Experiences are better than things, but a thing can lead to experiences.
The minimalistic creed that experiences are always better than things is untrue, for I say it depends on the experience (and the thing).
The experience of going to the library was okay, but the experience of a book I buy and read multiple times is better. Since Covid, I have subscribed to Amazon Kindle Unlimited for me and have added many more books to my daughter’s physical library.
The experience of shopping for a new phone was a hassle, but using that phone to group text my friends for a girls’ night out, promote my Instagram poetry, or play Scrabble is better; buying a new TV was forgettable, but having a 42″ screen where my husband and I watch Wheel of Fortune is better. We bond over skewering Pat for some of the !@#$ he says and the contestants for the bad calls they make.
The experience of going to the Pensacola Interstate Fair was all right (I make better, and cleaner, fair food at home), but I’ve had just as much fun playing with my daughter in the big blow-up pool (a “thing”) in our backyard.
Some experiences have sucked (like revisiting the Italian restaurant where my husband and I used to go when we met ten years ago), where my time would’ve been better spent watching the current Holiday Baking Championship.
However, some experiences have been wonderful. Sometimes, the simplest experiences are best, such as having a meal at Chick-Fil-A with my family (before Covid), meeting friends for drinks and tacos (or one-on-one for coffee), reading a new bedtime story, playing board games, singing Christmas carols, trying a new baking recipe (will be making my first savory cheesecake next week), making Christmas placemats (a laminator is a must for any homeschooling classroom), creating unique Christmas cards via TouchNotes for some of my friends, and so forth.
Experiences like these are what life is made of, and most of them aren’t Facebook or Instagram picture-worthy.
There’s a great quote in the movie Tully, in which Tully tells Marlo (a married mother of three young children who seems to be struggling with the baby blues) that she hasn’t failed but has made her biggest dream come true: “That sameness that you despise, that’s your gift to them [Marlo’s children]. Waking up every day and doing the same things for them over and over. You are boring. Your marriage is boring. Your house is boring, but that’s … incredible! That’s a big dream, to grow up and be dull and constant, and then raise your kids in that circle of safety.”
You don’t have to experience something new every day because every day in and of itself is an experience. My best experiences haven’t always included pictures but are in the stories I tell and the memories I share.
When my job situation often changed (the nature of being a student worker), with my husband and I moving every two or three years (you have to go where you can afford to live), I found myself in a constant state of anxiety. However, we are finally reaching a level of homeostasis that feels an awful lot like contentment (not to be confused with complacency).
I love my life as it is, which doesn’t mean that I don’t want more; I am just working towards being more. I tell my daughter in homeschool: The more you know, the more you can do, and the richer your life will be, for the more you will be able to do for yourself and others.
I remember a motivational speaker once saying that the two things that make us happiest are helping others and creating something. This Christmas season, I have been fortunate enough to do both. I would also say that staying connected to friends and family (in-person, if possible, or via telephone, not text) is the third part of that, for being giving of your time is the greatest gift.
” … remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
When Rachel Larsen was awakened
one smoggy, Christmas Eve night
by a conductor of an air & noise polluter,
she boarded The Solar Express—
renamed to keep the EPA off their backs.
When little Rachel reached Santytown,
having shared chai tea & gluten-free crumpets
with the other ragamuffins,
she saw all the toy factories
belching carbon dioxide like a charcoal grill;
she had a vision of the ice caps melting
at the The North Pole
so that The Solar Express
had to become a monorail
to navigate over the rising sea levels;
she envisioned Santa and his “little finds,”
moving from a cave to a Jetson-style house,
for the land below had become
too polluted to even harvest
all the plastic from the ocean
to recycle into plastic toys.
Santa Claus was the happily drunken,
who was productive but once a year,
his disgruntled elves having done all
the real work
but forced to stamp “Made in China”
on their handiwork.
When Santa found Rudolph,
the ne’er-do-weller North Pole pub dweller,
& praised the boozer for his snoot—
cherry-red from pint after pint of snootfuls—
the other reindeer,
willing to show Rudolph the 12 steps,
welcomed him with open antlers.
However, after Rudy continuously
made an icehole of himself
at every G-rated reindeer game
by trying to impress Cupid,
the single female reindeer
who had shot herself with an arrow
& was in love only with herself,
the other reindeer,
fearful of an FWI (flying while intoxicated),
made sure that “Ruddy”
went down in history
by making him history.
