Wednesday, October 29, 2008
What will I do with all that extra time and money? Well, I definitely want to participate in Samaritan's Purse, Operation Christmas Child again. I think that was the most fun purchasing I did last holiday season. For those of you not familiar with the program, you fill a shoebox up with toys, non-melty candies or gum, and personal hygiene items like toothbrushes, etc., and drop the box off at a collection location near you. The boxes are combined at a central location and shipped around the world to children in need, who otherwise wouldn't have anything given to them. The organization asks for a $7 donation to help pay for the shipping and you choose the age group/sex of the child who you are buying for and label your box accordingly. It's so much fun to do and to imagine the child's face when they open their present.
Something else I want to do is sit down and decide what the most meaningful parts of the holiday season are for me. I want to do something in nature--decorate a tree in the middle of the woods with popcorn and cranberries and homemade edible bird feeders for the animals. I want to spend more time enjoying the sights and sounds and smells of the holiday. I want to make Christmas meaningful again, not just a slew of activities to get through until I collapse in the new year. And of course, I want to spend time focusing on the original, true meaning of Christmas for me, the birth of Jesus. Last year was the first in a very long time that I created an Advent wreath. Lighting the candles at each meal and reading a scripture verse was calming. I am considering no tree this year and very minimal, mostly natural decorations.
For a long time I thought, "Well, others will be disappointed if I don't do X, or if I don't volunteer with Y." But I have the entire rest of the year to volunteer my time for causes I believe in, it doesn't have to be just a one month/week/or day thing in December. And I'm sorry if I insult someone by not displaying the holiday decorations or ornaments they gave us--though in reality they've probably forgotten they ever even gave it in the first place!
So, here's my advice for you this season. First, read all you can about alternative/pared down holidays in books like the Tightwad Gazette, Unplug the Christmas Machine, and the One
Hundred Dollar Holiday.
And take some time now, before the rush begins, to determine what you do and don't like about the holidays. If you love giving gifts and can't imagine paring down, could you give gifts that have less of an impact on the earth and it's inhabitants? What about some consumable gifts like fair trade coffee and chocolates, or sweat shop free clothes or accessories? Want to spend more time in nature or creating new family traditions? Start talking to other family member now, don't wait until a week or two before Christmas. For many, many people the holidays are the most depressing time of the year. What could we do to help those who might be feeling down? Animal shelters struggle to pay their fuel bills as winter closes in. Can we help with that? Food shelves typically are bombarded (wonderfully) with food this one time of the year. Could we make a donation for future purchases when people aren't giving so much? Could we "adopt" a local family or elderly person and pledge to leave a box of food anonymously for them each month for the rest of the year?
Christmas is about giving: Giving hope, peace, warmth, food, love. It's not just about giving material gifts.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Weeeeellllllll, actually when one purchases organic or fair trade items, they usually are of better quality. More importantly, to me at least, is that I can buy these items with a clear conscience. Fair trade items guarantee that the folks making them get paid a fair wage and that they are working in decent conditions. Many, many times the reason we in the West are able to get such "cheap" items, be it food, textiles, or other merchandise, is because the people making the goods are are working basically as slaves.
As far as organics go, there is another two-fold benefit. Not only are you not putting potentially harmful chemicals into your body, but organic farming is much, much better for the earth and environment. Organic farmers also tend to treat their animals more humanely, and to take better care of their land and farms.
Sometimes in the U.S. I feel we have a "see no evil" mentality. Just because we can't SEE what people in under developed countries go through to produce us with our cheap goods, doesn't mean we shouldn't care about what's going on. It's our responsibility to find out where our goods are coming from and decide if we want to support a company that enslaves children or has horrible working conditions for its employees. I would bet you a million dollars that no company which utilizes these types of practices is going to stand up and tell you the truth about it for our convenience. We have to become socially responsible detectives and do a little digging on our own.
With that being said, there is a true and understandable concern regarding the price of some of these items. Believe me, I'm as cheap as the next tightwad. I rarely buy something if it's not on sale and more often try to make do with something else entirely if I'm in a very thrifty mood. I also buy a lot of used items. Thrift shops are some of my favorite haunts and a great place to get some of my favorite brands of clothes (Liz Claiborne, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic) for just a few bucks. I don't really "believe" in labels, but there is something to be said for the quality and fit of certain items. However, buying used is a fairly guilt-free indulgence.
The article in Relevant also quoted J. Matthew Sleeth, the author of my much loved, "Serve God, Save the Planet" book, who (I'm paraphrasing here) says that if cost is an issue, then we should consume less and still spend our money on the more expensive fair trade and organic items. Hmm.
Consume less. Imagine that.
I'm considering doing a fair trade/organic challenge for a period of time. I haven't worked out all the details yet, but I'll keep you posted.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Yeah, that's winter alright.
There is a meaning behind this cold, icy photo though--it ties in with this awesome, inspiring story that you must read if you are an animal lover. As my Dad said when he sent me the link, "There's hope for humanity yet."
PS Okay, I know the article isn't really about Arctic penguins, but still. . . when you think penguin, don't you automatically think snow and ice?
Friday, October 3, 2008
I've posted before about my love/hate relationship with news. Of course, I love surfing the Internet, having a zillion bits of information available at my fingertips whenever I want. And it's lovely to research new ideas and possible writing topics from newspapers, magazines, and my RSS feed. But sometimes all that news gets me down. Floods and hurricanes, genocide and serial killers, starvation and war--it's hard to keep a positive outlook with so much negative stuff going on in the world.
But there's hope. If you're just looking for something a little more positive and upbeat to read today, check out Only Positive News. Not only are there some really great and inspiring stories posted here, but they have fabulous wallpaper on the site.
I wonder if they make that for houses?