Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas afloat

It's a little different than on land

A floating Christmas. It can be challenging. Yes, we sing the same carols and we eat ham and mashed potatoes, but getting the visible, tangible Christmas spirit can be challenging. We don't have a tupperware box in the attic filled with lengths of tangled lights or stacks of red bows to festoon the outside of the boat. Since we have no storage space, all of our possessions are items we use on a regular basis. A singing Santa just has nowhere to live on the boat in February or July. So we have to be creative.

A few ornaments hanging above the galley table.

A green wreath decorating the stern.

Homemade paperchains.

Christmas songs streaming from Pandora.

Advent calendars.

Gingerbread houses.

A pathetic string of Christmas lights with only half alight since I found them in a locker filled with water. (Sigh. Boat living.)

And food. (Of course.) Egg nog, hot buttered rum, peppermint hot chocolate. Gingerbread. Pepparkakor. Lussebullar.

When it comes to decorating our floating home for Christmas, we have to think in the here and now. We don't have many heirloom ornaments or beloved decorations (well, we have a few), but spending time baking and crafting for Christmas helps put me in the Christmas spirit.

Studding Florida tangerines with cloves.  Matilda "helped" by dumping the cloves out and putting them back in the spice jar.

Clear space for the gifts

But what about the gifts? I actively spend time every month or so purging excess from our boat. Clearing shelves and lockers of toys and clothes we no longer use. Christmas could be viewed as an impending nightmare for a "stuff-conscious" person like myself. Not so. I simply prepare beforehand.

A trip to Goodwill a week before Christmas helps to clear some space. Communications with family helps tremendously. Our families know that we live in a small space so they ask before gifting: what do you need? What do the girls need?

A mindful Christmas

All of these small, boat-specific preparations for Christmas more or less force us to be mindful and intentional about how we celebrate Christmas. No excess consumerism, because we have no space. No cheap plastic decorations, because we have no space. Instead we spend the holidays doing Christmas activities together - these Christmas experiences are our gifts. (Although I would love to have lights running from bow to stern and a real Christmas tree. Maybe next year...)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Intentionally ignoring Facebook

Intentionally ignoring Facebook

multi-tasking. Photo credit: Freja Eriksson

Addicted to Facebook

I am a self-professed Facebook addict. I’m also a stay-at-home-mom and I rely on Facebook throughout the day to fill those conversation gaps that a preschooler and a toddler can’t quite manage. (“What’s the deal with common core testing? What’s going to happen with this new immigration policy? And, “is it okay to drink a mimosa on a Tuesday morning while the kids watch Sesame Street?”)

Despite my dependence, I have made a vow to intentionally ignore Facebook. Why? Because I am going to intentionally recognize my present reality. I am going to make a concerted effort to live more mindfully and be more connected to the here and now.

 Long days, short years

The common meme for parents of young kids—especially those that stay at home full time—is “the days are long but the years are short.” True, but that’s little comfort at three in the afternoon after I’ve already changed five diapers, cleaned up spilled milk, and played endless rounds of Candyland—and I’ve been awake since six in the morning. The days are long. Sometimes they seem endless. It’s important to find things to do on a daily basis that are fun, make me happy, and nourish part of my soul. I’m an extrovert so, for me, that means spending time with other people.

We moved to a new city six months ago and I spent the first four months eagerly chatting to other moms in the park and reaching out to new friends. Then I plateaued. I have a handful of friends I can reach out to and we attend a weekly storytime at the library. We’re busy, but I still miss other adults and I get fed-up answering 37 why questions every day. But between nap schedules and daily household maintenance like laundry and grocery shopping, it’s hard to find time to meet up with friends for a little adult interaction that isn’t with the grocery store checkout clerk.

 Oh, hi Facebook. Will you be my friend?

So I turn to Facebook. Someone is always online and there are always new stories and articles in my newsfeed. I’ve tried reddit and Pinterest, but I always go back to the social site: Facebook. It’s like a quick hit of social interaction.

Does that commitment-free, sound-byte type of social interaction fill the gap of adult conversation that I’m missing? Yes and no. Yes, it certainly acts as a good distraction when I’m bored or frustrated or lonely. No, because it isn’t direct, in-depth human interaction; and no because it removes me from the joys and frustrations of daily life with two little ones.

The gameplan:

I have decided to intentionally ignore Facebook.
1. I’ve turned the notifications off on my phone. Those notifications make my Facebook addiction too easy.
2. I am scheduling Facebook time. At naps for 30 minutes and in the evening for 30 minutes. If I still need the easy entertainment that the internet provides, I can read the news or learn new ways to macrame a hanging plant holder on Pinterest.
3. I am going to stop thinking and looking at the world through a Facebook lens: no more quipping pithy status updates in my head while I push my toddler on the swing at the playground; no more taking just the right photo because it will look so great on my newsfeed.
4. I am going to continue to put myself out into the mommy scene and make new friends for me and my kids.

I am going to intentionally recognize my reality. I am going to be present. I still need you Facebook, but I really need to see other people too.