The Year of No Drinking

After my New Year’s Day mimosa in 2016, I decided to abstain from alcohol until New Year’s Eve.  My motivation wasn’t due to excess consumption or dependence on alcohol, it was more about what I was drinking and why.  Unlike a lot of people, I’ve never much cared for the taste of beer or wine.  Liquor, on the other hand, can be mixed with so many things that it’s palatable!  There’s no way I could drink it straight, though, no bourbon or scotch on the rocks for me, thank you!

In recent years I reasoned that perhaps I just hadn’t found the right kind of beer or wine so I tried some of the new options out there, like Abita’s Strawberry Lager or Purple Haze or various white wines.  They were okay, but they were never something that I looked forward to or really enjoyed.  Even so, I persisted until one day I was in the liquor store perusing varieties of pinot grigio and had the thought that I’m spending time reading wine labels and spending money on stuff I don’t really like while ten percent of the population doesn’t have clean, safe water.  That’s almost seven million people.

Why did I put so much time and effort into finding an adult beverage I like?  Maybe because I wanted to fit in, wanted to be cool (let’s be real, that’s never going to happen), because sitting down with a glass of wine at dinner seems so sophisticated.  It’s a little embarrassing to admit that my pursuit of whatever it was didn’t add value to anyone’s life, including my own.

It would have been good to take the money I didn’t spend this year and send it to a non-profit organization but I didn’t do that, mainly because it didn’t occur to me until the year was half over and also because I didn’t know how much that would be. Despite my meticulous tracking of all money I spend, I’ve never spent enough on alcohol to give it a separate category so it was lumped in with the rest of my groceries.

There will be champagne on New Year’s Eve and a mimosa on New Year’s Day (because I actually do like champagne, but that will probably be it for 2017.  As I strive to be intentional about the way I spend my time and money and more mindful about how my actions affect others, there’s no space in my life for drinking.

Have you ever spent time and money pursuing something for all the wrong reasons?  Please leave a comment at the top of this post or on Facebook.

Things I Care About And Why I’m A Hypocrite

2017 is nearly upon us and I’ve been thinking a lot about goals, things I want to accomplish, things I want to do better in the coming year, where I’d like to focus my time and energy.  What I’m finding, however, is that there are too many things to care about and too many things to do.  For some reason, I thought that being retired would mean unlimited hours to do whatever I wanted to do.  Sure, there is a lot more time to do things than there was when I was working fifty or sixty hours a week, but I’m finding it difficult to know where to start.  And then there’s the hypocrisy.

The list of things I care about is long – my family and friends and Hannah and my church and the church and keeping the Sabbath and the hungry and the homeless and the farm and the environment and humane treatment of animals and zero waste and non-GMO food and caring for the elderly and supporting local businesses and being a conscious consumer and conserving energy and gardening and sharing and fair trade and other things that I should add but you get the general idea.

There are things that I do, however, that aren’t in alignment with the things I care about.  If I’m truly committed to being a conscious consumer, zero waster, and caring about the environment, how do I reconcile my choice to eat Lay’s Brand Low Salt Potato Chips, which quite possibly contain GMO something, are not organic or healthy, and are packaged in plastic?  How do I balance wanting to spend time with my kids who live on opposite sides of the state with reducing the amount of gas I consume and the resulting emissions from my car?  When I’m on a tight budget, how do I balance wanting to support local businesses with wanting to pay the better price at the discount superstore?  Conserving energy is fine with me when it comes to not having air conditioning in the summer, but it’s much more difficult when it’s 8 degrees outside and I hate being cold.

People are clearly the most important thing, yet it doesn’t seem possible to carve out enough time to spend an adequate amount with everyone I care about and also spend time on the non-human stuff. Too much of what I know about friends and extended family comes from social media, which is a poor and unsatisfying alternative to talking face to face. 

Clearly I haven’t got this figured out yet but fortunately, there’s still a couple more days to get those goals written! Or maybe the solution isn’t in writing more goals or caring about more stuff or feeling guilty about all the ways I fail to live up to my own standards. Maybe the solution is in radical change where life feels scary and uncomfortable and unpredictable and unsafe.  Maybe the solution is more Naked On The Tundra moments and less pie in the sky idealism.  Let’s hope someone talks me out of that before things get crazy.

Try A Little Kindness

When I was a kid, my family had a player piano. It was like magic – all you had to do was pump the pedals and beautiful music would play. It’s not something we did every day, mostly on holidays or special occasions, or when someone came over who’d never seen a player piano.  Yes, we were just that cool.

The piano ‘rolls’ were made by a company called QRS and there were all kinds of music, some of which were completely unfamiliar, but with the lyrics printed on the page, we learned to sing along with them as we pumped furiously. When the song ended, you flipped a switch that caused the roll to wind back up, which was far easier than pumping it to play the song.

Even though I learned to play piano on it (rather badly, I lacked the motivation to practice the recommended thirty minutes daily), it was a somewhat impractical instrument, taking up a lot of space and needing special care.  There are times, though, when I think it would be really fun if we still had it.

Lately I’ve been spending a fair amount of time thinking about how to be more helpful and loving toward people and praying that God would show me how to do it.  It’s easy for me to love people in the abstract, much harder to love them when they are right in front of me, saying and doing annoying things. So what does all this have to do with the player piano we had when I was a kid? 

While I was on a cleaning binge today, thinking about stuff, one of the songs we used to play a lot came to mind.  The song was Try A Little Kindness.  You can hear the original version by Glen Campbell here, or you can check out this newer version. Sometimes I overcomplicate things and think I need to start a ministry or a movement or do something really big when all I need to do is the next right thing. Loving people starts with simply paying attention and being kind.

Try A Little Kindness

Bobby Austin / Curt Sapaugh

If you see your brother standing by the road
With a heavy load from the seeds he’s sowed
And if you see your sister falling by the way
Just stop and say, you’re going the wrong way

You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

Don’t walk around the down and out
Lend a helping hand instead of doubt
And the kindness that you show every day
Will help someone along their way

You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

Try A Little Kindness lyrics © EMI Music Publishing