in a healthier you, but you also lose those couple of pounds that were troubling you, and you also have extra money in your pocket at the end of the month?  Or that job that you loved and were so good at, but you now realize how very toxic that office was that you now, in your new job, feel less stress because there is not the constant talking behind every one’s backs, and your new job has a superior support system where they can see your amazing skills and potential, but not only that, there is also an incredible benefit and pension package that goes along with your new position.

Some say that things happen for a reason.  Perhaps that is true.  Whether they do or the don’t is beside the point.  What we can work with is how we look to these scenarios.  We can choose to see the negative, never having closure as to why the people in that office were so hurtful to you and why you never received closure as to why you were let go.  But, we can also see that these negative things need to happen so that we can truly and honestly appreciate when something wonderful happens, without taking it for granted, assuming that all things will work out the same way.

Reframing our outlook changes how we view the world.  It can make us appreciate the good in our lives, even when there are terrible things happening in our world around us.

meditation in modern life

This weekend I have had the very fortunate opportunity to spend it with a group of ladies with the same common interest.  We have all gathered to learn how to teach meditation.

What interests me about meditation is that while some consider it to be “New Age”, it seems that every culture and religion has some form of meditation; they may just call it something different.  Prayer with a rosary, meditation with a Tibetan mala… really, not much difference there.

Mindfulness is a buzz word that has been thrown around lately, but what does it mean to you?  Do things with intention.  Recognize what it is that you are doing.  Mindfulness is being taught in some schools.  Being mindful while eating is a tool used for some diet regimes.  All forms of meditation.

You can sit to meditate.  Lay down to meditate (be careful not to fall asleep, although, that is yet another form…), or walk to meditate.  This one is most difficult for me because walking is associated with thinking for me, which is the opposite of meditation.

Nature lends itself to calming and quieting the mind and is a wonderful place to sit and be still.  Have you ever tried it?  It is blissful.  It seems to melt away the stresses of what we do during our daily grind.

In the path of my life, it makes sense that meditation and mindfulness is present.  Along with minimalism, where intention of what lives or comes into my space, mindfulness is also present in every decision I make when it comes to consumerism or purging.  I become more acutely aware of the disarray in my space and it affects my inner serenity.  I wonder, does it affect yours also?

gilmore girls and me

When Gilmore Girls ran from 2000 to 2007, I didn’t pay much attention to the show.  At that particular point in my life, I couldn’t relate.  I was still married at that point and working overtime consistently.  Then had my sons, and I still could not relate because I had sons, not a daughter; I had a husband, although it often felt like I was parenting and running the household all alone.

I have watched the series a couple of times since my divorce.  I find that I can now relate to the characters much more now than I could when it first came out.  There are a few aspects of the show that I find appealing.

I have five reasons outlined here:

I like that Lorelai is a strong, independent single mother.  She stands up for herself and her daughter.  She does not back down when she feels that she is justified.  I like this tenacity, and it gives me strength when I don’t feel like I have the fight left in me any longer.

I appreciate that Lorelai can be alone comfortably, but that she is not bitter towards men, and still has the hope that somewhere out there, she will find the right one.  That goes without saying that the right one was before her the whole time, but she needed to figure that out for herself, and she did.  Sometimes we all need that opportunity to find things out in our own way instead of being told by someone else.

I admire that she has been successful in her own right.  She worked her way up to managing the Independence Inn, worked herself through college, then embarked upon an entrepreneurial venture with her best friend, Sookie.  This shows tenacity in character, one that I hope I can also demonstrate.  I know this is a make believe story, and that many do not work this way in real life, but sometimes we need to believe the story to give us the courage to carry forward.

I acknowledge that the story shows conflict between Lorelai and her parents.  This is realistic as we all have some sort of conflict to contend with.  It may not be to the extreme that this make-believe family endures, but it is symbolic nonetheless.

I adore the bonding between Lorelai and her daughter, Rory.  This is incredibly important to me as I hope that as my sons continue to grow and develop, that we will also have a bond as strong as the one portrayed between Lorelai and Rory.

When I need motivation to carry forward with the things that are weighing me down in my real life, I find that this show gives me courage to continue on.  I gain strength from the idea that I am not alone in the world of single parenting.  I recognize that I should not close the doors to potential romantic relationships, but at the same time, continue on as I would without the thought of needing a partner.  Every time I watch an episode, it provides me with a little something that I am in need of, and for that I am grateful.