Family

Driving on the road by my house, I can still see pumpkins on the pillars by my neighbor’s driveway just a short distance from a Christmas store that has already put up all of their Christmas lights in the very first week of November.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love Christmas. I like seeing decorations. I like the Christmas cookies, family getting together and a nice snow-covered landscape. But when I walk into Dollar General and see the shelves cleared of Halloween candy and candy canes already up, I feel sick. The blatant consumerism that plagues our society is disturbing to me. Buy. Buy. Buy. If you want your kids to be happy: buy. If you want to show that you love someone: buy. If you want to exude Christmas spirit: buy.

So how do we find meaning beyond Black Friday while being bombarded with sales that are too good to pass up (in theory) and constant reminders of what is valued in our culture. Who doesn’t love to see the sparkle in their kids’ eyes when they open something unexpected from us or from Santa? When do we start to value time more than money, experience more than materialism and love more than greed? Maybe by taking stock of what we have and replacing consumerism with gratitude and simplicity.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about things I want to do. One of my favorite things to do right now is to catch the sunrise or sunset. This fact is largely because my son, Joe, has instilled in me that the stunning beauty that is ten minutes away on the Parkway is worth getting up early for, leaving work on time for, or taking a detour. This is true even if it means that you eat breakfast in the car or gulp your coffee down more quickly just for those five or ten minutes staring at the mountains off the viaduct.

In our culture, there is so much emphasis on rushing — to work, to school, to home, to the next game or match, to another meeting or to the grocery store. We overwork, over-commit and underestimate the worth of finding balance in our lives. We think of those things we wish we could do rather than just doing them.

As I start to face the end of this year, I am pausing. I am considering the things that I might pay for and really contemplating their worth and value moving into the next year. I might want the experience of taking a family weekend trip over buying clothes, electronics or unnecessary kitchen gadgets. I’m reactivating my YMCA membership so that we can remain active. I’m getting input from my kids on music they want to go see, places they want to visit, outdoor equipment they would use for longer than a season, art supplies, or woodworking, welding or forging equipment that would allow them to create.

Never mind the fact that my kitchen and right outside on our deck is overrun with various power tools, saws and woodworking implements, most of which have come from getting lucky at a garage sale or second hand store. I feel particularly proud that my kids enjoy making things, even though they still are on their phones or tablets like any teenager. As they get older, the empty nest starts to creep closer and I yearn for them to have memories more than stuff and time more than costly toys.

I’m happy to go to the next yard sale, flea market or purchase an item from Craig’s list that allows us to go camping, make music, forge a tool or create a piece of art. I’ll wear my shoes another season, pull out the same dress or leggings and look around at our haphazard mix of furniture, dishes and stereo equipment and shrug.

I suppose I could rush out to the next Black Friday sale. Or I might just go catch the sunrise, count my blessings and take a hike. I hope you do the same. Happy Holidays!

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