A few notes just to catch up and get going again. . .
It’s been a busy couple of weeks. First, one of my daughters came down from Portland for a five-day visit, which was a blast, and during that time, one of my nieces arrived to stay with me for several weeks because she’s doing a med-school rotation at a hospital here. I love having the company!
Wednesday, I followed my daughter up the highway to the home of my second daughter and her family, where we all gathered for Thanksgiving. Our meal was delicious. We had turkey and gravy, mashed Yukon gold potatoes, “enlightened” green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, Brussels sprouts with pancetta, stuffing, rolls, etc.— traditional stuff that many Americans eat, and all delicious.
My daughter-in-law made the best cardamom sweet rolls (a Scandinvian treat) that had us all over-eating. When she walked into the house with those two heaping plates of fragrant, beautiful rolls, the kettle was immediately turned on for coffee— fika! Coffee, rolls, and conversation.
I went to a few stores with two of my daughters on Black Friday. We weren’t exactly Black Friday shopping (none of us have that much shopping game in us!); we only went to buy a few little bottle brush Christmas trees for decorations. Anyway, it didn’t seem all that busy in the stores, really. Maybe online shopping and Black Friday Eve shopping have reduced the crowds. Or maybe going at noon had something to do with it. I don’t know. I’ve never shopped on Black Friday before, so I have nothing to compare it to.
The shopping was motivated by Michelle, who, the morning after Thanksgiving, immediately ejected all of her Thanksgiving decor from her rooms and put up just a few Christmas decorations, including a handful of sweet little bottle brush trees— some of them dotted with tiny bulb ornaments, some of them plain. I thought they’d be perfect decorations for my little space because I can’t put up much holiday decor without feeling crowded and overstimulated. I always set out just a few simple items. And now that I’m home and have a few of these little trees sitting around, I see that it was just the thing to do!
While we were in Target, Michelle pointed out some nice placemats. I’m not really a placemat person, but she told me that she saw a lady on Etsy who buys lined placemats, cuts one end open, then fills them with batting to make throw pillows that she sells in her shop. Because I liked one of the linen placemats we were looking at, and it was only $4, I decided to try the pillow thing. Now I just need to buy the filling.
We had a nice family time, and I would have gladly stayed longer, but it’s also good to be home. I just arrived here this afternoon, and after more than a week of having and being company, it is strikingly quiet. The humming of the fridge and the clicking of the heater seem loud in the silence. I love the noise of family time, but I also love the silence of my own small life.
Back at home today, I can think again. But saying that I can think again is not to complain about the noise and busyness that comes with family, company, and holidays. I love that, too! Both have an important place in our lives. In fact, one is not good without the other.
It did feel nice, though, to walk into my tidy kitchen, turn on the kettle, grind my coffee beans, slowly pour water over the grinds through the Melitta, and sit down to enjoy a slow cup of coffee while I readjusted to my own rhythms. My niece will be here later today, I assume, but she’s easy, and extremely pleasant, to have around. I’m glad she’s here.
And now that it is quiet, and I am in my own space, and I am thinking slowly again, I am thinking about the few small purchases I made on Friday. I spent barely over $10, but, still, I ask myself why did I buy what I did? On the one hand, I don’t regret buying the bottle brush trees. They are pretty great, and they are just the right size and type of decor for my house. But did I really need them? Where were they made? Why are they so cheap? Who made them? Out of what? How did these items travel to the place where I bought them? What did they cost someone else (and some place else) in order to save me money?
I looked at the tag on the placemat: “Made in India.” By whom? I hope they were paid well. And for only costing $4, the placemat traveled a fair ways to reach me. How can this be? What is the actual cost of all this, not just in its impact on my pocketbook?
You might be thinking, “Oh, come on! Don’t be a spoil-sport! You’re way overthinking this! Just lighten up and enjoy the fun!” And maybe you’re right. But I do want to think like this. I want to be responsible and frugal, but, for me, thinking about my spending isn’t only about saving money. It is about being very conscious of what I buy, where I buy it, how it is made, and why I am buying it. It is about asking how much I really need. And is cheaper always better? Was the item sustainably made? Are there better options? What about vintage/previously owned? Handcrafted? Locally or regionally made? Or do I need it at all?
These can be uncomfortable questions to ask myself. They are even harder for me to ask in a place like this for all to read. In fact, I am feeling a bit squirmy posting them! I already know how some people feel about this stuff, but these ideas and issues matter to me a great deal, so I can’t avoid talking about them from time to time.
For me, part of being a loving person who cares for the oppressed, the poor, etc., and part of being a good steward of the earth (even while it is “groaning,” as it says in the Bible), is to ask these questions of myself and to live in a way that aligns with my convictions. So these are important questions for me.
And, honestly, it has been a lot of fun, and very satisfying, to learn how to live in harmony with the best answers I can give to these questions. I have been working at this for many years, and I am growing. Yes, I am a bit slow; it’s been an up and down, back and forth, two steps forward, one step back kind of thing. But, overall, doing this is simplifying my life, and my simpler life is a logistically easier, more peaceful life.
It is a life that allows me to preserve, and then share, more of what I have— spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and fiancially— with others. My “resources” aren’t much, but if what God can do with five loaves and fishes is a picture of what he can do with my little bit (and I pray that it is!), then it’s all good!
I just want to love Him in the way He says He wants us to love Him— by caring about the situations and needs of others as much as I care about my own.
Well. Once again, I seem to be carried along by writing wanderlust. I just start going, never knowing where I’ll end up! Or, I should say, never ending up where I thought I was going.
At any rate, I hope you had a super happy Thanksgiving with your families! And now have a lovely week. Talk to you again soon!