My 11 year old son received an iPod Classic for Christmas. I was happy to oblige as I knew he'd get a lot of use out of it and he's at that age when gift-giving has become torturous. I don't know what he wants. He doesn't know what he wants. The one sure thing is that he won't like what I've picked out. I figured any kid would be thrilled with a $250 piece of electronic equipment that does everything but tap dance. Then he went into a pre-Christmas depression and when I mentioned his upcoming iPod acquisition he told me, with all seriousness, that an iPod wasn't much different than his $30 MP3 player and that it was a "snoozefest." A $250 snoozefest?!? He has since taken that remark back. He does, in fact, love his new iPod. He did not, however, like many of the other gifts that various relatives picked out for him and told me on Christmas Day that next year he thinks I should just give him cash.
My 7 year old daughter liked some of her things but obnoxiously flung others to the side upon unwrapping, deeming them unworthy of her attention. I know even the things she likes today will simply be sitting on the floor as obstacles for me to walk around in a couple weeks. I mentioned this attitude on the part of my children to my sister who said, "They get everything they want. And they don't appreciate it because they've never not gotten everything they wanted." And she's right.
That's when I started seriously thinking about changing the way things work around here in 2011. I've made this kind of commitment many times in the past and it usually falls apart by January 15. This Christmas feels like it pushed me over the edge, however. Am I raising little Paris Hiltons, overindulged and bored by the world because they have too much? We are overloaded with Happy Meal toys because the kids don't like my cooking and frequently I throw my hands up and head for the golden arches rather than argue with them. Even the minor holidays of the year, like Valentine's Day, become mini-Christmases with large gifts and little appreciation. I'm very concerned about the environment and yet so many of our lifestyle choices don't reflect that. We have too much garbage, too much stuff, drive too much.
I started this blog as a help to me. Yes, I will admit my motives are selfish. I wish I had all the answers. Frankly, I feel like I have none. I've read other interesting blogs where people simplify their lives, get "green," cut their spending down to the bone. Unfortunately my blog won't be that extreme. I'm blessed with a husband who makes a good living, I'm a stay at home mom of two, we have a nice home, and we have no debt other than our mortgage (which is 2/3 paid off). I would never get my husband to agree to any kind of extreme frugality. And, frankly, I like my little pleasures and luxuries even while feeling some guilt over the workplace practices that produced them or the environmental impact. No doubt this blog will be full of hypocrisy.
I intend to write about my journey into trying to find a better way for my family. This is an experiment for me and as such there will be lots of failures and theories that turn out to be wrong. I'm writing this from the point of view of the seeker, not the expert. I don't have the answers, but I hope by this time next year I have a few. And I'm hoping to learn something from others along the way and share my little discoveries and remain accountable by sharing the experiment publicly.
My family is so blessed. We have so much and seem to appreciate it so little. That needs to change. Welcome to the Gratitude Expedition.