simple gifts starting early

This Holiday Season I’m Trying Simple Giving, Not Just Simply Giving

I love the time of year from late October to January – it is my absolute favorite time of year.  There’s the slightest crispness in the air – even if it’s still 80 degrees out (it’s subtle, but it’s there).  I can actually enjoy watching the sun rise in the morning (even though it’s pitch dark by the time I leave work).  And then there’s the flurry of holiday activity starting with It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown to ringing in the new year with resolutions and a kiss.  

But starting as early as November 1st, I found myself overwhelmed with commercials, email blasts, and glaring billboards telling me where to find the “Perfect Gift” this holiday season!  Sweaters and jewelry – buy this and she’ll know you love her. Outrageous car payments and credit card bills – what could be more festive?  Suddenly I realized how commercialized Christmas had become in our quest for perfection with a bow. 

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a HUGE fan of gifts and giving at the holidays.  But there has to be a better way.

So this holiday season I’m trying something new – I chose one gift for everyone and started giving at Thanksgiving.  


Instead of spending hours shopping for the “perfect gift” for everyone, I selected a few bottles of wine for Thanksgiving-giving.  The idea is that, while sitting around celebrating family and friends, each recipient can raise a glass, share a laugh, and take a moment to look around the table with joy and gratitude for the moment.  Simple.    

Well that’s not very personalized – you may think.  That doesn’t show the person how thoughtful you are by selecting something just for them.

But just how thoughtful is running from place to place, half crazed in the crowd and spending money you don’t have?  Who are we really proving something to when we kill ourselves trying be “thoughtful”?  There’s nothing wrong with minimizing your list, simplifying your gifts and giving when you feel it’s most appropriate.  After all, the perfect gift doesn’t have to be something you wrap up with a bow.  Wine with friends, a cup of coffee, a simple phone call.  Sometimes it’s more important not remember that something was given, but a memory was enjoyed instead.  

Plus, by simplifying the process, I’ve lifted some of that last-minute stress and given myself the great gift of time.  Time to enjoy this most wonderful time of the year with those I love most doing things we love best:  selecting a tree, decorating our home, looking at the lights.  

Actually enjoy the holiday season – not just shop around for one.

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Seeking Simplicity in My What The &%^$! Did I Do Life

I’ve finally reached a  point where there is just too much going on in my world.

Noise and news come at me from every direction – online, on the phone, gas pumps, LED billboards, even those at-the-table ordering systems at restaurants that are supposed to “help” when our server is unable to attend to our needs RIGHT NOW!

Seriously?  Why do I need to get news at the gas pump?

And it’s not just local, national, international news.  We’re bombarded with noise from stores we shop at, places we go, and celebrities we don’t care about by the minute.  We get email, Facebook notifications, Instagram updates, Snapchat, Twitter, and texts.  

Don’t get me wrong – I love being in the know just as much as anyone else.  And I still need a relatively frequent dose of cat videos..  But lately it feels like more of a burden to keep up with all of this stuff than a source of entertainment or knowledge.  

It’s like I’m informationally exhausted.

So I decided that enough is enough.  That I need to get rid of so much outside noise, focus on what counts, heck – try to remember what it even IS that counts any more, not what some random ad on television is telling me I need in order to be happy.

Thanks to the help of a few websites – Be More With Less, and The Minimalists – I’m discovering simplicity in my life.  From cleaning up my diet with Whole30, to reorganizing my house with KonMari, I’m discovering that by quieting a lot of the outside noise, I’m rediscovering the joy of inner peace.

Ok, wow…that was a little new-age-guru-y, even for me.

But hopefully you see where I’m going with it – even if you’re not fully buying into it yet.  

Over the next several weeks, I’m going to share with you what I’m learning as I try to simplify my life.  And if you find yourself feeling a little informationally exhausted as well, maybe some of these next few posts will help you.  

Today’s small leap to simplicity:

Starting small, I’m giving up Facebook and Twitter.  This is the last blog I will share on either.  The last few months brought out a really ugly side to social media that makes me not want to participate anymore, so I’m signing off of both.  

I am, however, keeping Instagram.  There just seems to be less clutter in a simple photograph, more upbeat emotions, and (let’s be honest), it’s just fun to look at pictures!  So if you have a comment, or would like to contact me, please drop me a note here or on Instagram.  I’d love to hear from you!  

Oh…and if you come across any cat videos you just can’t help but share, I’m OK with those too!!

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Just a Little Something Lethal Between My Legs (…i went dirt biking you naughty people)

Imagine the fear and exhilaration of learning how to ride a bike and learning how to drive a manual car all over again, except at the exact same time, and on terrain that you would never normally learn on?

Dirt Bike Riding

Welcome to dirt biking!

And let’s be honest…if you’re going to learn how to dirt bike, why not go to a company that might know a thing or two about dirt bikes, motorcycles, having fun, etc.

