This weekend, my youngest son and I went out for a while, just the two of us. There is a local centre that has a few boutiques that was having a family fun day. We decided to go and check it out. We wandered around and looked at the fun garden pieces they had for sale, and looked at the delicious organic candies and cookies. I offered to buy him a cookie so we could sit and enjoy the moment, but he opted not to. He asked instead if we could go and find a present that he could gift to his brother for Christmas. We decided to go to Indigo, but before shopping for his brother, we opted to sit and have a drink at Starbucks. He loves the vanilla bean Frappuccino, so I ordered him one of those, and I bought one of their specialty holiday hot drinks for myself. We sat and talked about the holidays and the excitement. We watched people as they came and went. He sipped from his straw as his feet dangled and swung while he sat in his chair. I watched my youngest son as he showed pure happiness by just having some one on one time with me, his mother.
Families often do things together, but it is so important to give children one on one time with their parent too. My older son gets his one on one time as we share our common passion of photography, but there was something magical about this time with the younger one. He is still so full of holiday excitement, seeing the magic of the season. I love the shimmer in his eyes as he talks about our traditions. And the most wonderful part is that none of it involves receiving gifts. It is all the other stuff: the holiday treats, the music, the friends that we gather with, and the special dinner that we decide collectively on having.
This was one of those moments where my heart swells with pride and love. My son is growing up with love and compassion in his heart. As he grows, he is thinking of others more and more. He is becoming more like his older brother every day. They both make me very proud.
Yesterday, I was out for breakfast with one of my newest, yet closest friends. We have regular ‘dates’, but sometimes they get shifted around due to other schedules. We are ok with it, and sometimes it allows us the opportunity to do something different and fun. We missed our regular Friday night get-together because of a work Christmas party. Instead, we opted for Saturday morning breakfast at a popular little restaurant in town.
We did our usual chatting, catching up on the last couple of weeks. Then she stopped and noticed something about me. She said how she can see me with short hair when we are older and showing more grey. She commented on us still getting together when we are old friends.
The thought of having old friends has always been elusive to me. I have been the type to move every twelve years or less, but knowing I will be here, in this location, for far longer it finally dawned on me: I can have old friends here. I have never given myself permission to look that far ahead in relationships because none of them, except for my absolute best friend 2000km away, has ever lasted the distances. Old friends. Greying, aging, and still there for each other kind of old friends.
This innocent comment that I am sure she had no idea of its impact, was in fact, the best gift I could have been given.
There is a certain sense of accomplishment that comes along with having a clean home. I find there is pleasure not only in the final product, but also in the process. I wouldn’t say I love to clean, but I do love when it is clean; but to get to that point, the action has to be taken.
I devote certain days to cleaning. I do a seasonal deep cleaning, so like spring cleaning four times a year. I love the freshness of this routine. It helps me get to the areas that I may have forgotten or overlooked during my routine cleaning. It is also that sense of accomplishment that rewards me every time I do it. It also helps me to flush out the unwanted clutter that somehow always seems to make its way back into my spaces.
Yesterday was one of those seasonal deep cleaning days. It was the three of us working away at it. Ok, it was mostly me, and my older son was a great help, but the younger one did minimal work because he has been down with a hefty cold and lacking on energy. Still, that feeling when you sit down, sore back and dried out hands from soapy water washes…that feeling is so rewarding. Good, old fashioned manual labor. It still has a place in our technologically driven world.
With a minimalist-style lifestyle, the seasonal cleaning sessions, as well as the weekly and daily I might add, they have become easier and shorter sessions. They no longer take a week, or a weekend. They take an afternoon, give or take. Another reason why I adore this philosophy. Now there is more time to do what I want, and I was able to sleep well last night knowing that the chore of house cleaning was completed.
We live in a world where everyone is busy; the faster the pace, the better. But what would happen if we chose to slow down, even for a day? What would happen if we said no to all those things that are supposedly so important that we can’t make time for ourselves or our loved ones?
With the spending season upon us, and Black Friday happening a mere two days ago, we are being bombarded with advertisements and flyers to buy this and spend our money on that. But the things the stores are selling are far from the greatest gift you could give your child, spouse, or even your best friend.
My Black Friday evening, because I worked all day, was not spent shopping the so-called deals. My Black Friday was spent enjoying the company of one of my very best friends in the world. We gave each other the best give we could: our time and our attention. It was a lovely three or four hour visit, sitting in the corner of a quaint tapas bar. We enjoyed a couple glasses of red wine and a cheese board together as we took the time to catch up; to fill each other in on our lives. There we were, sitting inside in the dim ambiance, with a tea light candle at one side of the table, and beautiful pieces of art on the walls next to us. Outside, there was the bustle of the winter festival where we could see families passing by and enjoying the mild winter evening together. We watched as children explored the fire truck parked just across the street, and the horse drawn wagons pass by with children happily waving at patrons as they glided by, courtesy of the team of horses and their driver. We saw couples hand in hand as they walked past the window, smiling and clearly enjoying each other’s presence.
Time is more precious and more valuable than money. In my world, if I want to show someone how much I care, I give them the gift of my time. It is the most precious commodity I have. Consider this, as we enter into the holiday season. Consider re-thinking that expensive give in exchange for something that is far more precious and valuable. Give the gift of your time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.