November brings the start of shopping overdrive season and indoor sweater weather (or is that just me?). Although it was only 30 days, November felt really long to me.
It has always struck me as funny that we celebrate Thanksgiving, a day of gratitude for what you have, followed immediately by Black Friday, when we trample each other to get more stuff. But this year it seemed like Black Friday sales lasted all November!
We shopped the Amazon book sale this year and got a whole SHELF of amazing books.
We really had trouble finding space for them due to the fact that I’m a veritable packrat. But this month in the Present Play accountability group for parents I’m a part of happened to be all about making space and I easily found a couple trunkfuls of stuff to take to donation.
We have also been able to slowly sell a few things, including the huge play kitchen that was taking up the entire dining room.
While I’m nowhere near a minimalist, I’m starting to be able to let go of things – rather than holding onto literally EVERYTHING for “just in case.”
It’s definitely uncomfortable when you’ve spent a lifetime practically priding yourself on being “so resourceful” and “crafty.”
Every little thing tugs at my heart: “Please don’t send me away! I’m still useful! If you donate me I might end up in the trash! I’m still good!” or in the case of literal trash, “I could be an art project or craft!”
I’m not a chef.
I don’t enjoy cooking. In fact, I loathe it.
I imagine that if I had a huge, bright, always clean kitchen where other people did all the cleaning and purchasing the groceries and I had all the time in the world to actually learn how to do it well…. Then maybe I might enjoy it a little more.
This year it was practically stretching myself to do the very little that I did: I made mashed potatoes and our family’s secret recipe chip dip.
One not-so-secret ingredient in our chip dip is garlic. Sometimes a lot of garlic. Sometimes a flaming almost-hallucinogenic amount of garlic.
I have fond memories of Thankgivings past at my grandma’s house with people discussing and debating the garlic content in the annual chip dip. Was it perfect? Too much? Were your lips on fire?
This year I decided to make a roasted garlic version and a super overkill version.
It was my first time roasting garlic, but it turned out wonderfully! It served as a reminder to myself that if I follow the directions with care, even a hopeless non-chef like me can make new things.
November is National Novel Writing Month or as it is commonly abbreviated, NaNoWriMo (or even just Nanowrimo). Thousands of aspiring novelists come together and make a pact to write 50,000 words of a single story within the 30 days of November.
I’ve participated in the challenge a few times, including last year. I hit 50,000 words but I ended up falling out of love with my story idea and never ended up finishing it.
My intention was to participate this year and I’d even been working on a concept most of the year in bits and pieces. But as we approached quarter 4 of this year, I realized that working on this challenge wasn’t really what I wanted to do with my limited time. I was much more interested in doing Inktober and having the time for blogging and art related purposes.
It was surprisingly hard to give myself permission to NOT do NaNoWriMo this year, as it felt like “quitting.”
My husband was also participating this year (he did last year as well) so it was very front of mind for me as he prepared and also made it even harder to say no to.
In the end though, I sat it out and I don’t regret it (much).
I was able to do a lot of things this month I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise and I’m not completely burned out and semi-resentful of a story that may or may not even go anywhere.
On the other hand there’s always the wonder of “what if…”
What if that story idea COULD turn out to be something really amazing?
What if I’d done it and now had an awesome book I could do something with?
But I still have that story in my pocket and I can work on it – at my leisure – whenever I wish.
I’m glad I took the time to be so intentional and I need to do it more often, especially when it’s uncomfortable.
What’s one of the things I was able to do during the month since I wasn’t spending hours a day writing, you ask? Well one of the less productive things was playing altogether too much Animal Crossing!
Yes, the adorable Nintendo Switch game that people played in droves when the pandemic first started became a regular fixture in our family again.
Ruby became suddenly more interested in a lot of the creative aspects of the game, like building and decorating as well as painting custom clothing – there’s a lot there that fosters a creative spirit! Or at least so I tell myself.
A new update came out for the game at the beginning of November that gave us a lot more new things to do.
So I’ve spent time happily inhabiting my island again and playing alongside my daughter.
I think one of the things that is so calming and satisfying about Animal Crossing is that everything is so cheerful and charming while at the same time you have a high level of control and agency.
The villagers are friendly and fun to interact with. The graphics are cute and happy. And you have endless ability to customize and change things, build collections, and work toward challenging but ultimately achievable goals.
It can give a person who otherwise might lack some of those things in the real world a nice virtual substitute.
On the other hand, it can easily become too much.
I don’t struggle with social media and netflix the way a lot of other people do. For me the problem spots can be video games, reading, and food.
I tend to swing between too much and not enough. Between complete control and regimented austerity or complete chaos and indulgence.
If I ever find the secret to effortless moderation and balance, I’ll let you know.
For now though I’m accepting myself and reality the way it is. And I’ll try to do better. What more can you do?