Conspire with me

Let me start out by saying that I am a gift giver.  I love giving presents that bring people joy.  It’s my “love language” as they say.  But, every year about this time, I start to go on a rant about consumerism.  This year is  a little bit different though.

I used to be 100% opposed to Black Friday.  I despised all that it stood for and wondered at the irony of how quickly we shift from being thankful to being, well…greedy.  I’ve been doing more thinking about it recently and while I haven’t necessarily changed my position, my outlook has shifted.  I still don’t like it.  Especially when I hear stories of people using pepper spray to ensure that they get the product they want.  Or grandfathers being slammed to the ground by police, traumatizing grandchildren.  In fact, the violence this year is reported as being the worst ever.  You begin to wonder if the gifts that people are fighting over will even be remembered by this time next year.  Chances are, they won’t.

On the other hand, it is prudent to steward your money wisely.  If you can save 50% on something that you are going to buy anyway, why not take advantage of the sales?  My laptop computer died on the Monday before Thanksgiving.  I need a new one because I use my computer to work from home.  We were able to get a deal and spent 1/3 of what our alloted budget was for it.  We happened to do it online, but if we wanted to stand in line for it, that would be our business.

I also support spending money locally.  I love the idea of Small Business Saturday.  When I lived in Olympia, I used to go to Duck the Malls every year.  I found wonderful gifts which supported local artisans.  (It’s coming up next weekend, so if you are in the area, check it out!)

Another thing I have started to consider is the tradition that some people enjoy.  My sister-in-law goes out with her sisters every year.  They love it.  They get to spend time together and enjoy eachothers company while saving money on gifts they will likely buy anyway.

My issue with Black Friday and Cyber Monday and the all of the consumerism that surrounds the holidays really boils down to a heart issue.  If you are buying things and spending money on a gift just because it’s on sale, it doesn’t make sense to me.  I promise you that people who love you would much rather have your time.  A couple of years ago, I gave my step-mom a hand made gift certificate for a date to afternoon tea at the Phoenician Resort in Phoenix, where she lives. Yes, in the end, I still spent money — and I knew that it would be months before we would actually do it (it was May by the time I got to Phoenix).  But, that afternoon we spent together will forever be in our memories — a bigger treasure than any material thing I could have purchased for that same price.
And, then there is the reality that despite our current economic situation, we are still the richest country in the world.  In the midst of cries of “we are the 99%”, we still have managed to spend around $54 billion between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 

To the rest of the world, we are the 1%.

These folks say it better than I ever could.  I’ve been trying to live by the Advent Conspiracy values for many years now.  I still give gifts.  I just approach it differently now. 

 

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Eternally Grateful

I did it again.  I quit.  Didn’t follow through on my attitude of gratitude series.  I’ve thought about it every day and have indeed given thanks.  But, posting it here started to feel rote.  Trite.  Strained.  Not authentic (What is the opposite of authentic?  Oh yeah…fake).  I felt pressure to come up with something really profound (albeit the pressure was self-inflicted).  The truth is that there are days when I don’t really feel very grateful for anything in particular.  And, yet, I am grateful for all that I have — and I don’t ever want that to come across as fake.  I’m grateful for the people in my life.  The roof over my head.  Our jobs.  The big and seemingly small ways that God provides for our family (although, they are never really small are they?).  The list goes on and on. 

Three years ago — not to the exact date, but it was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving — I got a call that changed everything.  Literally, in an instant, my whole world changed.  Forever.  It was the day that Madelyne came into our lives.  Born to drug addicted parents, she needed a home.  We didn’t know if it would be for a little while or forever.  Turns out, it was for a little while, but she changed us forever.  I don’t know if I can adequately put it into words.  The six months that she was with us were hard.  Anyone who’s had a baby knows that it’s hard, even under the most ideal circumstances.  Sleep deprivation makes you loopy.  Add to it the emotional roller coaster of dealing with social services and homestudies and bi-weekly visitations and it was a very stressful time in our lives.  But, it was also a very sweet time in our lives.  We were able to love this little girl — and our friends and family loved her as well.  And, at that time, it’s really all she needed.  She needed to feel loved and comforted and safe.  Deep in my heart, I know that it shaped who she is and will become.  I am eternally grateful for that, despite the crushing heartbreak I sometimes still feel that she is no longer with us.

It was easy to love Madelyne.  But, I was challenged – stretched – to love people that I didn’t want to love.  To feel compassion for people that I didn’t want to feel compassion for.  To be gracious, when I did not want to be gracious.  To forgive when I did not want to forgive.  And, in the midst of it all, to be a good example to my son, who was watching and learning. 

Today, my emotions are mixed.  I miss her.  I miss her a lot.  But, I am eternally grateful that I got to be her mom — even if only for a little while.

 

Attitude of Gratitude – Day 15

A few days ago, on Veteran’s Day, I pulled out a picture of my grandfather.  It was taken when he was just 18 or 19 years old.  I’ve always loved it.  He was always so special to me.  He’s been gone 19 years and I still miss him every day.

 
Over the years, people have always said how much Jake looks like Lloyd.  And, he certainly does.  But, there are traits that I’ve often wondered where they came from.  His lips and mouth, for one.  And his eyelids are not like either one of ours either.  Then, the other day, when I was looking at the picture of my grandfather, it hit me..Jake looks like him in many ways
 
William “Franklin” Wallace
William “Jacob” Brown
 
 
Not the best picture of Jake, but I was trying to get one where he’s not smiling huge, like he usually does.  And you can’t see how blue Jake’s eyes are in this picture. I don’t look anything like my grandfather.  Maybe it’s cheesy, but I’m thankful that Jake has Wallace traits.  

