Friday, July 3, 2009

Little Things Mean A Lot

by Susan McBride

I find myself avoiding the evening news these days. I mostly tune in just to see the weather and hear any updates on off-season Blues hockey (hey, they just got a really good defenseman from Sweden who's about 19 and cute as a button!). I'm not even very keen on reading online news. It's like everywhere I look something awful's happening: economies are collapsing, wars are going on, a military coup's taken place, another celebrity has passed away, or a fat-cat financier's going to jail (okay, that last one isn't depressing at all really).

If anything good comes out of our own country's current mess, I hope it's people taking a look at their lives and realizing that little things mean a lot. I remember being in high school when Ralph Lauren was taking off, and we all begged our parents for anything with a tiny Polo man on it. "Greed is good," Gordon Gekko declared, and everyone bought it. Pretty soon, too many folks were living on credit, buying houses, cars, electronics, and other bling they couldn't afford. Right out of college, my sister had five major credit cards all charged to their limits. Meanwhile, post-university, I paid for everything in cash and had a heckuva time getting a Visa until I'd established a credit history. Then again, maybe that was a good thing as I don't rely on credit cards much now.

Don't get me wrong. I like nice things as much as the next gal. But once I was living off my own earnings, it was amazing how much I realized I could do without. What I couldn't pay for with cash, I didn't need. My grandfather had lived by that credo, and I see how right he was. I feel fortunate to have married a man who doesn't need a lot of "stuff" to be happy.

Unfortunately, these days everything that's affordable seems to be made in China. I'm sure tons of folks like me would rather buy "Made in the USA," only it's hard to find. Honestly, I've had enough T-shirts that fall apart at the seams after one wearing to be willing to pay more for something that's domestically produced by skillful adults, not by children in sweat shops. Wouldn't it be lovely if more companies returned from overseas and got the manufacturing biz humming in this country again?

As kids, we didn't care about labels or impressing anyone with status symbols. The simplest things were the most fun, like catching fireflies on a warm summer night; running through the sprinkler in our bathing suits; finding clover and weaving it into a necklace; baking cookies in grandma's kitchen. I'm not sure when the "gotta have it" syndrome sets in or what causes it. Too bad there's not a vaccine to inoculate us against it.

I still think the best things in life are free, like taking walks in the park, chillin' on the porch swing, going to art festivals, holding hands with your honey, or singing your lungs out to Def Leppard. Oh, and how cool is the sound of thunder and rain from a good old-fashioned summer storm (but not the kind that spawns tornadoes or knocks down power lines!)?

I'd like to hear some of the simple things in your lives that you love to do. And, whatever they are, I hope you get to do them plenty over this extended holiday weekend. Happy Fourth of July to everyone!

P.S. Speaking of fun free things: The Book Belles are giving away a tote bag full of signed books. Contest ends July 15 so there's still time!


  1. We have become addicted to this silly game show called "Wipe Out" that's on Wednesday nights and now it's must-see tv for the Barbieri's. Hearing the collective peals of laughter from this slapstick game show, where people bounce off of giant balloons and get punched in the gut by soft boxing gloves that protude from a wall at intervals, all in the quest for $50,000 just makes my day. We also try to squeeze in some family board game time--Clue, Trouble, Sorry--and turn off the tv for stretches but there's someone in the house (I won't name names but it is I, sadly) who is extremely competitive and does everything in her power to win, including sending someone back to square one (Trouble) or throw a red herring into someone's clue solving (Clue). We have also just bought our first kayak, with a second one on the way shortly so that we can take advantage of the beautiful riverfront where we live and spend more time outside instead of looking at the four walls. Nothing beats kayaking down the Croton River on a beautiful summer day, in my opinion.

    Great post, Susan. I, too, am sick of the news lately, both of the global and personal variety. There are too many people suffering and while it's easy to get mired in the sadness and depression, we need to make every effort to keep true to our values and priorities and make each day count for ourselves and others. Maggie

  2. Only the bad stuff seems to make the news.

    Our little hometown paper only puts good local news on the front page, second page gets the bad local news, third page is the rest of the world.

