Tuesday, November 29, 2011

An addendum

My favourite cousin made a comment on my Facebook page in relation to yesterday's post. She wrote that all the presents she is giving this year share the theme of "warmth". She is making various gifts for people to wear, wrap themselves in, eat or drink.

I thought that was a cool and clever idea and was keen to share it.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Final Word on Christmas. Maybe ...

One of the great things about writing a blog is receiving links to interesting websites and articles, being forwarded emails of interest and people generally bringing up what we're doing in conversation. A couple of weeks ago a friend forwarded this email to me.

Christmas 2011 -- Birth of a New Tradition

 Christmas quickly approaches, the giant Asian factories are
 kicking into high gear to provide Australians with monstrous piles of
 cheaply produced goods and merchandise, produced at the expense of
 Australian labour.

This year will be different.

This year Australians will give the gift of genuine concern for other
 Australians. Christmas 2011

There is no longer an excuse that, at gift-giving time, nothing can be
 found that is produced by Australian hands. Yes there is.  It's time
 to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in a
 shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper?

Everyone -- yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut, so how about gift
certificates from your local hair salon or barber?

Gym membership? It's appropriate for all ages who are thinking about
 some health improvement.

Who wouldn't appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, Australian-owned
Detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book
of gift certificates.

 Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plunking
 down the dollars on a Chinese made flat-screen? Perhaps that grateful
 gift receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the
 summer, or games at the local golf course.

There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants -- all offering gift
certificates. And if your intended isn't the fancy eatery sort, what about a half-dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint. Remember folks, this isn't about big National chains -- this is about
supporting your home town Australians with their financial lives on
the line to keep their doors open.

How many people couldn't use an oil change for their car, truck or
motorcycle, done at a shop run by an Australian worker?

Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mum? Mum would LOVE the services
 of a local cleaning lady for a day.

My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy
who is struggling to get his repair business up and running.

OK, maybe you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts
people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make
jewellery, and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes.

Plan your holiday outings at local, owner-operated restaurants and
leave your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a play
or ballet at your hometown theatre.

Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands.>
Honestly folks, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese
lights for the house? When you buy a five dollar string of lights,
about fifty cents stays in the community. If you do have those kinds
of bucks to burn, leave the mailman, garbage man or babysitter a nice
BIG tip.

You see, Christmas is no longer about draining Australian pockets so
that China can build another glittering city. Christmas is now about
caring about us Aussies, encouraging Australian small businesses to
keep plugging away, to follow their dreams. And when we care about
other Australians, we care about our communities, and the benefits
come back to us in ways we couldn't imagine.

THIS is the new Australian Christmas tradition.

I don't agree with everything in it; the feel of it is a little too jingoistic for my liking. For us, it isn't so much WHERE something is made but HOW. By using some of the ideas suggested in the email, however, we can give gifts that have not been made in an eco-unfriendly or unethical way. I've already spoken to both my sister and sister-in-law about it and we've come up with some good ideas. My sister suggested we get her family baseball tickets. I never would have thought of that. Over the past few years, with all branches of the family being so busy, I've lost touch with who my nieces and nephews are so I've just given them cash or vouchers. I know these gifts have been appreciated but, by actually making the effort to get more information, I'm relearning what they like and what kind of people they have grown into. These aren't the kinds of gifts for everyone but, even if I do it for a couple of people, it's better than nothing.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Christmas cards

The trees must really cry out in despair at this time of the year. There is such a high volume of Christmas cards moving across the country and around the world. Furthermore, all the presents are wrapped in paper.

I really love sending and receiving cards. I especially love doing so for people's birthdays. We all share Christmas but each birthday is someone's special day and I like to acknowledge that. I like to send Christmas letters to people I don't keep in regular contact with to bring them up to date on our family's activities over the past year and I like to send Christmas cards to people I interact with regularly to wish them a special day.

This year, however, I'm changing that. In keeping with the spirit of the project I'm planning to drastically reduce the number of cards/letters I send out, as well as send out a call to my family and friends in both real life and cyber space to not send us one. I'm only going to send them to people I don't interact with regularly. I'm going to wish the others a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Chanukah in person or via our social network.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

A word on Thanksgiving

I don't celebrate Thanksgiving because I don't live in the U.S. I suppose if my parents had continued to celebrate it after their move to Australia I may have continued the tradition. Nevertheless, many of my loved ones celebrate and have posted some lovely comments of thankfulness on Facebook today.

Inspired by their comments I'd like to add some of my own. In a sense, it is because of all the blessings in our life that we have been inspired and able to do the Footprints Project. So, here are mine, in no particular order. I'm thankful for:

  • life
  • loved ones
  • by an accident of birth having lived in countries of affluence
  • the world we live in
  • sun and rain to help our food grow
  • enough money to cover all of our needs and a good deal of our wants
  • safety
  • freedom
  • our health
  • hot and cold clean running water
  • gas & electricity
  • a home 
  • the fact that my children go to school instead of having to work under intolerable conditions
  • fresh and abundant food and food choices
  • good roads
  • technology and the fact that we have access to it, time for it and can afford it
  • ditto for entertainment
  • a reliable car 
  • public transport
  • warm clothing
  • a garden (which even though I hate working in is still a  luxury that many don't have)
  • reasonable public health
  • good public education
  • the choice to go private with both of the above should I wish 
I could go on but I think you get the picture.

