Each year I’m more bewildered how quickly retailers rush toward the Christmas season, throwing people into mass hysteria about all the great “deals” they are offering on gifts for the holidays. Really? What deals are these? Why would someone waste a day braving through (sometimes) cold weather, crowds and the rush to save $20-30 on an item they or their recipient probably don’t need? How much is too much? Do we need all those TV sets? Excess clothing? Electronic devices? Have you ever thought that you have/own too much?
I stopped shopping at malls several years ago mainly due to the fact that 85% of all the items sold in these stores are “Made in China” and also poor quality. I’ve become more particular about what I buy and where. This includes my groceries, toiletries, fresh food items and other staples. I’ve tried to minimize what I need and don’t need. I also buy quality over quantity and either save the extra money I make, or use it for vacation, theater tickets, updating my home and for creating family memories with outings.
A friend of mine convinced me to try the shopping experience of Black Friday several years ago – we can cross that off my bucket list. You wouldn’t be able to pay me enough to do that again – mass-crazed midnight shopping madness at NYC’s Macy’s, where I didn’t really see fantastic deals. Instead, I had a headache within half hour and had to run outside into the cooler air one hour into my shopping experience because I thought I was going to vomit.
So today, with the fabulous online deals available to us on our computers (and all of us have at least one) – why would someone leave the comfort of home and put themselves through this type of holiday shopping torture? Instead, why not join friends for some conversation, mulled cider or wait until early December, and shop at your local stores, who need your support to survive.
My advice to you this season – kick back, relax and try to enjoy the holiday spirit without all the added stress.
How often in our lives do we have time for ourselves? Seems these days, with all the new technology dominating our lives on a daily basis, we find little time to return to basics. Taking that afternoon walk on a fall day with a child or spouse, planting flowers or vegetables in a garden for seasonal enjoyment, baking a cake for no special occasion, catching up with a friend over coffee…….. and so on.
I try to make time for myself and others in my life on a daily basis. And although it’s hard to find that extra half-hour or more to do so, it enriches my life. I regularly visit my parents, who live one town over from me to see how they’re doing, to catch up over a cup of tea, to play a game of cards or to take them shopping to the ethnic supermarkets we all love going to. I make time to have lunch with my close girlfriends. I regularly call my brother and sister-in-law who live on the west coast. I also take some time for myself by either taking a pilates class or going for a walk to clear my head.
If we all regularly took time for ourselves and our loved ones, life wouldn’t seem like it’s passing by so quickly.
Today’s post is concentrating on doing things outside your comfort zone – or more so, doing things you are afraid of doing. What is fear really? Many of us are afraid of one thing or another – I know I definitely am. Fear of heights; fear of trying something new; fear of a new job; fear of trying something new to eat – ok, I’m getting carried away now, because those of you who know me well, know that I am never afraid of trying new foods….
This past weekend, my family had our 10th annual reunion. It was well-attended. As one of 12 grandchildren on my maternal side – several of my cousins and siblings came out to join in the yearly festivities. In addition to different sports and other activities, this year we added a side trip to Opus 40 (www.opus40.org), we harvested honey (see sample video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XRHveGgYjQ), and some of us even took part in the 2nd world’s largest zipline – the Hunter Mountain Zip Line – myself included.
I spent all of my summers in Hunter, NY. The Ukrainian community in Hunter celebrated their 50th anniversary last summer, so many of the friends I’ve had, I’ve known almost my entire life by spending my summers here in the idyllic Catskill mountains. I climbed Colonel’s Chair (also known as Hunter Mountain) at age 8 with my father and a friend of his, and then in my early teenage years, my father repeated this hike with 32 other children, myself included. Hunter Mountain has been a big part of my life – I learned to ski there and we often take part in summer and fall festivals there. So it was only natural that I wanted to explore their newest adventure – the zip line (http://www.huntermtn.com/huntermtn/events-activities/zipline.aspx). What an exhilirating experience – one I cannot describe. A series of 6 zip lines down Hunter Mountain, the first one being 3200 feet long – it’s a feeling I cannot describe in words. In the first several seconds of that first zip line experience, there is some fear, soon taken over with awe. It is the closest I’ve come to feeling like an actual superman – that I can do and see anything. Glad I did it – and I can’t wait to try it again, possibly in the falltime.
As many of you know, I am a Ukrainian-American; born in the US, my first language being Ukrainian (as was my children’s). I met my husband at PLAST Ukrainian scouting camp – I have belonged to Plast since I was 6 years of age, and so have my children. I spent my first 3 weeks at sleepaway camp at age 8, as did my brother, most of our Ukrainian friends, and my 2 children. I learned at age 8 what many of today’s children learn as teenagers – confidence, independence, strong personality, working in a team, making a decision and standing up for myself. I don’t think there is a right or wrong time to send your child to sleepaway camp, but I definitely think it builds character. Today, both my children as young adults are camp counselors at the Plast scout camps. They, much like I are passing along the knowledge they learned as scouts to other children.
Living on the east coast, many of my friends (especially those who work on Wall Street) do not take regular vacations. They feel that if they go on vacation, their work won’t get done and their clients or employer will suffer. Although I know that some of us feel indispensible, not taking a break once in a while is not a good idea – this leads to burnout and can adversely affect our health in the long run.
I have the luxury of being able to consult – as some of you many know, although I work in retained executive search (3D Leadership, LLC, RealHR Solutions), I also write resumes, coach executives and recent graduates on interview techniques and job search in the 21st century AND I volunteer in many organizations which I’m passionate about. I also make time for myself — I find it’s important to go to children’s sports games, garden, travel and take regular museum visits to NYC. My consulting allows me to do this, but even if you have a salaried full-time position, you should not deprive yourself of life’s little pleasures.
Vacations – most of us take them in the summer, because work slows down at that time; I know companies don’t hire as much in the summer - hence my summers are a bit slower. For the last few years, I’ve allowed myself to take 3 or 4 weeks off in August. This is my way of rejuvenating myself for the upcoming work year, which for me, since I have kids in school starts in September.
In past years my vacations have included travel throughout the US and Canada, the Caribbean, spending time at my house in the Catskills, hanging out with family and friends. During vacation, I also do what I’m most passionate about, which includes starting and tending to an organic garden, photography and cooking.
Get out there – take a vacation and enjoy it. Do it for yourself!
The 17-year Cicadas have arrived in New Jersey and they are amazing! I can’t get over how interesting they are. 17 years ago, when I last saw and heard them, my younger daughter was just 2 months old and in an infant carrier. I vividly remember going to a local park with my then 2-year old and 2-month old and saw the trunk of the tree “moving” from the movement of the cicadas moving up and down. It’s unfathomable how these insects survive. I was thrilled to learn that this year they were arriving but to my disappointment, they aren’t in my yard or my neighborhood.
Yesterday, I took a drive to a large local park in my county and saw them – hundreds and thousands of them! I saw the exoskeletons as well as the cicadas themselves. The wing span is as long as the body, and they stare at you with little red eyes.
I don’t understand why so many people think they are gross – the exoskeletons they leave behind can be great show-and-tell projects for younger children and soon enough they will rot and be gone. The noises the cicadas make are loud, yet somehow soothing. They beat any road noise one hears, or in my opinion, the head-banging music today’s youth listens to. I for one am glad they are here and have been photographing them with great fascination.