In these frantic days before Christmas my commute from Cambridge to Manchester at the end of the day sucks. It goes by three major shopping centers and the traffic jams are intense. All the men of eastern Massachusetts have started their last minute shopping.

I shortened the perception of being stuck in traffic by chatting with my sister in Brussels about her first grandchild. He was born yesterday, a sturdy little fellow named Fedde. He arrived a week early. That was a good thing because he was already so big that he didn’t fit in the newborn outfit she had bought him. Fedde’s mom is from Scotland and tiny. It was heavy labor indeed.

By the end of the conversation I had left one shopping center behind me and tackled the second by talking with girls about their new cousin once removed or whatever you call the child of a cousin. That got me past another shopping mall and finally Alison talked me past the last. With all these wonderful conversations the ride home was a cinch. Our lawmakers are proposing to forbid mobile phone conversations, hands free or not, from the driving experience. From a public health perspective they are responding to the statistics and how could I oppose. Maybe they should make an exception during the last pre-Christmas shopping days.

I have made some decisions about work that make me walk more upright and less whiny. I was given a corporate assignment that allows me to do meaningful work without getting on a plane. I am teaming up with a (new to me) colleague on an assignment that is interesting and possibly challenging. It involves dealing with feedback loops and people’s reactions to what is in those loops. It would be the kind of assignment I might get for a place like Kenya or South Africa – just no travel.

The 30 cubic yard container on our driveway is now largely filled. I have to admire Axel who has been singlehandedly responsible for filling it. Throwing things away is not his forte but the mold is making him decisive. I told him I don’t want to know what he threw away. Not knowing is better as the prospect of dragging things out, removing the mold (I would have to do it myself) is very unappealing. If I have lived happily without these items for the last few years, I can make that a lifetime.

But no matter how much we throw out, the house looks more cluttered than ever. Having a Christmas tree and Christmas ornaments around doesn’t help. I am accused by my family of not getting into ‘the Christmas spirit.’ Only once in a while, when I am driving down a road with houses that are tastefully decorated, or singing Christmas carols with other people do I get into that spirit. But most of the time the Christmas spirit is about too much sugar in and too much money out – in and outflows I cannot resist – that is when my Christmas spirit is at its weakest.

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December 2011
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