Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Madness, I mean, Magic

This is the point in December that I feel completely in the weeds. We are so behind. We finally got our tree the other night. It's up, but stands bare. The storage containers with holiday decor are down from the rafters, but sit in the garage. Holiday shopping has started, but there's still a lot more to do. I'm trying to get as much taken care of as I can while the kids are in school. Of course, the parental workload there has doubled too, with holiday concerts, class parties, secret Santa gifts, volunteering, and more. It feels like there's no way it will all get done.


As a mom, a lot of the "holiday magic" falls on us. We orchestrate the family holiday activities, purchase and wrap the gifts, shop, bake, cook, plan, move elves, decorate, send Christmas cards, buy the holiday clothes, and so on. All to create great memories for our kids. We get so caught up in the busyness in making it happen that it's hard to enjoy it--to be in the moment--because every moment is something you could/should be doing. At least for me.

But it all gets done, somehow. I keep reminding myself that. My strategy is to do little bits everyday, to chip away at that Christmas mountain. And I hate that I see Christmas as a "mountain." Preparing for it should be fun. And I hate that it's gotten so commercial, that we have to figure out what to get each other when we all already have enough, too much, even. That the kids have toys in their closets they hardly ever play with, and will be inundated with even more.

Other night I asked my family to name what makes Christmastime special to them, what they look forward to.

The kids said presents. Okay, understandable. What kid doesn't want to see toys under the tree?

My husband said having family over on Christmas day. It's the one holiday of the year that we host and although it's a lot of work, it is nice to have everyone over.

Mine was doing family holiday activities. I love watching Christmas movies, looking at lights, going to the holiday brunch, and experiencing things.

It really helped me focus where to put my energy this season. No one said baking or having a beautifully decorated house.

No one said reflecting on the real meaning of Christmas or giving either, but we'll do those things, too.

And it will all get done. Somehow.

It always does.

photo from becoming minimalist

Friday, December 5, 2014

When was the last time you were really moved to do something?

Taking the challenge with Angela Sun. See my cool straw?
A few weeks ago the Blue Ocean Film Festival came to town and I thought, hey, I like the ocean, I like movies, I think I'll check one out. The movie I chose was Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

My mind was blown.


Okay, so not exactly, but the problem is that plastic never ever breaks down and fully decomposes. Every piece of plastic ever created from the 1940s until today is still around. And plastics that go to the landfill emit toxic fumes.

And this garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean? The one that's larger than the size of Texas? Birds and fish are ingesting small pieces of plastic that work their way up the food chain (that we end up eating) and poisons and kills.

Oh, and then there's the BPA chemical that gets absorbed when we drink from plastic bottles and messes with our reproductive systems.

Plastic is a wonderful invention, but when we use it for the sake of convenience for a few minutes and then discard it, we're being super wasteful.

So I sat in the movie theater feeling guilty and helpless and motivated to do something.

The filmmaker, Angela Sun, was there and offered the challenge to take a two-week pledge to not use any single-use plastics. No plastic bags, straws, plastic/Styrofoam cups or lids, or to-go food containers. Sign me up. She even gave me a cool, reusable, stainless-steel straw to carry around. I thought it wouldn't be to hard, I think I'm already conscious of what I use and purchase.

But it definitely gave me some challenges. Here are some of the highlights from my two weeks:

Day 1: I went out with my girls that night and was still reeling from the hugeness of the movie I'd seen earlier in the day. I promptly ordered my drinks with no straws and used my snazzy new stainless-steel straw. Luckily, the establishments we visited offered drinks in glasses. Unfortunately, after a few drinks, I left behind my straw, never to be seen again.

Day 3: I was challenged when I went to the store to get a treat for the baseball team in honor of my son's birthday. I had planned to get some Publix bakery cookies, but they were all in those damn disposable plastic containers. I ended up getting Pepperidge Farm cookies in paper bags. Unfortunately, I discovered they sat in plastic trays inside the bag when we opened them. Fail. I also didn't have my reusable shopping bags with me, so I was trying to figure out how to get my purchases out of the store, when I realized grocery stores still have paper bags available. Win. I also picked up some chips in a paper bag. However, the snacks ended up costing me three times as much.

Day 4: I had to make some adjustments when packing school lunches. I used our reusable plastic containers, bought whole oranges instead of individual serving sizes, and wrapped food in wax or foil (which we recycled). I felt so green and so old-school.

Day 6: Bunco night. The food was served on plastic plates with plastic utensils. Darn. I started serving myself on a napkin, planning to eat with my fingers (tacos, so not too gauche) until someone suggested I use a real plate and silverware from the kitchen. How civilized! I was a good guest and washed my own dishes.

Day 9: I threw a birthday party without using disposable plastics. I was truly amazed with myself. It was like my graduation, per se. It was nothing to post on Pintrest, but luckily the 10- and 11-year old boys don't care about that too much. I prepared the food myself to avoid any plastic trays and bought reusable tablecloths.

Instead of water bottles and Gatorade bottles, we used these and brought reusable plastic cups and had the kids write their names on them.

We had about 15 kids and only one small bag of garbage at the end.

The rest of the challenge was pretty easy, once I figured out the small changes I needed to make, which basically just required a little bit of planning ahead. I had a little bag of reusable plastic containers in the car to take food home from restaurants if need be, carried around my own reusable (BPA-free) water bottle, and prepared food at home to take on the go. It really made me think before I used something and more often then not, there was an easy substitution I could make.

It really wasn't that hard.


So, who's up for a challenge?

If you want to take the challenge, go to