When he was a young’un,
he’d watched his momma kiss Santy Claus;
when he grew up,
he’d watched her kill Santy Claus
for runnin’ Granny over with a John Deere,
marking Bama Montgomery’s last Christmas in Dixie.
This son of a sawed-off shotgun,
whose child support had come
in the form of recalled toys
that had washed up on Misfit Island—
which had been a “Dirty Santa” thing to do—
knew what he had to do.
But, rather than throw Momma from The Polar Express,
he threw her under the city bus
& staked his claim (courtesy of ancestry.com)
to the snow-white tundra & its 70, pointy-eared dwarves,
where he was stuck making crappy toys for Beall’s
& dreaming of a green Christmas.
Every year, my husband’s family has a Dirty Santa Christmas party. There’s the pepperoni bread that all the teenagers love, the Bisquick sausage and cheese balls that are like savory truffles, and the peanut butter balls that take an insane amount of powdered sugar to make. When my husband’s aunt was alive, it was an Italian feast, even though she was from Maine and of French heritage. (My husband’s father, however, was Italian.)
I don’t even bring food anymore because there is so damn much, and there are always too many desserts.
My brother-in-law (BIL) works for a liquor distributor, so there’s always plenty of booze—a must-have for any holiday gathering where you’re seeing people you only see once a year and only because you happen to be related.
As an introvert with social anxiety that I happen to hide very well (unless I’m around someone I think is hot or who I swear is laughing at me on the inside, which is sometimes the same person), I’m not a fan of parties with lots of people I don’t know well. It’s emotionally exhausting, but my six-year-old daughter is an excellent buffer.
As I am not friends with any of my husband’s family on Facebook, and my husband ditched his account last year, we’re like the black sheep (my husband likes to call himself the stray sheep) of his family; in my family, I’m like the golden fleece, so think what you will about that!
I cannot compete with my husband’s successful sisters, whose careers have been established for years, while I’m just figuring things out. Their kids are either grown or practically grown, whereas my daughter is in the first grade, and I am working on my bachelor’s degree at 38. I guess my husband and I are both late bloomers.
So, “Dirty Santa” is always my favorite part of the party. I don’t have to mill around and mingle, as we are all sitting in a circle, opening presents. Honestly, gift giving is a lot more fun when it doesn’t cost anything, and it’s all in fun—when you don’t give a rip about what you’re going to get because you already know it’s probably going to suck.
The year I was into couponing, I tossed some Maxi pads (with wings; it isn’t an angel in need if it doesn’t have wings) in a gently used gift bag. That might have been the year I threw in a Bing Crosby CD in which he dreamily crooned about white Christmases (what the hell is wrong with a green Christmas where we don’t have to worry about dying in a blizzard?). So yes, sanitary napkins + Bing = a hard candy Christmas.
Another year, I gave away some DVDs when a lot of the same movies I could just DVR (I will never, however, ever part with my Wings and I Love Lucy collection). Last year, I threw in some unused candles (from my candle collecting days), and this year, there’s “The Shrimper”—a running gag that’s been passed around my husband’s family for years. I don’t mind getting stuck with it, as I am the queen of regifting. Most of the gifts probably end up donated or regifted anyway; I am not spending money on a nice gift so I can get a bobo present. A good third of Dirty Santa gifts were left behind last year, which, to me, shows a complete lack of regard for the hosts, who have to figure out how to (probably) dispose of them.
Since I have run out of things to regift (ain’t minimalism great?), I thank God for “The Shrimper,” as it’s recurrence keeps another item out of the landfill.
He was a team player,
who enjoyed watching
a bunch of men
running around with numbers
on their backs,
throwing what looked like a
misshapen Hostess cupcake
through the air.
She was a team of 1,
who wrote & edited
her own stories,
for there wasn’t always
to read them.
And to keep the peace,
he agreed to never make her watch,
while she agreed to never make him read.
He was a purveyor of magic tricks,
she, of magic treats.
When they crossed one another’s paths
at a Halloween party
like a pair of black cats,
they became unlucky in love,
for she found out that his tricks
were nothing but an illusion,
that her treats were flavor-enhanced with MSG.
He loved secular holiday tunes,
she, spiritual Christmas carols,
for she saw Christmas as a holy day,
& he, a holiday.
the lists were naughty & nice,
based on words & deeds;
the lists were Heaven or Hell,
based on belief.
Even though they would forever
disagree on everything else,
they could agree that
whatever the reason
for the season,
kindness should be
the universal code of conduct.