Practical Minimalism: Things Can Lead to Experiences

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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).

Micropoetry Monday: Twisted Christmas

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Cracked Christmas

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.

Fractured Fable

Santa Claus was the happily drunken,
gelatinous taskmaster,
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.

Cranky Christmas

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.

Boxing Day

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The shelves in the shops have been ransacked—
all but the candy,
which won’t be on clearance for another week.
There is glitter everywhere,
coating every surface like fingerprint powder—
the aftermath of consumerist crimes.

Packs of wild-eyed women grab and toss,
their carts queueing up like battering rams,
juxtaposed against a mass regurgitation of goods—
a symptom of the holiday hangover.

The joy of the season has smoked like a pipe dream,
and all that was so prettily placed
has been leveled to plastic ruins.
Broken glass,
like Kristallnacht,
has been swept under the now skeletal fake firs;
the silver has worn off the angels,
the gold off the goody tins.
None of it was real after all.
Time broke the spell.

The tableau is reminiscent of a post-apocalyptic surreality,
following the celebration of a divine birth—
ushering in the red death of retail.
Santa is hungover somewhere under the Northern Lights,
hatching his next Socialist experiment.

Few got what they wanted,
for most buy for themselves throughout the year.
The unwanted little darlings that ended up under their evergreens
are regifts for next year’s “Dirty Santa” parties.

Congealed gravy sits in the fridge,
and ham bones star in crock pot Yankee Bean Soup.
There is one last slice of pie that no one wants;
a cranberry has been crushed into the carpet.
The rubbish bins runneth over with the corpses of dead trees.

The carols have gone silent,
the bells have stopped ringing,
the lights have went out,
and the bleakness—
known as Christmas Come and Gone—
has become an oppressive presence.

Churches will be half-full (optimistically) once again,
and the snow will no longer glisten red and green.
The metallic tinsel dangles from the chandelier
like an instrument of flagellation and strangulation,
choking the life out of the year,
as it breathes its last breaths.

The lustre of Christmas is pined for,
for Christmas is a stopping place;
the New Year marks a start few of us want to make
but feel we must,
for the quest of self-improvement is a road that never dead ends,
always leaving us empty,
wanting more.