Bye Bye 2011

As I write this, there are exactly 15.5 hours left in 2011.

Excuse me, but where the hell did this past year go? I don't know if I'm falling into that getting older speed warp trap where time seems to accelerate with years lived on the planet, but that's sure what it feels like. I swear it was just 2010 and Big Red and I were getting ready to usher in 2011. We'd had great hopes for 2011, and while we made it through with our health, a home, food in our bellies (albeit too much food in our bellies) and gainful employment, there were some hiccups. I'm not one to dwell, so I'm not going to go into a long diatribe about what we'd wished happened and didn't. That serves no purpose. Eyes to the sky child, not the ground!!

Seriously though, I think I just got used to writing out 2011 and now I'm going to have to switch it up again. I have humble hopes for this coming year. No grandeur. Yeah I've got the standard get healthy goal, and I've also got watch less television, my own personal addictive crack. But I'm also perusing and planning on challenging my own beliefs in terms of lifestyle. My last entry was about working towards wanting less stuff. And that's something I still want to go after. It is because of this that I feel a reunion with an old PITT teammate yesterday was incredibly serendipitous.

I ran into Cande (and yes, she is as sweet and endearing as her name suggests) while at a roller derby a few months back. She came on the soccer team my sophomore year. I didn't hang out with her much, but that was pretty standard for me as most of my close friends were non-athletes, girls I'd met by chance in the dorms I'd been living in. Cande called me up the other day and suggested we meet and catch up. Yesterday we met for lunch at a fabulous little vegetarian/vegan cafe. I had the peanut noodles and they were super delicious. Cande and I sat and chatted about our lives for THREE hours. No joke. It was fabulous. I caught her up on my life with Big Red and all our cross-country moves, and she brought me up to speed on hers - traveling, a husband and four children.

What I found most intriguing was how she was living her life, a life sans a bunch of stuff. In her household, there is no television, there are no gaming systems. Her children don't use computers until they are about 12 - they learn to write their letters on old fashioned black boards and a piece of chalk. Fun time in the evening is a family meal, parents and four children sitting at the table discussing what the best parts of their days were. They revel in long walks, board games, riding bikes, and community. They welcome hand-me-down clothes and toys, and would rather spend their hard-earned money on vacations. There is an emphasis on quality and not quantity. They are not wasteful and they simply ask the question: Is this thing life-giving or does it detract?

I was captivated.

Cande made great arguments for many of their decisions and the choices she and her husband have made in raising their family, and I surmised that they were very firmly rooted in they spirituality. In fact that's how she and her husband met. What most resonated with me was Cande's attitude towards the integration of children into her life. Essentially she broke it down like this: There are two kinds of families. There are families who live for their children and in which all activities and choices revolve around those children, and then there are families who live their life and integrate their children. Parents continue to live as they've lived before and find way to work in their little ones. They don't stop traveling and they don't stop doing the things they love. Granted there are some concessions and logistical knots to work out, but for the most part the parents don't get off the gas just for the kids. This is the conscious effort Cande and her husband make - to live their lives and have their children tag along. And trust me when I say that living life in this manner does not mean loving children any less. It was very clear to me how much Cande adores her four children, and how well-adjusted and socialized they are - in fact I'd even wager to say her children are more aware of the world and people around them and probably have an appreciation for life that most adults lack.

Cande's family philosophy hit home and I thought Big Red would appreciate it given his trepidation about how life-changing starting a family will be. Definitely some food for thought.

Less IS more. That's the overarching goal and theme for 2012. Less absent-minded shoveling of food into pie hole, less TV, less excess, less stuff. I am cautiously optimistic about the next twelve months. While 2011 was not the best year in our personal history, I know Big Red is more than ready to put 2011 to rest, this past year has brought an awakening and awareness about personal happiness.

Big Red and I were able to spend Christmas this year in California with my family. We didn't do the crazy run around trying to see everyone. We saw a couple of friends but mostly spent time with my family. It was wonderful. At the risk of sounding cliche - isn't health, happiness, family and love what it all really comes down to?

This is my favorite picture from our trip.
Everyone is smiling and there's a genuine alegria, a joie de vivre, in this microsecond of life.

To family, to health and to personal happiness.
And love. Love in whatever form you find it.


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