Dirt Bike Riding

Welcome to the Honda Colton Rider Education Center!

When I first signed Nick and I up for a dirt-bike riding class, I had no clue what I was getting myself into.  I mean, when we went quadding in Pismo a few years ago, I had fun and it was easy for me to pick up on.

Quadding at Pismo

But I’m also a really big chicken when it comes to mechanical things that are loud, go fast, and that I somehow have to control.  So I was a little apprehensive about doing this, but I just kept telling myself, how hard could dirt biking be?  I mean…turns out I got this kick-ass outfit to wear…

Dirt Bike Riding

And, as I’ve said before, any sport that has its own shoes can’t be bad, right?

Dirt Bike Riding!

And the class size was perfect.  There were six of us plus our instructor.

Dirt Bike Riding

Teaching these classes will clearly be the death of you!  😆

Each person introduced themselves, talked about their previous riding experience and mentioned reason for taking the class.  Some people had friends that had dirt bikes, so they wanted to be able to join in the fun; others wanted to use this as a starting point for street-bike riding.

Me?  My goal was being able to ride in a straight line by the end of the day without crashing.  Some people would say I have low expectations, I like to think of myself as realistic.

Then it was time for class to begin.

Dirt Bike Riding

We started with the basics of the bike:

  • Right hand:  Throttle to control the amount of power you give to the bike (very, very little)
  • Right hand:  Hand brake (this is going to come in handy when I panic and can’t find the foot brake)
  • Left hand: Clutch  (if I ever get to a point where I even need to shift gears)
  • Left foot:  Primary brake (nope.  definitely using the handbrake and risk launching myself over the handlebars)
  • Right foot: gear shift pedal  (tiny pedal, big boot.  Who designed this stuff?)

A few observations….

Number 1:  Do not be fooled by their little size – those dirt bikes are HEAVY!!!  As in, I nearly dropped the thing when I kicked up the kickstand, heavy. Definitely not the same as the little Schwinn bike I learned to ride several (I won’t say how many) years ago.

Number 2:  Contrary to how awesomely cool I looked in those boots, they are also heavy, which makes it a bit tough to swing one’s leg over the bike the first time.  Granted not as heavy as the bike, but they are a bit bulky and awkward when you’re first getting started.

Number 3:  I forgot number three.  I was desperately trying to concentrate on not getting myself killed when the engine fired up and the entire bike started making loud, roaring, vibrating noises at and underneath me  😯

Then it was time to ride.

As I said earlier,  do you remember learning how to ride a bike – a two wheel bike with no training wheels?

Remember learning how to drive a manual transmission?

Remember how both scared the crap out of you the first time you tried either one?


Now put them together.  Except this time without dad there to run behind you holding the fender of the bike for balance, or sitting beside you helping to find the sweet spot in the clutch (never mind that the clutch is in your left hand and not your left foot), and you’re not 5 or 15 any longer and you have a much greater awareness of your own mortality and death, and lord i hope i don’t fall because i really don’t want to break any bones or end up in the emergency room because i just paid off my credit card and i can’t afford the deductible on my health insurance right now and is that a rock, no that’s a boulder, please don’t let me hit the boulder, holy crap i’m going to die, this thing is going to kill me all because i should have listened to my mother and never gone near anything motorcycle related, oh my god how did I get myself roped into this..aaaahhhhhaaaayiiiiiiii!!!!!!

And then, all of a sudden, I was cruising along in first gear.

Balanced, feet on the pegs, and not setting any speed records – but still moving, cruising along in first gear.

And then I stopped and found myself shaking uncontrollably from a combination of fear and adrenaline.

Try again…step-step-roll-throttle-release clutch-feet on pegs-little more throttle and I was rolling along again.  Time and time again I practiced.  It was exciting.  It was frightening.  There were moments where I couldn’t believe I was actually driving a motorcycle….and then I’d do something stupid and start back at square one.  Sometimes I would stall (OK..quite a few times I stalled), other times I accidentally gave it much throttle and nearly launched myself into another time zone, and my turning radius was on par with that of a whale (who may still have a tighter turn than I do).

Dirt Bike Riding


In the end, I met my goal.  I was able to go in a straight line without crashing.  In fact, I went in several straight lines, and turns, and shifted gears, and was able to mostly stand up on the bike, and find the foot brake at least twice.

I’d call that a pretty successful day.

As I changed out of my awesomely cool gear (and those boots), I caught a glimpse of the next level nearby.  Hmmm.  Is there the slightest chance of more riding in my future?  Maybe something faster, leaner, meaner?  Can you see me zipping along in traffic on one of these beauties?

Dirt Bike Riding


If I can stay in first gear the entire time.


Big thanks to Nick and everyone at the Honda Colton Rider Education Center.  If you’d like to learn more about dirt biking or street riding, check out their website HERE!! 

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