Cheers and I hope you have as much in your life to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving whether you're in the US or not.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ho, ho, ho or bah humbug?

I really don't like Christmas. I first began to dislike it when my parents separated and it just didn't feel the same anymore. After that, my blossoming social conscious simply couldn't deal with the fact that some people were lonely on Christmas, many families had fights at Christmas lunch, children in Africa were starving while we gorged ourselves and presents seemed to be the major - and only - focus.

Let me say right at the outset that I'm not Christian but I have enormous respect for all religions. For that reason, the focus on Christmas presents and overeating and drinking really bothers me. Isn't Christmas meant to be for Christians worldwide to celebrate the birth of Jesus? It sits uneasily with me that it's become so commercialised. I'm not against the giving of gifts, I think it's a lovely idea; I'm against it being the only focus of Christmas.

I know people who say that they really like Christmas because they get to spend time with the people they love and cherish. I've slowly come around to that idea. Over the years our Christmas days have morphed and changed. After my parents' separation my mother, sister and I began to celebrate the day with a brunch my father and then a trip to the beach. Later, I met my husband and his family not only invited me to spend every Christmas with them but also included my mother and sister. These days, my sister and I make sure we have lunch together at one of our houses. The day begins with a brunch with dear friends. We all exchange gifts but the day is really about friendship and fellowship. It's always relaxing and a lot of fun. Yes, we do eat and drink too much while there are people starving overseas and lonely people and broken families, and that all sits uneasily with me. However, these days I tend to look at it in terms of counting my blessings and being grateful for the family, friendship and food, knowing that other people lack those blessings.

Maybe one day when all the children in the family are grown we can agree to give what we would have spent on gifts for each other to help people who lack those blessings. I think then I'll actually be able to say that I like Christmas. Until then, although I like the day itself, I don't like what surrounds it.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Books, glorious books

As I sit and look around the room, I can see two bookshelves absolutely overflowing with books. That's not counting the five I cannot currently see! That's a lot of books and a lot of bookshelves. We LOVE books in this house! However, do we need to keep buying them???

Whenever we buy a new book, we're contributing not only to mass consumerism but to environmental destruction. I don't think I'll ever stop buying them or move to ebooks or a kindle. However, I think there's a way to be smarter about it. Several years ago, inspired by Oprah Winfrey I bought Eckhard Tolle's A New Earth. I'm sure it was a good and useful book but, for me who'd already done a lot of reading many years prior about Zen Buddhism, it was nothing new. I was annoyed with myself for having bought it and decided that I would try, where possible, to borrow the book I wanted to read before buying it, to see if I actually wanted to buy it.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a book by Alison Weir entitled, The Lady in the Tower. I knew nothing about it and haven't read it yet. However, in this case, I'm happy to own it because it's research into Anne Boleyn's last days. I've been fascinated by her since before I could talk. I will read it one day but, in the meantime, it reflects who I am and gives me a sense of anticipation when I see it sitting there. I don't want to stop buying books. I just want to stop and think before I buy. I also want to check out second-hand book stores first. We managed to buy all of John Marsden's Tomorrow Series at Maisie's in Brighton a few years ago.

I'm also thinking that it might to be time to donate some of our books to Oxfam or Rotary who have fantastic second-hand book shops, the proceeds from which fund wonderful humanitarian projects. Problem is, once I'm in there, I may just walk out with more books than I donated!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

This and that

I cannot believe it's been a month since I last blogged. I really love doing it but life has been crazy and I've let it slide. I apologise, dear readers.

The two parts to the Footprints project are trying to live as eco-friendly and ethically as possible. I realise, as time progresses, that I'm far more passionate about the latter. Unfortunately, it's the latter that is a can of worms! I thought I was doing pretty well until I took the following quiz and learnt that I have 40 "slaves". WTF!!!
We try to be conscientious about what we buy but what we hadn't taken into consideration were issues like where the raw material is sourced. Apparently that's a big ethical issue, too. Cotton farming in some countries uses children, as does the farming of one of the raw materials used to manufacture smart phones. I'm glad my phone's dumb.

One store that seems to be doing okay is American Apparel. They've had some complaints made against them by past employees but, on the whole, they seem like they're trying to make a difference. I don't know if that difference extends to the cotton etc used in their products but their clothes are made in the US (it's a US company) at factories which are safe and where employees are paid at least the minimum wage. My husband and I checked out their Adelaide store recently and decided that we might try some of their clothes. The best thing is second-hand, however, so this would be more for underwear etc.

The water bill came in the other day. All I can say is, "Aaaarrrrrgggghhhh". The bar graph showed an increase in water output. I'm at a loss to explain this. I only hope it's because of watering our fledgeling veggie patch. We've been trying to cut back on all use of resources so I'll have to get back to you when I've figured this one out.