Why I Write This Stuff Down

Right now we work full-time, send our kids to school, play soccer, and do all the things "normal" people do, but we want more. We want to show our kids the world and learn along the way. This blog is me trying to figure out how.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Why Does This Blog Exist?

I'm changing my idea of what this blog is. I've been re-reading old posts lately, and so much has changed since I started this several years ago. Here's a summary:

  • Really into the American food system. Like, really, really.
  • Planning to take the family on a year-long road trip and roadschool the kids.
  • Paid off debts and trying to save as much money as possible.
  • Still concerned about the food system, but scaled down to a manageable size: my family. I do what I can to help us all make good choices about food and avoid frankenfoods, but I have also lightened up a bit, thank goodness. I still think "Everything in moderation" is bullshit, but I'm far less obsessed than I was several years ago.
  • I'm in the middle of reinventing myself a bit; since January, 2017 I've lost 27 pounds and have started going to the gym with one of my girls twice a week - UPDATE: my other daughter and husband have recently joined the gym, too, and now we all go together at least once per week in addition to my other trips! It's turning into really awesome family time. I hope to lose 3-10 more pounds. I won't be that annoying friend who talks about exercise and weight loss constantly, but I'm sure I will write about it.
  • We still want to travel, but we are aiming for more of a two-week to one-month sabbatical than a quit-our-jobs free for all. We got passports!!!
  •  Since the 2016 presidential election I have been so much more active in politics than ever before. I am shocked and saddened by the direction I see my country moving in, to the point where I consider the benefits of moving out of the US on an almost daily basis, mostly for my children.
  • Parenting in the US is a competitive sport and makes me furious and sad. I'm trying to raise my girls to be independent, confident and content. I don't believe parenting is easy, but I think people make it way too hard in almost every way.
  • America fascinates me, and I have ideas for several posts on weird things I've noticed that seem to be accepted by most people. We're obsessed with "happiness;" we don't take our vacation time; we are preached to about independence and bootstraps from the time we're little, and as a result we don't want to take care of anyone but ourselves; etc.
  • We should still be saving more money.
So that's just for starters. Instead of concentrating on the three subjects at the top, I need to use this as more of a general thought-space. I hope you'll come along.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Bah Humbug.

Just found this post from a couple of years ago that I never posted. Still holds up.

Christmas makes me the Grinch.

I don't like presents. Presents make me feel weird.

First of all, I don't really like to ask for presents or suggest ideas for presents because I'd feel better if no one bought me anything at all, ever. If I want something, I'd rather pick it out and buy it myself so I can get exactly what I want. That said, if there is a holiday coming up for which people traditionally give gifts, and if someone asks me what I want for that holiday, and I tell them something vague, like "I like coffee" or "gift cards are great," then please choose pretty much anything in those categories and all will be well. I will happily use/enjoy it if I left the choice up to you.

However, there are two gift scenarios that make me squirmy and stabby, and they are as follows:

  1. Someone asks me what I want, and I try to make it easy on them by giving them very specific answers, and then I receive gifts that are not what I asked for. For example, this year I told a friend/family member that I would love bedroom slippers that are Brand X in Size Y, and you can get them at Store Z. Easy peasy. I did all the legwork. Then for Christmas I received bedroom slippers in style A, which is a completely different style. Completely different. Now I feel really weird about the present, because I don't like this style and I won't wear them, and I didn't really want anything anyway, but this person is watching me open the gift and expecting me to be excited. I hate to seem ungrateful, but I am. Now it's an errand to deal with something I didn't really want anyway, but since you pressured me for an answer, I gave you something so easy to find and yet you didn't. Bleh!!! And now I feel terrible about being unhappy about it, and then in 15 seconds the terrible feeling turns to anger at the whole gift-giving culture that makes me feel guilty when I just wanted to opt out! I am the type of person who does research before a purchase, and if I told you the exact thing I wanted, then I already weighed other options. If you can't find what I asked for, then a gift card is a wonderful substitute. I do not find them impersonal; I find them perfect. Better yet - don't get me anything.
  2. Or, the person does not ask me for suggestions, she just makes a bunch of assumptions, and then I receive things I have absolutely no interest in, and again, you're watching me open it and I have to be happy about it. Or it's something customized that I really don't like, and I can't even exchange it for something I do like. I can't really even donate it to Goodwill, because who will buy a coffee mug with a blurry photo of my family on it? And if anyone did want to buy it, I would think they were weirdos, and I'd be too creeped out to let them anyway. So do I destroy it? It's a picture of my family, albeit a bad, blurry, unasked-for one. Again, I feel guilty for not being grateful, and then I feel really resentful for being expected to feel grateful for a bunch of crap that I don't want and didn't ask for.
I know it sounds severe. I read it. It sounds like I'm a huge, picky pain in the ass. But if you think that, then you're forgetting the main point: I don't want any presents ever, for any reason. That actually makes me pretty easy to deal with. If you know that, and you get me one anyway, then get me what I said I wanted. Otherwise this gift-giving exercise is for you, not me. A gift receipt is always appreciated.

And I'm not talking about people who don't really know me and are just taking a stab at something generic that people generally like, like smelly lotion. Thank you, acquaintance, I'll take your smelly lotion and smile about it because we don't really know each other and it was a nice gesture. I'm talking about very close friends, family, in-laws, etc. who really do KNOW me. If we feel comfortable enough with each other to ask for gift ideas, then just go with it please. Especially if it's something you plan to spend more than $10 on.

Lest you think I'm just a jerk, not wanting gifts is a real thing. You may have heard of a book called The Five Love Languages, which I admit I haven't read. Well, I recently took a test just for the hell of it to see what my "love languages" are, and surprise, surprise, I don't like presents. There is actually a test for that, so it's not just me. It's a thing! According to the test, I prefer "Acts of Service" the most, which is totally true. I would much rather have my husband fix the front porch light than give me jewelry, any day of the week. Make the girls' next doctor appointments and figure out how they are going to get there; decide on dinners for the week; fold the next load of laundry and start another. If you want to give me a gift, give me a helper, like a maid service (best present I ever received, hands down). Wash my car. Take the dog out. My time and anxiety level are so much more important to me than stuff. I don't need another mug; I need an assistant.

My husband and I talked about this feeling this year, and he agrees that the gifts make Christmas stressful for us (not for our kids of course). We just don't want stuff. Next year we will just tell everyone we want something big, like camping gear, so please just give us gift cards to Dick's Sporting Goods. Or we want to take the kids to Disney, so just give us gift cards to Disney or Amtrak or contribute to an account and give us money for that. I would love a Christmas with no individual gifts, just the ability to get what we want but can't get on our own. If you even give us anything at all, which you do NOT have to do. Seriously.