Attitude of Gratitude – Days 9-13

I have missed a few days of posting, but not from being grateful.  I made special note each day of what I wanted to make sure I expressed gratitude for:

Day 9:  The plans I originally had for Wednesday night fell through and Lloyd was out of town.  So, I took the opportunity to invite a friend over for dinner.  Her son is a friend of Jake’s.  She and I met a few months ago during the 5th grade field trip and instantly connected.  We had a nice evening just chatting and enjoying one another’s company.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to be spontaneous and make new friends. 

Day 10 – I spent a lot of time (years, really) being anxious about middle school.  I don’t know what I was worried about because Jake is absolutely thriving.  Conferences were on Thursday and while I am very grateful for his report card and that he got on the honor roll.  He’s obviously not perfect though and he has some areas that definitely need work.  But boiled down to one sentence, the feedback I received was that:  He’s a confident, self-advocate who is hard-working, respectful and enthusiastic.  I couldn’t really ask for more.  Many will say that it’s a reflection of good parenting.  But, the truth is that we couldn’t do it alone.  We really believe it takes a village and we are grateful for the friends, family, teachers and other influential adults that have taken an interest in Jake over the years.  I think you know who you are, so thank you for making a difference in his life.  And ours.

Day 11 – Friday was a near perfect day.  Lloyd has traveled a lot this year.  In fact, I figured it out and he’s been gone about 20% of the time this year.  He came back from his last scheduled business trip of the year on Thursday night and Friday was a holiday.  We were able to have a restful day, with no real obligations. The icing on the cake was having his cousins over for dinner, one of whom he hadn’t seen in 30 years.  We are so grateful to have been able to connect with long lost family members over the last couple of years.  They have added richness to our lives.

Day 12 – We are grateful for the new friends we’ve made here in DC.  We had some friends over for dinner on Saturday night.  It’s amazing to think that we didn’t even know these people a year ago and yet now, we cannot imagine them not being part of our lives.

Day 13 – We all woke up feeling under the weather on Sunday.  Even though I spent a good part of the day sleeping — and I was not able to do the things I wanted to do, I am grateful that overall, we are all healthy.  There was a time when I wasn’t sure if that would ever be our reality — but it is and I couldn’t be more thankful.

Attitude of Gratitude – Day 8

Jake takes piano lessons at the Levine School of Music which has classrooms at the Music Center at Strathmore.  It is a beautiful facility that attracts wonderful acts and upscale audiences.  Normally, Jake’s lesson is at 4pm on Mondays but this week, we had to rearrange the schedule, so his lesson was tonight at 7:30.  My plan was to drop him off and sit in the car and do some work in the car while I waited.

 
Turns out there was an event at the Music Center.  The normal drop off area was blocked off for valet parking.  They let me drop off there, but I couldn’t wait like I normally do.  I  had to circle around until I could find a parking spot.  This meant I had to walk and go into the Center with all of the people who were dressed to the nines to see a classical pianist.
 
Not the best day for me to wear yoga pants and slippers to piano lessons.  
 
Today, I’m thankful that I have a sense of humor.

Attitude of Gratitude – Day 7

We have always tried to make a point of eating dinner together as a family as much as possible.  Our schedules are busy and Lloyd has traveled a lot — particularly this year.  The other night, Lloyd was gone and Jake and I sat down to eat.  Jake asked me how my day was and wondered if there were any stories that I wanted to tell about work.  It made me realize that this family time together really does make a difference and he has learned to approach meal time with the attitude that it is a fellowship time, rather than just a time to eat.

Tonight, he had a lot to say.  Anyone who knows Jake isn’t surprised by this — he always has a lot to say.  But, he was sharing things about his day that were important.  We got to talk about life lessons that he was learning through some things that were going on at school.  And, he isn’t completely self focused.  He always asks how our days were and wants to know what we did.  He even seems interested in our answers — at least for now.

Someday soon — a lot sooner than I like to think about — it will only be Lloyd and I at the dinner table.  I cherish our family meal time and am very grateful for it.

Attitude of Gratitude – Day 5

Lately, I’ve been missing my friends in Washington State a lot. More than usual, I mean. I can’t put my finger on why. Perhaps it’s the time of year. Olympia was a great place to live and a great place to raise a family. We had wonderful friends and had traditions that we looked forward to every year. We loved the culture and the overall “feel” of the Northwest (although it’s no secret that I was not a fan of the seemingly constant rain). I hesitate even putting it out there though because I don’t want it to seem like we don’t like it here. We do. But, it’s different. The pace of life is faster. The people are different. The culture is all its own–as it should be! We didn’t move to Olympia and instantly have a community. In fact, I moved to Olympia and grieved the life we left behind in Phoenix. It took time to build a network of trusted friends.

So today, I’m thankful for the life we lead in Olympia. The people and the community impacted us in a profound way. It has shaped the way that we pursue new relationships and traditions. And it has given us wonderful memories and a place that we can always call home.

Attitude of Gratitude – Day 4

Jake.

He makes me laugh every day with his incredible sense of humor.  He once told me that he wants to be Jim Carrey when he grows up.  He loves slapstick, physical humor but he can also be wickedly ironic and his sense of comedic timing is amazing. 

He also has the biggest heart of anyone I know.  He cares about people and their feelings.  He can’t imagine why anyone would choose not to be nice.  He chooses to see the good in everyone, as best he can. 

He marches to the beat of his own drum.  Best of all, he’s okay with that.  I will never forget the day he told me that he WANTS to be different — that he’s THAT kind of person.  

There are so many things that I am grateful for.  But, most of all, I’m grateful that he’s happy…and that he isn’t afraid to dance and sing and jump for joy.