    I watch the news but there doesn't seem to be any real journalists anymore who report both sides of things. And they are far more interested in Michael Jackson than important things going on.

    One thing hubby and I love to do, isn't free but we love doing it, is going to the movies together. We like romantic comedies and thrillers. Strange combination, but that's the way it is. In fact today we plan to see The Proposal.

    Tomorrow we're spending the day together (4th of July)in the city park with a booth with all my books in it. We'll see how many people have some expendable bucks for books. Did pretty well there last year--people were surprised to see an author among the food and craft booths.


  3. Maggie, my husband loves "Wipeout," too! I've watched it with him, and I can't help but laugh when those people bounce off those big red balls. I remember once when a self-confessed "geek" made it across them. Yay geeks! I love board games, and I bought a backgammon set recently because I want to re-learn how to play. I think Ed would like it, too. Yeah, the news is so depressing. I used to be a news junkie, and now I can hardly bear to keep up with what's going on. Sometimes I think it's healthier to be out of the loop!

    Marilyn, movies are awesome and not quite free, but not too costly if it's just two and not a family of five with refreshments for everyone! I can't wait to see the new "Harry Potter," and I just read a great review of Michelle Pfeiffer's "Cheri." Once I get my deadlines met by July 15, I'm definitely going to see one of the above! Hope your book sales go well! I'm staying home, working on revisions. Grumble, grumble.

  4. Here in my part of Chicagoland, we play Scrabble (I admin a MeetUp for it, too) and I love to knit and do little artsy-craftsy projects in my craft room/office. Handmade things are just very fun and relaxing to do, a very contemplative way to spend some time, and they are great to give away when done.

    We like to garden and just sit around on the patio or porch and TALK with one another--the work week is so busy that to be able to sit and tell jokes and share stories is wonderful. And, the sound of our little waterfall and pond and all the beautiful birds is really wonderful.

    I have an old boules/petanque set from days in France and we go to a local ball field and play, thermos in tow, and just have fun with a little light sport and conversation.

    I like to cook--not always something super fancy or involved, just something that I can really explore with and take time and care with and then we have something delicious to share.

    And, of course, not much can beat loafing in a good chair or propped up with some pillows on a couch, in a quiet room for the afternoon, reading. Maybe with some light music in the background and a big iced or hot tea on the side table and maybe some little chocolate treats!

  5. Vicky, that all sounds wonderful! Now you've got me craving a big glass of iced tea, and I wish I had a chance to garden this weekend instead of doing revisions. But soon! Hope you Chicago-area folks are getting some of the lovely weather we're having in St. Louis. Mid-80s instead of 100s over Fourth of July weekend is almost unheard of. Wish it could stay this way all summer.

  6. Reading. Lots and lots of reading.

    I love Wipeout too! The contestants antics are funny enough but the commentators comments are what really do it for me. *g*

  7. Hubby and I went to see the Proposal, laughed a lot. Good way to spend the morning. Now I'm back at work. Well, sort of, mainly I'm reading emails and blogs.

  8. Ah, "The Proposal" is another movie I want to see. Thanks for giving it a thumbs-up, Marilyn!

    Tori and Maggie, have y'all ever seen "MXC" on Spike? I think it's on at weird hours now, but Ed made me watch it when we were dating. It's a Japanese game show that has been dubbed in English (but not honestly dubbed--instead making it truly crazy). "Wipeout" seems like it was influenced by "MXC," which had all those nutty stunts. If you ever find it on TV, watch it for a bit. It's insano!

  9. We read a lot, of course. We just finished a few episodes of Buffy that we haven't watched in a while. My kids' idea of a fun trip is to go to the library!

  10. Author Guy, I love hearing that about your kids! Warms the cockles of my heart (whatever cockles are). ;-)