Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy Valentines Day!!

No, seriously.....Happy Valentines Day!!  I know it was just Christmas and that today is the very first day of a new year, but I was in Walmart a couple of days ago and they had already started setting out the Valentines Day candy.  The mountaintop is an isolated place and so I rely on the heartbeat of America, which I am very sure pulses through each and every Walmart that is strategically placed every fifteen square miles throughout our country, to keep me up to date on important things, like that Jennifer Aniston has the "best over 40 beach body," and that if you buy a fleece snuggle blanket your (not mine) entire family can lovingly sit on the couch together under the same blanket with beaming bright white smiles while you (I assume) vegetate in front of a nightly sitcom(s), and that even though it is roughly six whole flipping weeks until Valentines Day - apparently it is not too soon to start buying pink and red candy.  Santa's barely got his boots unlaced, for Pete's sake, and we're already asking Saint Valentine to saddle up.

I love this time of year, when our collective optimism gets taken full advantage of by retailers wheeling out large pallets of brightly colored organizational supplies of Rubbermaid storage containers, and the not so subtle displays of exercise equipment.  The retailers have us figured out.  They know that they have a few short weeks out of every year to capitalize on our good intentioned, yet disillusioned, drive to better ourselves with things that we can buy. 

This is the time of year that we honestly believe that we can, and will, sort through our messy lives, purging the unimportant and then reorganizing the important leftovers, into plastic boxes clearly labeled with its contents, and that will somehow make us, and our year, better.  Well, that and the weight we're gonna lose on our new piece of equipment.  Never mind that early this summer over half of all the exercise equipment being bought right now will be sitting out at yard sales for a fraction of what was paid for them, covered in dust and cobwebs, except where the bath towel was laid across it day after day, because in reality most of the action these pieces of equipment will ever see is as a high dollar towel rack.

I always wonder which came first?  Was it the retailers who made us consumers, or was it us who demanded that our greed for the cheapest possible goods be fed twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week?  Did we ask for Valentines Day candy to be placed for sale before New Year's Day?  Probably not, but when we buy it that early (or anytime in the month of January) we tell the retailers that we approve of it and that we do in fact want it then.  Many of us look around at the world and wonder what went wrong and feel powerless to change anything.  I don't think that we are powerless - I think that we've forgotten that the bitter truth in our society is that cash is king, and that no matter how much, or how little, of it that we have and spend - how and when we spend it is like a vote each and every time.

The more cheap plastic crap we buy - the more they give us.  The more frozen and processed foods we buy - they more they give us.  We want convenience and they give it to us, or maybe we don't want it, but if that is really the case why are we buying it?  Why are we saying yes when we mean no?  Why are we part of the problem and not more of the solution?  It's so easy to sit and point fingers, to play the blame game, but the reality is that we all have choices to make each and every single day, and if enough of us start making the choices that we believe are right and good we can get to a better place. 

I love this time of year because it says that we still have hope.  We still believe that we know right from wrong, good from bad, and that we want to at least try to get it right and good.  I don't agree with the method, but I do like the message.  The thing is - we can't buy our way to right and good.  No amount of brightly colored plastic is going to make our lives better, just like exercise equipment doesn't make us lose weight.  Right and good is free, and it starts right now - be it the first, second, or third of January, or February, or any other month.  We should wake up and feel like it is January first of the year.  Everyday is the first day of the rest of our lives.  Everyday is another chance to get it right and good. 

I don't normally make New Year resolutions, but I did make one four years ago, and that was to shop at Walmart less.  I decided to go to Goodwill first.  I decided that buying used was cheaper, and I always love to save money, and that my purchases there helped to keep consumer goods out of landfills, but most of all I wanted to distance myself from a cycle that I believe is destroying us.  I wanted my resolution to say something about what I believed to be better for myself, my family, and my country, at a core level.  And for the last four years that is exactly what I've done.  I still shop at Walmart because that is where I can afford to shop, but I shop there a whole lot less.  This really isn't an anti Walmart post - it's a post about our choices and making a real effort to think about how we spend our money and the messages that those choices send to the powers that be.

And before I skip right over Christmas and New Years - both of those days were awesome for us.  Christmas Day was rather magical in a very boring and normal way....yes, did you read that?  I said normal.  That was our biggest gift of all this Christmas.  We sat around and opened gifts, ate way too much good food, played with toys, ate more good food, watched a movie.....and the whole day I kept looking around at us and our home and thinking how amazing it was that we were actually just having a normal Christmas.  No crisis loomed on the horizon (that I knew of,, we weren't packed in on top of each other like sardines, and we got to sit on our very own couch.  I love that couch - we've had it for a good seven years now and it shows every year of abuse, but it's ours and it feels like home when we're all together on it.  We were blessed beyond measure with generosity, and we all felt the love of many from far away. 

New Years was more good food, and a chance for the kids to light things (fireworks) on fire, which they always love.  I went outside to watch them at one point, and that lasted about five minutes (tops) before I ran went back inside the house.  There are just some things a mother shouldn't be a part of, and a passel of kids running around with sparklers is one of them.  I felt like the killjoy mom from A Christmas Story repeating you're going to put your eye out with that thing!!!!  It didn't matter anyway, they couldn't hear me - apparently they were running faster than the speed of

Happy New Year to all of you - I sincerely hope it is your best year yet!